Lessons Learned

ULI is a global non-profit.

I’m a huge fan of the Urban Land Institute.

ULI is a global organization that promotes responsible development and the organization is often called on to provide expert advice on how to build great communities.

I’ve worked with the organization on a few special projects over the years including public leadership seminars and an in-depth dive into the future of Winter Park, Florida.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with a talented panel seeking to help Tamarac, in West Broward County make sense of their potential.

It was a great experience and I got to meet some terrific elected officials and very dedicated staff. The ULI panel also consisted of some really smart people including economic development professionals, a real estate broker for a large firm, a cutting edge developer and a very talented urban designer from Miami. I thought I’d share a small portion of my session on public leadership.

 

Ten Lessons Learned

 (Some the hard way, but most by watching other leaders and learning from talented mayors).

  1. Focus on the Big Rocks (Don’t Major in the Minor)

Being an elected official is like drinking from a fire hose… you will get lost in the weeds if you’re not careful. Successful elected officials learn to lead and leave the management to staff. They also focus on large meaningful goals—“the big rocks.”

 

2. Trust But Verify

(Trust movement but outcomes are more important than words)

 

Even if you focus on the big picture, you will be blamed for the potholes. So empower staff to do their jobs but also hold them accountable for getting things done—both large and small. Outcomes are what you will be judged on. Process is important, but sometimes you can have process without outcomes. Make sure that doesn’t happen. You have to deliver. Have a sense of urgency.

 

3. Have a Vision-

The “Grassroots” (your constituents) depend on the “Grass Tops” (elected officials and senior staff) to get things done.

The most successful cities have a vision for what they want to be and how they’ll get there.

The best cities are aspirational, so dare to dream but also understand who you are as a community.

Visions Should Be Community Based—coming from the Grassroots.

Community Visions Should Be Sacred– Elected officials (Grass tops) are Stewards and have a responsibility to deliver.

Visions allow you to say no to projects that don’t fit and to say yes to projects that fit the vision.

 

4. Find Shared Goals

 The most successful councils/commission’s have shared goals.

Not having shared goals leads to:

Dysfunction

Staff Confusion

Inaction—whose ideas, projects should we pursue?

Creates Winners and Losers

End result—it’s hard to make sustained progress.

Once the other side gets in or the players change, policies, directions and progress are often reversed. One step up, two steps back syndrome.

 

5. Celebrate Success

(Blame is a given in public life, might as well celebrate when you succeed)

Let the community know when you fulfill a promise or achieve a goal.

It’s important to celebrate—it builds civic pride and confidence in City Hall. You need to build a reservoir of good will to take advantage of opportunities and to weather setbacks.

 

6. The Loudest Voices Aren’t Necessarily Representative of the Community

 

Be wary of people who claim to speak for “everyone”

Our jobs as elected officials is to leave the city better than we found it. Sometimes that means making tough decisions that may not always be popular at the time we are asked to vote.  But if  your votes are tied to a community vision or goals, you will survive and thrive.

 

7. Mayors and Commissioners are the architects of their city

 

We are responsible for holding developers to high standards…but we are also responsible for making sure there is “rule of law” and a predictable process. If we allow our cities to become nightmares, we will chase away investment and or attract the wrong investors. Mayors and commissioners set the tone for their cities. Are we nice? Are we civil? Are we professional? Or are we mean and petty? Mean and petty is a recipe for failure.

 

8. The Best Economic Development is a Clear Vision and Predictable Process

 

If you can develop a compelling vision for your city, it will serve as a great sales and marketing tool for your town. If you can get investors through your process without it becoming a clown show or worse you will see progress. It’s that simple. The best incentives are a compelling vision and a predictable process with high standards.

 

9. Once Votes Are Taken, It’s Our Responsibility to Make Sure We Get the Best Outcomes Possible


We won’t always get our way. We will lose tough votes. But once the roll is called and the votes are cast we must move on and not re-litigate over and over. If the decision is horrible, it will tend to reveal itself in time and you will have another chance to right the wrong. If it moves forward, we must move forward too.

 

10. Municipal Math

(Math can be cruel)

 

It takes 10-20 years to build something of value, 1-2 years to mess it up and there is no guarantee you will recover. So think about the future and leave your city better off than when you were entrusted with its welfare.

