Scenario 2: Metropolitan Policy Making - Power and Rights

author: Frank Fischer, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
coauthor: Archon Fung, Harvard University
coauthor: Marianella Sclavi, Politecnico di Milano
recorded by: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: April 24, 2012,   recorded: July 2005,   views: 2239
released under terms of: Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC-BY-NC-SA)

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A metropolitan agency wants to engage a wide range of stakeholders in a policy dialogue regarding regional “fair share” housing policy. State and metro agencies have agreed to hire a professional “mediator” to help manage a policy dialogue on a metropolitan scale. The question is, what should the mediator's mandate include, especially with regard to the involvement of advocates of low income residents and residents of color who may or may not have the knowledge and skills needed to participate on an equal footing with real estate and municipal interests. The 15 suburban towns on the periphery of the region are trying to fend off litigation (and possibly state legislation) charging that their exclusive land use policies are excluding poor people from the jobs and housing available outside the central city.

The focus is on the role of a “mediator” in a policy dialogue when unequal power and capability among the stakeholders may well influence the outcome. Also, are alternative dispute resolution (ADR) strategies that seek to avoid or settle litigation a good idea when “rights” (particularly of the poor) are at stake? Assume that the metropolitan agency (a voluntary inter-municipal collaborative) has little or no authority. Does it make sense to generate informal agreements when the potential host agency does not stand for election?

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