Culture & Vision

Vision and culture move the needle…

 

If you boil it down, Mayors and City Commissioners are responsible for two big things and a lot of little things.
This blog will focus on the two big things.
They are:
Vision and culture.

Those words deserve to be bold because it all flows from those two words.
Everything else—budgets, development, bidding, contracts— suffers if you don’t have a vision and you don’t have a positive culture.

A community’s vision should drive its budget. After all, how do you know where to make investments if you don’t have a vision for your city?

How do you shape development if you don’t know where you want to take your city?

I happen to believe that the best visions are citizen driven, created by a large cross section of stakeholders and implemented by elected officials and city staff.
But it’s the elected officials responsibility to see to it that there is a vision and that the vision is being followed. In other words, elected officials are stewards of their community’s dreams and aspirations.

Frankly, I don’t know how you lead without a vision.

Goals and visions drive everything—where you spend money, what projects you approve, where you allocate time and resources. Having a compelling vision is the best economic development tool imaginable. If you’re serious about making it happen the private investment you need to transform your community will come. Yes it will. You just have to believe and relentlessly focus and implement a compelling vision. (Execution is a key; visions left to gather dust on a shelf are to be avoided at all costs).

As for culture, in this case I don’t mean arts and music (which are also important) I’m referring to the atmosphere in your city.

Culture is the air that we breathe—is it positive, enthusiastic, hopeful, crackling with energy and enthusiasm? Or is it negative, nasty, toxic, untrusting and treacherous?

Is the mood in your city exciting or is it negative or milquetoast? Because while milquetoast may be better than nasty it’s still not good and it’s not going to move the needle in your community.

So when we look at our local leaders, or our state and national leaders for that matter, we ought not settle. We should not compromise. It’s too damn important.

Enlightened leaders change places.

They create opportunities, they change neighborhoods for the better, fix problems, heal rifts, seize the day and meet challenges. We need them.

But we play a role too.
We need to set a high bar.

We need to participate.

We need to vote, state our opinions, talk to our neighbors and help to shape the vision. We also need to hold elected leaders accountable.
We need to insist that they work toward creating and standing for a good culture and a kind community. Nothing else works.

Wrestling With Marie Kondo

Two of my favorite baseball players Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez graced the cover of this vintage Newsday special section. I’m keeping it!

We’ve been doing a lot of spring cleaning these days.

Check that, Diane and my niece have been knee deep in the garage and I get to come home and decide what parts of my past I want to keep and what to throw out or donate. I have to admit it has been difficult for me to part with mementos from the past.

I don’t know if you’ve caught any of the Marie Kondo phenomenon but the organizational guru who challenges people to throw things out if they don’t “spark joy” wouldn’t be my top choice for a dinner party at my house. Truth is, all of my stuff sparks joy—it’s just that there’s so darn much of it.

There are three main causes driving my collection: I’m sentimental, I’ve spent two decades plus as a journalist and I did 7 years in local politics.

That character trait and those two endeavors have generated an overwhelming amount of mementos: clips of articles I’ve written and a slew of plaques, proclamations, letters and ‘do dads’ from my civic work.

For better or for worse, they represent my life’s work—or at least a great deal of it. I’m still out here writing my own story.

So all of it means something to me. The newspaper and magazine stories I wrote, the letters from people who liked something the commission did (we had plenty of critical letters too and I kept some as well) and of course the souvenirs from the places we visited. So while I understand that material possessions pale in comparison to what really matters, these artifacts spark memories and yes Ms. Kondo a certain amount of joy.

But my argument to keep this stuff falls apart if you ask a few basic questions such as: Who is going to want or care about these things when I pass? And short of expiring, how are we going to store/move/organize this stuff should we decide to move or downsize?

Of course, I don’t want to answer any of those questions. But my better half is posing them and it’s hard to put off answering the woman who was brave enough to wade into my vast archives. Plus, she’s really cute and very smart and totally logical. I am simply no match for Diane.