 

 

Deadline Artists

Russell Baker was an inspiration to a generation of journalists.

 

These last few weeks have been special for those of us who love newspapers.

The great newspaper reporters were being celebrated and it was wonderful to read about their exploits.

Sadly, the great Russell Baker passed away at the age of 93, but his passing led to an outburst of writing and appreciation by those who loved his work.

The best selling author of “ Good Times” and “Growing Up” and a long time New York Times columnist, Russell Baker was an American original. His writing sparkled with insights and humor. They just don’t make em like Russell Baker anymore.

On the heels of Baker’s passing,  HBO released a documentary called “Deadline Artists” which chronicled the colorful careers of New York tabloid legends Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin.
They broke the mold when they made those guys.

Breslin wrote legendary stories on the JFK assassination and the Son of Sam killer by veering away from the pack and finding angles that other reporters missed.

That’s not an easy thing to do.

For instance, how do you stand out from the horde of reporters covering that fateful November day in 1963?

Answer: You find the doctor who treated the president and glean all sorts of details about his day before he gets the fateful call that would change history. What did he eat for lunch? What was he doing and thinking right before being called to do the impossible: save a gravely wounded president. That’s how you file a story that adds to the record and humanizes history.

As for Hamill, well he was dashing and lived a large life in a large city.

All three journalism giants practiced their craft during a golden age for newspapers in New York when the Times, Post, Herald Tribune and Daily News carved up New York and covered every square inch of the Apple.

I read book after book about this era of newspapering because newspapers were my first professional passion and frankly I couldn’t get enough information on those days and those characters.

I grew up with Newsday and my local weekly the Three Village Herald, a paper I would later write for—albeit briefly.

I caught the last great wave of the newspaper life working for papers in upstate New York and right here in Delray and Boca.

I shared newsrooms with people who worked for some truly great papers and some supermarket tabloids too.

They all had great stories.

About life.

About life on deadline.

About mistakes they made.

About scoops they scored and scoundrels they nailed.

There was just no better place to spend a day than a newsroom with creative people who wrote, edited, designed, photographed and ultimately glued and pasted the stories of this community on great big “flats” before they were sent downstairs to run on the great big offset presses that were just awesome.

The pay was terrible. The stress could be crazy. The deadlines stressful and the sources weird, wacky and wonderful but what a job!
You went out and found stories. You came back to the newsroom and told them.

Nobody told them better than Baker, Breslin and Hamill.

They were gold standard we strived to match but never did.
But my oh my did we have fun trying.

A Leadership Opportunity Emerges

The winning bidder’s project is called Alta West.

When you go to the few neighborhood hangouts that are left, talk often turns to local happenings.

So when I ventured downtown after the CRA decision to award six acres of land to a local developer recently, I was asked what I thought about the project. The short answer is I don’t know, because I haven’t really been following the drama.

I didn’t spend five hours or so watching the video feed, didn’t go to the usual social media haunts where armchair “experts” opine (often without any facts) and didn’t talk to any of the players involved. As a hometown guy I just hope they picked the best project. That’s their job.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion on the big picture.

I do.

And as an armchair quarterback myself these days I don’t mind sharing.

The day after the vote my friend and neighbor Commissioner Bill Bathurst posted a cartoon on Facebook that kind of sums up America these days. The cartoon depicts a large group of people walking along a path toward hate, division and intolerance and only a few walking down a path labeled critical thinkers and the truth.

So even though I don’t visit the political pages on Facebook anymore,  I can’t help but bump into the noise that is out there. Some of it is really good analysis, but a great deal of it is angry diatribes and the settling of personal scores. Unfortunately, what’s best for the community gets lost in the commotion.

So here is my armchair analysis, based on nearly 32 years of following things in Delray. All provided with the proviso that I have never looked at any of the projects submitted to redevelop the CRA property on West Atlantic Avenue.

First and foremost—we are flying without navigation; therefore I don’t think we have a unified vision. If we do have one, I don’t see it.

We used to have one back in the late 80s, 90s and early 2000s. But we’ve gone a long while without a blueprint that the community can agree on. And if there is a vision—say the Set Transformation Plan for one important part of town (but not all of Delray)—it doesn’t help if the city is not on board. Visions drive goals, budgets and ultimately accountability. How can we evaluate our progress, if we don’t  know where we’re going? Sadly, personal scores fill the vacuum when leadership fails to provide a forum for the community to create a vision.

