Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group – Draft Charter
Section 1. Vision Statement
We, the CAG members, believe that this is an historic opportunity to not only restore a long neglected and abused waterway, but to set an example of what we are scientifically, morally, and environmentally capable of as a great nation – an example of a community that cares about our impact on our small portion of the planet. A community that is committed to showing what we can do when driven by science and conscience, as well as, but not only by, dollars and cents. A community that takes seriously the monetary investments being made in the canal and demands the best results for that investment. A community that expects all of the government agencies to take the investments in the canal - both financial and emotional - as seriously as we do. A community that expects the government agencies to work together, and with us, toward the same ends: adhering to the highest standards and achieving the best environmental results for the canal and our community.
The clean-up of the canal presents a remarkable opportunity to realize the hopes and dreams of the community for its future. We recognize that these aspirations are as diverse as our community. Our vision for the CAG is to advance these hopes and dreams by working together in ways that build trust and utilize intensive transparency, collaboration, and leadership.
Section 2. CAG Mission
The mission of the CAG is to be an active forum for regular ongoing dialogue between representatives of all segments of the community; local, state and federal agencies; elected officials; Potentially Responsible Parties; and others, as appropriate, about the federal Superfund clean-up of the Gowanus Canal and other issues of concern to the community. The CAG’s roles may include, but not be limited to:
Disseminating information to the community
Gathering information from the community and various sources
Discussing and assessing information
Voicing/actualizing positions (letters, ads in paper, seeking help, etc.)
Problem-solving issues relating to the clean-up and the community
Providing input and guidance to EPA and others
Section 3. Structure and composition of the CAG
The CAG shall consist of no more than 60 members representing the full range of community interests and shall strive to maintain a proportional balance between organizational representatives and at-large members. Much of the work of the CAG shall be done in committees, each committee consisting of no less than three CAG members. Committees may invite guests to their meetings, but committee membership will be limited to CAG members. The CAG is assisted by a professional facilitator and will include a Governance Committee, described in Section 11, to make recommendations to the full CAG on issues such as membership, attendance, committee structure, charter amendments and other issues related to the operations of the CAG.
Section 4. Statement of Principles
The strength of the CAG rests on its members aspiring to the highest standards of fairness, effectiveness, transparency, honesty and integrity in their involvement with CAG activities and by the CAG demonstrating those values publicly. The CAG’s activities will be carried out in the following manner:
The CAG process will be conducted with impartiality and objectivity, inclusiveness, equality, diversity.
CAG members, liaisons, and guests will treat each other with civility, respect, goodwill, empathy, patience, and respect for other participants’ time.
The CAG will approach its work thoughtfully, purposefully, diligently, efficiently, with foresight, focus, and an aim to reach agreement on scientific facts and to forecast results of decisions.
The CAG will embody the attitudes of energetic approach, boldness, confidence, commitment, pro-activity, hope.
The CAG members will commit to putting in time and energy, listening, attending meetings, reading, learning, thinking, discussing, reflecting and understanding the issues and decisions to be made; being accountable to their constituencies and to the environment, health concerns, and community use; and acknowledging political, budgetary, and temporal limitations, when and where they may exist.
The CAG’s communications will be done openly, with all documents available on-line, open meetings, clear communication, and timely updates.
The CAG will utilize joint fact-finding methods for issues of information and science, in which CAG members work together to identify: 1) the problem, conflict, or educational need to be solved/resolved, 2) the information (facts) needed to address the issue, 3) the methods to be used to generate the information needed (in accordance with jointly-agreed upon objectivity standards); 4) resources available; and 5) who will carry out the agreed-upon methods.
CAG members will emphasize a positive approach: When disagreements arise, CAG members will offer positive solutions and when CAG members believe there is imbalance in information, participation, outreach or any other CAG activities, they will offer solutions that create balance by adding new perspectives, rather than taking away.
