Below see Jim Muench's letter which he wanted both papers to print. The
Tribune told him they would not. Jim is late for the Tribune's political
letters but he is timely given Janese Haevins article "Crosscreek roils city
council race, Mediator's role draws criticism". Jim's letter is a response
from someone who was at the mediator's table, not a political letter. The
Missourian said they would print it but only in tomorrow's paper or possibly
later. I am sending it out so you can read it before the election tomorrow.
What I sent out earlier to these two list servs mentioned how the Tribune
and Missourian for various reasons (the Tribune's I suspect is political,
the Missourian is probably more financial) do not print letters to the
editor in a timely way, not at all, or just on the internet.
Having had to sign a nondisclosure agreement, I am not allowed to write
about the Crosscreek mediation. But because the mediation has become an
issue in the city council elections, and since I was involved in it, I
believe I am uniquely qualified to discuss whether a mechanism of this sort
should be employed to resolve disputes in the future.
To me, some form of mediation could be an important tool in the city's
quiver. I participated because I believed the concept has merit; a format
that allows residents and developers to calmly talk to each other rather
than trading potshots in public meetings should be a good idea.
However, for the future, I cannot endorse the Crosscreek mediation model.
First, the nondisclosure requirement places an unfair burden on neighborhood
associations, which are local deliberative bodies that should operate in the
open, not in secrecy. Negotiators need to be able to communicate with
association membership, and that can't be done properly when straitjacketed
by a gag order.
Second, both sides should have some say in choosing the mediator, and a
neutral third party, such as the city, should make the hire.
Third, when developers directly fund mediation, the mediator is too open to
bias. When the developer signs the mediator's paycheck, the mediator is
bound to want to please that employer. Even if it weren't true in a
particular instance, with an especially conscientious mediator, the mere
perception of bias breeds suspicion.
I am certainly no expert, but there must be better mediation models that
would allow for calm negotiation while minimizing bias and promoting public
2711 Mallard Court
To quote from Haevin's article:
"Confidentiality is a principal part of the ground rules in a mediation,"
Read said. "While I'm not going to talk about a specific mediation, in
general, everybody has to agree how they're going to approach a certain
issue. . What parties do is work through what the expectations are before
they sit down and talk." Read said parties can leave mediation at any time
if they think the process is unfair. Neighborhood associations voted to
accept a mediation agreement concerning Crosscreek.
Jim Muench, chairman at the time of the Shepard Boulevard Neighborhood
Association, said neighbors felt they needed to participate in mediation
because "we felt it was politically the right thing to do. We didn't want to
look like we were obstructionists."In the future, Muench said, mediations
between neighborhood residents and developers should not be confidential."
Some earler comments I wrote in response to Barbara Hoppe's and Sarah Read's
exchange of letters in the Missourian about the Crosscreek mediation:"It was
irresponsible to use mediation when it had never been used in the city or by
the city council, without educating the public and all parties. Mediation
should be used, but only after people are familiar with the process. Barbara
Hoppe, as a lawyer and mediator does know the difference between mediation
between private parties and mediating public policies that affect the
public. Barbara was correct in her explanation of mediations.
Sarah Read has not explained why she chose to use mediation that makes the
parties sign nondisclosure agreements, or why she believes what she did in
the Crosscreek Mediation is an appropriate mediation a Columbia public
issue. Were there lawyers in the mediation for the builders but not the
Neighborhood Association? Why were the developers allowed to pay for the
mediation. Who arranged the whole deal bringing Sarah in and gathering the
neighborhood and developers together to hammer out what Sarah wanted in this
mediation." Those questions, still unanswered, need to be.
Without City and Neighborhood List Servs and such things as Mike Martin's
Columbia Heart Beat Blog for the public on the internet, there would be no
way to get information out to the public, if the print media does not
publish it or radio and TV do not speak about it over the airwaves. I hope
that the City Council continues the good work they are doing building up
Neighborhood Associations and that one thing that is accomplished, sooner
than later, that every Neighborhood Association has a working list serv and
help from the city setting it up. Columbia Citizens List Serv works for the
entire city but each neighborhood needs/must be able to get information out
to the neighborhood so they can be informed of what is going on in and
happening to where they live.