So every night, I come home and wade through another pile.
It’s been an interesting ride…newspapers that take me back to the 80s and 90s, articles that reintroduce me to newsmakers from back in the day, magazine columns penned for Atlantic Ave magazine, old photos, campaign literature from landmark races, vintage Rolling Stone magazines,  a stray Playboy or two (read for the articles of course) and a really bad fake ID that I remember paying $20 for in Times Square so I would be old enough to buy a beer in downtown Port Jefferson—life was sure simpler then.

So here’s what we’ve decided and I think Diane is mostly on board although I’m sure she’d like to cart it all away.

I’m keeping some stuff.

I’m getting rid of some stuff.

I’m donating some stuff.

I’m looking at all of it and reminiscing.

These are my takeaways…

Memories are precious.

Life goes fast.

But you sure rack up a lot of miles and accumulate a lot of stuff.

Most likely, my kids and hopefully my future grandkids, won’t be interested.

 

And hopefully, there won’t be time to sit back at the end of it all and look back. Why?

Because if all goes well, I’ll be busy making new memories up until the very end. In other words, I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to sit in that rocking chair.

As my friend from across the miles and the years texted me this week—“Life’s about the moments.”

Indeed.

You have got to keep making them.

 

Old Friends

Scott, Ben and yours truly.

My old friend, I apologize

For the years that have passed

Since the last time you and I

Dusted off those memories

The running and the races

The people and the places

There was always somewhere else I had to be

And time gets thin, my old friend

Don’t know why…Tim McGraw, My Old Friend

 

There’s something comforting about old friends.

Something so easy that within moments of seeing them you pick up where you left off regardless of the time and the miles, the running and the races, the people and the places.

My childhood friend Ben was in town last week, passing through on his way to see his father in Port St. Lucie. So I rang up Scott–another old friend—and we found a cozy bar in Boca to reconnect. It took about 30 seconds and we were lost in laughs and good conversation.

We will all be 55 this year.

Ben and Scott go back to the third grade. I met Ben in junior high and I’ve known Scott since I was 8 or 9.

That’s a long, long time.

We’ve covered a lot of miles in life—a lot together (school, first loves, neighborhoods, first cars, road trips, youthful adventures) and a whole lot apart.

Frankly, the last thirty years were a blur for all of us.

Marriage, kids, careers, businesses, travel—deadlines and commitments as Bob Seger sings —what to leave in, what to leave out.

And then one day you’re 54 and you walk into a bar to meet two of the best friends you’ve ever had or ever will have and time melts away instantly.

Ben still has his boyish face and Scott still has the sense of a humor of a 12 year-old so the years seem to dissolve as if by magic.

We didn’t talk about the glory days (oh, maybe a little) but we do talk easily about our lives today and our hopes for the future. There’s always a lot to catch up on because we don’t see each other like we used to. We used to spend every single day together, but those days are long past.

Still,  there may be even more to talk about now because when we ran together as kids I knew everything about these guys—where they had travelled, what they were thinking (girls, cars, sports, music that was pretty much it) and what was happening in school.

But these days, they are full of mystery to me. They’ve been lots of places, seen lots of things and when we talk I hang on every word because it’s fresh, it’s interesting and I really, really care for these guys.

I didn’t have brothers growing up —so they are it. Something beyond friends.

I know that regardless of where life takes us—Park City, Utah, Red Bank, N.J. Raleigh, Asheville, Coral Springs or to Mr. W’s house in Port St. Lucie—there will always be a reunion. If life were a cruise with various ports of call, these guys and a few others would be my muster station. We will find a way to stay in touch and if emergencies strike we will surely be there for each other.

We can talk in a comfortable shorthand of sorts, because when these guys talk about their parents and siblings or I talk about mine, I have a picture in my mind. I know all of these people.

Same with our other friends.

We are well aware that we have been given a gift—each other’s friendship. We appreciate it, we enjoy it and we are grateful for the laughs, the talks and the experiences that we did share.

