LETTER: Read responds to Hoppe's accusations

Thursday, April 1, 2010 | 3:01 p.m. CDT; updated 4:04 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 1, 2010

This responds to the March 31 letter from sitting Sixth Ward councilwoman Barbara Hoppe. That letter repeated various misrepresentations that have been made in the blogs by supporters of Tracy Greever-Rice since the beginning of my campaign. I note that Ms. Hoppe is on record as having contributed $100 to Tracy's campaign.

It is clear that Ms. Hoppe did not do her homework before repeating these misstatements. Her statements are at odds with the contemporaneous comments of participants reported in the June 23, 2008, article in the Missourian titled “Striving for unity in Crosscreek.” They are also contradicted by the published ballot and report sent by the Shepard Boulevard Neighborhood Association representatives to the neighborhood before its vote. Not only did both of the involved neighborhood associations ratify the final agreement negotiated by the parties, that agreement was approved by both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council. This was reported in a July 11, 2008, Tribune article titled “Crosscreek clears city hurdle.”

Voters can judge the appropriateness of a sitting councilperson attacking a candidate in another ward and disregarding the record to do so.

This election presents a clear choice. Voters can endorse a candidate associated with the politics of personal attack that dominate the blogosphere or choose among candidates who believe in more genuine and informed dialogue.

Sarah Read is a candidate for Fourth Ward City Council.


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Christopher Foote April 1, 2010 | 5:40 p.m.

Mrs. Read's response is rather curious, in that it doesn't identify the misstatements that Mrs. Hoppe was purported to have made. I read Mrs. Hoppe's letter and she stated that she thought it was inappropriate that the developer's picked the mediator and that it was also inappropriate for the mediator to insist on a nondisclosure agreement with the neighborhood association. It is my understanding that these two facts are not in dispute. Perhaps Mrs. Read can specify what the exact misstatements were. In lieu of that, it would appear that Mrs. Read agrees with Mrs. Hoppe's criticism, because she has chosen not to argue that her actions were appropriate, but rather accuse Mrs. Hoppe of misrepresenting the facts.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance April 1, 2010 | 6:03 p.m.

You're not the victim Read.

You were a paid mediator by the developers, were you not?

Did you require a non-disclosure agreement Yes or No?

Hoppe wasn't personal attacking you, just you're methods. She didn't say you were a bad person.

Also Ms. Read. Barb Hoppe has a LOT more cred with the progressive in your own ward. Attacking Hoppe might just backlash on you. I like Greever-Rice in this contest.

(Report Comment)
James Eldridge April 1, 2010 | 6:17 p.m.

Christopher, I think you're supposed to read the links. In particular, it's clear from the linked Missourian story that the non-disclosure did not prohibit representatives from discussing their feelings about the development with their members. In fact, the article describes them doing exactly that. So to say that the representatives were completely hamstrung and couldn't say anything to the members is just plain wrong. Since that's pretty much the basis for Hoppe's entire argument, this letter (coupled with its linked sources) is a fairly comprehensive refutation of her criticism.

Anyway, the real key to this whole manufactured "issue" is that the people involved with the mediation overwhelmingly spoke highly of the process and its results. This mediation didn't come to be viewed in this negative light at all until another candidate for this office started reaching for any line of personal attack available.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance April 1, 2010 | 8:23 p.m.

"The parties involved signed a confidentiality agreement that prohibited them from talking publicly about the mediated discussions."

I agree with Barb, these "agreements" has no place in these types of neighborhood discussions, especially when the mediator is paid by developers.

Please! These are questions about Sarah Read's methods, not her character. If Sarah thinks she is being "attacked" have her go ask Karl what character assassination really feels like.

You are not the victim Ms. Read, just the outmatched neighborhood association.

(Report Comment)
Barbara Hoppe April 1, 2010 | 8:59 p.m.

I stand by every word of my letter. In addition, I have expressed concerned about the unfairness of the mediation processed used at Crosscreek to many people, since it occurred and well before Sarah Reed ran for City Council. While I had intended to write an op ed piece long ago, I always am short on time, and the more immediate issues take priority. My information comes first hand, from working and communicating with the neighborhood representatives and being active throughout the development rezoning process. I have first hand knowledge from the neighborhood representatives of their frustration both before entering the mediation process and after.

Neither the newspaper article cited by Ms. Reed nor the Shepard Neighborhood Newsletter reference refute any of the concerns I have raised. While Mr. Muench was quoted in the Missourian as saying the mediation helped to create a “congenial conversation” that was during the mediation for the participants and does not refute that their hands were tied by the non-disclosure/confidentiality agreement thereafter. Similary, the Shepard Neighborhood representatives could not and did not put anything in the Newsletter as to their opinion or concerns with the “proposed” agreement. They included only the proposed agreement to be voted on and city related documents, where voting would occur, etc. I stand by my statements and letter 100%.

(Report Comment)
Barbara Hoppe April 1, 2010 | 9:03 p.m.

P.S. I do apologize for misspelling Ms. Read's name in my posted comment above. I grew up with Reed's on our block, with the different spelling.

(Report Comment)
Ed Ricciotti April 2, 2010 | 9:01 a.m.

