Jay Rifenbary

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'Thinking Out of the Box - Politically Speaking'

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Historically my “Ponder This” columns have focused on core values, success principles and action steps to enhance personal and professional development. In the advent of increased political bickering and dissension occurring locally, statewide, and nationally, I thought I would take the opportunity to provide some productive discourse to benefit those politicians who will be serving us in the future. A loss of selfless public service has been, and is, a catalyst for corruption, greed and personal gain. Regardless of party affiliation a lack of trust permeates the entire political landscape, breeding a lack of confidence among constituents that any policy proposed or legislation passed does not consider what is in the best interest of the community, but rather in the self-serving agendas of the policy makers. The recent NYS Senate debacle is a perfect illustration. There are exceptions, and I have friends on both sides of the aisle that I trust, and respect, but the climate in general has not spawned a healthy and productive environment.

On the home front, having read through our Saratoga Springs City Charter and with an upcoming November citywide election, I am presenting five value driven recommendations to those council members elected to serve, for the purpose of rebuilding trust and regaining public confidence.

* Together as a council, members establish five to six core values that represent the City Council’s values as local leaders. “Health, History, Horses” is a wonderful city motto, but what are the values that represent our community? What do we as a community stand for and believe in? I believe the City Council has a responsibility to establish a value base that espouses to high levels of performance and behavior. For example, City Council core values could include, mutual respect, integrity of service, community over self, consistent professionalism, continuous fiscal responsibility and commitment to accountability. How can a City Council lead if there are no value parameters to lead by? These core values should be formally written, incorporated in their mission, and most importantly shared with the community at large. This would provide an instrument to measure our leader’s commitment, integrity and loyalty to the pledge they took. It is time to reinforce an understanding that our City Council members are more than just mangers of departments; they are leaders within their community.

* Although established, expect adherence to proper meeting protocol and etiquette at all times. There is no excuse for elected officials who represent our community to personally attack one another. It is an embarrassment not only for the individual but reflects on the community at large. As constituents we should not tolerate behavior among our leaders that degrade and diminish the positive attributes and reputation of our community. This is one area I believe our vote counts. With leadership comes responsibility and with it comes an example expected that is professional and mature.

* Create a form of city government, or a chain of command with the current form of city government, that establishes accountability, not perpetual inter-departmental finger pointing. If there is no place where “the buck stops here” then there is no reason for title or leadership. Without a form of linear accountability excuses become rampant, productivity is hindered and potentially beneficial legislation is delayed.

* Design and implement a specific goal driven set of objectives, not only by department but a unified City Council. As a constituent it would be advantageous to know what the priorities and objectives of my leaders might be. I am not referring to day-to-day objectives. I am proposing the establishment of a vision, a proactive undertaking rather then a short term “get what I want” issue reactive strategy.

* Finally, a City Council marketing strategy that informs the public, reflects the community, and promotes the values that reflect the leadership and the constituency. There are exemplary sources, such as the Chamber, the Visitors Center, the DBA and others within our community that promote who we are and what we offer. Are our elected officials reflecting what we as a community are offering? In many respects yes, but I believe they can synergize their efforts and be even more effective. I may be a dreamer in regard to a unified and value oriented City Council, but these are proven fundamental action steps that work in the private sector, and would certainly jump start an optimistic outlook in our local political public sector as well. What do we have to lose?



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