Look no further than Washington D.C. to see what happens when there is no unified vision.

The place simply doesn’t function.

So even when we agree that we need to have comprehensive immigration reform, fix our infrastructure and improve our health care system we don’t have a framework or a methodology for doing any of it. So all we see is partisan warfare, skirmishes, sound bites, gridlock and dysfunction. When something does get done, we’re actually surprised. Which is really sad when you stop and think about it.

This level of dysfunction is why people are angry—because all they see and hear is pettiness and empty sound bites—not the critical thinking, fact based decision making and yes compromise that is needed to solve problems and seize opportunities.

In the last few weeks, there have been a lot of articles about mayors running for president and some have declared their intention to do so or are considering a bid.

Why?
Because—in theory anyway—mayors are supposed to be problem solvers. The best use their “soft power” to convene people and focus attention on issues that need to be solved or opportunities that their cities should pursue. That’s what effective mayors do. Mayors that matter.

Ineffective mayors divide or simply hide by “keeping their own counsel” or just placating their base and ignoring the rest of the community’s stakeholders.

The awarding of an RFP after years of property aggregation, planning and a laborious RFP (request for proposals) process should be the cause of celebration and excitement.

After all, private investment is coming to an area that needs it.

Jobs will be created.

Property values will increase.

New businesses will take root.

It’s opportunity.

But I’m not sure that’s what I’m seeing. There doesn’t seem to be any excitement or pride in the process that led us here.

Of course, I could be wrong. But it seems that several of the decision makers were less than happy with the process and the politics—even those on the prevailing side.

There’s a large group of stakeholders who celebrated that one applicant wasn’t chosen but didn’t seem to be happy with the outcome either.

Maybe that’s the world today, but I refuse to accept that cynical view. The beauty of local government is we don’t have to act like the nitwits in Washington whom I believe history will judge very harshly, we can decide to do better. We can decide to be better. It’s a choice we can make.

That’s the leadership opportunity.

Fact is, this RFP should not have taken several  years to award. That fact alone is indicative of the dysfunction that has invaded our politics right here at home.

Again, I’m not involved in this issue and don’t plan to be. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t care or that I don’t have a voice that I plan to use.

I live here. I have an obligation and a right to care. But we seem to be stuck in a climate of division and paranoia. That’s the real issue here and the one we should all care about.

I’ll give you a personal example. At some point along this multi-year RFP odyssey, a wannabe political lackey was calling around trying to sniff out whether I had a dog in this hunt. I can assure you the information the lackey was seeking was not in an effort to help.  The effort was an intelligence gathering operation designed to settle an old score or make points with some power broker they wanted to impress. Nowhere in this effort was there a desire to make sure that the best project possible for Delray would be chosen.

The lackey could have called me but didn’t. I assure you the conversation would have been short and probably not that sweet. But I would have given some needed advice: stop looking behind every bush and start getting things done for Delray.

Simple advice. You don’t have to be a management guru to figure it out.

But getting things done—once Delray’s calling card and the reason for any success we’ve enjoyed—is a muscle that seems to have atrophied on some key projects and in some key areas.

This isn’t a shot at anyone. It really isn’t.

But it is a call to arms so to speak.

There is a lot to be done here.

Such as the continuing redevelopment of West Atlantic Avenue and The Set. The operative word is continuing because those politicos who spout that nothing has been done can write or call me and I will be happy to give them a personal tour of the progress that has been made by a CRA that has been ruthlessly and unfairly been maligned by people who ought to know better.

Saying that nothing has been done is not only untrue, it is disrespectful to a whole lot of people who have rolled up their sleeves for decades and made some good things happen. I can give you a list if you need it.

Nobody has ever said that more investment or more progress wasn’t needed. But if we are to get unstuck we have to start from a basis of truth and respect.  We have to rebuild trust that I think once existed however imperfect that trust has been through the years.

We need to decide as a community that we want to get things done, function better and more efficiently and yes treat each other better. That doesn’t mean that we have to hold hands and sing ‘kumbaya’ on the grounds of Old School Square. Vigorous debate, critical thinking and accountability are essential ingredients.

We need to elevate the conversation in Delray Beach and just as important we need to put the community first and start to get things done—like we used to do.

