All posts by staff

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LAURA

Yesterday I forgot Laura Hyde’s birthday despite having it on my calendar as a (fortunately) recurring event.  Forgetting a co-worker’s birthday is probably not as great a sin as failing to remember your spouse’s birthday, but when the colleague in question is one of the most important reasons you’ve been able to hang onto your job for a dozen years, forgetting this date is almost criminal.

Laura, for those who don’t know her, does not like attention and will almost certainly be unhappy with my public apology.  I’m willing to risk her displeasure because she seldom receives recognition for all the good she has done in her 42 years with the City of Albany.  Steve Bryant, my predecessor, informed me about Laura’s value to the organization before I started work here and everything he said was true.  She has a rare talent for communicating the legitimate reasons for past practice while welcoming and promoting innovation.  Laura’s thoughtful loyalty to the City of Albany is an example I can only aspire to follow.

I have no idea how Laura manages to keep track of all her responsibilities given the state of her office, which looks something like a ransacked storeroom.  I pride myself on keeping a neat office so that I don’t lose or forget things and I’m sure most people can guess who is more reliable about remembering what needs to be done (see opening paragraph).  Neatness apparently has nothing to do with administrative ability.

Beyond her professional skills, Laura is a caring and compassionate person who sees the good in almost everyone.  She is a constant advocate for city employees and would never let me forget concerns about the daily issues that affect all of us.  No one knows more about the City of Albany and Laura has taken many of the lessons learned over 42 years and used them to improve the place for the benefit of all who work here.

Many people have asked me why I’m retiring next month and there are a number of answers that apply.  I am already two-and-a-half years past the average U.S. retirement age.   I want to spend more time with my wife and soon-to-be 18 grandchildren.  I would like to do some international assignments while I still can.  Finally, I have to retire before Laura does.  Her absence would only confirm what many have suspected over the years.

Happy Birthday, Laura (belatedly), and thank you for all you do on behalf of others.

SMELLY NO MORE

We received a phone message yesterday from a reporter for the Corvallis newspaper asking whether an odor he described as “smelling like manure” was coming from Albany. I responded by leaving my own message that explained we have no foul odors in Albany and that Corvallis should clean up its air before it migrates our direction. We haven’t heard from him since.

The days of bad smells in Albany are mostly long past, although we have occasional, localized problems as most communities do. The wastewater treatment plant generates some nasty smells, which shouldn’t be too surprising given what it takes in every day. I’ve worked for four cities with treatment plants, and I haven’t visited one yet that smelled nice all the time. Our folks work hard to minimize odors at the Albany Water Reclamation Facility, and we certainly aren’t producing any smells that find their way to Corvallis.

My bet is the sensitive noses at the Gazette-Times were sniffing odors produced by local farmers putting fertilizer on neighboring fields. If not that, then the scents might be traced to Oregon State’s animal barns or Corvallis’ own treatment plant. It’s not our fault that the Oregon Agricultural College chose to locate in Corvallis or that the city treatment plant is near downtown. Clearly, they are generating greater quantities of manure than we are in Albany.

Albany has changed a lot over the last decade or so; and not only do we smell better, but we look better, too. Our downtown has attracted some first-class restaurants and interesting new amenities like the carousel. The last meal I ate in a Corvallis restaurant a few years ago tasted like something that might be served at a cut-rate assisted-living facility dining room, while my recent dinners in Albany have been great. I know I shouldn’t disparage Corvallis in pointing out Albany’s virtues, but I’m not the one who started this.

Corvallis is a nice city with a great city manager (imported from Albany) and, I’m sure, many other good features I haven’t discovered yet. I may spend more time over there after I’m retired, although I rarely visit communities that have no Costco. I’m also concerned about their new odor problem. I’m sure we would be glad to help identify the source of the newspaper’s concern if asked nicely. After all, Albany has been smelling good these days; and we surely don’t need problems from our western neighbor fouling our air.

FREEDOM TO DO WHAT?

People often complain about how government is steadily encroaching into our freedom by passing new laws and regulations. I have heard this complaint countless times over my career, and I occasionally encourage people to look at what laws prohibited in the past before being too critical about where government intrudes today.

Public Information Officer Marilyn Smith recently shared an ordinance she came across while doing some research into the history of Albany’s taxi regulations. Ordinance No. 1496, as amended in July 1948, is entitled, “An Ordinance Defining and Punishing Offenses Against the Public Peace, Safety, Morals and General Welfare.” Before going into specifics, it should be made clear that this ordinance allowed the police to arrest people for just about any reason they wanted. Section 2, for example, stated:

It shall be unlawful for any person to be guilty of any violent, riotous, or disorderly conduct, or of any obscene, immoral, indecent, lewd, or licentious act, or to use any profane or obscene language in any public place.

If this standard were in place today, I’m confident we could arrest a significant percentage of the population. Many of those who might not be in violation of Section 2, we could probably nab under Section 15, which prohibits disorderly houses:

It shall be unlawful for any person to set up, operate, or maintain, or to aid, abet, or assist in the setting up, operating, or maintaining of any disorderly house.

Disorderly apparently focused on prostitution but also dealt with fornication, lewdness, or other immoral practices including the use of drugs. I don’t even want to think about how cases were made against these practices in local homes or, worse yet, how Section 22’s prohibition against “lascivious cohabitation” was enforced. Just in case you couldn’t be thrown in the can for lascivious living, Section 23 could get you for “immoral acts.”

It shall be unlawful for any person to commit willfully and wrongfully any act which grossly injures the person or property of another, or which grossly defiles the peace or the public health, or which grossly outrages public decency and is injurious to public morals.

I think I could be regularly outraged by the behavior of fellow citizens, particularly those who engage in the practice of “mashing” which is outlawed in Section 25. Mashing only applies to males who, “accost insolently or without cause any female or to seek impertinently to attract or gain the attention of any such female or to ogle vulgarly, make improper advances or indecent remarks…”(emphasis mine). Good thing the President wasn’t in town in 1948.

Ordinance No. 1496 includes 11 pages of stuff people shouldn’t be doing in town, including using a bean shooter, so I won’t try to cover the whole range of prohibitions. Other ordinances of the time dealt with things like making sure no one under age 18 was allowed outdoors after 10:30 p.m. and that transporting of “swill” was confined to certain times of day. The good old days may have been great, but we shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking they allowed more freedom than we have today.