The New Abnormal

Ahhh quarantine life.

When you can’t wait to take the garbage out because it’s your outing for the day.
I’m hoping that you are trying to be productive as you work from home or shelter in place.
I’m trying.
But yes it’s trying.
I miss life as we knew it.
I don’t like the new abnormal.
I do appreciate the need to do what we’re doing and I really love the texts, emails and phone calls from concerned friends and family. It’s been great to catch up.
But I miss my life. I know I’m not alone.
I have been working. But I miss my co-workers. I’ve been writing but I feel blocked. I’ve been exercising but I miss the gym.
I have been reading and can recommend some good books.
“Golden Gates” is an amazing book about the lack of attainable housing in America. Most of the book’s action is centered in California which is wrestling with a major homeless crisis. The book chronicles the rise of the YIMBY movement which stands for Yes in My Back Yard and how they battle NIMBYS (Not in My Back Yard) in a never ending series of clashes. It’s a great read.
I also started “Call Sign Chaos’ the autobiography of General Jim Mattis who  served as Secretary of Defense. It’s an interesting treatise on leadership, the Marine Corps, foreign policy and national defense.
On TV, I can recommend “The Plot Against America” on HBO which is so  well done and “Unorthodox” on Netflix.
If you love rock music, don’t miss Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live at Hyde Park. It’s a tour de force performance in front of a huge crowd. It will get you off your feet. And keep a close eye out for Delray’s Max Weinberg who gives an amazing performance on the drums. Max is the best.
Speaking of rock music, if
you love Bob Dylan—and I do—his new song “Murder Most Foul” is a can’t miss listen. It is 17 minutes long so prepare. But it will haunt you for days.
I know, I know, you don’t want to be haunted right about now.
I can’t blame you. But this is a good kind of haunting. Dylan is a gift. We can all use one right about now.

Life. Interrupted.

Signs of the times.

 

So much has changed.

In the blink of an eye.
That’s what’s so astonishing.
How everything about our existence can change in a matter of days.
Now intellectually we all know that. We all know that life can change in an instant.
But emotionally I’m not sure how many of us could have truly grasped how a virus could upend our lives—upend our entire world.  Until now.
A month ago, corona was a beer and we didn’t really know terms like social distancing and Covid-19. We sure do now.
There is a twilight zone aspect to this pandemic.
I’m writing this sitting in my backyard on a beautiful night and it feels like I’m living in paradise.
But somewhere out there is this virus that can kill and it’s a sobering thought. There is a Russian Roulette aspect to this pandemic that makes it extra scary.
Some may have it and never know. Some will feel fine and crash. If they do, they will die alone.
I think of my older friends, my father and my friends parents and worry about their well-being.
But I also know that younger people are susceptible as well and that no one is truly safe.
I marvel at the bravery of our medical community, first responders and all those who work in essential jobs. They are at risk but they persist.
All around me are examples of quiet heroism.
People trying to support their favorite local businesses, CEOs and business owners trying to take care of their employees and teachers who are going above and beyond.
A friend of mine told me about what’s happening at Trinity Lutheran School up the street from where I live. Teachers giving up Spring Break so they can keep teaching the children that they are so devoted too.
It fills your heart.
Papas Tapas, one of my favorite restaurants, is feeding first responders and hospital workers at a time when their sales have to be hurting.
I see small business owners reaching out to the Small Business Administration for loans to keep their people employed.
In my dark moments, I feel like a prisoner unable to go anywhere or do anything. It’s no fun to see the stock market plummet and your life savings dwindle. It’s no fun to see business endeavors die and it’s frustrating because we can’t see the bottom yet and don’t really know when or how this will end.
But..in my more hopeful moments, I see all the good in the community and in the wider world. And I wonder, if perhaps, we will come out the other side of this better people.
We will ever take lunch with a friend for granted again?
We will ever decide to skip that party or that trip because we’re tired or there’s always next year?
I will be grateful when this ends. And I’m praying it is not as bad as the best case scenarios are predicting. But when it ends I’m hopeful that this experience leaves us appreciative of all things large and small.
The ability to see your friends.
The chance to have lunch with your dad.
The opportunity to go to a wedding or a birthday party or to visit your favorite watering hole.
We may be a long way from those days. I sure hope not. But it may be a ways off. But that day will come.
Until then, be careful, be safe and use this time to see what you can do to support the simple things we love about our community.

March Round Up

Things We loved in March.