Section 5. CAG Membership
5.1 Criteria for membership
Criteria for CAG organizational members. CAG organizational members shall meet at least one of the following criteria:
Represent one or more distinct neighborhoods in the vicinity of the site (i.e. Red Hook, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope and Red Hook) or segment of the community (i.e. developers, merchants, industrial, recreational users, etc.), or
Focus their efforts on environmental issues and have members that reside in the neighborhoods in the vicinity of the site, or
Provide specialized expertise relevant to the Superfund clean-up that will assist the CAG in its work, and have some connection to the Superfund site,
and should meet all of the following criteria:
Be an established organization, and
Maintain regular contact with their neighborhood or segment of the community through periodic meetings, written communication, such as emails or newsletters, or other forms of widespread outreach,
Criteria for CAG members-at-large. CAG members-at-large should meet at least one of the following criteria:
Reside in one of the neighborhoods in the vicinity of the site, or
Work in one of the neighborhoods in the vicinity of the site, or
Operate a business in one of the neighborhoods in the vicinity of the site, or
Provide specialized expertise relevant to the Superfund clean-up that will assist the CAG in its work, and have some connection to the Superfund site
Criteria for Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs). Parties identified by USEPA as PRPs shall be eligible to join the CAG.
Criteria for all CAG members. All members of the CAG, including organizational representatives, members-at-large, and PRPs, should meet all the following criteria:
Commitment to CAG Statement of Principles
Willingness to put in time and effort
Good communication skills
Ability to understand the relevant issues
5.2 Responsibilities of CAG membership:
1) Attendance requirements: CAG members are expected to attend at least half of all CAG general meetings during a calendar year CAG members are also expected to attend at least half of all committee meetings for their appointed committee(s) during which time they are a committee member. The CAG facilitator will maintain records of attendance. In the event that an organizational member is unable to attend a meeting, he/she will make their best efforts to send an alternate, which shall be considered attendance. Attendance at general and committee meetings shall be defined as being present for at least half of the meeting’s duration. The Governance Committee shall conduct regular assessments in addition to an annual review of attendance and issue a report with any recommendations to the full CAG.
2) Committee involvement: CAG members must participate in at least one committee, of their choosing.
3) Participation guidelines: The following are guidelines to CAG participation that will help the CAG’s efficiency and effectiveness:
CAG members should review all pertinent information in advance and keep up to date on issues, so that meeting time is not spent reviewing old information or answering questions that have previously been addressed.
Whenever possible, new ideas and proposals should be brought forward at the committee level.
Organizational members will be relied upon to regularly communicate with their members and constituencies on CAG-related matters, and provide input to the CAG on behalf of their members and constituencies as appropriate.
4) Adherence to CAG principles: CAG members are expected to act in accordance with CAG principles, in all matters relating to the work of the CAG, whether during meetings or in other activities external to, but related to, the work of the CAG.
5) Alternates (for organizations): Organizational members shall designate an alternate representative, who will participate in CAG general and committee meetings in the event that the organizational member is unavailable.
6) Dual representation: Organizational members shall be permitted to represent more than one organization, if acceptable to those organizations. In such cases, the CAG member shall carry out his/her responsibilities relative to both organizations and shall be specific when communicating to the CAG the different views of each organization.
7) Adherence to responsibilities: Should a CAG member be unable to adhere to the responsibilities of CAG membership, he/she shall give up his/her seat on the CAG. The CAG facilitator shall maintain records of attendance and shall notify any CAG member not in compliance with attendance requirements. The Governance Committee will review CAG attendance issues and issue a report with any recommendations to the full CAG.
5.3 When and how people can join the CAG: Individuals and organizations can join the CAG, provided they meet the criteria for membership as described in Section 5.1 and upon a vote of approval by more than 4/5 of eligible members in attendance at a CAG general meeting, in one of the following ways:
Annually: By December 1 of each year, CAG members must inform the CAG facilitator whether they will continue serving on the CAG for the following year. By December 15, the CAG facilitator will provide the CAG members with the list of those intending to serve for the upcoming year and solicit input on filling any vacancies or adding new members. The Governance Committee, with the assistance of the CAG facilitator, will then work with the Outreach Committee and/or other committees, as appropriate, to identify and contact potential new or replacement members, and to develop a list of proposed willing candidates. The list of candidates as a whole shall be voted on at the earliest possible CAG general meeting.
Petition to join at any time: Provided that the CAG membership does not exceed a maximum of sixty members and that an appropriate balance is maintained between organizational and at-large members with a diversity of community interests, individuals or organizations meeting the criteria described in Section 5.1 may join the CAG outside of the annual process described above by contacting the CAG facilitator, who will inform the Governance Committee, which shall make a recommendation to the full CAG regarding the prospective member(s) and a vote shall be taken at the earliest possible CAG general meeting. The Governance Committee, with the assistance of the CAG facilitator, will have the authority to manage the process of recruiting new CAG members to ensure that the CAG membership retains an appropriate balance among the diverse community interests.
