Forum: Mediation the answer for contentious issues

We are faced with building heights, neighborhood developments and school closing issues. These issues have been approached with political power and lawsuits. Politics and lawsuits result in one side winning and the other side losing. This leaves a bitter and disillusioned citizenry.

Mediation is the better way. Mediation results in win-win for everyone. It has successfully resolved complicated divisive community issues such as the Ann Arbor farmers market, zoning and land use and Detroit bankruptcy situations.

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution procedure that resolves conflicts before they become expensive and time-consuming court litigation or bitter political conflicts. In mediation, a facilitator helps participants talk directly with each other to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. Everybody is involved in joint decision making. This includes homeowners, contractors, neighborhood organizations, parents and governmental bodies. Nobody is left out. That is one magic of mediation.

Mediation effectively meets participants’ interests and needs to resolve a dispute. With input from and respect for all participants, participants craft their own resolution for the problem. Mediation resolves existing disagreements while preserving and strengthening relationships. Participants look at the future, not the past. That is another magic of mediation.

Participants respectfully listen to each other in mediation. They craft a mutually agreeable resolution. When we help craft our own solutions, we are much more likely to comply with the solutions.

Participants also (1) have an open mind, (2) take sufficient time to let the process work, (3) listen carefully and (4) discuss the dispute with each other while keeping an open mind. God gave us two ears and one mouth so we could spend more time listening and less time talking.

Mediation successfully resolves disputes. In many communities just like ours mediation healed the breach. Here we have the Traverse City Conflict Resolution Services, which has seasoned mediators who do a wonderful job resolving community and other disputes.

Mediation will resolve the contentious issues that face us.

About the author: Lee Hornberger is an arbitrator and mediator in Traverse City. He is chair-elect of the State Bar’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Section, chair of the ADR Committee of the Grand Traverse-Leelanau-Antrim Bar Association, and former chair of the Traverse City Human Rights Commission.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing Please include biographical information and a photo.

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