Not much. Let’s face it, it has been a trying month. And trying really doesn’t cover it does it?
Historic? Yes. Awful? Very.
But there’s always a silver lining. So it was nice to see the compassion of neighbors. Nice to see the lack of complaining when beloved community events were cancelled.
Here a few highlights…some of which were written before the onset of Covid-19.
The Socially Distanced Supper Club founded by John Brewer and Ian Paterson forms “flash mobs” to support local restaurants during this trying time. What a great idea by two truly great guys. Find the club on Facebook.
Kudos to a group of Delray moms who started a GoFundMe page, Food and Morale for Healthcare Workers and 1st Responders. Donations support employees on the front lines at Delray Beach Medical Center, Boca Raton Regional Hospital, West Boca Medical Center and Bethesda Hospital West. Additionally, people in fire and EMS, law enforcement and janitorial services across South Florida.
We are fans of Delray Morning Live.
It’s a terrific local show that runs every Wednesday at 8:30 am on Facebook. If you miss it it’s archived.
But if you care about what’s happening in our town you really need to check it out.
We were really thrilled to see Marisa Herman, the truly excellent editor of the Delray Newspaper and Boca Newspaper on a recent show.
Granger’s is rapidly becoming a go-to lunch spot. Heck, it’s arrived. And for good reason.
Great food, fair prices, friendly service and easy parking. It’s a winning combination.
Our favorite: the turkey burger. We took out during the crisis. Please consider supporting your local restaurants.
Once the crisis passes, if you are in Boca for lunch, check out Madison’s.
Great food, good service and the best sautéed broccoli you are likely to find.
I tried watching Hunters on Amazon Prime with the great Al Pacino.
It was well done. Pacino was excellent. But I quit after two episodes. Way, way, way too violent. The real world is scary enough.
Kudos to Boca Raton on their new park Hillsboro El Rio North.
It’s so well done. Beautifully laid out with the right blend of open space and activities.
Well done. Boca parks are just the best. Very special.
Congratulations to Boca Mayor Scott Singer on his re-election.
Mayor Singer has done a fine job and truly seems to enjoy serving and promoting his city.
He’s a mayor who matters and he’s done a great job during the coronavirus crisis.
We finally checked out the Wine Room on Atlantic Avenue.
It’s terrific.
Lively, great happy hour menu and the space just can’t be beat in terms of historic character.
Wishing them well.
When the ban on gyms is lifted, If you want to be inspired, get up early and head to The Zoo in Boynton Beach to watch Delray architect Gary Eliopoulos put on a workout clinic.
He’s there most mornings at 5 am.
If you didn’t see it, Google Alex Trebek’s short video on surviving one year with pancreatic cancer.
He’s a brave soul and an inspiration. One day at a time. No matter the situation.
For the first time in its history, Delray Beach Fire Rescue has achieved accreditation with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI).
DBFR, which was officially awarded this prestigious status  at the Center for Public Safety Excellence conference in Orlando, is now one of only .9 percent of fire departments in the country that hold this accreditation, as well as Class 1 status from the Insurance Service Organization, which it achieved in 2018.
Seeing Delray’s very own Taverna Trela featured on Restaurant Impossible was cool.
Very entertaining episode.
We mourn the loss of Linda DeNiro, daughter of our late friend Jack DeNiro.
Like her dad, Linda was a realtor and a long time resident of Delray.
We also lost Carmelita Smith, a longtime affordable housing advocate in Delray.
She was a kind and dedicated professional who will be missed by those of us who worked with her.
We also mourn the loss of Tommy Stevens, who along with Libby Wesley, ran the Roots Festival for many years. Tommy was a gentle soul who cared deeply for the community.
Let’s hope April is a better month. Be safe and stay healthy.

Home Work Is Challenging

It’s challenging to work at home.

I mean really challenging. Like mountain climbing challenging.

It’s been two days and I have to admit I’m already a little stir crazy.
I’m fairly sure you can relate. I’ve heard from a few of you over the past few days and you seem out of sorts. I get it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my house. I love my wife. I love my two dogs and my two birds. But they are big distractions.
And I say that with affection and respect.
My dogs stare. Constantly. They seem confused by my presence. But that doesn’t stop them from staring.
All.
Day.
Long.

