Risky Business

Last weekend, I visited with seven of my grandchildren at my son’s place near Adair Village.  We did a little fishing at a pond on the property he rents, and then I took pictures of the kids as they raced their bicycles down a slope I have come to call “Suicide Hill.”




The first picture shows my nine-year-old granddaughter, Taylor, going over the handlebars of her bike, just before she did a face plant in the middle of the road.  The second image is my barely three-year-old grandson, Porter, prior to the moment of impact on the same road.  Happily, both children were fine and hopped back on their bikes to continue racing.  Five-year-old Andrew’s wreck was not captured in a photo, and his involved a little blood plus a number of tears.

The picture below shows the gang eating hot dogs by the pond following the race.  It provides evidence that they all survived and escaped serious injury. 

Raising children involves a number of risks; and no matter how many precautions you take, bad things can happen.  Acknowledging risks does not mean there should be no attempt to mitigate them.  My grandchildren all wear helmets when they ride their bikes, which is something I never did as a child.  Bike helmets, child car seats, and even seat belts were not available when I was their age.

The City faces different perils or risks than those parents confront while raising children, but many of the same principles of how to deal with them apply.  City bankruptcies in California and financial problems in some small Oregon communities have raised concerns about similar possibilities in Albany.  I believe the greatest risk we face is uncertainty about property tax revenue in the years ahead.  We know that other Oregon cities have seen an actual decline while we have experienced only a decline in the rate of increase.  We have dealt with this risk or challenge by cutting costs and by trying to hold the line on future increases in costs that are likely to exceed any projected increase in revenue.  We have learned from the experience of other places, just as we learned about the wisdom of bike helmets or child safety seats, that you need to adjust behavior in response to new information about risks to prevent harmful consequences.  We also know that reducing risks doesn’t eliminate them.

The pictures of my grandchildren show them wearing helmets that do nothing to prevent them from breaking an arm or leg.  The City’s reduction in costs, primarily through staff reductions, allows us to maintain current service levels but may or may not be enough to deal with declining future property tax revenue. 

I confess that I care more about the safety of my grandchildren than I do about almost anything else in life, yet I still encourage them to ride their bikes and do other things that put them at some risk.  I can think of no precautions I can take that will remove all risk from my grandchildren’s lives, and I do not know how to eliminate all financial risk to the City.  I do know enough to insist on high standards for financial management and reporting to minimize our risks.  Balancing risk against reward is an important part of life that requires our attention every day.