December 12, 2017

Win-win should be the goal of negotiations

     Football fever has four sets of football fans in a cold sweat over which college will win the national championship.  In the competition among Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama and Clemson, there will be winners and losers.  And on Jan. 8—when the clock clicks down to zero in Atlanta—there will be just one winner for 2018.  That’s the way the playoff system works.
     On New Year’s Day, I’m looking forward to sitting in the Rose Bowl to see whether my alma mater will be one of the two vying at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Jan. 8.  But first things first, Georgia must beat Heisman winner Baker Mayfield and his University of Oklahoma Sooners.
     And as excited as I am about the possibilities of both games, I am more interested in what’s underway in Wayne County.  As I write this, I have no idea of the outcome of the initial discussion with Republic Services.  I do know this: A journey around the earth starts with the first step.  Tuesday morning’s discussion between the Solid Waste Authority and our private landfill operation was a good start, albeit a late start.
     For 23 months, the back-and-forth conversations have had multiple Maalox moments.  Wayne County citizens have made it clear: “We don’t want the risk of more toxic coal ash polluting our sensitive environment.  The wetlands are here for a purpose.  Don’t destroy any more of them.  We may not be able to do anything about the 800,000 tons already dumped on us, but that’s enough.  No more!”  And Republic’s response has been along these lines: “We have a contract to do business.  We are professionals.  We know what we are doing.  You shouldn’t worry.  Besides, we want to be your ‘good neighbors.’”
     You know how I feel. 
     My opinion mirrors the vast majority: “We do not want more toxic coal ash dumped in Wayne County.  Our future safety is not for sale.”
     So, does that mean—like football—there has to be a winner and a loser in this debate?
     I think not. 
     A win-win is the only way Republic and the rest of us can exist with good-neighbor relations.  In its current contract, Republic has another 37 years.  Many of us won’t be around that long, but there are plenty of passionate people to fill our shoes.  Wouldn’t it be to Republic’s advantage to have the community as a helpful partner rather than a warring adversary?
     I think so.
     The companies producing toxic coal ash should deal with it themselves, rather than dumping it on others.  Republic, as a good neighbor, should not sacrifice our safety by profiting from this poisonous waste.  Instead, Republic should focus on profit potential from possibilities such as recycling and selling of methane gas.  There are ways to grow and make money without environmental hazards. 
     Republic “talks the talk” about being a good neighbor.  Now, it’s time—on both sides—to “walk the walk.”
     The first step in that “walk” is to focus on a win-win solution. 
     This isn’t football. 
     We don’t have to declare a loser in these crucial negotiations.