My birds are also thrown by my presence. Butters and Bailey, two adorable cockatiels want to be on my shoulder and take a keen interest in every piece of paper that I look at. Their goal: to shred it and make a nest. Every day they make a colossal mess.
Then there is my wife. I love seeing her throughout the day. I truly do.
She is lovely and it’s nice to have her in the room next door. But I have to say I’m compelled to see what she’s watching or doing. Call me curious. Or lonely. Or just smitten. Maybe it’s all of the above.

Anyway it’s not easy to work at home.
I also miss my work colleagues.
I miss the daily chit chat, the energy of the office and the daily discussion about what to do about lunch.
It’s the little things. But add them up and it’s meaningful.
I used to dream—check that—fantasize about an empty calendar. Now I have one.
Oh my book is full of scheduled calls but my appointment book where I actually leave the office to meet someone is empty for the first time since 1987 when I moved here from New York.
Now I kind of miss those 2-3 meeting days and the running around.
I miss lunch at J Alexander’s, I miss meeting my team at the bar at Madison’s and I really miss the office fridge stacked with Celsius. I ordered on Amazon and grabbed a four pack at Publix but I miss reaching in and grabbing my favorite flavor— Peach Mango— which in my superstitious mind meant I was going to have a good day.

It’s been a whole five days and it feels like a lifetime.
I’m sure you have your own small, silly rituals that you miss.
Life will get back to normal. I’m pretty sure. When? I wish I knew.
Oh how I wish I knew.

A New Landscape

Empty downtown streets in the middle of season are a stark reminder of the toll of Covid-19

 

A few months ago, we attended the opening of Rex Baron, a new restaurant in the Town Center Mall.

The restaurant’s theme was a post apocalyptic Boca Raton. Little did I know that a few months later we would be living the theme as a reality.
Yes, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but perhaps only a bit.
Things are mighty strange out there. What a difference a few weeks can make.
Malls are closed. Restaurants are closed. Roads are empty. There are no sports, no events and no shows —only an endless river of bad news.
The world has shifted and  it doesn’t feel very good.
My friends are edgy. We are watching our businesses and investments get crushed, we can’t go out and we are worried about our health.
Is that sniffle the coronavirus?
Will we survive this?
Will our friends and family?
Will life ever return to normal?
How long will this last? What if we get a hurricane on top of this mess?
Sometimes I can’t stop my mind and I get overcome with worry. At other times, I briefly forget and lose myself in a project, a conversation or a book and life seems normal. But something always snaps you back to reality.
Usually it’s the news. Or the fact that everything we know and love about our lives is in jeopardy, disrupted or already gone.
To quote John Lennon: you don’t know what you got until you lose it.
How true.
What this crisis brings home to me is how vulnerable we all are.
A rip roaring economy (for some, not all) gets washed away in a matter of days.
Once healthy people get sick and some may never recover.
But within every crisis there lies a lesson and even some good news which I am resolved to focus on and I hope you do too.
I’m seeing resilience in the community.
I’m seeing ingenuity too.
I’m also seeing generosity and creativity, kindness and concern.
There are so many examples: The Social Distancing Supper Club formed by my friends and neighbors John Brewer and Ian Paterson which picks a local restaurant, takes orders on Facebook and creates a mob of business for those businesses that are surely hurting. This week’s beneficiary: the excellent J&J Raw Bar on Atlantic Avenue.
I have another neighbor who owns Prime in Delray and Baciami in Boynton Beach. He is feeding his 100 employees every night taking away at least some of the burden for his stressed out workers.
I was proud to see our firefighters union step up and offer to help local restaurant to the time of over $5,000 a week. That’s the buying power of firefighters and paramedics spread out over six fire stations in our city. Pretty cool indeed.
Over the weekend, we took out from Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza which has always been here for the community. We also ordered from Grangers, an incredible restaurant, with a deeply loyal following.
The management is doing its best to adjust its ordering to prevent waste while also meeting the needs of customers who have fallen hard for their ribs and delicious soups.
In the coming weeks, we plan to support many of our local favorites including LaCigale, Caffe Luna Rosa and a few other places owned and operated by friends some of whom have become like family to us.
As a former mayor who experienced several hurricanes that challenged our resolve and patience, I’ve become a student of how public officials react and lead in these situations.
Yes, we live in cities that are governed by a council manager form of government. But mayors and commissioners have roles too, important ones in hard times. They are counted on to be visible, accessible, factual, empathetic, strong and direct with key information. They are also advocates for resources and counted on to provide hope. Not false hope but hope because we will get beyond this.
It will surely change us. It already has and life will never quite be the same. But there will be life.
Crises focus us on what’s most important. And so we relearn what truly matters. Our health. Our families. Our friends. The local businesses that serve and sustain us. Our health care system. Our first responders, health care workers and public servants. Our schools and teachers. The arts and events that give us joy and keep our communities vibrant and alive.
Let’s think of them all as we navigate the unforeseen.
Let’s think of each other too.
Kindness. Patience. Love. Empathy. Community.
Be well and stay safe.

