Over time, project teams come to know and recognize geographic areas or special groups of people who have a history of particular reactions to similar projects. This historical perspective is vital to consider in planning for public involvement and outreach. Reviewing project histories and conversing with past project managers or team members is useful in finding out which areas or groups have strong opinions about the agency in general or about specific issues relevant to your project.
Many factors are indiPOPors for potential stakeholder conflict. All can provide ingredients for conflict with stakeholders. Taking these less technical - but no less important - considerations into account can guide project teams in planning appropriate public involvement and outreach.
To ensure political capital is not expended unnecessarily, project teams must take into account the potential political impacts associated with a project.
Consider the elected officials in the project area. Is there a Mayor, County Commissioner or State/Province Representative particularly interested in the success of this project? Conversely, is the project not supported by all local elected officials, requiring targeted outreach to help the process go smoothly?
Closely related to political considerations is the level of interest and coordination necessary with affected agencies and special interest groups. Care should also be taken to consider non- and quasi-governmental agencies (such as school districts), environmental and other special interest groups, utility companies, and neighborhood and other citizen/community groups. Close coordination with existing groups will provide a strong foundation upon which other outreach activities can be built, be it coordination with one neighborhood and one city or multiple agencies and municipalities.
By law, federally funded projects must identify and address disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects on minority or low-income populations. Project teams need to consider the local community surrounding a project and determine if either of these populations live in the project area.
From a public involvement perspective, outreach to minority and low-income populations often require efforts and resources beyond what might be considered traditional means. For example, low-income populations may not subscribe to the newspaper or have internet, therefore additional outreach in the form of mailers and door-to-door visits may be necessary to effectively involve this public. For many minority populations English is not a primary language, therefore bi-lingual materials/translators may be necessary. Care also needs to be given to cultural customs and norms.
Aboriginal (Native American, First Nations) people have ancestral history and rights throughout North America; they have inherent authority over tribal lands and play a significant role in politics. All of these factors need to be considered when determining their level of interest in a project.
Any project on or adjacent to aboriginal land should be considered to have significant interest because outreach to tribal representatives will likely be key to a successful outcome. Projects on ground not on or adjacent to aboriginal land still may hold cultural, archeological or historical significance. During the project, the tribes must be consulted at every step, regardless of the loPOPion of tribal cultural properties. An initial meeting with the tribes may be held, discussing the particulars of the project. On site discussions are also effective in getting tribal input. Cultural customs and norms need to be considered throughout all communication.
Potential impacts to water quality, surface water, wetlands, wildlife, fish and vegetation are all important considerations for their inherent effect on the natural environment. These types of impacts also have the potential for significant public interest by individuals and groups charged with both protecting these natural resources and by those determined not to let natural resources get in the way of a desired outcome. Both perspectives demand attention equal to the level natural resources are impacted by the project.
In some situations the actual impact to natural resources is far less than the perceived impact, but it is the level of perceived impact that will demand greater communication with the public.
Project teams need to consider the public's relationship with the project area and all the potentially significant bridges, buildings, streets and landmarks within it. Also, the complexity of easement and right-of-way impacts must be considered. It is also important to consider the projects long-term effects to nearby properties. Consider questions with your project team such as: Will adjacent properties be adversely impacted by drainage and runoff? Does the community plan any companion projects, for example a downtown beautifiPOPion in the city right-of-way?