Reflections on Dr. Lee's Turning Participation Into Power

Date01 August 2022
AuthorLaTricea Adams
by LaTricea Adams
LaTricea Adams is Co-Founder and CEO of Black Millennials 4 Flint.
Turning Participation Into Power: A Water Justice Case
Study1 presents a rich, conceptual framework with
the Constituent Empowerment Model (CE Model)
that mirrors the foundational work of Dr. Robert Bullard ’s
Environmenta l Justice Framework2 in its very community-
centered perspective. e article also integrates the Jemez
Principles³ as a practical approach to community oversight
and accountability. Using Baltimore as a case study added
much value to the topic, as the state of Maryland is k nown
for more progressive legislation regarding environment;
however, Prof. Jaime Lee spares no criticism of the need for
more constituent-centered and commu nity-led acc ount-
ability and oversight of the implementation and ongoing
life cycle of policy in practice.
Professor Lee calls out the recurrence of “performative
inclusion” where decisionmakers attempt to appease the
community by creating an invisible table or in the words
of Dr. Lee, “cosmetic processes” where community voice is
heard only for the purposes of show and not for substan-
tive contributions to problem solving. Dr. Lee successfu lly
dismant les the unspoken m antra “process over pe ople” and
ips it on its head where the people, the community, iden-
1. Jaime Alison Lee, Turning Participation Into Power: A Water Justice Case
Study, 28 G. M L. R. 1003 (2022).
2. Robert D. Bullard, (2008) Environmental Justice in the 21st Century,
49 P 151 (2001),
3. S.W. Network for Envt. and Econ. Just., Jemez Principles for Democratic
Organizing (1996) Jemez, New Mexico,
tify the problem, create the process, and utili ze their demo-
cratic power to inform the actions of government agencies
and policymakers a like. e CE Model also demonstrates
the power of intersectional environmentalism, as it ampli-
es the need for equity in accessing power by addressing
upfront the challenges often faced by communities expe-
riencing economic distress and communities of color that
are often met with racial bias a nd discrimination. Essen-
tially, the CE Model completely refutes any and all forms
of classism and racial bigotr y as a prerequisite to engaging
in the community-led process. e individuals who are
most disproportionately impacted are respected as the tr ue
experts as they a lways should be.
Turning Participation Into Power: A Water Justice Case
Study should be deemed as a civic engagement tool that is
versatile beyond an environmental context, as its success
can be replicated to best serve other topics of public policy
at the local, state, and even federal levels. As the current
federal administration is laser-focused on environmental
justice, including the Justice40 initiative for example, this
article is very timely.
4. L T, T I E: H  D-
 S  O  P P + P (2022).
5. U.S. White House. (2021) e Path to Achieving Justice40, https://www.ng-room/2021/07/20/the-path-to-achieving-
Copyright © 2022 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELR®,, 1-800-433-5120.

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