Prepping For the Barrage

Promises, Promises.

Its election season in Delray Beach and the knives are out.

Sigh.

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.

 

 

 

Voting is Critical

The lineup is set.
Many “pull” papers but only those who gather the requisite signatures of registered voters get to appear on the March 14 ballot.
And so we have two Delray City Commission races to watch over the next few weeks.
For Seat 2,  Jim Chard, a long time community volunteer and member of several boards will run against Kelly Barrette, a founder of TakeBack Delray, a Facebook page and Richard Alteus and Anneze Barthelemy.

For Seat 4, 38 year resident Shirley Johnson is running against Josh Smith, another long time resident and retired educator.
For this go round, I will leave my personal opinions out of the mix.
But there are a few general points that need to be made.
First, elections matter.
A lot.
Not just on a national and state level but also on a local level, where it’s possible that city government impacts our lives as much or more than larger and more heavily covered governments.
From kitchen permits and land use policy to whether your city will have culture and a sense of community, local government swings a big bat.
I happen to believe it’s the best form of government, large enough to be interesting and small enough get your arms around and make a real and lasting difference. But there’s an ‘if’ attached to that last sentence.
You can only make a difference if you understand the city you seek to lead and if you have the capacity to listen and collaborate. You can only succeed if you have an  open and curious mind that allows you to grow as a policy maker, evolve as a leader and drum roll please…even change your mind if you hear evidence that sways you.
And you can only make a difference if you understand the job you are running for; its possibilities and its limits.
We have a charter in Delray that defines our form of government which happens to be a council/manager form.
That means that the mayor and commission sit as a board of directors, setting policy, making decisions and holding staff accountable for achieving results and delivering services efficiently, timely, ethically and within a budgetary framework set by the commission. (Hopefully, that budget reflects the priorities of citizens and the commissioners that represent them).
It’s a leadership role, at times a sales role (you should sell your city to prospective residents and investors for instance) and at times you are called upon to be a cheerleader, protector and advocate.
It can be exciting and rewarding and also sad, lonely and stressful–sometimes in the same day.
And so much more.
The opportunities are enormous if you choose to grow. I’m sometimes amazed at those who are given the opportunity but refuse to engage, grow and expand their thinking. And I’m delighted when I see the elected official who rises to the occasion.
Sadly, that has become rare these days–at all levels. And that’s why people are so frustrated with politics. Because if elected officials step up–and dive into the experience they can make a profound difference. They can touch lives. They can get things done. They can create value–or they can squander the opportunity.
Public service is an opportunity to build community and connect to people. You can’t do one without the  other.
Look for candidates that seek to connect, beware of candidates who label, divide and demonize.
Because if you connect by opening your heart and mind you can’t help but succeed.
We need our elected officials to succeed. So much is possible if they do so. If they fail, it’s hard for our city to succeed.
So the stakes are high. Vote accordingly.

The Four Freedoms Reminds Us of a Gentler Way

The Norman Rockwell Four Freedoms paintings ran in the Saturday Evening Post in February 1943.

Bob Greene is one of my favorite writers.

When I was young, just starting out in newspapers, I devoured his books which were mostly compilations of his columns in the Chicago Tribune.

One time, on a lark, I called the Trib newsroom and asked for Mr. Greene. When they patched me through and I heard his voice, I panicked and hung up. I never thought it could be that easy to speak to someone I thought was famous. It turns out he was a working reporter—just like me—only far more experienced, vastly more talented and certainly way better known.

I thought Mr. Greene had the best job in the world. He wrote about topics and people that interested him and went wherever his curiosity took him. Fortunately, he took his readers with him before a personal scandal took away his Tribune byline.

A week ago, I read a column in the Wall Street Journal on civility, freedom of speech and Norman Rockwell. It touched me deeply and I clipped it out, a rare occurrence these days, when it’s so easy to find online and share. I did that as well, sending the digital version to friends and family. But for some reason, I wanted the print version for myself. I’m not ready to recycle it just yet, if ever.

I was surprised to see Bob Greene’s name on the piece and it was as well written and heartfelt as the columns I remembered at the beginning of my career.