The Language Of Reconciliation

“I believe we will soon see leaders using the language of reconciliation, of healing and unifying. Perhaps the noise of the present has been drowning out the voice of reason—the voice of the future that is still there.” —Frances Hesselbein, chair of the Hesselbein Leadership Forum at the University of Pittsburgh and former CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

I admire Frances Hesselbein.

I read her leadership themed email every day.

She is optimistic.

Leadership by definition is optimistic.

We have been missing the voice of the future for a long time in our community and that absence has created a tremendous amount of damage. When you stop focusing on the future it passes you by.  You tend to get bogged down in the mundane daily battles that blur with time and don’t add up to anything productive.

It’s the day after the Delray Beach municipal election—another bruiser that did little to elevate the conversation around town and a lot to take us further down the “hey, let’s continue to hate each other” rabbit hole that simply does not work.

So let’s congratulate Vice Mayor Shirley Johnson and newcomer Juli Casale on their victories and hope that in the midst of a huge national crisis, we are able to come together in Delray.

But before we move on and the election fades from our memories, we should do a brief post-mortem.

So what did we “learn” over the past two plus months of intense campaigning?
Here’s a brief primer in case you might have gone numb.

Election Narrative: All developers and all development is Bad—It doesn’t matter what the project is, it’s all no good. Developers are rapacious, corrupting criminals and somehow we’d be so much better off without them.

Reality: Without investment we’re dead.

Healthy cities need to grow their tax base. Healthy cities need to create jobs and they need to offer housing especially attainable housing so that families and young people have a way of becoming part of our community. We need good development, smart growth, attractive design and policies that promote economic and environmental sustainability. We didn’t get that discussion in this election cycle or in past cycles either to be fair. And until we have that conversation as a community, we are doomed to keep slinging a lot of lies and innuendo at each other. How sad for us. How unproductive. We need to do better and we can do better.

Election Narrative: Business interests— but especially developers —are a “special interest” and therefore not worthy of participating in our local elections.

They shouldn’t make a donation to a candidate who they think might be good for Delray; they can however continue to pay taxes and shut their mouths when it comes to endless approval processes and endless insults relating to the damage they are allegedly doing.

So it doesn’t matter that maybe you hope to exercise your property rights or whether you are following the city’s codes or acting on a vision…. say to jump start the Congress Avenue corridor or create a job or provide a home for a young family. The message is clear: how dare you. I’ve met a slew of developers over the years. Some were terrible. I mean lock the doors, check your wallets and take a shower after meeting them bad. And some were terrific.

Reality: In my experience, the good ones don’t want to buy anyone and would never do so. That’s one of the reasons they’re good.  They believe in their projects and their vision and are willing to take risks to make things happen.

They don’t mind tough standards as long as the playing field is level and the process is not endless. Candidates often decry “developer money” flowing to their opponents, but why would developers support candidates who base their campaigns on stopping development? Not bad development, all development.

Election Narrative: Endorsements are worthless and reflect poorly on the candidate who receives them.

So if the police and fire union endorses you, it’s only because they want bigger pensions and higher salaries. It can’t be because you have been supportive of police and fire or they think you’d best serve the people of the community they are sworn to serve and protect.

Reality: Never mind the fact that in the last contract negotiation they agreed to give up benefits. Never let the facts get in the way of a good mail piece.

Let’s pretend that it makes sense to portray our police officers and firefighters as mercenaries. Hey I get it, unions and all. But, I’ve known two-plus generations of officers and firefighters; they care about Delray and will do what’s right for the city when it comes to crunch time. If you think the best way to “deal” with them is confrontation you are wrong.

Election Narrative: Challenger vs. Corrupt Establishment

We can’t discuss issues in any kind of depth because we get caught in the endless spiral of attacks and counter-attacks.

So here’s how it goes: Challenger (usually inexperienced with little in the way of a civic resume takes on “establishment” candidate (which is code word for someone who has spent at least a few years working in the community or serving in office).