 

 

Things We Loved In January

Juan Martin Del Potro and his passionate fan base will be in Delray in two weeks.

Things we loved in January

We didn’t want to let last month go before giving you a recap…so here goes.

The World Beneath Your Feet at the Living Room Theater. The documentary tells the story of Matt Green who walked every street, park, cemetery and public space in all five New York boroughs. That’s over 8,000 miles! An amazing story and lots of lessons about how you truly discover a place once you walk it. For those who love NYC and those who enjoy a quirky story this a film for you.

A dive into Middle Eastern and Indian fare

We highly recommend La Vie Restaurant in Pompano Beach. Absolutely wonderful Lebanese restaurant. Great service, delicious food, unique atmosphere and yes some belly dancing. Worth the trip south.

We also discovered Saffron & Curry a terrific Indian restaurant on West Atlantic and Congress. Delicious rice, family run and wonderful bread.

Lunch at Abe and Louie’s, highly recommend the Abe and Louie salad. A classic and still a good place to people watch. While the dining room is where you’ll see all the movers and shakers, we prefer the bar which is cozy and oozing with atmosphere.

Polar Vortex?
The weather. What a month! Can you imagine how many people caught in the polar vortex are saying “I’m moving to Florida?”

Great playoff football. Interesting to see the emergence of Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. He could be a generational talent. The Saints, featuring Delray’s Tre’ Quan Smith, we’re robbed. Awful.

And yes I know that in 44 out of 50 states it’s not cool to like Tom Brady, but you have to at least acknowledge his greatness. Six rings in nine trips. Amazing.

Mutts Gone Nuts at Old School Square. The traveling show features an array of rescue dogs performing amazing tricks and exhibiting astounding athleticism. If they come here again, don’t miss it.
Congratulations to Bill Branning of BSA Corporation on becoming the new chair of the Delray Chamber. And thanks to Rob Posillico for his year of service as chair.

Warming up for the Delray Open Down Under
Great to see Delray Open Champ Frances Tiafoe make a great run at the year’s first slam, the Australian Open. Tiafoe made his first slam quarterfinal with a big win on his 21st birthday. Of course, the reward was a match with Rafael Nadal. Tiafoe lost but he’s clearly a star on the rise.
Delray resident Kevin Anderson did very well in Australia too. The upcoming Delray Open boasts two top ten players and three top twenty players. Not too shabby. Time to drop the costly lawsuit to get rid of the tournament. The old mayor is gone, let’s move on.

We have become big fans of Sardinia restaurant in southeast Delray.
Terrific mozzarella made fresh on the premises, great service, a nice bar and good live music.
We met some old friends there recently and just had a blast. Don’t miss the tiramisu and the ravioli. Terrific.

A sad note: Delray lost a dear friend when Sean Nathan of Caffe Luna Rosa passed recently. Sean and I bonded over the NY Yankees. I will miss him as will the many patrons of Luna Rosa who came to love Sean over his many years of dedicated service. Rest In Peace my friend.

To Sam, Love Dad

This photo, taken years ago at the Boynton Beach Mall, remains one of my favorites.

Twenty nine years ago today I became a father for the first time.

I was 25, working for the local newspaper and had recently bought my first home—a townhouse on Barwick Road for $69,000 with a few upgrades. Different days indeed….

George H.W. Bush was president, Michael Dukakis spent his winters in Delray and locally Tom Lynch was running for mayor in a hotly contested three-way race as part of a loose slate with Jay Alperin and David Randolph.

January 1990 was an interesting time in Delray. The late 80s were a volatile era with lots of intrigue on the commission and turnover at City Hall but by 1990 the city had a few blueprints on which to draw inspiration and hope.

Visions 2000 led to a $20 million plus bond issue that would pay for all sorts of improvements downtown. A city once split between east and west of 95 came together to vote overwhelmingly on a plan to beautify the downtown and replace crumbling infrastructure.

The city had also adopted an ambitious plan to improve local schools called “Sharing for Excellence” and community oriented policing was beginning to take root and build trust in neighborhoods beset by crime and drugs.

Professionally, I was excited to write about it all. I was living my dream of being a reporter.

Personally, I was thrilled and a little bit scared about becoming a father.