Mr. Greene never totally abandoned newspapers—as I did–for a while at least– before buying a share of the Delray and Boca Newspaper a little over a year ago. There’s something about print that still speaks to me. I’m not sure what and why that is—but while I read extensively online, my best experiences as a reader is still holding a newspaper or a printed book.

The column in the Journal talked about the “Four Freedoms”—a series of paintings by Norman Rockwell 75 years ago that were done to lift the spirits of the nation during World War II.

Rockwell offered the paintings to the government and was rejected—until the Saturday Evening Post ran the paintings on its cover and Americans responded with excitement and appreciation. The “Four Freedoms” which outline what makes America great: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear were cornerstones of FDR’s governing philosophy. The U.S. government sold over $130 million worth of war bonds by using the Rockwell paintings to rally Americans.

The column focused on Freedom of Speech and the painting depicts a man, dressed in work clothes rising up to speak at what appears to be a Town Hall meeting. He stands among men in suits and ties who appear older and wealthier than the man speaking. What Bob Greene focuses on is the eyes of the speaker—unsure, maybe a little nervous about speaking but resolute in his right to do so. And look at the eyes of the men around him, they are making eye contact, they are listening.

We don’t know the subject matter or whether the speaker and his listeners agree or disagree—but Rockwell captures the magic of being able to speak freely and the power of listening to our neighbors in a civil and respectful manner.

We are embarking on the closing weeks of campaigns in Delray Beach and Boca Raton, barely four months after a brutal presidential election.

We can expect social media hits, nasty mail, robocalls and even TV ads that denigrate candidates and their positions and motives.

Locally, we see the same garbage every cycle—campaign consultants are always “slick”, developers are always “greedy”, business interests are “self-serving”, lobbyists are “slimy” and politicians are “corrupt.”

Candidates promise to lower taxes, slay traffic, stop overdevelopment, fight crime, help schools, close sober homes and make government work better. We hardly, if ever, see the details; candidates rarely share how they will do these things but they all have a plan. And the cycle continues.

So much of it seems empty and vacuous.

The elections have winners, but we the people never seem to win. Promises go unfulfilled, voters get disappointed and some stop caring and voting altogether.

The quality of candidates also seems to be affected by the toxic nature of the game. Many qualified community leaders refuse to run for office—at least in Delray. They may serve on boards, volunteer for non-profits and care very deeply but they refuse to run and we all pay the price for that refusal, which I understand but oh how I wish it were different. The smartest and most sensitive people I know–the ones who really get it and care–wouldn’t think of running and subjecting themselves and their families to the toxicity that too often is tolerated and overwhelms politics at all levels. It used to be that local politics was a respite from the swamp–but that’s not the case anymore. And that’s a shame.

While I do believe that if you “can’t stand the heat” you don’t belong in the kitchen, I also believe that as a civil society there ought to be limits and an engaged citizenry that stands up when boundaries are crossed; when debate and differences cross over into cruelty and bullying. Admittedly, there’s no definitive definition of when that occurs, but most reasonable people would agree when it does and that’s when the community should stand up and say “knock it off.” If we had that, we’d have better candidates, better outcomes, better processes and more efficient government at all levels.

It takes courage to step into the arena. It’s not easy to raise money, gather signatures, knock on doors, coordinate volunteers, give speeches, go to forums and see your record and character smeared by faceless people many of whom have never contributed anything to building a better community. It’s also a very hard job–at least if you care about really making a difference; if you see elected office as a job to do not to have. Many are simply unwilling to risk their seats–and so they play small ball, kick the can on serious issues or give themselves over to puppet masters who are all too eager to use you and dump you overboard when you’re no longer useful.

This brings me back to Rockwell’s painting: a world where citizens make eye contact, listen and practice civility even if they disagree. Especially if they disagree.

Many of us long for that world. We long for community, connection, empathy and dialogue. That’s the motivation behind “Better Delray” a new movement modeled on similar groups across the country. It’s not about dollars as some conspiracy theorists opine from behind the safety of a computer screen and it’s not a “lobby” in the traditional sense anyway, but an advocate for better schools, better government, better conversations and a sustainable future. We may disagree on how to get there or what that might look like, but there has to be a better way to have those discussions than what we’ve seen in recent years.