I’ve made a lot of friends over the years. Lost a few too and that can rattle a guy because I certainly wasn’t used to that.

But these guys…well let’s just say I know that they will always be there.

And for that I am eternally grateful.

 

 

 

 

Boca Makes A SMART Hire

Pedro Moras

The City of Boca Raton recently hired Pedro Moras as its first ever “Innovation Strategist” and I think that’s worthy of applause.

According to the press release announcing the hire, Moras was hired to promote innovation and the use of technology within the community. Additionally, Moras will work to develop and implement SMART City initiatives and collaborate with City staff to explore innovation in city operations.

Now the cynics out there will say innovation and government should never be used in the same sentence and that the term Smart City is an oxymoron.

The cynics would be wrong. As they usually are.

Cities today have to innovate or risk irrelevance. They should strive to be “smart” not only in terms of technology but in all areas: sustainability, citizen engagement, public safety, parks design, transportation, land development and the list goes on.

It’s good to see Boca Raton make a statement with the hiring of an innovation strategist and it will be interesting to see where the city goes as a result.

Moras seems to have the background and chops to make a difference.

Prior to joining the city, Moras cofounded PetMio, a pet food-technology start-up that uses advanced artificial intelligence technology to create personalized pet nutrition products. He also served as Managing Partner at the Konnected Minds Group, a Miami based innovation consultancy. During his time in the corporate world, he was the founding member of the Transformational Innovation Group at Jarden Consumer Solution, a corporate new ventures group focused on identifying, developing and commercializing new product and business opportunities.

“Innovation is the purposeful application that improves our condition and community,” said Moras. “Through that application we can accomplish tremendous feats that improve the lives of our families and our community. It is because of innovation that we evolved so much as a society and I am excited to further expand innovative achievements in Boca Raton.”

Boca has an interesting innovation pedigree.

Boca Raton’s history dates back to pioneering farmers, there’s an interesting history relative to Mediterranean architecture and of course, the birth of IBM’s personal computer (PC) in 1967. Through the years, Boca Raton’s entrepreneurial culture has supported technology and innovation through economic development incentives that have led to the creation of facilities such as the Boca Raton Innovation Campus (BRIC). Boca Raton is also home to three universities that incorporate innovation into curriculums and the community through programs such as FAU Tech Runway.

“I think Boca Raton is in a unique position because the foundation of entrepreneurship and innovation already exists,” said Moras. “And that foundation is strong from an economic, social and environmental standpoint, compared to many cities across the country. I think a key to taking Boca Raton to the next level, is bringing together the brilliant minds in our schools, businesses, organizations and civic centers under a shared vision and giving them the tools to create our future.”

During his first year, Moras will work on creating Boca Raton’s innovation identity and define what being a SMART city means to the community. In addition, he plans to test and learn new concepts, programs and ideas in order to ultimately “create an ecosystem of innovation that is continuously creating breakthroughs in technology, education, the arts and more, and become an even more vibrant entrepreneurial community that attracts the best minds to come live here and work here.”

As a student of local government, I am anxious to see where this all leads. When I was on the Delray City Commission we strived to be “civic entrepreneurs” and encouraged staff to take risks and innovate in terms of policy and engagement. It made a difference, because we strived to make it  safe to experiment and to learn. That’s how progress happens.

In so many aspects of our society right now, innovation and technology is outpacing government’s ability to keep up. This makes government look slow, reactive and frankly a less exciting place to work if you are a young person looking for a career.

So Boca’s move is intriguing. Yes, it’s only one person, but it’s a bold start.

 

 

Finding A Way Forward

Economic gardening is more than just growing your own, it’s seeing that one generation looks out for the next.

There was a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times recently about Silicon Valley’s “old money” and how one generation of tech titans mentored and invested in the next generation.

University of Washington history professor Margaret O’Mara sketched out a family tree of sorts— tracing the influence the founders of Fairchild Semiconductor and Hewlett-Packard had on Apple, PayPal, Netscape and AOL and how those founders and their networks  helped today’s world beaters: Uber, Lyft and AirBnB.

