Finding Procedural Justice in Baltimore’s Department of Public Works
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Type of Work23 p.
ProgramCenter for People, Politics, and Markets
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Structures of power and governance hold significant sway over the process and outcome of decision-making in local governments. An assessment of the processes involved in environmental decision-making (Dietz and Stern, 2008) and structures of governance (United States Census Bureau, 2016; National League of Cities, 2016) can aid an understanding of how public administration decisions are made, and help to dismantle structural power imbalances. To the same end, the presence and impact of procedural justice must also be considered (Holifield, 2001). Holifield defines procedural justice as “referring to the access of citizens to environmental decision-making processes that affect their environments” (Holifield, 2001, 81). The incorporation of procedural justice emphasizes public participation as an integral part of decision-making processes that will impact communities at large. In order to engage in publically beneficial outcomes, governmental institutions must welcome and create space for the idea that “all decisions in a democracy involve public participation” (Dietz and Stern, 2008, 11). While methods of decision-making and public participation are often discussed, there is a lack of focus on the incorporation of procedural justice within the context of local governance structure. To this end, the City of Baltimore will be used as a case study to examine how the structure of city government and the incorporation of city-level public participation impacts procedural justice. The entirety of the case study will be grounded in a historical context and will address the social institutions that shaped modern day Baltimore. An analysis of Baltimore's Public Works Department will add to the discussion, and contextualize the limitations facing and facilitated by local level governance institutions. This analysis will assess how procedural justice is incorporated into environmental and social decision-making processes, and the importance of access to public participation in decisions that impact communities at large. By addressing the Finding Procedural Justice in Baltimore’s Department of Public Works 4 strengths and weaknesses within Baltimore City’s structure of governance, this paper reveals how decisions within the Public Works Department can be more inclusive of public opinion and provide a better forum for diverse voices. Ultimately, this paper aims to address the questions: How is management power distributed within Baltimore City’s Public Works Department? How does the City of Baltimore provide procedural justice within its public and environmental services?