I recently read another story about the revitalization of Des Moines, Iowa from dull city  into a creative hub. The key to the resurgence, which has created jobs, attracted artists and improved quality of life, is what locals refer to as “radical collaboration”: Democrats and Republicans working together, large company CEO’s, artists and start-up founders collaborating because all of them realize that they need each other to succeed.

What a concept.

I have seen this type of collaboration happen in my city. It is the reason why Delray achieved its success. And it’s fading fast.

I fear we will forget the formula and that our civic muscles will atrophy if we don’t begin to practice community building again.

Lately, the narrative seems to be that everything that came before was somehow wrong, broken, incompetent, corrupt or all of the above. And truth be told, some of it was. Some of it—not all of it. Not by a long shot.

It’s OK to question. It’s healthy even. But many of those who are or were involved don’t remember being asked any questions. They do remember being condemned. And it bothers them. In a big and very personal way.

Some of those who condemn and judge should  know better because they personally benefited from a past they are busy disparaging. And others who haven’t been here long enough to know better would benefit from exhibiting even a dollop of respect and curiosity before judging people. If they took the time and just asked why…why we have a CRA, festivals, a fire contract with Highland Beach, our own fire department, a Chamber, Old School Square, a gateway feature, density, conditional use, a park near Old School Square, pensions for cops and firefighters or a need for better race relations they may just learn something.

None of these things are sacrosanct or above accountability or change, but all of them have a purpose and have done some incredible things for our community. The conversations that would occur (in lieu of condemnations) would grow relationships and that’s what builds communities and makes them special.

Unfortunately, sometimes our nature is to tilt too far before we right the ship. Sometimes we go off the cliff, crash and burn before we make the long climb out of the crevasse. But I’d caution, that recovery and healing is not guaranteed, so it’s always best to avoid the plunge.

But I’m hopeful and worried at the same time if that makes sense.

I see a new age of civility nationally and locally emerging as a result of where we are. A return to “Rockwellian” America  may be too much to ask—and maybe that was just an ideal anyway. But we need to make eye contact again. We need to learn to work together—again. We need to stop bullying, labeling and hating each other. We just do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Week’s Goodshop: Unicorn Children’s Foundation

Shopfunding for Delray/Boca — This week’s cause:  Unicorn Children’s Foundation

 

In 1994, Mark Rosenbloom M.D. was told over and over again by fellow doctors that his three-year-old son’s lack of talking was something he would just “grow out of.” But, he didn’t. After a series of one misdiagnosis after another, Mark was so passionate he founded the Unicorn Children’s Foundation.

Focused on children with developmental and communication disorders like ADHD, autism, bipolar, dyslexia and other learning disorders, UCF develops groundbreaking therapies and treatments to help diagnose and assess these issues better. FAU and Nova Southeastern Universities are also involved.

And as a non-profit, every penny counts. That’s why they love Goodshop so much. Through online coupons, supporters of the Unicorn Children’s Foundation have raised hundreds of free dollars, just by shopping online.

Want to help out? To raise free funds for UCF while saving at thousands of online stores, join our shopfunding campaign, where a portion of every purchase will go back to the foundation. Here are some of the deals you can find:

24 Hour Fitness discounts: Free gym pass at any location, and 7.5% will go back to help kids in need.

Best Buy: Up to 35% off tvs, and 0.5% will go back to UCF.

Box Lunch coupon codes: 40% off select tees, and 1.75% will go back to research developmental disorders.

My M&M’s: 20% off and 5% will be donated back to support Mark’s cause.