Challenger attacks record, character and integrity of their opponent. Opponent feels compelled to strike back and call the challenger inexperienced, a bully and a liar. And so it goes down into the gutter.

To be fair, in this particular cycle, several of the challenger candidates ran very positive campaigns—a few didn’t. All are to be commended for running because it’s a huge commitment.  I hope commissioners seek to put several of the candidates on boards where they can get experience and learn more about the city they seek to lead.

 

There’s a lot more to discuss. Campaign finance reform, an apparent disconnect between the stated level of spending and the amount of mail we receive, the divisions in our city. Especially the divisions and the need to move past issues once they are decided.

 

The re-elected, the newly elected, the incumbents and we the people have an opportunity here to heal those divisions or at least agree to disagree in a more civil manner.

Our first order of business is to make it through the virus—which is sure to change our world and our local community in ways we can’t even begin to fathom yet.

But this too shall pass—and we have a responsibility to each other to find a way forward together.

The election was close—and it was a split decision. Which means there is an opportunity for all “sides” and viewpoints to reach out and be inclusive.

 

 

Peace, Love & Understanding

I’m quite sure you don’t want to read another thing about the coronavirus.

And so, this column is not about Covid-19, but about the capabilities and vulnerabilities of our local community.

Despite the hasty and immediate resignation of Fire Chief Neal DeJesus last week, our Fire Rescue department is top-notch as evidenced by its recent accreditation and by the stellar service we see every single day of the year, 24/7.

It’s during times like this when you appreciate the high quality of our front line public safety professionals. You appreciate the training, the educational requirements, the tough hiring process and the culture of caring that has been nurtured for decades and carries into the present despite some upheaval at the upper ranks.

Same with our police department, which I’ve noted on many occasions, are the unsung heroes of Delray’s revitalization and the guarantor of our future success. You cannot have a future without a sense of security. People won’t live here, invest here, open for business or raise their families in a place where they don’t feel safe. So while we have our fair share of problems, the men and women who protect and serve us are more than capable and for that we can be grateful.

As a result, I will always support policies that ensure that we can field the best possible public safety departments. We must continue to invest in talent, equipment and training. It’s worth it–especially in times like these. But in less stressful times as well. When you dial 911, you want to be assured that the very best are showing up at your door within a few minutes.

I also think we are fortunate to be in a community with several outstanding hospitals—Delray Medical Center, Bethesda, Boca Regional and West Boca Medical Center—all have their strengths.

I can speak personally about Delray Medical having served 7 years on the hospital’s governing board.

Each meeting was a mini-education on the medical needs and capacity of our community as we did our best to support the efforts of the hundreds of professionals who handle everything from Class 1 trauma’s to appendectomies.

I think of rural areas that are under served by doctors, nurses and specialists and I think of how fortunate we are to live in a community with an abundance of medical and scientific talent.

By no means am I underplaying this pandemic. It is serious and potentially deadly—especially for the vulnerable in our community of which there are many.

But I do think it is helpful to understand and appreciate that we live in a community reasonably well-equipped to handle what’s thrown at us.

I joked to my wife that we live half the year in terror—fearful of monster hurricanes for months on end and what it might do to our lives and livelihoods.

Now, because of a Wuhan market filled with strange meats, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Delray is cancelled along with most other things we’ve come to enjoy and rely on to fuel our economy. I know it’s not as simple as that, but whether we like it or not, we are intertwined with the rest of the world and with each other.

Sometimes that can be really good (cheap goods, trade, foreign investment) and sometimes it can bite us.

As this crisis unfolds, please look after your neighbors and yourself. Also please keep in mind our local businesses. They are sure to be taking a whack from this situation. They will need our support going forward.

So will our front line city employees, first- responders and health workers who will tasked with so much in the coming days, weeks and possibly months.

Last week, my friend went to Publix and saw a cashier abused and insulted because the store was out of toilet paper and soap. He made sure to compliment the employee and thank her for her service.

We are all stressed. It’s important that we maintain our compassion.

Thinking of you all during this difficult time.

 

A Better Way Forward

In a few days, voters will head to the polls in Delray Beach to fill two seats on the City Commission.

I’ve been observing elections in this town for 33 years now and friends can I tell you something? They are getting worse every year.

Nastier.

More expensive.

Devoid of ideas and vision.

It wasn’t always like this.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

And if we are smart, steps will be taken to change the tone of politics in our community.

