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Environmental Justice Primer for Ports Good Neighbor Roadmap: Step 3. Identify Community Concerns and Goals

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This step provides an opportunity to engage near-port communities to gather current community goals and concerns, even if they may seem beyond the port’s authority.  Inviting the community to a discussion of priority community concerns outside a decision-making process can take the pressure off a single plan or project to address all of the concerns. This approach allows for collaborative problem-solving to clarify concerns, translate concerns into concrete goals, establish performance measures and set targets for achieving each goal.

On this page:

Community Concerns Checklist

  • Noise
  • Water traffic/road traffic
  • Smells/odors
  • Air quality
  • Human health
  • Pedestrian safety
  • Trash
  • Abandoned lots
  • Brownfield sites
  • Polluted waters
  • Access to open space
  • Light pollution
  • Idling trucks
  • Freight trains
  • Access to/protection of treaty-protected areas
  • Other

Try It Out!  Identify Community Goals

Meet with near-port community representatives to identify community goals. Using tools such as the checklist to the right and the table below:

Identify community concerns. Review the community concerns checklist. Note the concerns of most importance in your community. Add these priority concerns and any others not in the checklist to the table below.

Add detail. Once you have listed the key concerns, describe each one in as much detail as possible. For example, for air quality, identify the location of operations and times when potential air quality impacts are of most concern.

Describe impacts. Describe the community impacts of each concern. For example, does air quality impact sensitive populations such as children or the elderly? Or homes along a truck route? Have community members experienced increased or exacerbated health issues that they associate with poor air quality? It is important during the relationship-building phase to honor the community’s concerns as true for them, even if they differ from the port’s current understanding of conditions.  Then, undertaking joint research between port owners/operators and community stakeholders can be fruitful in building trust and identifying solutions.

Set goals. Translate each concern into a goal. For example: improved air quality with a focus on reducing air pollution that directly impacts sensitive populations such as children.

Identify opportunities and barriers to achieving goals. Barriers can be within the community or outside the community. What resources can be leveraged to overcome barriers?

Prioritize for action. Number the concerns and goals in order of importance. Ask the community, “if we could make only one change this year, what would it be?”
Community Concerns Detailed Description Impacts Community Goal Priority

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Collaborative Problem-Solving to Develop Shared Goals

Digging Deeper Exercise | Shared Goals

As you explore the collaborative problem-solving approach, consider how each of the community-identified goals might benefit from the following:

  • Identify and agree on specific locations and timing of the concern (rather than trying to tackle the issue more generally).
  • Identify gaps in knowledge or disagreements about facts and agree to jointly fact-check information, data and assumptions through a neutral third-party technical advisor.
  • Identify partner organizations or agencies who may be able to provide resources or technical assistance to address the goal or generate a mutually agreeable solution.
  • Identify funding to try out a pilot solution to the issue before committing to larger operational changes.
  • Identify a smaller workgroup with representation from the key interest groups to generate viable options with pros and cons for discussion with the larger group.
  • Identify an early and easy win/win goal to generate positive momentum that can be used to work up to more challenging, higher-priority goals.

When there is a significant gap between the goals of the near-port community and those of the port, a polarized stalemate can result. Adopting a collaborative problem-solving approach can help multiple stakeholders reach agreement on top-priority goals. As discussed in Section A, collaborative problem-solving happens when stakeholders come together to explore solutions to an issue that provide mutually beneficial outcomes. Convening a range of stakeholders and partners can increase areas of overlapping interest between two or more stakeholders, and bring more resources to the table that can be leveraged to develop creative, mutually beneficial solutions. Building on the stakeholder interest table in Step 2, consider what role the following stakeholder groups could contribute in a collaborative goal-setting process:27

  • People with formal power to make a decision – may include ports and regulatory agencies.
  • People with power to block – may include unions or advocacy groups with capacity to litigate.
  • People affected by the decision – includes near-ports communities. The more affected a group is by a decision, the more involved they should be in the decision-making process.
  • People with relevant information, resources or expertise – may include scientists and partner agencies.

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Try It Out!  Determine Performance Measures

As you collaborate with the community to define goals, consider what assessments are needed to document current conditions and what performance measures will be used to track changes over time.

Community Goal Performance Measure Assessments with Relevance to Community Goals

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