Case Studies: Community Decision Making
Previous chapters have established that the management of municipal solid waste clearly is an issue of increasing public concern. Proponents of WTE see it as a solution to this country's solid waste management (SWM)problem. However, many proposed WTE facilities have not been built in municipalities across the country.
This chapter attempts to describe the range of factors that influence decisions regarding WTE made by municipalities but does not seek to judge the correctness of the decisions. Influential factors include the technical and financial issues previously discussed as well as social and political issues. Separately investigating these kinds of issues may not provide a composite or synthetic picture of the factors leading to decisions about WTE facilities in any one community. Detailed case studies, in contrast, allow a broad perspective about the decision-making process within communities. Describing this broad perspective is the primary objective of the case studies discussed in this chapter.
Decision making involves at least two components: the decisions that are made, which we label outcomes, and the process of making decisions. In the case of WTE, the outcomes of interest are decisions whether or not to proceed with the incinerators and the degree to which those decisions are supported within the relevant municipalities. A municipality may decide to build a WTE facility without having the strong backing of citizens or politicians, as an example. The process of decision making involves the activities undertaken in the course of reaching an outcome. Process decisions include procedures for choosing host sites, whether and when to hold public meetings, whether to hold public referenda, and the like. Process clearly is linked to outcome, but like processes need not lead to like outcomes.