The City’s mission statement reads as follows: “Providing quality public services for a better Albany community.” While I was writing this sentence, I received a call from a man who wanted to know about housing programs in Albany. I found the number for the Linn-Benton Housing Authority and directed the caller to someone who might be able to help him. I take our mission statement seriously and believe I should do my best to be of service to people, even when the service they request may not be my direct responsibility. I know most other city employees feel the same way because I see examples of the service ethic at work here every day.
The City provides many services, and I don’t get to see everything that goes on in a given day. I’m sure in the course of the thousands of interactions and transactions that make up a day in the City there are people who will leave dissatisfied with their experience. Most people are not happy when they receive a traffic citation, pay a water bill, hear about an expensive development requirement, or learn about a rule that prevents them from doing something they have planned.
City employees are often put in the position of enforcing a rule that benefits the majority at the expense of an individual.
I recently met with two groups of business leaders who are concerned about how people feel after interacting with city employees. The most common complaint is that there are too many rules and too many times when people are denied the opportunity to do something that might be good for both the individual and the community. There was also some frustration at the way some people are treated when they submit an application or make an inquiry.
I am sure we can improve our service, just as I’m sure we will never be able to please everyone. We are looking at ways to reduce the number of regulations imposed by the City, and the Council approved major revisions in the Municipal Code at its meeting this past Wednesday that will substantially cut the length of two chapters. The Mayor will also ask the Council this week to approve the appointment of members to a new “Business-Ready Task Force.” This group will be looking at regulatory barriers businesses face and how to overcome them.
More than 30 years ago, I received my only speeding ticket, and the state patrolman who issued the citation was so nice that I found myself thanking him as he handed me the ticket I could ill-afford to pay. I certainly wasn’t happy about the incident, but I wasn’t angry about the experience either. The lesson from the traffic stop is that our attitude and technique as we enforce rules or deliver bad news has a lot to do with how people will view the interaction.
I pledged to the local business groups that city employees would do everything possible to live up to our mission statement and continue to provide the best possible service to our citizens. There will be times when that service comes in the form of a citation or something unpleasant, but we will attempt to deliver the bad news, as well as the good, with courtesy and respect.