5.4 Conflict of Interest
CAG members shall be transparent regarding ways that CAG activities or decisions about the clean-up will impact them (and/or their organization) personally, professionally, or otherwise, and must recuse themselves from any CAG decision-making on matters in which they or their organization have a direct financial interest, including, but not limited to, matters solely impacting specific properties in which they have a direct interest. These procedures shall be followed by CAG members for all CAG activities, including committee and general CAG activities.
Section 6. Committee Membership
6.1 Committee membership responsibilities: Committee members are expected to attend at least half of all committee meetings during their tenure.
6.2 When and how people can join committees: CAG members may change their committee membership at any such time that the CAG ratifies a reconfiguration of committees. At any other time, if a CAG member wishes to join a committee, he/she will be eligible to do so after attending at least two meetings of the committee.
Section 7. Communications
7.1 The CAG Outreach Committee will develop a Communications and External Relations Plan which they shall review annually and that will include, but not be limited to, methods for 1) responding to press inquiries, 2) disseminating information, 3) responding to speaker/presenter requests, 4) developing and updating printed and on-line materials; and 5) providing guidance for use of the CAG name, logo, or any other materials identified with the CAG. The CAG Communications and External Relations Plan and any changes will be subject to approval by the full CAG in accordance with the procedures of Section 8.1.
7.2 When speaking with others outside the CAG, members will be clear that they are representing their views and concerns as an individual or as an organizational representative and will not speak for the CAG as a whole, except as otherwise described in the Communications and External Relations Plan.
7.3 Members and alternates will adhere to the Communications and External Relations Plan when communicating with the media, other outside parties, and/or one another on CAG business via phone, email, and other means.
Section 8. CAG Activities
8.1 Decision-making: In general, proposals will originate within committees and be submitted to the CAG for ratification at a general meeting, as described in Appendix 1, except for agenda-setting and similar logistical or procedural issues.
8.2 Agenda Development and Posting: CAG agendas shall be developed by the facilitator with input from the CAG members and shall be sent to CAG members at least 7 days in advance of meetings. Agendas shall describe any decisions, proposals, resolutions, to be acted on by the full CAG.
8.3. Meeting summaries and meeting notification: Meeting summaries of all CAG general meetings and committee meetings will be made available by the facilitator to CAG members within 10 days of all meetings. Committee meetings will be announced at least two weeks in advance and CAG meetings will be announced at least three weeks in advance, except in the event that the facilitator determines that a meeting is necessary sooner than these procedures would allow.
8.4 Meeting groundrules: During all CAG meetings, including committee meetings, members and meeting attendees shall observe the following groundrules:
Only one person will speak at a time and no interruptions will take place, including cross-talking or side conversations, when another person is speaking.
During presentations in general, CAG members should hold all questions, except for clarifying questions, until the end.
Each person will express his or her own views and the views of their organizations openly, and will make the reasons for any agreement or disagreement known.
No one will make personal attacks, issue statements blaming others for specific actions or outcomes, or ascribe intent to others.
Each person will make every effort to move the agenda forward fairly and efficiently by avoiding repetition and verbosity.
8.5. Open meeting policy: In keeping with the spirit of promoting public access, all CAG meetings and committee meetings will be open to the public and the media. When possible, time will be allotted for public comment, but this is not guaranteed at any particular meeting. The CAG facilitator will announce at the start of each meeting that photography, video recording, or audio recording may be taking place.
8.6 News media:
The CAG notes the following regarding the media’s participation in CAG meetings.
The CAG encourages media participation to ensure public, transparent information sharing and deliberation.
The CAG facilitator will designate a section of each meeting space, as needed, for television cameras, prominent recording devices, or other equipment.
The CAG asks media representatives to:
Keep cameras, recording devices, and any other equipment within the designated area.
Allow members of the public to make comments during any public comment period without interference.
Withhold from asking questions or commenting during CAG meetings, including during any public comment time, except prior to the start of the meeting, during breaks, or after the adjournment of the meeting.
Section 9. Committee Activities
9.1. Committee mission statements: Each committee will have a mission statement describing the scope of its work. The mission statements will be re-examined annually and revised, as necessary. Committees will attempt to reach consensus on their mission statements.
9.2. Committee Information-gathering: When committees propose information-gathering activities, they shall follow the principles of joint fact-finding described in Section 4, including the use of Objectivity Standards, which may include, but not be limited to: 1) standardized messages; 2) standardized questions; 3) anonymous or confidential input options; 4) disclosure of raw data.