 

An Early Valentine

Delray Beach City Clerk has been a bright spot for years at City Hall.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.
As a hopeless (OK some might say helpless) romantic I thought I would send an early Valentine to Delray and Boca.
Bear with me, it might get mushy.
Five things we love about Boca.
1. As a friend recently told me, “Boca has depth.” By depth he meant strength. Great neighborhoods, high achieving schools, a couple of universities, office parks filled with jobs, tons of shopping options, glorious parks–you get the picture. And we could go on.
2. An airport with a Tilted Kilt restaurant. There really is no more to add.
3. Barrel of Monks Brewing. The beer is delicious and different from other craft breweries. It’s the way they brew. Check it out. And if you can take a tour. The brewery is a homage to Belgian brewing and it’s wonderful.
4. The Wold…Lynn University’s world class theater. Plush, beautiful, elegant and comfortable.
5. The Waterstone. What a great spot…water, views, a nice restaurant. Treat your loved one to a romantic evening on the Intracoastal–you don’t have to check in to indulge.
Now for Delray…
1. For another 11 days, City Clerk Chevelle Nubin  Chevelle is the epitome of a public servant. Kind, competent, conscientious and calm–I was so fortunate to work with her. We all were. She’s leaving us for Wellington at the end of the month, but she will be long remembered for her kindness, skill and grace under pressure. I was fortunate to see her grow under the capable guidance of Clerk Barbara Garito and when Barbara retired we had a smooth transition. She became a leader among clerks in Palm Beach County and Florida-while balancing a busy life with beautiful children. We wish her well.
2. Lake Ida Park–there’s so many birds, dogs are welcome, it’s active, large and beautiful.
3. Saltwater Brewery–we can’t give a shout out to Barrel of Monks without mentioning Saltwater. Have you had their watermelon beer? The only drink that compares is the Blueberry vodka and lemonade at Olio.
4. The Achievement Center, Space of Mind, Milagro Center, Old School Square, Delray Students First, The Arts Garage and all the other schools, non-profits, day cares and organizations devoted to children. Which means they care about and are seeding our future. What’s not to love about that?
5. Good citizens. We are a city of people who rally to help others when they need it. A city that reaches out to each other. A city that is not afraid to innovate. The kind of place that when police officers  reach out to a trusted citizen to help a single mom whose child was a victim of a sad and heinous crime, money and gifts were gathered in lightning fashion.
Now that’s community.
Happy Valentines Day.

The G Word

There’s a new book out about the gentrification of Brooklyn and how it went from crime riddled to cool.
As the book “The New Brooklyn: What it Takes to Bring a City Back” notes, ask any mayor–well not any mayor– what they want and they’ll say safe and bustling streets,  events, culture, busy stores and restaurants, jobs and visitors.
In other words, gentrification. Only we don’t say the word.

Because it’s loaded.
Because gentrification often comes with displacement. When values go up, poor and middle class residents often get priced out. And when rents go up, it can mean the loss of treasured retailers and restaurants.
Gentrification yields winners and losers. There’s no doubt. But the book on Brooklyn notes that when cities decline everyone loses. So why not just leave everything alone then?

Well, it’s just not that simple in most cases. Change is a constant–unless you live in an historic district. Most of us don’t.

I was thinking about this when we ventured to Olio restaurant on a recent beautiful Saturday night.
We hadn’t been to Olio in a while.

It’s located south of Atlantic in what some are calling the “Sofa” district for south of the avenue.
Downtown was mobbed, lots of people walking, dining and riding the Downtowner.
We ran into two friends from Pittsburgh who visit for a month every year and they were astounded and delighted by the action and the new businesses.
They loved it.
Sitting outside at Olio and enjoying a wonderful evening, I thought to myself if I didn’t already live here this is where I’d want to be.
A small town with big city amenities–great restaurants, interesting shops, great hotels, culture and a beautiful beach.
At least that’s how I see downtown Delray Beach.
But we had to park a block and a half away and when we left the restaurant and went home there was a back-up at the intersection of Swinton and Atlantic. For us, we didn’t mind at all. It’s ok to walk a block or so to park. If we wanted too, we could have taken an Uber or a Lyft or the aforementioned Downtowner, which fortunately serves my neighborhood.

As for the back up at Swinton and Atlantic— eventually it moves and it doesn’t happen all year–only during “season” or during weekends when stores and restaurants are doing brisk sales. I can live with the slight inconvenience (emphasis on slight) because I want to see downtown businesses thrive.

