Daniel Parker, MSP, GAL
From: Samuél Brobbey, Jr
Subject: Update - West Ocala Neighborhood PACE EH
The West Ocala Neighborhood PACE EH Project has made some significant accomplishments this reporting time. Several CEHAT meetings and/or workshops have been organized since our last report. Our standard schedule has been on a two-week basis. The focus has been on completing the various PACE EH Tasks as determined by the community, while creating sustainable solutions to address identified problems.
After developing Sample Surveys to determine the most pervasive concerns in the community, the CEHAT members committed to canvassing the community, distributing and collecting the Surveys from door to door. Some were distributed during community gatherings and meetings, at Hair Saloons and other businesses. The last batch of Surveys, also called the Environmental Health Awareness Fair Survey, aimed specifically at determining the communitys concern and interest in learning about environmental health issues, was distributed during the Environmental Health Awareness Fair on February 19th, 2005.
The Environmental Health Awareness Fair was the brainchild of the CEHAT members. The purpose was threefold. First, to educate the community about the interrelationships between people and their environment, promote human health and well-being, and foster a safe and healthful environment as they are empowered to enhance their quality of life. Secondly, it was used as an opportunity to publicize the PACE EH Process and encourage greater grassroots involvement. Lastly, it was a way to get community input by distributing and collecting some of the Surveys. Partners like, Keep Marion Beautiful, Neighborhood Citizens of Northwest Ocala, Boys and Girls Club of Marion County, Ocala Housing Authority, Marion County Sheriffs Department, Governors West Ocala Neighborhood Revitalization Council, Marion County Watershed Action Volunteers, City of Ocala Fire Department, City of Ocala Parks and Recreation Department, Central Florida Community College, Madison Street Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, Future Leaders of America, Marion County Blood Bank, and Marion County Waste Management, worked together to make this a successful event.
Prior to the day of the Fair, we pursued and received two Proclamations one from the City of Ocala, and the other from the Marion County Board of Commissioners - declaring the third week of every February, Environmental Health Awareness Week. We received excellent media coverage from newspapers like, The Star Banner, The Mahogany Review, and radio Stations like WOCA, SKY Radio, KTK Country and the local affiliate of NPR out of University of Florida in Gainesville for this historic event - the first one ever in the history of Marion County. Corporate sponsorship for the event in various forms were received from the Marion/Ocala Chamber of Commerce, St. Johns River Water Management, Century 21, Little Caesars, Publix, Chick-fil-a, Ocala Electric Utility and other local business entities.
The two different surveys have been returned, analyzed and a report generated and distributed. The surveys confirmed some concerns of the community whiles revealing other information pertinent to working in the West Ocala community. Uncared for property is the highest rated environmental Health concern in the community. Air pollution/Contamination is a concern that most affected the community. In order to definitively link these concerns with the communitys health status and develop sustainable action plans, we are working towards bringing the CEHAT together again to do an analysis using a systems framework.
After the Report on the Surveys was released, one local Newspaper the Star Banner did a front page article in the local section of the weekend edition that brought some publicity once again to these community concerns. Florida Public Radio also covered the Report with a live interview.
With such media exposure, our hope is to garner support from public agencies, private organizations, business entities, and especially from the grassroots community members to address what seems to be a highly charged community concern. Our role is better served if and when the community and stakeholders work together and demonstrate some level of commitment and initiative by taking the responsibility in developing creative solutions to address these identified concerns. In other words, the communitys interest and willingness to tackle concerns in their own community ultimately drives the PACE EH process.
A new partnership that has been developed includes our involvement with the Environmental Issues Committee of the Marion/Ocala Chamber of Commerce in pursuing our respective goals to our mutual benefit. So far a West Ocala Neighborhood PACE EH presentation has been made to this committee with positive feedback.
As we prepare to do an analysis using a Systems Framework, we have noticed some apprehension among some CEHAT members. Although this is important to linking the concerns with the communitys health status, a crucial part of the process, some do not deem this necessary. These members, influenced by an outspoken neighborhood group, see the completion of the surveys as a platform for political action to promote their agenda without consideration for the PACE EH tool. This posture poses a threat to the current direction of the process. This situation is made more complex because of a strong historic bias against a Charcoal plant in the neighborhood perpetuated by perceptions of bad outdoor air quality on account of this plant.
In order to remain true to the PACE EH methodology, we plan to diffuse the stalemate by facilitating a dialogue among the neighborhood group, the charcoal company, and other stakeholders while working with emerging and ongoing initiatives to address the identified environmental health concerns. Ultimately, our goal of active participation in community meetings will keep the environmental health agenda on the forefront of quality of life initiatives.
Past Marion County Updates
Media Coverage (.pdf files)
February 21, 2006 - Pollution concerns Royal Oak neighbors
January 25, 2006 - Ocala to fund charcoal plant emission tests
January 21, 2006 - Royal Oak says no to pollution inspection
January 13, 2006 - Ocala may inspect Royal Oak site
January 5, 2006 - Marion County PACE EH Project Wins Walter Driggers Award
January 3, 2006 - Editorial: Once they are heard, they roar
December 31, 2005 - Soot sleuths: Volunteers monitor industrial plant emissions
August 24, 2005 - Coat of charcoal: Residents concerned with soot from Royal Oak
April 10, 2005 - Unkempt properties, pollution cited in west Ocala survey
August 1, 2004 - West Ocala's health to get a close look