The water problems in the southeastern United States have started to pit one state against another on the issues surrounding the water flow of the Chattahoochee River. The governors of of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida are set to meet next week in Washington to discuss the situation.
Sadly, Georgia Governor Sunny Perdue has provided an especially pithy sound bite demonstrating that misunderstandings about mediation can reach the very highest level of decision-makers. After announcing the meeting, he continued, “frankly the time for mediation, the time for holding hands and singing Kumbaya is over, we need action in Georgia right now.”
Mediation, of course, is not about holding hands or singing. Instead, a party — whether an individual or the chief executive of a state of millions of residents — opts for mediation to resolve a conflict in a timely and cost effective manner, while getting as much of “the pie” (or, here, the water) as possible. If Gov. Perdue carefully considers Georgia’s BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement), he may find some distinctly unappealing choices. He has already stated that the current situation cannot continue indefinitely. Protracted litigation between states would be slow and expensive.
Gov. Perdue is off the mark in stating that it’s too late for mediation; in fact, it may be too late for anything else.