Mediation Helps Cities and Counties in Southern San Joaquin Valley
During the mid-1990’s, the City of Fresno, the County of Fresno and the City of Clovis became embroiled in disputes concerning land use, boundary changes, traffic flow and tax sharing. Some issues were in litigation; others just festered.
Local officials agreed to try mediation, with great success.
Reflecting on the reasons for the mediation’s effectiveness, the mediators reported that the dispute had been fueled by miscommunication and mistrust among local officials and staff which the parties were able to address in mediation. The lawsuits, which largely involved legal definitions, did not address the real disputes. The parties came to realize that working against each other would not help them reach their individual and shared visions for the region.
The first step was to address communication and trust issues and identify each agency’s individual and mutual interests. They created a settlement agreement that:
- Dismissed the lawsuits;
- Provided for new cooperative working relationships to address regional planning goals; and
- Set up a mediation process to resolve future disagreements.¹
¹ This case is described in Mediating Local Intergovernmental Disputes -Reflections on the Process , by Richard M. Cartier, 12 San Joaquin Agric. Law Review 1 (2003).