CARLTON FLETCHER: Albany gets a mix of the good and bad

OPINION: City sees positives, negatives in eventful week

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

You get the good with the bad, you take the bitter with the sweet.

— Jackie Moore

There’s still so, so much work to do. And there are still so, so many issues that must be addressed.

But all-in-all this post-4th of July week turned out to be a pretty good one for Albany and Dougherty County. Here’s a look at some of the bad and the good.

THE BAD: Losing a business that has been part of a community for a long time is like losing a friend, and the community has lost two such friends in the last few days: TexaStar and Wagner’s Barbeque. The two popular restaurants were mainstays in the city’s central district and eastside, respectively, before going quietly into that good night.

THE GOOD: While the loss of the two eateries was a blow, especially to regular customers, the rumors that were swirling around the planned closure of the Gander Mountain outlet near the Albany Mall are apparently untrue. Tipped by “reliable sources” that the national outlet, in the community for less than a year, was “definitely closing,” Herald reporter Terry Lewis contacted the company’s corporate headquarters, which released a statement saying the comments were “bad gossip.”

THE BAD: There’s still the issue of that $20,000 Veronica Wright bonus hanging in the air (documents show that she asked for $41,685.25 plus an $8,840 raise). The outcry over that issue has led to the spreading of more “inside information” that’s mostly correct but just enough off to make the telling more juicy. And it’s emboldened the would-be whistle-blowers with agendas, elevating them for some to “news sources.”

THE GOOD: The outcry over the Wright bonus has spurred some government leaders to start a conversation about the creation of a clear, concise and — most importantly — uniform employee incentivization program. City Commissioner Roger Marietta asked that that item be placed on the commission’s agenda for its next work session. It’s easy enough to say “saving your company (in this case the city and its taxpaying citizens) money is your job,” but anyone who’s ever had to really work for a living knows that incentives such as bonuses can help an employer keep his or her top employees.

THE BAD: A month has passed since Shandon Development principal Patrick Plettner stirred the troops with a rousing update on downtown development, part of which was the promise of a 100-Block Master Plan “in a few days.” More than a month has passed, and there still is no Master Plan. There has also been no apparent progress made on upgrades to buildings along the 100 blocks of Front Street and Pine Avenue in which eight letters of interest were recently trumpeted.

THE GOOD: The Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission unveiled its “There’s Only One Albany” marketing campaign to invited guests this week. The campaign, designed by Atlanta-based Lattimer Communications at a pretty hefty price, will kick off Monday and is designed to improve the community’s self-image.

THE BAD: An ugly turn of events saw the resignation of James Taylor from the city manager’s office and a hotly debated decision to name Tom Berry as Taylor’s replacement, the same Tom Berry who had stepped down as the city’s interim Water, Gas & Light Commission general manager only two weeks before, angry over what he described as a “dysfunctional” city commission. In his fiery resignation announcement, Berry called four commissioners out by name, action that he told me before ostensibly leaving town for good was “my one regret about my time in Albany.” Lost somewhat in the hoopla was the tarnishment of the image of a man who had served the city well for the past seven years.

THE GOOD: Showing that they could indeed put the city first — as long-time Commissioner Jon Howard put it, “The city is bigger than me.” — the Albany City Commission, including the four commissioners who had been criticized directly by Berry, put aside their differences “for the good of the city” and united in giving Berry a 7-0 blessing to take over the city manager position.

There will always be bad to go with the good in a community, but last week the positives outweighed the negatives. That’s a comforting sign for a community in need of a dose of good news.