Because make no mistake, these kind of campaigns leave a mark or should I say a stain on the soul of our community.

Delray Beach is at a crossroads.

The city needs hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure repairs and upgrades, sea level rise is a real threat to coastal neighborhoods, homelessness appears to be on the rise, our city staff has suffered from rampant turnover (the fire chief quit yesterday) and we seem to have stopped prioritizing economic development—as evidenced by an empty Office of Economic Development and ugly attacks on just about anyone who wants to invest in Delray Beach.

Despite the serious issues outlined above (and there are more) the three biggest issues in this election appear to be the positioning of a valet stand, how to handle traffic coming and going from a popular shopping center and the settlement of a lawsuit related to our Delray ATP tournament, a lawsuit– mind you– that the city was told it had no chance of winning despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your dollars.

We can and must do better.

Regardless of where you stand, we all seem to agree that Washington is an intractable mess.

The potential for change, solutions and innovation resides in our cities. But it seems our city is sliding more and more into the abyss of division and dysfunction. We are majoring in the minor when we have big rocks to move.

I’m sure the valet stand issue has merit and I know the traffic flow in and out of Delray Plaza is important to my good friends in Tropic Isle. But, there’s more to Delray, much more.

Where’s the vision?

Where’s the aspiration?

How will we weather climate change?

Do we care about jobs, attainable housing, and better schools?

Or is it all about development and traffic?

We act—if you believe the election mail pieces and social media chatter—as if all development is bad, no more is needed and that somehow we can resist change and pretend that property rights don’t exist.

Let’s talk about those issues shall we?

I get it, people hate traffic and congestion.

They also fear over development and losing the charm of our village by the sea. So do I, as do most of the people I know on both sides of the local divide. But we are not having meaningful conversations on these issues. We are yelling past one another. And it is getting us nowhere.

All candidates say they have a cure for traffic—but the truth is they don’t.

Personally, I find I can get around Delray pretty well, but I can’t say the same for Glades Road in Boca Raton or I-95 which can be parking lots.

Is Atlantic Avenue congested? You betcha. A lot of people worked very hard to make it so. You know what the opposite of congestion is? Empty streets and empty storefronts.

So sure, it takes some time to cruise the Avenue, but if you want to zip around town, please use our grid system, it works pretty well. We made a choice years ago to create a bustling, dynamic and vibrant downtown and we pulled it off.

There are trade-offs when you do that; especially when you succeed and Delray succeeded.

A pretty cool little downtown has been created and it has endured through the Great Recession, hurricanes and all sorts of political shenanigans.

So we may have to slow down– especially in season. We may get caught in traffic if we decide to take Atlantic from Swinton to A1A.

Next time you get annoyed—and I get annoyed too sometimes— consider all the jobs that have been created, all the tax dollars that have been generated, all the great businesses that have sprouted and think about how much more your home is worth than the days when this town was known as “Dull Ray”— a time when you could have gone bowling on Atlantic and not hit anything because it was empty and depressed.

So yes, the bridge will go up every 15 minutes or so, but guess what? It does go down and we will make it across. Parking may be tough—but that’s what they call a good problem to have. It means that people are flocking to your city’s central business district ringing cash registers and supporting the local economy.

We can add more parking infrastructure and pay for it too– if we want too. We can move toward solutions on issues big and small if we insist that our elected officials stop focusing on politics and each other and start focusing on serving the community. All of the community—not just their base of supporters.

As for development, I can understand the concern. But I think the way we are having this conversation is all wrong. All we have to show for it is years of frustration and anger.

Here are some facts to frame the situation:

Things change, it’s the only constant.

Property gets developed and redeveloped.

Owners of property have rights to develop that property within the rules set forth in our codes.

We do not allow tall buildings like our neighbors in Boynton Beach and Boca Raton do. But we do allow buildings that are 54 feet in height in some areas of our downtown.

I have never seen a developer get a height variance. Never.

I have never seen them get a waiver for density either.

I have seen developers create ridiculous inconveniences for long periods of time during construction and that’s something that needs to be looked at.

We had one project that took up a block and a half of parking for a decade right smack in front of small businesses and right now we have a hotel project blocking half of Pineapple Grove which damages a lot of very cool independent mom and pop businesses. There has to be a better way.

There also has to be a better way to discuss development and a better way to disagree on the issues without burning each other’s houses down.