Secretly—for some reason—I wanted a girl and I was granted my wish when Samantha Arielle was born at West Boca Medical Center with Jimmy Buffett music playing in the birthing suite. I high fived the doctor and the nurses—it was a surreal feeling. She was a beautiful baby—happy, healthy with big brown eyes. When we brought her home she was greeted by a big golden retriever named Magnum (after the TV detective). She’s loved dogs ever since.

Today, Sam is a beautiful woman. Still happy. Still healthy (thankfully) and still with big brown eyes.

She grew up in an evolving Delray—going to pre-school at Little Friends with the legendary Mrs. Echols, attending Poinciana Math, Science and Technology’s magnet in Boynton Beach, Trinity School for her middle school years and Atlantic High School for the perilous high school years—which thanks to her goodness weren’t so perilous after all.

After graduating from USF, she taught ESE for two years in Tampa before leaving this fall for Cary, North Carolina to continue her career working with exceptional students.

We miss her. I miss her.

It seems like a blur….decades fly by. Babies grow up. The new townhouse we were so excited about seems like a lifetime ago.

Tom Lynch would be elected in March 1990 and would spend six years as our mayor. He was as good a local mayor as I’ve ever seen and a role model for when I got elected a decade later. I never dreamed that would ever happen as I sat in the back row with Darcie Lunsford of the old Boca News covering the issues of the day.

These days, Darcie is chair of the National Association of Institutional and Office Properties (NAIOP). We still work together. We retained her to represent The Arbors office building that my company owns—back in the 90s, it was an IBM building. There were so many IBMers in Boca that they spilled into Delray. Today, I hear there are less than a handful in Boca these days. Don’t quote me, but someone recently said there were two IBMers left. Is that possible?

Regardless, Boca survived and thrived. So did Delray.

Visions 2000 came to fruition, we won a few All America City Awards, and we adopted a Downtown Master Plan and got that done too. Pineapple Grove—which was a dream back when Sam was born– is thriving too.

You can’t buy much for $69,000 these days…never mind a three bedroom townhouse.

Time waits for no one says the old Rolling Stones song.

Birthdays have a way of focusing us on the value of time, the inevitability of change and the beauty and pathos of life.

I’ve been blessed to have the best daughter a dad could ever wish for…here’s to the next 29 years. I hope to be here to celebrate.

 

 

The Company You Keep

Seth Godin delivers daily wisdom, not sure how he does it.

You are the company you keep.
It’s an old saying, but there’s wisdom in that old saw.

Here’s another similar thought:

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

That’s a quote attributed most often to motivational speaker Jim Rohn.
Those concepts led to a lively discussion recently with a few friends.

I’d like to add that what you read also plays a large part in how you think. Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s long time partner, says that he has never met a smart person who doesn’t read—incessantly. Charlie is 95 and has met a lot of people, so I trust his insights.

So in the spirit of Charlie Munger and Jim Rohn, I thought I’d share  a few of my regular “sources.”

Seth Godin—a hugely popular author and blogger, Seth is an influential marketing and business mind. He blogs daily and he usually nails it. His books are outstanding too. I once applied to work with Seth. His rejection letter was crushing but was so well written that I realized on the spot that there was no way could I hang with him. He’s just another level. Like asking to play hoops with LeBron James when you can’t jump or shoot.

Fred Wilson—a well-known New York City based venture capitalist, Wilson also blogs daily and reading his thoughts is akin to taking a daily MBA course. Very insightful.

Bob Lefsetz—The Lefsetz letter is a provocative blog that talks about music, tech, politics and culture. Lefsetz is a great writer and while I sometimes disagree with him, his writing is so vivid and interesting his work becomes a must read. He regularly angers his audience is incredibly brave and transparent.

Bernadette Jiwa—an Australian marketing guru who reminds me of Seth Godin.

Peggy Noonan—Wall Street Journal columnist who always seems to nail it. She writes with perspective and historical insight. Just terrific.

Frank Bruni—New York Times columnist, has very different politics than Noonan, but also seems to see past the noise to get to the root of issues.

Tom Friedman—-in a word, brilliant. He’s the guy I’d want at any dream dinner party. We saw speak in Fort Lauderdale last year and he was just wonderful.

David Brooks—a conservative voice that I enjoy reading because he’s smart, reasonable and open minded, three traits sorely lacking today.

