As a nation and a state, we are dealing with increasingly complex and controversial issues involving how we use land and resources. Natural resources are diminishing while demands on those resources are rising. Renewable energy sources sound great in theory, but frequently are problematic for the people who live nearby. The rural farm based economy of Vermont is losing ground to development and industry.
Big changes bring big conflicts, which can involve landowners, developers, local residents, environmental organizations, and government agencies. Protracted public arguing is messy, disrupts communities, wastes money and time, and breeds cynicism about public decision-making. We need to stop treating political disagreements as fights and start seeing them as opportunities to collaboratively plan for the future.
Obviously, this is much easier said than done. But, I have seen it work. Early in my legal career, I was employed by the state of Massachusetts to litigate, negotiate and resolve complex hazardous waste cleanup cases. Settlements required buy-in from multiple defendants, numerous separate state and federal agencies and a host of stakeholders with powerfully held views and personalities to match. The negotiating environment was frequently as toxic as the contaminated land and water being discussed. But, in cases where all the parties were committed to the hard work of seeing the process through, agreements were sealed.