We have to elevate the conversation and not make development a zero sum game where either the investor or the residents lose. We can create win-win scenarios but it will require us to agree that we must be civil when we discuss development or anything else controversial in our community.

Just because you favor a project does not mean that you are on the take or corrupt, it might just mean you like the project and feel it’s needed. Conversely, if you oppose something you are not necessarily a NIMBY, unless of course you oppose everything then maybe the shoe fits.

All I know is right now, everyone seems miserable and I think we need to reframe how we discuss these issues.

We have had a few spectacularly crappy developers come to town. They tend to not build their projects, because they don’t have the requisite skill set to do so.

But we have also had some really talented developers work in Delray, a few who have chosen to live here. While we have had a few developers who have acted like strip miners, taking every morsel and giving little to nothing back, many have been extraordinarily generous with their time and their philanthropic donations.

They have created some pretty special projects too. They have contributed to the vibrancy and to the tax base while taking spectacular risk.

If we chase away all development and treat every project as if it will kill Delray–we can count on taxes increasing and needed projects and services not being funded.

We desperately need— and I believe we desperately crave —real discussion on things like design (example: should we have modern homes on historic Swinton Avenue?), traffic flow, floor area ratios, density and uses.

Right now, there is a one way conversation taking place on social media and in the campaigns that tends to be lacking in facts, context and balance. Discussions about our CRA are especially nauseating because that organization has been invaluable to Delray Beach. I admit to bias on that front, but if you scratch beneath the surface on just about everything that has been accomplished in east Delray over the past 30 plus years you will find the CRA as a driving force for good. Has the agency been perfect? Not on your life. But subtract the agency from the Delray story and our story looks a whole lot different and I would argue a whole lot worse.

But everything begins and ends with the five people we elect to the commission. Get it right and good things happen. Get it wrong….well you can figure it out. Either way, we have to improve the tone of the town.

I make this statement based on watching this stuff for 33 years.

The fact that we are locked in a cycle marked by the politics of personal destruction ought to give us all pause. Because this becomes a spiral to the bottom.

Not only will good people not run for office, they will shy away from the process entirely which means serving on boards, volunteering for key non-profits etc. I would argue this is already happening.

Without casting aspersions, we are seeing some of the ripple effects of the nasty political climate in the sheer number of inexperienced candidates who are running for office in recent cycles.

I maintain and strongly advise that the job of city commissioner is not an entry level position. It is hard to be a good commissioner if you have not put the time in to learn about how the city functions, where it has come from and where it’s going.

You can be educated, sincere, driven and caring—but there is no substitute for time spent in the trenches. There are many candidates running this year that we have never seen involved in past visioning exercises, key boards and organizations. They are introducing themselves to the community in one breath and asking for your vote in the next.

It is important for candidates to have experience before they are given the keys to a $100 million plus budget and responsibility for major decisions that impact our quality of life and our future.

It is also important for the community to get to know the candidates. Do they play well with others? Will they show up at meetings, will they do their homework, can they listen? If they lose a vote, will they move on or will they declare war on those who disagree with them and spend their terms seeking revenge?

There’s simply no way of knowing if we have not seen how they approach community service.

By the way, there are examples for every terrible scenario I just listed—commissioners who are AWOL at key meetings and commissioners or their surrogates who hunt, harass and bully those with whom they disagree.

I am not advocating that we turn politics into some sort of genteel afternoon tea; that’s unrealistic and it never existed even in the good old days. So if you are a bully you should be called out for your behavior. If you have a past you probably should expect it to surface and if you have voted poorly or made mistakes you should be called to account.

Issues are fair game too.

Tough debate on the issues is fair, but we seem fixated on personalities, feuds and alliances.

Lately, I haven’t seen much substantive debate. So I really can’t tell where the candidates stand other than they oppose taxes, crime, traffic and developers. I don’t see any real solutions or any new ideas.

We need both.

Desperately.

I would add that we need aspiration as well.

If you’re ambition as an election official is to block every project, I’d like to ask what you’d like to see happen. If your unofficial tag line is “I’m in the boat, pull up the ladder” when it comes to housing projects, I’d like to know what we tell young families, police officers, teachers and our kids when they ask us where they can live in our city.

I’d like to know how you will pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure repairs and needed services if you don’t build the tax base, down zone already underdeveloped corridors and pledge to cut taxes. If you think you can, you are either lying, terribly naive or you are a magician. I haven’t met too many magicians running for local office.