But others don’t see it quite the same way. They consider parking a hassle or worse and traffic and congestion as a terrible inconvenience.
They see some favorite businesses close or move and it bothers them. I get it. I miss a few of those places too. (To paraphrase Simon & Garfunkel: “where have you gone Green Owl, a breakfast crowd turns its lonely eyes to you”).
But…
Things change.
Cities change.
Downtowns evolve.
Sometimes they boom.
Sometimes they bust.
When they boom there are winners.
And there are losers.
But when cities bust, there are only losers.
I’ve lived here 30 years.
Our downtown has changed during that time.
There wasn’t much south of the avenue in the 80s and 90s–a sausage factory, empty lots and blight. Today, there’s Sofa, the apartment complex, an indoor cycling facility, Olio and more.
I like it. Based on the crowds we’re seeing and the property values of nearby neighborhoods I’m guessing others do too.
When I moved into town, Pineapple Grove was anchored by a tire store, empty streets and a self service car wash. Today, there’s Brule, Papas Tapas, the Coffee District, Christina’s, a bookstore, gym, other great restaurants, the Arts Garage, Bedner’s and Artists Alley.
I like it. It’s better than it was. A lot better, in my opinion.
There wasn’t much happening on 4th Avenue north of the avenue. Today, Beer Trade Company is killing it and Ocean City Lofts is a coveted address.
West Atlantic Avenue has been vastly improved since the 80s.
It still has a long way to go but it’s been beautified with paver bricks, the Elizabeth Wesley Plaza, a gateway feature and improved by investments such as the Fairfield Inn and Atlantic Grove which has some great spots including Ziree and Windy City Pizza.
It’s a lot better and vastly safer than it was when hundreds of people would be hanging out near the old Paradise Club on Sunday nights. Police officers and firefighters were routinely showered with rocks when they responded to calls for help.
Change is not always easy and it always comes with trade offs–create a place that is attractive and you get traffic.
Raise rents because your successful and beloved stores may leave. But because your successful you won’t see vacancies.
You get the picture.
Gentrification has winners and losers, decline has nothing but losers.
The key is to be aware and to be sensitive to those impacted and find creative ways so they can win too.  Create housing, job and cultural opportunities for all, get involved in your schools, encourage the private sector to offer creative space and not chase away artists, develop other parts of your city. But don’t stop paying attention to your core.

Be hyper vigilant about what’s happening and do what you can to create opportunities for all–small businesses, young families, kids returning after school, retirees, start-ups and growing companies.

Manage but don’t stifle.

Encourage ideas.

Reach out to your citizens  and don’t keep your own counsel.

Lead with humility, praise others, model civility, inclusiveness, exhibit gratitude and foster civic pride.

Repeat. Because you are never done. And that’s what’s so fascinating about cities.

Shop and Support Friends of Gumbo Limbo

There are many ways to enjoy and support the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton.

Editor’s Note: Our partnership with Goodshop allows you to shop at your favorite stores and support local non-profits.

Shopfunding for Delray/Boca — This week’s cause:  Friends of Gumbo Limbo Nature Center

 

Since 1984, the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center has been a local beacon for research, education and conservation. Encompassing 20 acres of protected land, it provides a refuge for thousands of plants and animals, many of which are threatened or endangered. Programs they offer include school day/field trips, turtle conservation volunteer opportunities and cooperative research with Florida Atlantic University.

 

The mainstay of the Center’s cause is the experience visitors have when they visit the center. Hosting more than 190,000 guests annually, this thriving Boca Raton staple offers relaxation and learning opportunities to tourists and locals alike.

 

We’d like to honor the work the Nature Center is doing this week, and raise free funds while saving at thousands of online stores. You can join our shopfunding campaign, where a percentage of what you spend will go back to the Center. Here are some of the savings you can find:

 

Strawberries.com: 10% off any order, and 5% goes back to the Center.

 

Tilly’s: 20% off one item, and 3% will go to help the turtle conservation.

 

Wolferman’s: 30% off and 3.5% will go to preserve the animal refuge.

 

Petco:  40% off aquarium supplies, and 4% is donated to protect endangered land.