Many early tech founders cashed out and went into venture capital  funding the next generation of entrepreneurs who grew the Silicon Valley ecosystem.
The article ends with a call to action. Tech titans– now facing backlash from consumers and regulators–should change their ways and use their windfalls to do something meaningful for the rest of the world.

It’s hard to disagree with that conclusion. But I came away with another thought.

Silicon Valley, was built on the vision and entrepreneurial energies of talented engineers who took risks, leveraged Stanford University’s amazing resources and built companies that achieved global dominance.

While many cities and regions have tried to replicate that success, none have quite been able to create anything to seriously rival the Valley’s dominance in technology.

But Professor O’Mara, in drawing a family tree of business leaders mentoring the next wave of entrepreneurial talent,  may offer a way forward for other communities.

Perhaps, communities can ask: “Who are today’s local business titans and what are they doing to ensure that the next generation of entrepreneurs will succeed?”

There are many examples of philanthropy, particularly in Boca Raton where the arts, health care and education have received enviable and much needed support.

Some of that philanthropy will have an economic impact—having a great hospital or a world class neuroscience institute is a wonderful calling card for our community. Likewise, building institutions such as FAU and Lynn University will undoubtedly yield a return on investment.

Having robust cultural institutions are also investments in economic development. Talent and forward looking companies seek quality of life and place when deciding where to locate.

But unless I’m missing it  (and please tell me if I am) I’m not seeing as much mentoring and venture investing as can be expected in an area as rich in talent and experience as Boca Raton and Delray Beach.

If it is happening, it needs to be publicized so that other talented and successful business and civic leaders can be encouraged to offer their wisdom and experience to the up and coming stars in our community.

There are notable exceptions. I know some generous angel investors and we have been blessed to see some successful entrepreneurs use their wealth to help others climb the ladder of success.

But I also know a whole lot of successful people who remain insulated in terms of the community.

Their success stories, the lessons they’ve learned and the mistakes they’ve made, would be invaluable to the next wave of people trying to build businesses and careers.

It seems Silicon Valley has figured it out—despite the much needed debate occurring on the harmful affects of some of the technology that has emerged from that hotbed of innovation.

There’s a model there to be looked at. We have an amazing amount of successful leaders in every field imaginable roaming our beaches, golf courses, waterways etc.

Can you imagine what would happen if a few hundred or even a few dozen decided to invest in some of the talent coming out of our high schools and colleges?

A Can’t Miss Rock N’ Roll Experience

Max and me…

Do you love music?
I mean really love music.

Do you wake up with songs in your head?

Do you sing in the shower?
Do you sing all the way to work listening to a great tune on the radio?

I do.

If you love classic rock—the best music ever made (along with Motown)—you have a unique chance to hear it played live by a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and his amazing band right here in Delray Beach.

On April 11 at 8 p.m., Max Weinberg’s Jukebox will play the intimate Crest Theatre at Old School Square. You don’t want to miss the show.

Repeat: Do not miss this show.

We caught Max and his amazing band last year at the Arts Garage, where he played two sold out shows which left people breathless, singing and dancing to music from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The “jukebox” format is unique. The theater is ringed with TV’s scrolling the names of hundreds of classic songs. Audience members choose from the list and Max Weinberg’s Jukebox plays a faithful version. It’s interactive, fun, high energy and showcases the talents of a great group of musicians including Max or “Mighty Max” as he’s known to legions of E Street Band fans around the world.

Max Weinberg joined Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1975 during the recording sessions for the iconic “Born to Run” album.

The rest as they say is history…but in Max’s case his legend transcends E Street to include a long stint leading the band on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, a seminal book about legendary drummers, acting roles, bandleader on the Tonight Show and several different musical bands including the Max Weinberg 7 and now the Jukebox which covers the landscape from The Beatles and the Stones to Bruce and beyond.