I think you get the gist.

Wednesday is the day after the election. That’s when—win or lose—we ought to begin a new and better conversation.

The current model isn’t working.

It’s not village like, it doesn’t address our needs and it won’t position us to seize opportunities or solve problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re So Tired

We’ve lost an hour of sleep.

And it feels like jet lag.

It’s s not good for you either. Statistics show that heart attacks increase 24 percent the day after Daylight Savings Time. That’s today, so be careful.

I find that statistic astounding.

But it’s not the only Daylight Savings Time fact that is surprising. SAT scores are said to fall if you take the exam close to the time change, cluster headaches increase and car crashes too–so again be careful today.

Personally, once I adjust I like that we will get extended daylight. It’s nice to come home after work and have a few hours of sun left to take a walk. It’s also easier to drive when it’s light out.
So springing forward has benefits, it’s the falling back I can do without.

As for sleep, it’s so important to our health and it’s something that Americans struggle with mightily.
I’m one of those people.

I can fall asleep easily, I just can’t stay asleep.

I’m up for good either 4 am or 5 am every day, which has its benefits and it’s downfalls.

My early hours gives me time to write this blog for instance. It’s something I enjoy and I’m appreciative if you read along.

But the lack of sleep sure makes me tired and I know it’s not good for my health.

I’ve read a lot about sleep because I’m concerned. A lack of restorative sleep can lead to all sorts of problems.

I’ve tried different things. But I’ve avoided others such as sleeping pills because I’m just not comfortable relying on a drug.
But I’m hopeful and willing to try other things to see if I can squeeze out another hour or two a night.
If you have any tips, feel free to share.

I also know I’m not alone. Some of my friends struggle with sleep and millions of Americans do as well.
It didn’t use to be this way, I used to sleep soundly and for 8-10 hours a night. So perhaps there is a way back.
Until then, I plan to make the best of it with early trips to the gym, some reading, a lot of writing and some thinking and quiet meditation time too.
But it’s a long long night when you keep popping up.

For those of you who sleep soundly, count your blessings. Because the rest of us are counting sheep.

4KIDS: Addressing The Silent Crisis

Every child deserves a home.

There’s a silent crisis in Palm Beach County.
It’s not something most us see, but it’s there and it’s very real.

I’m referring to a foster care crisis right here in our backyard that is both impacting our children and straining the resources of non-profits and agencies tasked with their welfare.

I’ve gotten to know one of those non-profits 4KIDS through my good friend Karen Granger who is working with the agency. 4KIDS recently moved to The Arbors office building on Congress Avenue and they have done a great job reaching out to the community. (Full disclosure: our company owns the building).

Each month, 4KIDS hosts a “champion’s lunch” in their brightly colored and warm office.

They’ve also hosted holiday season gift events and Adoption U, where my friend City Commissioner Ryan Boylston,  has spoken about his experience as an adoptive parent.

The Champion’s lunch is a chance for 4KIDS to engage community members and build awareness about the crisis and to brainstorm ideas on how to support the cause. Last year, despite all that 4KIDS  is doing (and it’s a whole lot), they were forced to say no to 380 kids in our community. Because of the lack of foster homes, our most vulnerable children are sent to shelters or group homes often far from their home county.
That means being away from their friends and schools—a trauma that cuts deep.

It also conflicts with 4KIDS’ mission which is to provide a home for every child.

At a recent lunch, I had a chance to chat with Karen and 4KIDS CEO Kevin Enders about the organization’s philosophy and culture. It’s impressive.
The notion of home is such a simple concept, but it’s a profound one.

Home– according to 4KIDS– is a place to belong, filled with love and acceptance. It is also a place to heal and have your unique needs met.

As a result, 4KIDS has developed a comprehensive continuum of care model that serves children from birth to age 25. That continuum includes foster care, life skills training for young women with unplanned pregnancies, emergency care to meet the immediate needs of children removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect (there’s also a spike in these cases), therapy and care for young adults “aging” out of the foster care system to ensure that they can live independently.

It’s a big job. A really big job.

But as I’ve gotten to know the 4KIDS team, the passion and teamwork is evident.

This is a terrific organization, with great leadership, strong community support and strong ties to faith based communities.
My company is proud to support 4KIDS…if you want to get involved— and you are needed and there are many ways to help–please visit www.4KIDSofSFL.org 

You won’t regret it. Our children need us.