Its election season in Delray Beach and the knives are out.
Over the next several weeks you will hear the following tired old phrases. So if your new to this or just plain curious, we thought it might be helpful to provide a glossary of terms.
“Special interests.” -anyone with a profit motive or an opinion contrary to those who really know best.
“Developers”–usually described as greedy, corrupting and insensitive to neighbors. You know, bad hombres.
“Dark Money”-money given to PACs usually by greedy self -interests. Of course, it’s OK for the “pure” candidates to hide the sources of their cash.
“Puppets”–corruptible elected officials who are typically weak and told how to vote.
“Puppeteers”–those who direct the puppets.
“Overdevelopment”–most anything proposed in the central business district even if it meets the city’s rules, fits into citizen adopted plans and replaces blight or functionally obsolete buildings.
“Recovery”–refers to the recovery industry includes sober homes.
“Lobbyists”–those who register to advocate for a particular good, service or project.
“Chamber types”-mostly small business people who care about the city. Some live and work here. Some just work here–that’s often not good enough for some despite the fact that some of Delray’s most valuable contributors have actually lived outside city limits. Also referred to as “good old boys.” Reality: step into the Chamber and you’ll see a lot of new faces, (and some older ones) and a whole bunch of smart women running and growing businesses.
“Slick consultants” – usually referring to the political type. If you use them you are not to be trusted. But frankly, trust has nothing to do with consultants. If you can be trusted you can be trusted. If you can’t, it’s usually not because you engaged someone to help you run a campaign.
“For profit event producers”-those who stage events to make oodles of cash. PS. They typically don’t.
“Resident taxpayers”—As Tarzan might say: renters no good. It also sometimes implies that business owners who live elsewhere are not qualified to volunteer for City boards even if they care, pay tons of taxes, donate handsomely to local nonprofits and want to serve and have the chops to do so. And sometimes it refers to people who live here and pay taxes.
“Out of control” –usually refers to events, development, spending etc.
You’ll soon be barraged by mail, robocalls and social media messages that will paint a dark picture outlining threats to the Village by the Sea by dark, greedy forces who ignore the people unless of course you vote for the protectors who will magically lower taxes, fight crime, stop overdevelopment, fight special interests and shut down sober homes.
You’ll also hear that while they care and have pure motives their opponents…oh their opponents…well they are just plain evil. Bought and paid for by dark money forces aiming to destroy our way of life.
What you are unlikely to hear is reality or any ideas. Oh they’ll say they have plans but you’ll never see details.
If I sound cynical maybe it’s because I am. Can you be a cynical optimist? I don’t know, but I do see bright skies ahead once the dust settles anyway that’s another blog.
But I would love to be wrong.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if candidates would just level with the voters?
What would that look like?
Well it might include the following:
We have a pretty terrific small city.
Lots of things have gone right.
Lots of value has been created out of a town that could have easily gone the other way.
Like so many other cities have.
But this town had guts. This town had vision. This town had leadership. And a great deal of unity too.
Great things were achieved. But more needs to be done. Too many people and neighborhoods have been left behind. And there are challenges and opportunities galore.
Schools that need attention—and yes the city has a role and there are ways to make a difference.
Too much property crime—if you don’t feel safe in your home and neighborhood nothing else much matters.
Opioids and terrible sober home operators who are exploiting people pose grave problems—but the issue is full of layers and complexities that don’t lend themselves to sound bites. A little empathy for people doing wonderful work in this field would go a long way.
Kids are dying. On our streets. Needles are everywhere. It’s taking a toll on our police officers and firefighter/paramedics. Our city needs great officers and firefighter/paramedics and they need to be supported not just with words (which are important) but with policies that ensure we are competitive and can attract and retain the best talent around.
Rising property values have made commercial rents skyrocket and many treasured mom and pop businesses are threatened as a result. This is a blend of “irrational exuberance” (and 1031 money sloshing around) and market acknowledgement that investors see great value in Delray Beach. But if we think the downtown is bullet proof, guess again. In order to remain sustainable, we need a mix of uses and more good jobs to complement a food and beverage based economy. Tourism is critical, but so is finding space for businesses, young entrepreneurs, family entertainment etc. We have to be concerned about demographics and keep our central business district attractive to people of all ages.
We lack middle class housing and need a passionate commitment to attract millennials and jobs that will bring back our children after college. I’m seeing talented young people bypass coming here because they can’t get traction in our market. And yet we capped density where young professionals might want to live limiting supply and driving up already high prices. It’s about design folks—not some artificial number. We learned that lesson in the early 2000s, we need to learn it again.
Our community is divided–by personalities, history, perceptions, rumors, innuendo, social media, armchair critics, racial lines and even whether we like festivals or not.
You get the picture.
There are answers to all of those challenges or at least ways to make things better.
But an honest candidate would tell you that it’s hard to impact anything if your divided, focused on the wrong things and too busy labeling others to enjoy the good things in our community while working together on alleviating the bad and uniting against the ugly.
This March please vote. But kindly insist on honesty and experience in the candidates you ultimately choose to support. Seek candidates who have rolled up their sleeves and done something FOR this community.
It’s easy to discern those who are genuine and real from posers who divide and label in order to amass power.
Ask them what they will do with the power if they get it. Ask them how they plan to solve problems and seize opportunities if they divide, judge and label.
The truth is they can’t.
Because it really does take a village.