Much of my work week was spent in mediation sessions where millions of dollars and a major city project were at stake. I routinely work on issues that I know could have a significant impact on Albany; so this week wasn’t necessarily different than any other in that respect. The difference I noticed this week had to do with contrast.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about my failed attempt to help dog owners by setting up a permit system to allow people to keep more than two dogs in their homes. I’ve already explained why this turned out to be a really bad idea, but I received further reinforcement a couple of days ago just before I was scheduled to leave for the very important mediation session. I decided in the few minutes I had before the mediation to return a call from a citizen who was upset that his application to have an additional dog had been denied. The call took longer than expected as I listened to some emotional arguments about my lack of compassion and the unfairness of my decision. Much of what the concerned citizen had to say was true, but I could not change the decision without angering the several neighbors who had complained about the dogs.
The mediation session went well, and I believe we may be able to resolve a costly disagreement in a way that will be of great benefit to the community. It’s really satisfying to make progress on a big issue that has caused a fair amount of anxiety and cost more than I would have liked. My bubble of satisfaction was quickly popped, however, shortly after the mediation when I learned that we are probably going to have to replace the new carpet we just installed at City Hall. Apparently, we track in more oils and dirt than anyone imagined when the carpet was selected; and the cost of keeping the carpet looking good is higher than replacing it. The good news is that the carpet supplier is willing to provide new carpet at essentially no cost to the City. The bad news is that there is an additional installation expense of about $4,000. No decision has been made about the carpet yet, and I am hoping that a less expensive and less embarrassing alternative will surface.
The lesson from mediation, dog permits, and carpets is that city employees deal with a wide range of issues that are all important. Potentially saving hundreds of thousands of dollars doesn’t relieve us of the obligation to save a few hundred when we have the opportunity. I was also reminded by the week’s events that even though we can’t lose sight of our responsibility to look out for the good of the whole community, we should never forget the importance of the rights and feelings of individual citizens.