 

 

The Unsung Heroes Make All The Difference

Marc Stevens was surprised by Old School Square CEO Rob Steele.

There’s beauty and power in the everyday.
There’s gold in the things we take for granted. There’s value in every member of the team– even though we often focus on the star quarterback.
The board of Old School Square was reminded of these profound truths at its recent annual meeting when President Rob Steele recognized Marc Stevens for 19 years of hard work and stellar performance.
If you’ve been to Old School Square any time during the past two decades chances are you’ve seen Marc or at least benefitted from his work.
Marc is a quiet guy who shuns the spotlight but he’s been a vital piece of Delray’s cultural center for a very long time.
Marc is always quick with a smile and a wave when you see him. And it seems like he’s always working at Old School Square…days, nights, weekends, holidays. He’s a constant.
And because he’s a constant,  it might be easy to forget just how important his work has been.
But Rob Steele is an extraordinary leader–just like Joe Gillie was– for so many years. And the best leaders recognize their team and build them up. Rob gets that and it’s genuine. He truly appreciates his team and it’s wonderful to see. It makes all the difference.
So at the end of the recent annual meeting, which was a celebration of accomplishments, a thank you to departing board members and a hello to new members, Rob and his team honored Marc for his work.
He was surprised and deeply moved.
Marusca Gatto, who runs the Cornell Museum, mentioned how artists love how Marc hangs their work often mentioning that their art has never looked as good as when it’s displayed and lit by Marc.
Wow. Isn’t that cool?
Others talked of his selfless hard work, his dedication and his deep knowledge of how to run so much of what makes Old School Square magical.
It was a warm and fitting ending to a great annual meeting.
Old School Square is a community treasure. There’s no doubt.

It’s historic buildings are beautiful and it’s activities and offerings are hugely beneficial to our city.
But I was reminded that the true heat and soul of the organization are the people who dedicate themselves to Old School Square’s success.
Founder Frances Bourque–my hero… Delray’s hero… who knew all those years ago that those dilapidated old buildings could be the source of our revival, board chair Bill Branning who has been there from the beginning and felt something special about the place and has never left, vice chair Bill Morris, a caring gentleman whose heart is dedicated to this town, Scott Porten, a former chair who dives in to projects with passion and smarts, Melissa Carter for 18 years the super marketer of Delray’s arts and on and on it goes. From Jay in the box office and Liane in education to the hardworking finance, museum and lighting team–it’s the people who make the organization so incredibly special and vital.
Board member and artist Patricia McGuire painted a beautiful picture of Marc. You could tell it was a labor of love.
And that’s the best description I can give of Old School Square..a labor of love. Which is why it works so well.

In appreciation…

 

Better Boulder Inspires A Better Delray

We used to be the city that went across the country sharing our story and inspiring others.

Some cities came here…from across Florida and the south—Greencove Springs, Cape Coral, Punta Gorda, Miami Lakes, the Smart Growth Partnership of Broward County, the Urban Land Institute, business leaders from Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Michigan and others—because they saw Delray as a progressive and innovative laboratory on topics ranging from events and festivals to housing, downtown revitalization and smart growth.

And we went out across America to tell our story too—visiting places like Tucson, Greenville, Carmel, New York, Reno, Baltimore, Kansas City and Bellevue, Washington– to share best practices and learn from others as well.

That thought crossed my mind last week when we hosted a group of community leaders from Boulder, Colorado who have created a movement that is sparking others across the nation to say Yes in My Backyard—to jobs, a clean environment, good schools, economic opportunity, smart land use, transportation and housing for all. Indeed Better Boulder (www.betterboulder.com) hosted the first ever YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard) conference in North America last year attracting interest from across the country and as far away as Helsinki, Finland.

Better Boulder is a coalition of young and old, business leaders, environmentalists, parents, educators, housing advocates united in a belief that when it comes to policy—there is more that binds us than divides us in our communities.

They believe in education, infill development, building cities for people (not cars), a healthy environment and housing for all. Those shared values have allowed business leaders and “enviros” to find common ground and build relationships that enable Boulder citizens to work together on a range of issues.

