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sharonk 400pxWelcome to 2017 Albany!

We just finished a unique year of local, state and national elections that displayed social actions we hope are now past and not a new pattern for our future.

It was discouraging to see the tension among people and disrespect displayed at all levels. But in Albany, we can set an example of respect to all mankind from this day forward; this is who we are as a community. 

We hold diverse opinions, as all communities do, but we work through our differences by focusing on the betterment of our community.  This comes with a mission and vision for Albany that drives the decisions that make our community a livable and vibrant place for all of us to enjoy. 

I have now served twenty years on the Albany City Council and eight years as mayor. I have seen the pendulum swing back and forth regarding countless issues and challenges during this time. 

Albany weathered the Great Recession quite well and now we have a strong economy with more local jobs than our businesses and industries are able to fill. Our City went beyond many other communities with programs and partnerships during the recession to address the lack of a qualified workforce to fill the ever-growing vacant manufacturing and service jobs. Please reach out to your neighbors and spread the word to help guide them with these resources.

The pendulum has also swung back to where we were almost ten years ago, feeling the impacts of population growth. Oregon has experienced greater population growth than the national average, all due to each level of government working hard to strengthen Oregon’s economy. 

This growth brings on housing issues such as availability and increased prices. It is a challenge to keep our community affordable, yet growth needs to be fair and equitable for all residents.  We are seeing increasing livability concerns in some neighborhoods and we started last year in addressing those concerns with proactive measures. 

Homelessness is a rising concern throughout Oregon. We are fortunate in Albany to have a community that is strong in working together with our many local social service agencies. As I have stated many times, our goal is to put a roof over a person’s head and not to enable them to be homeless. Our city government is very involved in supporting clean, safe and affordable housing to serve people who fall under the median income level for our region. These programs, and those of other agencies, provide supportive services for residents to move towards being self-sufficient. 

Another pendulum swing is our transportation system and impacts we all experience from a major highway and interstate that flow through our city. This has no easy or quick solution; funding is a challenge today and will be in the future, yet more population means more vehicles on the road. The condition of the transportation system in Albany and throughout the state reflects decades of declining revenues for street reconstruction. The growing needs of our street system will be a topic of discussion this year and I hope we can move forward with new sources of funding to start addressing the backlog of work that needs to be done.

Population growth can also bring an increase in crime. I am proud of our public safety services and their proactive measures to seek solutions to rising problems, such as recent community outreach on social media about the importance of crime prevention. This outreach supports the community by citizens helping citizens with many crime prevention tools. 

Decisions at the state and national level on these and other issues are unknown. We can only hope for the best, but you can be assured we will be looking out for Albany’s best interests.

On the bright side, that pendulum finally swung towards some exciting community-supported public facility projects that have been in our vision for many years, despite some challenges. 

First, our long-needed new police station will be a state of the art facility that will serve our law enforcement needs for future generations. Then our downtown fire station will be an added asset to our beautiful historic downtown. It will display some historic fire apparatus in a building that will be enhanced from natural lighting. These two public facilities were supported by the wonderful residents of Albany who are making sure our public safety officials have functional facilities and tools needed to keep our community safe.

Another project is the street and pedestrian improvements downtown. Our historic downtown has the oldest infrastructure, yet decades of needs. This project will help strengthen the downtown and keep the area safe with improved lighting and new sidewalks for residents and the many visitors to Albany.

None of us can forget one of the most unique community projects and examples of one of a kind architectural design that will be completed this summer: our historic carousel. This project has been fifteen years in the works from countless volunteers devoting thousands of hours to carving and painting its beautiful artwork for the carousel. Many volunteers have also raised funds and worked hard to make sure the building will be our gem in Albany. 

As we enter into this New Year, you can be assured your city is diligently focused on Albany and its livability. I am proud of all of you who work so hard to revitalize Albany and provide an enjoyable place for all of us to work and play. 

The year 2017 will be an exciting year with beauty for all of us to share. We can’t put a price tag on the many joyful children’s faces when they see the new carousel. But, as we show respect for our beautiful gem of a carousel, let’s all remember this will be the year we spread the word for respect, acts of love and kindness for all mankind. 

Let there be peace to all.

Sharon Konopa
Mayor of Albany