TESTIMONY BEFORE THE SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CLEAN AIR, WETLANDS, PRIVATE PROPERTY AND NUCLEAR SAFETY
April 29, 1997
Emma Jean Hull
Mayor of Benton Harbor, MI

Good Day Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Emma Jean Hull, Mayor of Benton Harbor, Michigan, and Treasurer of the National Conference of Black Mayors, Inc. and a member of its standing committee on Environmental Justice. Benton Harbor is located on the shores of Lake Michigan just an hour east of Chicago, Illinois and 45 minutes from Gary, Indiana. It is a minority/majority community with a population of 12,818, 97% African American, 40% under the age of 18. Benton Harbor through local partnerships with business and industry is just beginning to address some of the nation's highest at-risk factors in crime, unemployment and school-drop outs. Our success to date relies on local initiatives to retain, attract and grow small businesses, address workforce development and deal with environmental concerns - mostly related to our brownfield redevelopment projects.

Some Examples of Benton Harbor's Local Partnership Efforts

The city works in partnership with:

Northside Business Association (27 minority businesses working with the chamber to promote minority leadership)

SBA Technical Assistance Project (Lake Michigan College, Cornerstone Alliance, a local non-profit economic development corporation and city working to make individuals and small businesses bankable)

Community Renewal through the Arts (28 area arts groups using the creative arts industry for economic development)

Micro Loan Program (4 local lenders provide start-up monies for self sufficiency through self employment)

Benton Harbor Skills Center (Benton Harbor Area Schools and Cornerstone to provide basic job and life skills training)

Community Partnership for Life Long Learning (all area school systems working toward school to work and career based curriculum)

Site Reclamation Grant to Redevelop Harbor (the state of Michigan and Alliance for multi-modal transportation center)

Site Reclamation Grant for Buried Tank Removal (the state of Michigan)

Purchase and Demolition of Deteriorated Industrial/Commercial Buildings (the state of Michigan and Cornerstone Alliance)

In the late 1970's and early 1980's, Benton Harbor saw the loss of over 3,000 manufacturing jobs with major plant closings in the steel, appliance and automotive industries. The remaining empty, deteriorating and in some instances contaminated buildings form both the core of our environmental problem and Benton Harbor's redevelopment potential. With passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act and the establishment of that year as the base line for attainment, my city was put at an immediate and distinct disadvantage. In 1990, Benton Harbor was at its lowest point for industrial activity. This artificially low standard for air quality, applied nationally without regard to local circumstances, is magnified by our proximity to both Chicago and Gary and the prevailing westerly winds. A fact that impacts the expansion of existing business and inhibits the location of new business in Benton Harbor as well.

The proposed and more stringent ozone standard and new PM standard for particulate matter emissions if implemented will directly impact on my community's efforts toward sustainable economic growth and development. The small businesses affected, many for the first time, like printers, bakers, service station operators and construction firms are the foundation of growing ranks of Benton Harbor's minority entrepreneurs. The anticipated higher production and operations costs required by the proposed standards coupled with regulatory burdens can restrict these businesses' expansion, impact their capital expenditures and eventually affect the jobs of many of our community's residents. This problem is only magnified when applied to new larger businesses. The ability to attract major new business and industry to brownfield sites is difficult. Benton Harbor and the nation does not need any additional impediments.

Legislation is meaningless, unless implementation at the local level is assured. I support clean air and the intent of the Clean Air Act of 1990. I only ask that its implementation and any proposed change be fair, balanced and sensitive to the relationship between local government, industry and business - especially, as in Benton Harbor's case, small business. Partnership is a requirement of change. Please consider the impact the proposed changes will have on the local partnerships my community so desperately needs. Thank you for this opportunity to address this matter today.