Looking to the Future

Recent articles, editorials, and blogs in the Albany Democrat-Herald have publicized complaints and problems at the City of Albany, with a particular focus on the Fire Department.  I want all city employees and Albany citizens to know there is a commitment from the City’s management team to take immediate action to help prevent similar situations in the future.

The first priority of the Albany Fire Department is to insure the best possible response to emergencies, and I do not believe there is much disagreement that AFD has an outstanding record of accomplishment in achieving its mission.  In a recent poll of Albany residents, the Fire Department was the highest rated city service as it has been in many previous surveys.  We all recognize that failing to resolve recent concerns could threaten the quality of our service and are, therefore, committed to doing better.  The challenge ahead is to insure that, in responding to concerns, we do not create an environment where people feel constantly threatened and fearful.  Appropriate discipline is an important part of deterring unacceptable behavior, but it is only one tool among many we rely on to help maintain a safe and productive workplace.  The great majority of people who work for the City are routinely professional and require few reminders about appropriate conduct; however, we have in the past and will in the future impose discipline when it is warranted.

Our next commitment is to actively seek opinions from people who work for the City and to provide some new alternatives for communicating concerns.  After talking with women leaders in the organization, we know that some employees may not feel comfortable talking to someone of a different gender or race about harassment or discrimination.  While we have had human resource specialists of both genders in our Human Resource Department for many years, we are told that some people are intimidated by the formal processes we use to investigate concerns.  We have recently made arrangements to bring in a longtime Albany resident and human resource specialist with the belief she can help us develop better ways to address that concern.  We will also conduct an anonymous survey of city employees to hear their ideas about how to improve.

Specific to the Fire Department, Chief Bradner has made contact with a problem-solving team composed of representatives of the International Association of Fire Chiefs that we have successfully used in the past to help the department resolve problems.  My understanding is that the team will include a fire chief who is a woman with great experience in addressing gender issues in the fire service.

My focus is on the future and making sure we continue to provide high quality service from all city departments.  Mistakes are an inevitable part of daily life, and we have a choice about whether we let them tear us down or help us build something better.  I believe most of us at the City are committed to learning from the past to make the future brighter.