#390 – Dick Bernard: Getting to a settlement

As I write, 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 29, 2011, my spouse, Cathy, is down in the ‘grand canyons’ of downtown Minneapolis, representing our homeowners association at a last ditch mediation to attempt to resolve a matter involving several hundred thousand dollars. Actually, it’s high-priced lawyers who are representing all sides in this now nearly three year old case; Cathy is there as the Association President.
This is the first time Cathy’s been in such a proceeding and it will be interesting to hear her report by phone from time to time today. I have career long experience in this drill of attempting to settle issues, so I know how this process can work, or not….
Enroute to Minneapolis, Cathy drove within sight of the Minnesota State Capitol where a political stalemate is within a day of causing a major government shutdown at midnight June 30. I won’t predict whether they’ll settle or not. I hope they do. Wisely, the leaders of the parties have at least agreed to go behind closed doors, attempt to reach an agreement, and avoid creating a circus atmosphere. (There is a distinct and very important difference between what is happening here, and what happened in Wisconsin back in March. There, one party controls Governor, House and Senate; here the Governor is one party, the House and Senate another.)
In one corner, here in Minnesota, are a motherhood-and-apple pie appearing Young Mom-kind of person who is the Senate Majority leader; and a Jack-Armstrong-All-American [farm] Boy look-alike who’s House Majority Leader. In the other is the wealthy scion of one of Minnesota’s most prominent families, who’s experienced personally the downsides of life, and has scads of political experience. Both sides have a lot of support. There is a huge amount at stake if they can’t settle their differences and come to an agreement that can then justify a special session to ratify the terms of their agreement.
On the outside are ‘we, the people’: the people my Dad used to call ‘kibitzers’ or ‘sidewalk superintendents’ – knowing little or nothing, but having absolute kinds of opinions about what ‘they’ should or should not do, or, alternatively, attempting to wash our hands of the responsibility for the train wreck that we are witnessing not only in our state, but in Washington D.C.
I have my own opinions about what should be done to solve the logjams, but they are just opinions, like everyone elses.
I’m not sitting in those talks that are going on in assorted ways in assorted places. I’ve been in all sorts of similar settings, and I know the heat is on all of those leaders to get something constructive done.
I do have an opinion about what needs to change if we are ever going to go back to the kind of country we used to be:
So long as we choose to consider only one side of the story, and to listen to only one sides point of view, and associate only with people of like minds, we are going to stay paralyzed.
So long as we adhere to a philosophy that declares that our truth or belief alone must prevail, and that we must reject any other beliefs or truths, we will continue to fail.
So long as we have a notion that if we can just say ‘no’ long enough that we will get what we want, at the others expense, we are doomed.

I see little glimmers of hope, but the glimmers are small.
I hope Cathy comes home with a report of a tentative settlement in the mediation today; and that there is no government shutdown tomorrow night in Minnesota.
We need to get ‘er done.

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