I arrived at work this morning to find people dressed like pirates entering the back door at City Hall. I wasn’t surprised, of course, because this is Albany where “Pirattitude” was invented. Later this morning, Cruella DeVille, a group of Dalmatian puppies, and their owner appeared in my office. Some kind of ghoul also stopped by and handed out candy. Bob Woods in the office next door looks like a cross between Mary Poppins and Bozo the Clown. Diana Eilers is attired in stripes, and I noticed an angel operating the copy machine as I walked by a few minutes ago. Dressing up in strange costumes is not rational behavior; yet, every year at this time, young and old alike engage in the practice.
This year we are also on the verge of a critical national election. We face grave economic challenges; our country is at war; and we must make choices that are likely to have a profound effect on our future. I think it’s fitting that Halloween falls so close to the election. The celebration should serve as a reminder that human beings are not entirely rational and neither are most of the choices we make.
Whether it’s dressing up in strange costumes or picking a candidate because we like something about him or her that we can’t really define, our choices are a reflection of the fact that there are many things about the world and about ourselves that we don’t fully understand. As a city manager, I think part of my job is to push for rationality in how we conduct city business. We devote many of our resources to this effort, and we are always working on ways to do it better. As much as I believe in the importance of rational, evidence-based decision making, I also realize that it’s not a bad idea to recognize the importance of feelings, crazy impulses, and having a little fun.
I think that’s how I will deal with any results from the upcoming election that I don’t like. I will never control all the variables in life and make it conform to a rational model. I remind myself that my challenge (and a big part of what I am paid to do) is to make sure the model gets to the table. I think the other part of my job is to reconcile the rational with the irrational.
So Happy Halloween and best wishes for Tuesday’s elections. Regardless of the outcome, I plan to remain hopeful and continue working for my family and my community. My attitude may not be entirely rational; but it feels right, and I think it beats the alternative.