Sen. Jim Ferlo, in his Aug. 17 Perspectives piece ("This Park Is Our Park"), highlighted the critical balance needed as we move into the G-20 summit. The response to permit requests is disappointing in and of itself. However, what is more so is the failure in leadership to create a vision of Pittsburgh and our region as leaders who have the knowledge and foresight to shape a different environment around G-20.
I have proposed creating a formal place for dialogue between G-20 protesters and G-20 delegates or staff. After years of working in mediation and conflict resolution I know that our intent, how we shape the issues, the picture we present are greatly connected to whether conflict leads to creative actions or entrenchment. The initial police reaction is understandable. Other cities have been marked by violence. In other years there has been little known desire to engage in constructive dialogue; I also suspect the opportunity has never been created. We need to pause, think about the outcome we want and take deliberate actions to dispel conflict, not create it.
We can be a community that understands and supports difference. We're not novices. Carnegie Mellon University's deliberative democracy program has led public policy conversations. AmericaSpeaks led us in an on-site nonprofit summit where 1,000 participants highlighted community visions. Local foundations have funded a regional visioning process. Stonewalling difference and controversy and failing to create dialogue is not the model we want. Life has a way of creating parallel processes: the failure to lead and allow for constructive dialogue in one place can rear its head in other places.
The Post-Gazette editorialized weeks ago about a vision for conversations to change the relational dynamics of the G-20. Small business owners, via the Pittsburgh Business Center, are interested in participating in a G-20 dialogue. We are fortunate to have a large number of well-trained mediators in our area who are willing and prepared to serve as mediator/facilitators in helping to work out the mechanics of permits, as well as a process for G-20 representatives and concerned protesters to come together.
ANN LEE BEGLER