Bending Priorities: a Study in Policy Framing. State of Michigan’s Brownfield Initiative



This paper explores the political process bywhich the state of Michigan successfully crafted andimplemented such a brownfield initiative. Althoughthe primary focus here is on the experience of asingle state, the lessons to be learned from thiscase have national and international implicationsbecause Michigan is a leader in brownfieldprograms. The paper begins with a review of thegeneral policy context in which state brownfieldpolicy is made. Particular attention is given tothe widespread dissatisfaction of a variety ofstakeholders with long dominant federal programsin the area of environmental cleanups. The secondsection outlines a number of fundamental legislativeand administrative changes that have beenimplemented in Michigan environmental policyover the past decade. Section three reviews thebroad literature on issue framing and considershow it might help identify the specific mechanismsby which the innovative brownfield program wasadopted. The final section provides an informal testof elements of the issue-framing model by exploringin some detail the convergence of public opinionwith key elements of the innovative policy, andwhether there was any significant shift in publicopinion over time.

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