Responding to Extraordinary Circumstances

I just returned from my professional association’s annual conference which took place in the shadow of almost overwhelming international financial upheaval.  I attended a variety of useful educational sessions and had the opportunity to speak with a number of colleagues about issues we all face.  I’ve always found the conference to be a good investment because it helps me to see trends and issues that I might otherwise have missed.  In other words, it helps me respond to new challenges.

Challenges come to all of us in one form or another every day.  Life gives us a daily quiz which we generally pass by relying on what we’ve learned from past experience.  Occasionally, we get tough midterms that require additional study and more of our mental resources.  I think we are confronting and will continue to face a particularly tough test in the months ahead.

Much of life is a continuing search for resources to satisfy basic needs and fulfill accumulated wishes.  Most of us are not accustomed to real scarcity in meeting the basics, although we all know what it’s like to have unfulfilled wants.  I don’t see an immediate threat to either individual or the City’s basic needs, but I am concerned about finding or creating resources to finance important things we would like to have.

Internationally, trillions of dollars in available capital have disappeared in a very short amount of time.  Just as less money is available for individuals to buy houses, fewer dollars will flow to businesses and government to invest in desired projects.  We are already seeing this effect in bond markets, and how long it will last is anybody’s guess.

The City of Albany is in reasonably good condition to weather the current storm.  We have sufficient resources to continue providing high quality services and meet current obligations.  We have reserved funds to help meet unanticipated expenses or declines in revenue, and we have avoided taking on new financial obligations.  Our past prudence puts us in a position to deal with problems and take advantage of opportunities presented by current economic conditions.  Declining land values, for example, may allow us to find the property we need for new fire and police facilities at a more affordable price.  Selling bonds to construct the facilities, however, may be more of a challenge.

The media is filled with daily doses of pessimism and crisis; and for reasons I don’t understand, it is seductive to many people to join the chorus.  The real challenge is to maintain the balance between the optimism we need to get out of bed every morning and the pessimism we require to protect ourselves from the many dangers of life.