9.3 Proposals: Any proposal from a committee that requires or seeks funding shall acknowledge that the CAG’s structure is typically not sufficient for managing and/or administering funds and must include measures and strategies to address those insufficiencies. Whenever a committee approves a proposal to be presented to the full CAG for ratification, the committee shall select one or more spokespeople to present the proposal to the full CAG.
9.4. Communications between committees: Committees shall strive to identify when other committees should be kept informed of their work above and beyond the procedures described in Section 8, and in such cases, shall take the appropriate actions.
9.5. Committee Agenda development and posting: Committee agendas will be developed by the facilitator in consultation with the committee members and will be posted or sent to all CAG members at least 7 days in advance of committee meetings.
9.6. The Governance Committee, with the assistance of the CAG facilitator, will review the configuration of committees annually, and as needed, and will make recommendations to the CAG for any changes to the committee structure, which must be ratified in accordance with Section 8.1.
Section 10. CAG Facilitator
10.1 The CAG facilitator will carry out all his or her responsibilities, as described in this Charter, including, but not limited to:
Assisting in formulating meeting agendas
Preparing meeting summaries and track action items and future agendas
Assisting the CAG members in complying with ground rules, Statement of Principles, and membership responsibilities
Identifying and synthesizing points of agreement and disagreement
Assisting in building agreement among members when and as needed
Helping build capacity of CAG members to perform CAG functions
Serving as a point of contact between the CAG and local, state and federal agencies, elected officials, Potentially Responsible Parties, community organizations, and others
Serving as a confidential communication channel for members or observers as needed. In the event that a member is unable to speak about a concern directly to another member, he or she can contact the facilitator by phone (or in person). The facilitator may serve as a channel for such concerns as well as work with parties between meetings, as necessary, to resolve conflict. Upon request, all information or views shared during conversations with the facilitator will be kept confidential.
Advocating for a fair, effective, and credible process, but remain neutral with respect to the outcome of the CAG’s deliberations.
Distributing meeting agendas, meeting summaries, and other CAG materials
Fulfilling any and all contractual obligations he or she may be subject to for the conduct of this work.
Section 11. Governance Committee
The Governance Committee is expected to meet at least quarterly. CAG members wishing to join the Governance Committee must attend two meetings before being eligible for membership. The Governance Committee will address:
CAG membership, including attendance issues of existing CAG members, requests to join the CAG, and new member recruitment needs.
Committee structure, including mission statements and number and types of committees.
Administrative matters related to EPA and other agencies.
Annual review of CAG charter.
Meeting parliamentary procedures.
In all cases, the Governance Committee’s role is to review and assess issues, produce reports, and present recommendations to the full CAG for ratification. The Governance Committee does not have any independent decision-making authority, except for its internal procedures in accordance with applicable sections of this Charter.
Section 12. Amendments to the CAG Charter
Any member of the CAG may propose an amendment to the CAG Charter by notifying the CAG facilitator. The Governance Committee shall consider the proposed amendment and shall issue a report including its recommendations, if any, on the proposed amendment, which shall be placed on the agenda for the next possible general meeting for discussion, and placed on the agenda for the subsequent general meeting for ratification, which shall require a vote of more than 4/5 approval of the full CAG membership.
Section 13. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The CAG requests that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in good faith, positively affirm its commitment to performing the following activities:
Send appropriate staff to regularly scheduled general and committee meetings, as warranted by meeting agendas.
Respond to action items and other requests of the CAG in a clear, direct, and timely fashion, including providing responses to questions and comments of CAG members by: 1) giving presentations to the CAG; or 2) responding to CAG members’ questions and comments at CAG meetings; or 3) providing written responses.
Participate in and conduct educational briefings to ensure a shared knowledge of key issues, technologies, and the Superfund process.
Arrive at each meeting prepared to discuss the issues on the agenda. Preparation includes reviewing meeting summaries and materials sent out prior to each meeting.
Prepare and provide presentations on relevant technical, legal, and other pertinent cleanup issues as requested by the CAG.
Help the CAG coordinate its work with the Superfund technical program and schedule.
Consider seriously and in good faith the input of the CAG and provide responses to that input so that the CAG is able to see the impact of its input.
Provide resource support to the CAG in terms of funds for facilitation.
Strive throughout the process to engage in respectful, constructive dialogue with CAG members and others, bridge gaps in understanding, and seek creative resolution of differences.
Engage in discussion with the Governance Committee on administrative matters, should the need arise.
