Senior Conciliation Specialist, Community Relations Service
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
Ironically, I ended up working primarily in the Korean community in Los Angeles, so I personally hardly touched the black-white piece. I mean, there was other staff that did that. That was partly because initially some of the things we did were just to visit the disaster action centers. Those were centers established where victims could come for different kinds of help. The Red Cross was there. The small business administration was there. The FEMA (federal emergency management administration) was there. The California emergency management agency was there. There were hundreds, in some cases even thousands of people, who wanted access to this.
So, one of the first things that we did was to look at the flow of people coming into the center and tried to minimize the conflicts that could have been created there. Where were the bottlenecks? It was a logistics thing, more than a traditional conflict resolution thing. Then by doing that work we became more familiar with what the specific issues were and of what some of the major concerns were. As a result of that we ended up doing a fairly extensive mediation process between representatives from the Korean community, and the major responders to this situation FEMA, HUDD, CEA. The Korean community really felt as if the response was not what they needed. The agencies had a solution but its not our problem. Even the food provided didn't match the needs. Dried beans were not helpful in the Korean community. What processes get used and how did the Koreans get access to these were the issues. These issues resulted in an intense three-day mediation process. This was perhaps one of the most intense mediations I have ever conducted.
In some ways, it was creative thinking and coming up with ways of matching what was being offered to what was needed. Can we get more fresh vegetables to replace the dried beans? And that kind of thing.
In many cases, like with the Small Business Administration, and not just with them, a big issue was just finding the documents that were needed to get some of the grants and loans because some of them had been destroyed in the fires that had resulted or whatever had happened and so on. So what other kinds of documentations would be acceptable? Another piece that came out of that was that SBA subsequently provided workshops for potential applicants to help them for the process of applying for small-business loans and things like that. So a lot of it was really how to improve communication between the two.
Q: It sounds like a lot of the practical details.