ALBANY, Ga. — The head of the city of Albany pleaded with the local citizenry Tuesday to get involved in government, saying that through their input the community could move forward.
Speaking to the Rotary Club of Dougherty County, City Manager James Taylor said public apathy and self-loathing were perhaps the most formidable threats to progress in Albany.
“A lot of people have given up and don’t believe there is any way to get out of the situation they’re in. They’ve become afraid and apathetic about our future,” Taylor said. “But I’m convinced that, if you come fight with us, we can make it and make this town what we all think it should be.”
Taylor, who was promoted by the Albany City Commission in April to replace Alfred Lott, said he understands the city has a lot of challenges and shortcomings and readily accepted responsibility for each of them.
“This is my city. The mayor is elected to his job; I volunteered to do it, and I am responsible,” Taylor said. “So tell me what your issues are. Get involved. Come to the meetings. If you feel as though you need an invitation, this is it.”
In his speech, Taylor acknowledged the racial divide that permeates the community, saying it was a hindrance to progress and that it was time to put the issue to bed.
“We need to get past the race issue. I don’t know how we can, but I think we can,” Taylor said. “Albany is a community of shared citizenship, regardless of color.”
Pointing to the challenges facing the city like the demolition of the former Heritage House hotel and police staffing, Taylor said every effort will be made to ensure that police officers and city employees have the tools they need to do their work.
“You’ve told the commission that you want to tear that eyesore down, and it’s going to cost $1 million to bring it down. Now, how do I spend $1 million to tear (the Heritage House) down and have something useful that I can use to reimburse the citizens of Albany with?” Taylor said. “That’s one of the many challenges I have to think about.”
City officials are set to go to court with the owners of the Heritage House in September in an effort to get permission from the court to either force the owners to demolish the property or gain the ability to tear it down themselves.
On the police front, Taylor praised the work of Chief John Proctor and other law enforcement officials for their recent efforts to dismantle gang operations within the city. But he also said that a recent attempt to shoot a police officer had caused some on the force to rethink their lines of work.
“From what I understand, that’s pretty typical. When something like that happens, the danger factor in the job becomes real,” Taylor said after the meeting. “We, as a community and as their employer, need to make sure they have the resources they need to show them that we care and that we won’t be deterred by any criminal element.”
Proctor, who was on vacation Tuesday but called The Herald to speak on the issue, said that officers need support.
“Officers need to know the community supports them. That is what they want to hear from the community. They are ready and willing to do their jobs for the community,” Proctor said.