All posts by weshare

It’s the Little Things

Much of my work week was spent in mediation sessions where millions of dollars and a major city project were at stake.  I routinely work on issues that I know could have a significant impact on Albany; so this week wasn’t necessarily different than any other in that respect.  The difference I noticed this week had to do with contrast.


Several weeks ago, I wrote about my failed attempt to help dog owners by setting up a permit system to allow people to keep more than two dogs in their homes.  I’ve already explained why this turned out to be a really bad idea, but I received further reinforcement a couple of days ago just before I was scheduled to leave for the very important mediation session.  I decided in the few minutes I had before the mediation to return a call from a citizen who was upset that his application to have an additional dog had been denied.  The call took longer than expected as I listened to some emotional arguments about my lack of compassion and the unfairness of my decision.  Much of what the concerned citizen had to say was true, but I could not change the decision without angering the several neighbors who had complained about the dogs.


The mediation session went well, and I believe we may be able to resolve a costly disagreement in a way that will be of great benefit to the community.  It’s really satisfying to make progress on a big issue that has caused a fair amount of anxiety and cost more than I would have liked.  My bubble of satisfaction was quickly popped, however, shortly after the mediation when I learned that we are probably going to have to replace the new carpet we just installed at City Hall.  Apparently, we track in more oils and dirt than anyone imagined when the carpet was selected; and the cost of keeping the carpet looking good is higher than replacing it.  The good news is that the carpet supplier is willing to provide new carpet at essentially no cost to the City.  The bad news is that there is an additional installation expense of about $4,000.  No decision has been made about the carpet yet, and I am hoping that a less expensive and less embarrassing alternative will surface.


The lesson from mediation, dog permits, and carpets is that city employees deal with a wide range of issues that are all important.  Potentially saving hundreds of thousands of dollars doesn’t relieve us of the obligation to save a few hundred when we have the opportunity.  I was also reminded by the week’s events that even though we can’t lose sight of our responsibility to look out for the good of the whole community, we should never forget the importance of the rights and feelings of individual citizens.

The Bicycle Commute Challenge

I have written at length about my outdoor adventures over the past few years and have probably given the impression that my physical fitness exceeds my mental capacity.  I am sad to report that I learned last weekend that both forms of fitness are in question.


Bitter experience has taught me over the past decade or so that mountaineering is one of the most physically demanding sports.  I have staggered up mountains all over the Northwest and have been working on the world’s record for the most failed attempts to reach the summit of Mt. Rainier.  My latest effort took place last weekend when I accepted an invitation from a friend to take another crack at Washington’s highest mountain.


I prepared for the ascent by eating large amounts of inappropriate food for several months and going on an occasional run or bike ride.  All of this was done on flat terrain at low elevation.  Mountain climbing requires the mountaineer to carry a fair amount of equipment, such as cold weather gear, an ice axe, helmet, climbing harness, rope, and crampons.  Stuffed into a backpack, the equipment usually weighs about 50 pounds.  To my chagrin, I learned last Friday that carrying 50 pounds of additional weight on your back and 15 pounds of excess fat on your stomach greatly complicates the mountaineering experience.


The first 1,000 feet of my climb weren’t too bad, except that I noticed my climbing partners seemed to be going at a much faster pace and yet required fewer rest breaks.    By the time I reached 7,000 feet, I realized that my training regimen may have needed some refinement.  The only intelligent decision I made during the climb was to realize, somewhere around 8,000 feet, that I was not going to reach the 14,000 foot summit and that I would be doing my companions a favor by heading back to the parking lot.


I’m happy to say that I had no trouble going down the mountain until I reached my car.  I threw my pack into the trunk and then tried to remove my boots.  I was hit with a leg cramp that almost caused me to pass out and literally caused me to collapse to the pavement before I could struggle to my feet and work it out.  Removing my boots resulted in a series of cramps that required me to drive barefoot for awhile until I could work up the courage to put on my running shoes.


So what does any of this have to do with a bicycle commute?  The month ahead gives all of us the chance to participate in the Bicycle Commute Challenge.  Many of you probably don’t need the additional exercise, but I suspect that there may be a few folks who, like me, might benefit from a little fitness training.  Perhaps more importantly, bike commuting helps resolve downtown parking problems, reduces the monthly gas bill, shrinks the infamous carbon footprint, and gives us a chance to see the community in a new way.  City employees can learn more about the Challenge and sign up to participate on the Intranet.


 I plan to try another “conditioning” climb in the next couple of weeks, which probably does not speak well for my judgment.  Last week’s experience has at least forced me to start eating more intelligently and inspired me to start running and cycling more regularly.  I hope everyone will take a look at the Bike Commute Challenge and take advantage of the opportunity to do something good for themselves.