John Tayer is president of the Boulder Chamber and he is passionate about the importance of economic interests. He believes in the chamber’s advocacy role but he has found a lot in common with former Boulder Mayor Will Toor, a noted environmentalist who likewise understands the dangers of sprawl, the importance of jobs and the need to create a sustainable city for all.

Molly Tayer—John’s wife—has done a lot of advocacy work on a range of land use, transportation and housing issues and the other member of the coalition Ken Hotard is the VP of the Boulder Board of Realtors, which strongly advocates for housing and quality infill projects.

All have learned about the need to reach out and build coalitions around common objectives and aspirations. Boulder is a community—like ours—that is wrestling with some weighty issues. But they have found a way to unite and a way to value relationships even though sometimes they might not see eye to eye on every issue. It’s an important and inspiring message at a critical time.

We live in an increasingly polarized society—fueled by bathrobe pundits on social media—who seek to label, divide and stir the pot.

Terms like “special interests”, “greedy developers”, “chamber types”, “renters” and “slick lobbyists/consultants” are thrown around to disparage, minimize and divide people. That’s the price we pay to live in a free society and truth be told it’s a bargain. But….

It’s not healthy.

It doesn’t build community.

And it doesn’t solve problems.

Divisiveness also doesn’t enable us to seize opportunities. It does however, dampen spirits, dissuade volunteers and deter investment—and over time that is death to a community’s spirit.

The biggest asset of most cities is the excitement and vision for their hometown that stakeholders are able to share with the world. Civic pride and a sense of mission drives excitement and compels people to get to work building good things.

When you love something, you commit. And when you commit, magic happens.

Other cities have beaches and main streets, but our main street and side streets and historic neighborhoods and cultural amenities are special, important and have created a tremendous amount of value—both real (property values) and intangible (quality of life). Our friends from Boulder were impressed—so are many others and we should take pride in our accomplishments.

But they also know that none of what has worked would have been possible without teamwork and a collaborative culture. Community work—even politics—should be fun, was a big part of their message. Many people don’t feel that it’s fun anymore to volunteer in Delray, or work here or run for office or seek approval for a business venture.

Unlike others, I will never pretend to speak for anyone or everyone. But I’m sharing an observation that I hear in every room I enter these days across a range of activities and endeavors. Those voices of discontent can be dismissed, labeled, disparaged or even bullied. But they shouldn’t be ignored and pretending they don’t exist doesn’t make them go away. These same people are also firm in their conviction that more needs to be done–more opportunities, more good jobs, better housing options, more culture, more civility, more preservation and yes more smart development.

A group of us reached out to Better Boulder because of these voices and because we love and cherish Delray Beach. We want to see a Better Delray for our children, for our families and for the causes and organizations we are passionate about. That’s the special interest…that’s the agenda, not hidden but available to all in plain sight.

At dinner with our new friends from Colorado, we shared that whatever success that was achieved was hard fought and far from certain.

It took a village. A great many people working together—black and white, rich and poor, young and old to build what we think is a pretty special place. But there’s more to do—jobs to create, neighborhoods to fix, people to help, problems to solve and opportunities to seize.

We aspire.

We are not complacent.

There is too much at stake.

We believe that the best is yet to come.

But only if we work together and remain focused on building a better future.

We need you to get involved…now more than ever.

 

 

