Folks, community mediation centers across New York State are awaiting news of possible budget cuts, and we’re not talking chump change here. We’re looking down the business end of a $400,000 reduction. New York is a swell state for many reasons (the Catskills! Niagara Falls! Katz’s Deli!), including our amazing network of community mediation centers. We actually have a statute here that requires free or low-cost mediation centers in every county of the state, with financial support from the court system. So our judicial system gets it — mediation centers help thousands of people save the time, money and aggravation of going to court….and saves the state a big moolah by unclogging the system. A win win, if I may coin a phrase.
Even a modest budget reduction will drastically impact our, and our brother and sister mediation centers, help thousands upon thousands of people resolve their disputes, peacefully, creatively and durably. It would stifle our ability to innovate new, cutting edge progams in areas such as restorative justice. Here in NYC, the majority of the clients we serve are low-income people of color. We are an absolutely vital resource for underserved populations.
The community mediation, er, community has been working hand in hand to advocate to prevent these cuts. We’ve gotten key judicial and political figures to speak out on our behalf. But what can y’all do?
Well, our friends at the New York State Dispute Resolution Association (NSYDRA) have launched an advocacy campaign, which you can access here. You’ll find sample letters to send to your local politicos and other persons of influence. You’ll see a handy link so you can find out just who these people are in your hood. The goal is raise awareness to Chief Administrative Judge Gail Prudenti — a key architect of the budget — of how vital our services are. A bunch of us mediation center directors from across the Empire State met with her honor last week. We felt heard and well received (and! I didn’t accidentally call her “your majesty” so props to me). Judge Prudenti mos def feels our pain, and is open to hearing more voices around the issue….while in the midst of having to recommend and make difficult decisions with limited resources.
Say, maybe your call or letter will be the tipping point that will keep our modest budgets intact so we can keep on keeping the peace.