Much as we might wish it to be otherwise, the world will be different tomorrow than it is today.  Good and bad things happen every day that influence the future and the course of our lives.  I believe we have some obligation to do our best to shape things for the better, and that requires foresight.


Foresight is the ability to see things as they might be, followed by the planning and persistence required to either prevent the bad things or make the good things happen.  The founders of Albany saw the potential for a community at the confluence of the Willamette and Calapooia Rivers and took steps to begin building it.  Surveyors laid out the streets, and early residents began the process of building the foundation of the city we know today.


We have more and better tools now than those the pioneers used to plan communities.  We also have the benefit of experience to help guide current efforts.  The South Albany Area Plan is a good example of taking advantage of new technology and the lessons of experience.


The South Albany area within the City’s Urban Growth Boundary is larger than the historic center of the town, but is largely undeveloped.  Heather Hansen, our Planning Manager in the Community Development Department, has worked with consultants over the past year to help draft a plan designed to make the South Albany area a nice place to live and work.  Putting together the plan sounds relatively simple, but it has required outreach to property owners and residents of the area to hear their views, working with state agencies that have an interest in the plan, communicating with the Planning Commission and City Council, and the technical work involved in putting the plan on paper. 


The result of this work is a series of maps showing where industry, businesses, and homes will be located, as well as streets, trails, parks, and other amenities.  I admire this effort, perhaps because I don’t believe I’m particularly good at it.  I think it’s a real talent to visualize what a place can be and to develop the plan to make it happen.


I know I routinely take for granted the good planning that has gone into making Albany a nice community, and I regularly notice where mistakes were made.  Our planners probably don’t receive the recognition they deserve for all the good work they do to improve the community.  Heather, David, Anne, and Mike make a difference every day; and the South Albany Area Plan is just the latest example of the foresight needed to shape things for the better.

The Death of the Buick

Cars are more than the sum of their parts.  Intellectually, I know an automobile is an inanimate object lacking consciousness or any other human attribute; yet, this knowledge has not stopped me from naming cars and developing an emotional attachment to several of them over the years.

People who work at City Hall know that I’ve driven a 2004 Buick LeSabre for the past eight years and some have participated in the ridicule of the car, usually initiated by the city attorney.  Despite this abuse, I really liked the Buick because it was paid for, was generally reliable, and it offered a comfortable ride.  My daughter complained that it was an “old man’s” car, to which I responded “I am an old man.”  Besides, my years as a city manager have taught me to tolerate an essentially unlimited amount of verbal abuse.

The Buick’s death this week came during a quick trip to Central Oregon where my wife and I were attending a memorial service for an old family friend.  Somewhere near Sisters, I started hearing an unnerving noise that seemed to be coming from the engine.  Loyal to the end, the Buick completed its final task by getting us to a car dealership in Bend before dying in the parking lot.  We were left with some unpleasant choices, but eventually settled on buying a new car that would get us to the service, that was by then less than a couple of hours away.  I believe we negotiated a fair deal for the new car that included $1,000 for the Buick, which I think was awarded out of pity.

My wife has decided she doesn’t like the new Ford Fusion, so I will be paying for the purchase in more ways than one.  I plan to save some of the money I now have to spend on the car by riding my bike more in the year ahead.  The Bicycle Commute Challenge starts September 1, and I hope to be able to ride every day this year.  I’m hopeful that by driving the new car less my wife will drive it more and develop an attachment to it.  This may sound irrational, but this is the first car I’ve ever owned that you can talk to and expect a response.  If the car learns to talk about family history and grandchildren, it might even replace me in my wife’s affections.  It does have a screen that will display pictures of the grandchildren on command.

Fortunately, the loss of the Buick corresponds to a growing bond with my bicycle.  I purchased my Specialized about seven years ago from Marilyn Smith’s husband, Stan, and it has turned out to be a great commuter bike.  It took me awhile to learn the importance of puncture resistant tubes; but since then, I have enjoyed many hours of reliable service.  I’m looking forward to the upcoming BCA Challenge and hope other city employees will take advantage of the opportunity to bond with their bikes.  They seem to be less fickle than cars.

What Makes Us Envious?

I deeply regret missing the City barbecue last night because I know how hard many people worked to make it happen.  It also sounds like those who attended had a great time despite the heat.  I think I became dehydrated yesterday due to the combined effects of a virus and a really hot day, and I seem to be recovering today.

My brief illness gave me the opportunity to watch some television with my wife, who likes HGTV as much as I enjoy sports.  I wasn’t able to protest much in my weakened condition, so the TV stayed tuned to her channel through the evening.

The first show we watched was called something like “Million Dollar Rooms,” and it featured homes of very rich people who decided to invest some piece of their earnings to create elaborate settings within their houses.  The first profiled room was a “bar” set in a “rustic lodge” in Colorado.  The owner liked antique gaming devices, so he’d filled the space with old but fully restored slot machines, pool tables, card tables, and, of course, an incredibly ornate, fully stocked bar.  A framed original battle flag from Gettysburg adorned the wall over the stacked liquor bottles.

Room Number Two recreated a tropical paradise, complete with a large waterfall, pool, tropical plants, fruit trees, and other amenities that put the rustic lodge to shame.  I think we were told this room cost about $10 million.  Features of a room with a huge aquarium and a full-size gym, including a two-story waterslide, closed out the show.

I do not consider myself to be an envious person, and I accept the fact that some people are really good at making money.  I don’t drink and I don’t gamble, aside from an occasional lunch bet with the city attorney; so I didn’t find the first Million Dollar Room very appealing.  I did like the tropical paradise, and it’s good to know where I can invest $10 million the next time I have it.  According to, a person with my level of education can expect to earn something over $2.6 million during the course of a 40-year career; and I’m a little more than three-quarters of the way there after my first 37 years.

While I know I will never have $10 million, I am very grateful for what I have earned and for the lifestyle it has afforded my family.  The number of financially wealthy people in the world is very small; and according to some sources, if your household makes more than $50,000 annually, you are wealthier than 99 percent of the world’s population.

Envy of someone else’s rooms and riches will do nothing to enrich me and is more likely to cost me happiness that can’t be measured in money.  I think I will avoid “Million Dollar Rooms” in the future and take satisfaction from my family, faith, friends, job, and whatever I can do to make the world a slightly better place.