We all know Albany is a small city with about 50,000 residents located at the confluence of the Willamette and Calapooia Rivers. We also know we live in the Willamette Valley, almost equidistant to the Oregon Coast and the Cascade Mountains. All the cultural attractions of urban Oregon are a little over an hour away in Portland, and major college sports are as close as the nearby campus of the University of Oregon. I guess Oregon State University may be a bit closer for those who are so inclined.
Some people complain about shopping in Albany, but you can buy almost anything you need and many things you might want in town, if you have the resources. Finding a good job in Albany is a challenge at the moment; and even in the best of times, many people commute to work in communities up and down the Valley. Albany is close to great educational opportunities at Linn-Benton Community College, OSU, the U of O, Western Oregon University, and Willamette University, to name a few. The new medical school in Lebanon truly makes the area a center for higher education.
I have yet to experience a serious traffic problem in Albany, although I have heard stories of people getting trapped at the Queen Avenue intersection with Highway 99. In the nearly five years I’ve worked in downtown, I do not believe it has ever taken me longer than 15 minutes to travel the four miles between City Hall and my house. Occasionally, I drive over the bridge to North Albany during rush “minute” to check out the traffic; and I have rarely seen any problems.
Growth has certainly created more noise and congestion while reducing open space in the area. Of course, growth has also made possible better medical facilities, more entertainment options, shopping, dining, and public services. Albany’s tax rates are relatively low, and utility rates are relatively high. Violent crime is comparatively rare while property crime occurs too often, despite some decline in recent years. I think most people agree that Albany has outstanding emergency services, great parks, and exceptional libraries.
Albany’s historic districts, scenic riverfront, community theater, and countless service and social clubs all help make the community a nice place to live. I think, however, that the best thing about Albany is the same thing that’s best about every community where I’ve ever lived. People can make any place special or unendurable. Albany is blessed with an abundance of people who care enough about the community to invest their time and talents to make it better.
At a time when there is great passion and division surrounding national and local political campaigns, I think it’s important to remember the small acts of consideration and kindness that make it possible to get things done, even when there are value differences and strong disagreement. Our ability to work through these differences constructively may really be the best thing about Albany.