Guest Viewpoint for Friday — February 24, 2006

I would like to begin this commentary by commending all the employees of the county, and all of the police officers for continuing their good work while conflict is going on at the highest levels. Thank you for your dedication and service to this island. We are all saddened by the escalation of misunderstandings.

There is an alternative to litigation for solving these disputes. It is called mediation. Mediation is a confidential process of dispute resolution led by a neutral mediator. The goal is not to prove who is right or wrong, but to come to an agreement on how to work out the problems, and is solution oriented. The disputing parties generate the agreement, and the goal is to reach a win-win solution.

Mediation is recognized by the courts. In fact, on Kaua’i all Temporary Restraining Orders, and small claims cases are first referred to a mediator to see if they can be resolved using this process. If so, the cases are dismissed, and the agreement becomes part of the public record. If an agreement isn’t reached, then a hearing is held. Over 70 percent of cases come to agreement.

One of the tasks of the mediator is to find a common ground that both parties can agree upon, and build from there. In our county cases, there is a giant common ground in place, and that is to serve the people of Kaua’i. The police chief has sworn to “preserve the peace” and “protect the rights of persons and properties,” according to the county Web site.

On the Mayor’s Web site he states, “What makes us, as Kauaians, special, is the way we approach projects and relationships. Our people, our quality of life, the preservation and enhancement of our unique lifestyle is Kilohana, above the rest, precisely because of our Aloha Spirit.”

We know “Lucky we live Kaua’i.”

I have had help from both Chief Lum and Mayor Baptiste in supporting Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i Teen Court on the island. I consider them friends, and appreciate their genuine commitment to the people of our island. I have no doubt that with support from the people to come together, rather than fractionalize, agreements can be reached that are workable.

A mediator’s fee is in the hundreds, rather than thousands of dollars. Perhaps we could keep Kauaian money for Kaua’i improvements, rather than paying O’ahu lawyer fees.

KEO has a mediation program. Their number is 245-4077. Kaua’i Mediation Works is at 652-3974, and Kaua’i Mediation Services is at 823-0295. The honorable Judge Frank Rothschild also mediates.

  • Annaleah Atkinson is a volunteer court mediator and professional mediator who resides in Kapa’a.

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