Tim Ferris—-he’s endlessly fascinating and his podcast is always amazing. Ferris is all about peak human performance and his interviews are in depth and fascinating.  He has some great books too.

Terry Gross—I think she may be the best interviewer alive. Just a master class in getting her subjects to open up and share.

Peter Coy—Bloomberg Business Week writer. Always terrific essays on world events and trends.

Shane Parrish—His blog is aptly called brain food.

Polina Marinova:  Polina scans the web so we don’t have to and points us to the most interesting stories. Her blog is called The Profile.

Kevin Siskar: cool stuff on the start up life.

Joseph Lichterman—writes beautifully about innovative approaches to journalism. And journalism needs innovation.

Lawrence Tribe—really entertaining Twitter feed. A law school professor who explains the world we are in through the lens of a constitutional expert.

Modern Love—a Sunday Times staple. The best ones are amazing. The worst ones are still worth a read.

Steve Van Zant—his Twitter feed is funny, combative and always interesting. Plus, he plays guitar for the E Street Band and starred in The Sopranos. What a life!

Axios: great way to start the day and feel smart. Bite size nuggets about politics, business, culture and the world.

Simon Sinek—daily sayings that remind me of my “why.”

Reid Hoffman—his master of scale podcast tells the stories of entrepreneurs who have successfully scaled their businesses. I’m reading his new book “Blitzscaling” and it’s full of insights on business model innovation.

Otis White–Otis is a friend who has written extensively about Delray Beach. His blog on local government is simply the best on the subject anywhere.

Kevin Klineberg–An urbanist and champion of walkability, Klineberg writes about the “Messy City” with flair and intelligence.

Nancy Koehn–The Harvard leadership expert and author of “Forged in Crisis” has a lively and always interesting presence on social media.

There are more..I just love to read. Hopefully this list gets you thinking about your reading list. Or spurs you to start hanging out with your sharper friends. And please send me some suggestions.

 

The Love Of & For A Dog

My perfect line-up, Teddy, Randy and Sunny.

It’s hard to put into words just how much we love our pets.

People who love animals will get this. Frankly, I feel sorry for the rest.

Why?
Because the love of a good dog or cat, horse, bird or whatever you prefer is one of life’s great pleasures.

As for me, I love all animals but especially dogs. Always have, always will.

And while I love all breeds, I’m happiest when a golden retriever is in my life.

We got Teddy four years ago from a wonderful Boca-based non-profit called “Golden Retrievals.”
From day one, Teddy was the perfect gentleman—80 pounds of love covered in bountiful and beautiful golden fur which was soon everywhere. I mean everywhere.

Within moments of entering our lives, Teddy captured our hearts and I soon discovered that he had that knack with everyone who crossed his path.

He’s a heartbreaker—so good, so cute, so handsome, so sweet and so so loving.

I fell for Teddy completely. It’s a connection that I can’t really describe but all I can say is that whenever I look at him I just feel good. He’s a special dog.

So we were absolutely devastated when a few days after Christmas we learned that Teddy had bone cancer.

He had been limping for a few days and we thought/hoped it was old age (he’s 9), a pulled muscle, or maybe a sprain. Teddy’s an active dog and enjoys playing with my son’s golden puppy Riley and my neighbor’s dog Asher. Maybe in all that happy rough housing he strained something.

When we took him to our long time veterinarian, Dr. Jim Grubb knew exactly what it was. He’s seen a lot in his long practice: cancer.

Apparently, Golden’s and other large breeds are prone to bone cancers—the statistics are beyond disturbing. Google them if you must, when I did it made me queasy.

Anyway, on Dr. Grubb’s recommendation, we took Teddy to the Animal Cancer Care Clinic in Deerfield Beach and earlier this week Teddy had surgery to remove his ulna bone. Luckily, it’s a non-weight bearing bone so he will be able to walk. Removing the mass should make him much more comfortable and also prevent the risk of a painful fracture. As for a prognosis, we have to wait and see the results of his pathology before determining what the future holds.

For the past month, there has been a sadness in our home as we grappled with the news and continued to enjoy, love and cuddle with this wonderful dog who has changed our lives in so many ways.

I’ve been blessed with a bunch of truly great dogs—Tina, Rusty, Snowball, Magnum, Casey, Sophie and Teddy’s best friend Randy— a soon to be 16 year-old half blind Chihuahua mix that we adopted from the Animal Rescue Force at the Delray Affair many years ago.

