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LETTERS ON BAROWS: Ruffled Feathers after City Council Meeting

(Note: The following letter to the editor was sent to LCCN by Cerritos Community leader Chuck Sooter regarding the recent incident involving Mayor Pro-Tem Bruce Barrows.)

Dear Editor:

As reported in the June 8 Edition of the LCCN, a tense discussion after a recent City Council meeting between two politically active individuals ended with harsh words and physical contact leading to accusations and threats of possible legal actions.
As a seven-year, volunteer mediator (for the Fullerton Superior Court in the Small Claims, Civil Harassment, and Unlawful Detainer cases), I shudder to think of the possible repercussions to both individuals and the city of Cerritos from a continuing knockdown and drag-out fight this incident might engender.
From my experience with many personal mediation cases and observations of court cases, nothing is made better by continuing a personal dispute in public and the courts. Persons with political ambitions in particular need to stay out of the conflict arena as the public quickly loses faith in anyone who can’t get along with the opposition. There is a saying in mediation, if you wrestle with a pig, both of you get muddy, but the pig enjoys it. Continuing a dispute only causes continued personal anguish, stress, and tarnished reputations. Plus, lawyers are expensive.
There is a lesson for all of us in this case. What I’ve observed is that life is fraught with conflict and controversy and no one is immune from losing their temper under the right circumstances. The higher-order issue is not who is right, but how to make it right. The only good remedy to personal disputes of this nature is to apologize, forgive, and move on. It is impossible to reconcile with someone until you have forgiven them. Most mediated civil harassment cases are settled in exactly this way, sometimes with more formal ground rules for behaviors.
In conflict mediation, the past is seldom discussed, but instead, closure is gained by getting back on the right path. I often suggest that no matter who is more at fault, the bigger person should apologize first as an initial step toward reconciliation and normalization of civility. After some venting, soul searching, and time to calm down, over 90% of the mediated cases settle with a handshake. If both gentlemen involved in this dispute apologize and forgive, I would consider them both to be the bigger man. The ideal solution is always for the parties in a dispute to remember to be hard on the issues but soft on the people. Life’s too short to carry a grudge.

Chuck Sooter

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