Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

'Thinking Out of the Box - Politically Speaking'


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?

Envy and Jealousy – Twins of Emotional Destruction


Have you ever felt a twinge of irritation or anger when someone had something and you did not? For example, a relative who married into wealth and now lives lavishly and did little to earn it, or a person who achieved and you thought you could do better if only you had what they had, or an individual who attained a position of power only because of who they knew? Envy is defined as, “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities or luck”, and jealous is defined as, “feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages”. Participation in either of these two destructive behaviors is emotionally crippling, and a profound waste of personal time and energy. Why would we allow someone else’s possessions, title, wealth or fame be the barometer for our own sense of dignity and value? Granted, there are many instances where life appears and is not fair, but happiness and self-worth are established not by what one has, but by what one is. It is the character and core values of an individual when implemented, which are the most memorable, meaningful and impactful qualities of a person’s legacy. I am not suggesting acceptance of unfairness in regard to human rights and human necessities, but our self-respect should not be based on a comparison between what someone else has versus what we have. When we display envy it is an indicator of our own insecurity and self-doubt. It is also a common excuse used to mitigate a lack of personal accountability in one’s life. It is self-defeating when we justify our own lack of achievement by comparing it to others based on envy. Envy and jealousy dismiss the necessity to take accountability for our own lack of self-perceived success by demeaning what others may have more of.

Materialism is irrelevant in regard to internal long-term happiness, or the generation of respect from others. If it were relevant, than the more one would have the happier and more respected one would be. Look around and you will discover materialism and long-term happiness are not necessarily congruent. There are many who have much, but not necessarily possess the substance of character to align with it. Take away the money and possessions and what is left is the true measure of one’s value, character and self-respect. Personally, if I were to be envious I would want to be envious of another’s strength of character and humility. Hopefully, those who put enormity on the possession of things are in balance with the enormity of personal character. On a personal note, I find it distressing when fellow citizens flaunt their wealth and possessions when many others are struggling financially, looking for employment, or just attempting to make it through each day. Flaunting ones possessions publically does little to unify a community or a society but does much to divide it; based on an increasing awareness of what many have versus those who do not. It is gracious and selfless to be philanthropic, but having it over publicized to revolve around the philanthropist only diminishes the genuineness of the giving.

Here are four steps we can take to suppress the negative influences of envy and jealousy. * Assess what it is we are actually envious of. Is it the money, the notoriety, the power, the recognition, the perceived happiness? If we had what we determine we are envious of, would that genuinely be the answer to our dissatisfaction and unhappiness? If so, what action steps are we taking to begin to achieve in that direction? * What would bring about a sense of true personal and professional security in our lives? The only way to assess that is to revisit what core values in our life are most important. * What are you most proud of in your life? Take the time to reflect on the accomplishments, and the impact that you have had on others. If the effort made has been genuine, selfless and with sincere intent, those are things to be proud of. * If the emotions of envy or jealousy permeate, take an opportunity to redefine success in your life and determine what is most meaningful for your fulfillment. Materialism provides comfort, but it is not the answer to long-term happiness and contentment. It is important to understand the things we tend to be envious about have no relevance in regard to one’s character, or what one is remembered for. Namaste!

Friday, August 14, 2020

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