Commentary

Dedicated community gets mediations results

Dedicated community gets mediations results
Over the next couple of weeks there will be a lot of fanfare about the mediated agreement between a group of community representatives and the city of Minneapolis. What people will spend a great deal of time arguing about is what’s in the written agreement. Over the next couple of weeks there will be a lot of fanfare about the mediated agreement between a group of community representatives and the city of Minneapolis. What people will spend a great deal of time arguing about is what’s in the written agreement. That’s fair because whenever you put something on paper, you invite people to pick it apart. Besides, we all know that action speaks louder than words.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the group of dedicated community members who labored long and hard on behalf of the community to move mediation forward. They did a great job, and we as a community owe them a debt of gratitude.

I can remember in 2002 when many people said "mediation is dead" and for all practical purposes, it was. With several factions out there saying, "let me do it, no — let me do it," and with fingers pointing whenever the process appeared to leave someone out, the net result was mediation was at a standstill.

I can vividly recall the two events that put mediation back on track. The first event happened when Ron Edwards made an overture to the city to expand the number of individuals allowed to be on the community team. It seemed to be a reasonable suggestion, but it would still leave out many who had a legitimate stake in the process. The second event that I recall being a real motivating factor for mediation was when the Rev. Randy Staten asked, "why should there be a number at all?" These two revelations came together and lead to an agreement by both sides that anyone who wanted to put in the time and the effort to get a mediated agreement should be invited to participate.

Therefore, the first mediation meeting was attended by 35 people who were signed up to represent the community side. Meetings began with regularity at the Minneapolis Urban League. They were facilitated expertly by federal mediator Patricia Glenn from the U.S. Justice Department. Eventually, the initial group of 35 community representatives whittled down to a hard core group of 20.

It is this group of 20 individuals that I want to pay tribute to. It is these 20 people that argued long hours on behalf of a community concerned for its safety. It is this group of 20 people that conducted research and came up with analyses of police tactics and procedures. It is this group of 20 that had to wade through reams and reams of legal documents. And it is this group of 20 dedicated people that came up with a resolution that I strongly believe will move the city and the community forward — together.

By now you should know who those 20 individuals are. They come from various walks of life and brought various viewpoints to the table. They reflected our ethnic, gender, and economic diversity and yet, they were able to put all of their personal and private agendas aside to focus on a collective agenda that had this common theme: a safer community and better relations with police. They are the people you should say thank you to when you see them in your neighborhood, at your church, or where you socialize.

I would be negligent if I did not also mention the other side of the mediation table led by retiring police chief Robert K. Olson. There were several instances throughout this process when Chief Olson could have simply walked away. Let us be fair, when things have not gone the way we thought they should have, we’ve been quick to criticize the chief’s leadership. We should be just as quick to say "thank you, chief" for not giving up and for not letting your team give up.

Another thank you goes out to City Council Member (Second Ward) Paul Zerby. I remember attending a meeting on the subject of mediation with Paul Zerby and City Council President Paul Ostrow (Ward One). Paul Zerby made a simple comment; he said, "let’s just get this thing done. Those wo

December 10, 2003
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