APPRECIATING BEAUTY

I have been writing columns about local government in one form or another for nearly 30 years, and I just realized that after this one I only have two more to publish as Albany’s city manager.  Earlier this week, I was talking with Marilyn Smith about an issue that has caused me some irritation over the past few years; and I started a column on the subject before realizing that as I near retirement, I prefer to focus on positive things.

My Mothers’ Day gift to my wife was a short stay at Crater Lake Lodge — a place we have seen many times, but where we never stayed before.  The Lodge offers decent accommodations, but the real reason to stay there is the natural beauty that surrounds you.  I have visited the lake countless times over the past 60 years without losing the sense of wonder I felt as a child seeing it for the first time.  Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, and it can take many forms; but to me, it is a tangible thing that influences my life for good.  I think that’s why I choose to live in Oregon, where we have made choices over the years to trade short-term gains for the long-term survival of a place that nourishes not only our bodies, but our souls.

We are fortunate in Albany to have easy access to natural beauty, both within the city limits and in nearby forests, mountains, lakes, rivers, and the Pacific Ocean.  As I’m writing this column, someone outside my office is watering the flower pot that hangs on a sidewalk lamppost.  Yesterday, I listened to reports from university students about their appreciation of Albany’s many assets and their views about how to make the community even better.  Many people here believe, as I do, that no community will remain healthy or thrive without an appreciation of the need for beauty in our lives.  Perhaps that’s why a local citizen called me last week to complain about the trees being removed in the downtown.   She was much happier when I explained that the ugly asphalt patches will soon be replaced with new trees.

Albany’s future depends on remaining an attractive place to live, not only in terms of jobs, infrastructure, and affordability, but also by paying attention to our surroundings.  Great progress has been made over the past 20 years or so, and more remains to be done.  I once heard a long-term mayor of one of the U.S.’ most successful cities claim that in the long-term, “Ugly is more expensive than beautiful.”  My experience supports that conclusion.