I love them all and they love you back—unconditionally and completely.

As I’ve grown older I have grown even fonder of dogs because of who they are and how they live—in the moment, with appreciation, excited about the little things—a walk, a car ride, a beautiful day, a trip to the park.

Teddy is the epitome of this ethos.

He has the most endearing style.

Morning is his favorite time of the day.

He’s so excited to greet the dawn and he rolls on his back and kicks his feet into the air. When we get read for a walk, he barks when he sees his leash anxious to see who is outside so he may say hello. And when we take him on a car ride he leans his head on the back seat cushion, closes his eyes and enjoys the breeze in his hair. I’ve never seen a dog do that—its bliss defined. He is loving every single moment.

Yes, he’s a special dog.

They all are in their own way.

So when I look in his big, soulful brown eyes I’m reminded of the other great retrievers I have known—my winter lab Sunny, Casey who would go downtown with me and then try to get in every car as we walked the avenue, Rusty who snuck on my mother’s prized couch when she wasn’t looking and Magnum who used to sit outside with me at 1 a.m. for long talks into the night with my good friend Officer Skip Brown. He also ate a couch and a carpet, but those are stories for another day.

I’m hoping for more time with Teddy—quality time because we won’t let him suffer.

I feel we have more roads to explore on our rides and that he’s due more belly rubs and trips to Pet Supermarket where he enjoys looking and sniffing at each row of merchandise.

But if somehow it is not meant to be…I will still be thankful for every day I’ve had with this magnificent dog who overflows with love and has given us so much happiness.

 

 

 

Remembering MLK On His 90th

The list of people I admire is long.

But my list of heroes is a short one.

For me, hero is a special term reserved for people who are extraordinary souls. Some, like my father and grandfather, are quiet heroes. Others are giants who have changed our world or at least tried to.

Martin Luther King Jr., is a hero of mine. And millions of others too. Today we celebrate his legacy on what would have been his 90th birthday.

MLK’s message and his mission are both timeless and important. The issues he devoted and gave his life for –are still front burner in our society. Depending on how you look at it, that’s either depressing or inspiring, maybe a little of both.

We have undoubtedly made progress in the 51 years since MLK was taken—violently—from us. But we still wrestle with racism, hatred, violence, inequality, opportunity, education, health care, discrimination and a host of other ills.

Perhaps that’s the human condition—maybe as imperfect beings we never quite reach the Promised Land or achieve the dream—but it would sure be nice to slay a problem or two.

It would sure be nice to say ‘remember those days when people couldn’t afford health insurance?’ or ‘could you believe that there were once homeless people in America.’

We are a long way from the Promised Land.

In so many ways we are stuck.

Stuck with old ways of thinking, stuck with old biases and stuck in an endless battle with the other team, side, party—you name it.

I don’t hear a lot about what unites us these days. I do hear the endless cacophony of what divides us and it’s like fingernails on a blackboard.

Liberal elites, snowflakes, crazy conservatives, Trumpers—labels that divide.

Our leaders are not uniting us so therefore they are not leaders. They are combatants locked in an endless battle that will never end, can never end and it is doing tremendous damage to our nation and our standing in the world.

I am not suggesting that people give up their principles and pretend to get along but I am suggesting that the way we “debate” in this country is ruinous. We are not getting anywhere; the shutdown is a good example. We are willing to risk our economic growth, screw up airports (more than they already are), deny 800,000 families paychecks (not to mention thousands of contractors), hurt our farmers and destroy morale because our “leaders” have failed to come up with a coherent and comprehensive immigration policy for our country. Ironic, since we are a nation of immigrants.

On this MLK Day, a day when we are called to reflect and act on Dr. King’s dream we ought to look beyond Washington to our local communities as well.

Here, on the ground, we also see plenty of division in our communities over issues large and small.

Look no further than the future of the West Atlantic corridor to see the divide.

Thanks to years of work, the Delray CRA has amassed enough property to do an impactful project on the gateway of our city. There’s pressure to get it right and pressure is good because it should serve to focus the powers that be on the opportunity and the possibilities. But I sense some distrust in the process and while that may be inevitable, leaders need to recognize that distrust and face it head on.