Engage in a discussion with the full CAG membership at least once per year to evaluate the relationship between the CAG and EPA, discuss what aspects are working well and what aspects need improvement, and identify any potential changes to how EPA and the CAG will work together.
Section 14. Roles and Responsibilities of CAG Liaisons
Representatives of New York City mayoral, state and federal agencies, elected officials, and other parties with involvement in or connection to the Superfund clean-up of the Gowanus Canal shall be encouraged and welcome to participate in the CAG in the following ways:
Attend regularly scheduled meetings and address the CAG, as appropriate per the agenda and at the discretion of the facilitator.
Participate in and conduct educational briefings, on relevant technical, legal, and other pertinent cleanup issues related to the Superfund site to help ensure a shared knowledge of key information.
Arrive at meetings prepared to discuss the issues on the agenda, as appropriate.
Provide input during CAG discussions, as needed and appropriate.
Make themselves available for questions.
Consider seriously and in good faith the input of the CAG.
Strive throughout the process to engage in respectful, constructive dialogue with CAG members and others and help bridge gaps in understanding.
Appendix 1. CAG Ratification Procedures
Standards for Committee proposals to be ratified by CAG
>50% approval at general meeting
>2/3 approval at general meeting
>4/5 approval at
Category 1: Inviting guests to committee and reviewing existing information
Committee majority required
Category 2: Minor in-kind services1, creating new information2, and performing tasks
Committee majority required
Category 3: Resolutions ,Communications Plan, membership changes, changes to committee structure and/or mission statement, and Charter amendments.
> 2/3 Committee approval required
Category 4: Seeking funding or utilizing major in-kind1 or paid services3
> 4/5 Committee approval required
1 In-kind services are defined as services provided by a CAG member or member’s organization that would be clearly recognized by the public as a CAG activity, versus activity on behalf of the member or member’s organization. Minor in-kind services are defined as 10 hours or less per month of staff time and/or less than $1,000 per year of expenditures.
2 Creation of new information must meet Objectivity Standards as described in Section 9.2.
3 If a proposal ratified by the full CAG to seek funding includes identification of who would provide services or the mechanism to select a provider, then no further approval is needed by the full CAG for the selection of the provider of the services.
Quorum: A quorum must be present at committee or CAG general meetings for a proposal to be ratified. A quorum is defined as more than 50% of the committee or CAG members.
Ratification venues: All proposals requiring full CAG approval (Categories 2, 3, and 4) must be taken up at a CAG general meeting and must be sent to CAG members at least 7 days in advance. For Category 2 and 3 proposals, if there is full consensus of the committee members present at a committee meeting in support of the proposal and full consensus that the proposal is time-sensitive because of a specific external deadline (such as a grant application or an upcoming event) and cannot wait until the next possible CAG general meeting, then the proposal will be sent by the facilitator to the full CAG for comments and a compilation of comments will be sent to all CAG members who will then vote via email on the proposal. In such an event, Category 2 proposals must receive more than 50% approval of all CAG members to be ratified and Category 3 proposals must receive more than 2/3 approval of all CAG members to be ratified.
Amendments to proposals: During discussion of a proposal at general meeting, “friendly amendments” that improve the proposal or address concerns, but that do not constitute substantive changes to the proposal, may be offered by CAG members and shall be accepted using the same procedures as for CAG ratification described above.
Resolutions: When a committee proposes a CAG Resolution, the proposed resolution must be discussed and voted on at the next possible CAG general meeting. It must be sent to all CAG members at least 7 days in advance of the next possible meeting. At the CAG meeting, organizational members may request that the vote be postponed until the following CAG meeting, in order to assess organizational/constituent support, opposition, or concerns. The ratification vote will be postponed, upon such request. If the resolution fails to receive more than 4/5 support, then the committee may subsequently revise it and re-submit to the full CAG. At the CAG facilitator’s discretion, if a proposed resolution has been revised by committee at least once and still fails to achieve ratification by the full CAG, he/she will prepare a report describing the various perspectives on the proposed resolution, which will be submitted to EPA and/or other relevant parties.
Procedural revisions: The facilitator or members of the CAG may propose revisions to the procedures outlined here during a CAG general meeting, including allowing for new proposals not put forward by any committee, and such revised procedures will be adopted if agreed to by more than 2/3 of the CAG members present for Category 2, or if agreed to by more than 4/5 of the CAG members present for Category 3 or Category 4 proposals. Such procedural revisions shall apply only to the proposal in question, not to any additional future proposals, and shall not constitute any change to this charter.
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