Follow Up to 'Supervisor's Corner' Article in Wednesday, March 25, 2020 'Webster Herald'
By Webster Town Supervisor Tom Flaherty
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The news cycle in 2020 is "fast-paced." Daily newspapers like the Democrat and Chronicle often have articles that by the time the reader gets the paper, the articles are old news. COVID-19 has exacerbated that. County, state and federal mandates, executive orders, and stimulus packages are coming so fast and furious, that news is now changing by the minute. That is very challenging for a daily newspaper, but it is exponentially more challenging for a weekly paper like the Webster Herald.
I have gotten a lot of calls, text, and e-mails, and seen a lot of social media posts related to my "Supervisor's Corner" article that was in the Webster Herald's Wednesday, March 25 edition. The reality is that I wrote that article later in the day on Friday, March 20 so as to meet deadlines of printing the weekly paper. By the time it was published and people actually read it... 6-7 days had passed since I wrote it. Frankly, the number and frequency of mandates, executive orders, and unemployment changes per the stimulus package that had come in since March 20 had rendered most of the decisions articulated in that article moot! Simply said... the decision-making process was taken out of my hands by a "higher power" in the form of county, state or federal government.
I'm writing this follow-up to that article on Saturday, March 28 at 9 a.m. over a cup of coffee at my house. Therefore, if you are reading this 1 hour, 1 day, or 1 week from now, there may have been several new "twists and turns" within COVID-19 per county, state, and federal mandates. The one thing that was not rendered moot in the last 7-10 days by county, state, and/or federal mandate were the two (2) following foundational principles to the initial decision to NOT pay people who were NOT working:
1. Failure is not an option: There is a scene in the movie Apollo 13 where Ed Harris's character comes into a conference room in Houston's NASA headquarters and drops a bunch of "junk" on the table and essentially says to the 10 engineers in the room, "You need to make this into a contraption the astronauts need so they can get back to earth." The engineers initial reaction is "can't be done." The Ed Harris character replies by saying failure is not an option, so change your paradigm from CAN'T to "How can we". The result was the engineers figured out a way, made the contraption from the junk, and the astronauts got home. The parallel to the Town of Webster was that I wanted the 15 department heads to have a "How can we" attitude to figuring out jobs our employees could do as of March 23 that would benefit the Town of Webster today and in the future. This was to be done even if those jobs had to be done from their home and were outside the normal scope of what the employee did. Those department heads were more likely to "find a way" than to just accept that Governor Cuomo's 100% non-essential mandate and/or other mandates that closed facilities meant that their employees would be home NOT working and getting paid to NOT work. I feel that "challenge" to them was met and I'm proud of what the department heads have accomplished in this effort with the help of the town's IT department. I truly believe more of Webster town employees are home working due to these efforts than any other town in Monroe County.
2. Work is cathartic to the employee: Maybe I just come from a different era, but I always felt that working gave a sense of pride for people and was "good for the soul" to take the person's mind off of hard times they may be encountering. COVID-19 is hard times for sure. I felt that the mental health of the town's employees was improved if we could find ways to have them work, and do so in a manner that would make them feel they were contributing to the greater good of the Town of Webster today and in the future. Statistics show that people out of work are more likely to be depressed. Couple that with the stresses of COVID-19 and it could be a real bad result for "idle time people." I'm proud of the efforts of the department heads and the 230+ town employees that are trying everything in their power to work.
I'd like to think that we have tried to be sensitive to the specific individual situations of our employees within this overall desire to "have them working." We want our employees and their families first and foremost to be safe. If they, one of their family members, or someone they caretake for is at high risk if they contract COVID-19, we are trying to be respectful to that.
As always, please feel free to call me at (585) 872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have. STAY WELL, WEBSTER!