It’s a teachable moment. Leaders wait for these moments. They are a chance to engage the community, dispel rumors, gather input and anchor the project to a bigger vision. If that opportunity is seized and we choose a good project it will build trust and community pride. If that opportunity is lost, the opposite happens.

MLK is a hero of mine because he exuded hope in a better future. That’s leadership—instilling fear is not leadership. Fear is easy to stir, but hope is real. It’s fuel—fuel to build a better world as MLK envisioned all those years ago.

 

 

 

Those Great, Good Places

Found this shot of Ken and Hazel’s on Newspaper.com

I’m a member of my hometown page on Facebook.

It’s a combination of great photos, obituaries, current news and nostalgia.

It’s a great way to stay in touch and reminisce.

Recently, someone created a hugely popular post listing old businesses.

The post went viral and has attracted scores of responses as the list of “great old places” keeps growing; old pizza places that we loved, long shuttered department stores, delis, record stores (remember those?), grocers, movie theaters (when one screen was the rule and a triplex was a big deal), bowling alleys, florists and sub shops (or were they hero, grinder or sandwich shops?)I can’t remember.

The post was a great walk through the past. And it’s still going on.

Which got me thinking of some great old businesses that once inhabited this place.

Now admittedly, my history only dates to the summer of ‘87 but that’s 30 plus years— enough to have seen a few things come and go.
So here’s my list. Feel free to add.

Burger Chin, the Arcade Tap Room, Ken and Hazel’s, the Patio Delray, Costin’s Florist, Mercer Wenzel, AE George and Sons, Clay and Hy’s Boutique, Damianos, Splendid Blendeds, Bob Miller State Farm Insurance, Sefa, The Phoenix, Sopra, Delray TV, Pierce Tire, The Rod and Gun, Dirty Moe’s, Liberties, Louie Louie’s, Tryst, Sal’s Sporting Goods, The Trellis Shop, the Seagull Shop, Tom’s Ribs, Club Boca, Taco Viva, the Delray Mall, Webster’s, Jefferson’s, the Boca Mall, Mervyn’s, Pete’s, D Train, Locos Only, Elwood’s, Las Hadas, Pineapple Grill, Hoot, Toot & Whistle, Gillis & Sons and The Annex. Whew.
You get the drift…
Great places all..at least as I remember them.

 

Whatever Gets You Through the Night

The iconic hat throw is celebrated in a downtown Minneapolis sculpture. Milwaukee has The Fonz, Philly has Rocky.

I have a confession to make.
It’s not something I share lightly but since we’re friends what the heck?
Ok, here it is.
Whenever I feel blue, I will head to YouTube or On Demand and watch an episode (or three or four) of the old Mary Tyler Moore Show.

From the moment the opening credits roll and Sonny Curtis sings the words “who can turn the world on with a smile?” I start to feel better.
Yes, you have to ignore that Mary Tyler Moore and Ted Knight have passed (oh how they are missed) and give yourself over to the 70s vibe, but if you do the reward is a good mood, lots of laughs and 22 blissful minutes with a cast of unforgettable characters drawn so well that you just marvel at the brilliance of the writers.

The sitcom is smart, stands the test of time and is so warm that you long to move from sunny Florida to frigid Minneapolis. Well, almost.

As a child of the 70s, I just love the music, the pop culture and yes the sitcoms of that magical decade.
From the Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family to the Odd Couple and All in the Family it was a special era of TV.
And the music, well the music was sublime.

From ‘Smoking in the Boys Room’ and ‘Weekend in New England’ to ‘Who’s Next’ and ‘Blood on the Tracks’,  the 70s had it all—including The Fonz and Charlie’s Angels.
And don’t forget KC and the Sunshine Band which boogied in Boca over New Year’s.

So what is it about the Mary Tyler Moore show that lifts your mood?
I think it’s the warmth…
The friendships at home ( Rhoda and Phyllis) and at work (Lou, Murray and Ted).

It’s the humor (which is timeless) and it’s the overall feeling of the show which is —as the theme song says —“you’re gonna make it after all.”
Yes indeed.

We want to believe that despite the speed bumps and heartbreak, we will indeed make it after all.

So there it is…my confession.

If you’re blue, take two episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore Show and call me in the morning.
It beats Xanax.
Try it.