I know Barbara Hoppe. She is not in the business of "attacking" people. However, if she feels that her constituents got a raw deal, she would not hesitate to point that out. I think it is entirely appropriate to weigh in on a process that occurred in her ward and left many of the Shepard Neighborhood frustrated by it.

Sarah and Barbara are both attorneys, experienced in mediation and it would be nice to see an artful rebuttal on why non-disclosure was necessary. What we got was a rather defensive and not very informative answer. Hoppe shares many of the friends and acquaintances as you do Sarah, they would tell you the same about Barbara.

(Report Comment)
Nancy Harter April 3, 2010 | 11:42 a.m.

To settle this dispute how Crosscreek (CC) Mediation was done, City Council should open up the mediation file and publish what happened. It would settle the dispute, and also serve as an important lesson for future mediations. This city, City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission had never experienced or knew about mediation or its various types. Whoever on City Council pushed for the CC mediation so quickly in such a difficult and polarizing public issue as CC, without education of the public and all parties, was irresponsible. Mediation should be used only after people are familiar with the process.* Mediators in the University of Missouri’s Law School’s Center of Dispute Resolution could have given talks to the public and to the Neighborhood Associations prior to the mediation process being used, then could have mediated CC either by donating their services, at a cost much less than Sarah Read was paid, and without having one of the parties to the mediation pay for the mediation.

Barbara Hoppe, a lawyer and mediator, does know the difference between private parties mediating and mediating public policies affecting the public. Barbara was correct in her letter. Sarah Read in her letter attacked Barbara, she did not explain why she chose to use mediation which makes parties sign nondisclosure agreements, nor why what she believes what she did in the CC Mediation was appropriate for CC a Columbia public issue. In the CC mediation parties for the Neighborhood Association should have been able to communicate with their constituency and developers with their lawyers and all with the public. Were there lawyers in the mediation for the builders but not the Neighborhood Association? Why were the developers allowed to pay for the mediation?
In any negotiation parties represent their constituency, so need communicate with them. It is appropriate private party negotiations be closed settling a specific claim. It is very clear the process needs to be fully open with public policy mediations. Confidential caucuses can be in public mediations, overall process must be open/transparent. Federal Public Policy mediations are open to all members of the public.
Sarah needs to respond to Barbara and public as to why she did what she did, as Karl Skala did to Gary Kespol on his travel.

Nancy Harter

*Janese Heavin 4/3/10: “Crosscreek roils city council race”: Sarah Read “parties can leave mediation anytime if they think the process is unfair”. The CC mediation was not the usual mediation. What Sarah says is not entirely clear in the mediation she was hired to do. She should have known that. Some or someone on City Council pushed for the mediation. Neighborhood Associations knew that. Heavin’s article quoted them as saying, “we felt it politically was the right thing to do. We didn’t want to look like we were obstructionists.” Essentially the Neighborhood Associations were darned if they did and darned if they didn’t.

(Report Comment)
Ed Ricciotti April 3, 2010 | 12:53 p.m.

Exactly Nancy. A more appropriate response to Barbara's editorial would of been to explain the reasoning behind the non-disclosure agreements. There are going to be differences of opinion on the council and if one councilperson assumes that the other is attacking them, it will not lead to good governance.

(Report Comment)
Michael Sleadd April 6, 2010 | 12:23 a.m.

Jim Muench who was the President of the Shepard Neighborhood Association at the time of the Crosscreek Mediation participated in the Crosscreek Mediation for the neighborhood. He submitted the following letter last week to both the Tribune and Missourian.It is a regular letter to the editor, not a paid election letter. The Tribune told him they would not run his letter until after the election. He has said I can share it with others early. Here it is:

Dear Editor,
Having had to sign a nondisclosure agreement, I am not allowed to write about the Crosscreek mediation. But because the mediation has become an issue in the city council elections, and since I was involved in it, I believe I am uniquely qualified to discuss whether a mechanism of this sort should be employed to resolve disputes in the future. To me, some form of mediation could be an important tool in the city’s quiver. I participated because I believed the concept has merit; a format that allows residents and developers to calmly talk to each other rather than trading potshots in public meetings should be a good idea. However, for the future, I cannot endorse the Crosscreek mediation model. First, the nondisclosure requirement places an unfair burden on neighborhood associations, which are local deliberative bodies that should operate in the open, not in secrecy. Negotiators need to be able to communicate with association membership, and that can’t be done properly when straitjacketed by a gag order. Second, both sides should have some say in choosing the mediator, and a neutral third party, such as the city, should make the hire. Third, when developers directly fund mediation, the mediator is too open to bias. When the developer signs the mediator’s paycheck, the mediator is bound to want to please that employer. Even if it weren’t true in a particular instance, with an especially conscientious mediator, the mere perception of bias breeds suspicion. I am certainly no expert, but there must be better mediation models that would allow for calm negotiation while minimizing bias and promoting public discourse.

Jim Muench
2711 Mallard Court

(Report Comment)
Ed Ricciotti April 6, 2010 | 1:10 a.m.

Maybe a mediator can volunteer their services, equally agreed upon by both parties and with full disclosure. That would be the most appropriate way to run these types of negotiations.

(Report Comment)

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