Better Boulder Comes To Delray

On Tuesday night, four community leaders from Boulder, Colorado will be in Delray Beach to share their story.
At 6:30 pm at Old School Square’s Crest Theatre,  representatives from Better Boulder (www.betterboulder.com) will give a free presentation on their efforts to build a sustainable city based on respect for the environment, sensible growth and housing policies that are inclusive. We hope to see you there. It’s important that you attend.
Better Boulder’s work has helped to both spark and further a growing movement of people who are proudly calling themselves YIMBY’s for Yes in My Backyard, a counter to NIMBYism which has often stopped smart growth projects that provide jobs, expand the tax base, add vibrancy and provide needed housing in communities.
Across the nation, there is a growing backlash to NIMBYs led by people who want cities and regions to make room for them too.
In the super expensive Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seattle and elsewhere YIMBY movements consisting of environmentalists, urban planners, young people and employers are banding together to push back against those who consistently say no to even reasonable development.
Particularly galling to many in the YIMBY camp is that NIMBYs often claim the moral high ground citing their desire to protect neighborhoods and cities. Others view their opposition in a vastly different light; more of a  “I’m in the boat pull up the ladder” mentality that shuts off opportunities for others.
Many times  it’s not that black and white.
Traffic, noise, parking and design are important considerations in any city.
But they must be balanced against property rights, the need to provide jobs and housing and the very real need to grow your tax base or risk losing services or raising taxes for existing residents.
Saying yes to reasonable, planned and intelligent growth does not mean anything goes.
Indeed, it should mean the opposite.
Cities should plan–and those plans should be based on a vision of the future . And visions should come from a wide variety of stakeholders in a community, not just those with the loudest voices and the time to protest.
A premium amount of attention should be spent on design, compatibility, desirable uses and how projects function in terms of parking and circulation.
Community input throughout the process is critical but it’s also important that elected officials and key city staff engage with development teams early to discuss local goals, sensitivities and sensibilities.
Some cities employ “town” architects who work with developers and designers to ensure good projects. If you seek to work with developers and they don’t listen, give them the boot. But if you don’t engage with them, you are forcing them to guess and setting all sides up for failure, stress, strife and suits of the legal kind. It doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s so much better when our civic discourse makes us smarter not angrier. 

We’ll end with this post with quote from Jane Jacobs, perhaps the most influential thinker and writer on what makes cities work.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created, by everybody.”
It’s hard to argue with Ms. Jacobs. But I’d add that cities work for everybody only when they consider everybody. And sometimes that means making room for others. 
See you tomorrow night at the Crest.
Wishing my Daughter a Happy Birthday
My little girl turned 27 yesterday.
It’s hard to believe because it seems like only yesterday when we were dropping her off at Little Friends in Delray and later at Poinciana Elementary School.
Now she’s teaching school. In Tampa. And I miss her.
I’m also very proud of her.
I have great respect for teachers and especially ESE (exceptional student education) teachers who make such a difference in the lives of children. That’s the path my daughter has chosen.
Samantha has what it takes to succeed as a teacher: passion for kids, boundless patience, a sense of humor and a heart as big as Florida.
When Sam was a little girl she had a series of ear infections. It seemed like we were always battling one painful episode after another.
It finally passed, but the battles left her with something called auditory processing disorder. As a result, she had a hard time learning how to read.
When we finally discovered the cause she was able to address the issue through an arduous series of exercises. Hours and hours of wearing headphones while completing computer programs designed to rewire how her brain heard and processed sounds.
It was hard work. Done after she had already put in a full day of school.
It was a lot for a little girl.
She never ever complained.
I remember telling her that she was special and that people like her succeeded because they had to work hard for their success. And the perseverance and resilience she learned would serve her well in life.
It did.
Nothing came easy for her. But she had a deep appreciation for every milestone achieved.
She graduated Atlantic High School went to Palm Beach State College and then to the University of South Florida where she excelled academically and with extra curricular activities.
To say we’re proud of her would be an understatement. There are just no words to adequately express how we feel about the young woman she has become.
My only beef– and it’s a small one– is somehow she and her younger brother became Patriots fans when their dad bleeds Giants blue.
I have several friends whose kids are having grandkids and I can’t wait for that to happen to us as well.
All I know is that it goes so fast.
The days of taking her to Old School Square as a small child to see an art exhibit, the ice cream cones at Doc’s and Kilwins, soccer at Miller Field, softball with her coach Dr. Grubb (his daughter whose Sam’s age is now Dr. Molly a veterinarian like her dad in Delrat), Girl Scouts, K-9 exhibitions to earn Brownie points, Safety Patrol, summer camp at Trinity, story hours at the old Delray Library. Arts and Jazz on the Avenue, high school, dates, driving and nights you slept with one eye open until your heard her come in the door.
And then they are grown.
Oh she still needs her dad. I know that. I hope that never ends but it’s a fast ride. Savor every moment.
Happy birthday Sam.