I got to know Max over a year ago. We met at the Arts Garage and later he joined my wife and I on a car tour through Delray where we talked about local history and future plans. Max is really into real estate and has become a student of Delray—soaking up visions and plans on the city’s websites. (P.S. we weren’t sure about the etiquette of driving him around: was it too goofy to play E Street Radio in the background? We decided to just provide narration with no background music.)

He’s also a good guy. And it’s really nice that he cares about his new home. It’s also nice when one of your heroes turns out to be a good person and someone you can talk to about ideas.

I’ve been a Springsteen fan (fanatic) since the age of 11, exactly when Max joined the band.

I still remember what it felt like to walk to the record store in Stony Brook N.Y. and buy the newest E Street Band record. The thrill of walking home and sliding the LP on my Technics turntable and hearing the first notes blast through Radio Shack speakers. Those were the days where you didn’t have instant streaming music, you had to wait for releases, listen to the radio, read rock magazines (Circus, Rolling Stone) and talk to the cool kids in home room to find out what was new and hot.

Back then, I never had enough money to buy all the albums I wanted, so I was judicious in my spending,  prioritizing my favorite musicians. Springsteen was one of the few artists that I just bought whatever they put out on day one. I knew the E Street Band  would deliver and they always did.

Darkness on the Edge of Town came out in ’78, The River in 1980, Nebraska during my senior year and the blockbuster Born in the USA in ’84 when I was in college in Oswego, N.Y.

We went to see the E Street Band at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse with a group of guys from my floor—it was the day before the “We are the World Sessions” and Bruce had a cold but the show was magnificent just like every show has been. And Max….well Max is just the best. Nobody works harder every night and nobody channels Springsteen quite like him. The music…it’s indescribable and touches so many emotions. It’s powerful and eternal. The best art endures.

So it’s a special thrill for me to know and occasionally hang with the musician who provides the driving beat for my favorite songs.

Come see the Max Weinberg Jukebox at The Crest Theatre on April 11. You’ll be glad you did. Click the link below and say hello. I’ll be in the second row singing along to the best music ever made.

https://oldschoolsquare.secure.force.com/ticket#sections_a0F0G00000SR9NqUAL

The Mighty Max

 

Lynn: Making An Impact

Jerry Hildebrand, director of Lynn’s Social Impact Lab, is a legend in the field.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been a longtime fan of Lynn University and its visionary President Dr. Kevin Ross.

Last week, reminded me why.

Not a day goes by that we don’t see an article questioning the future of higher education. Colleges and universities are being disrupted, their business models challenged and now even admissions processes are being questioned in the wake of a recent national scandal.

But at Lynn University, we are witnessing a school that is pivoting with the times, riding the wave of change adeptly and becoming more relevant with every passing year.

Last week, I had the privilege of moderating a session at Lynn University’s first ever “Business for Good” conference hosted by Lynn’s new Social Impact Lab. I’m honored to be on the founding board of the lab which is run by a legend in the field: Jerry Hildebrand.

The conference brought together social entrepreneurs, business leaders, non-profit executives, students and investors anxious to learn how they can make a positive difference in the world.

As one of the keynote speakers Ron Cordes of the Cordes Foundation noted: it’s possible to invest capital and make a difference while making a profit too.

That’s a simple concept but a game changing shift in mindset.

I moderated a panel featuring two women who are reshaping the field of impact investing.

Kristin Fafard of Community Capital Management is the chief investment officer for a $2 billion plus fund that invests in affordable housing, clean water and other projects that provide both a return on capital and social impact. In fact, investors in her funds receive two reports—one chronicling financial performance and the other detailing the difference the fund’s capital is making in the community.

Community Capital is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale but has offices in the south and northeast. Since its inception 20 years ago, the firm has invested over $9 billion in impact initiatives nationwide.

From creating affordable housing to restoring the Everglades, Community Capital Management is in the vanguard of impact investing, a growing field.

Joining Kristin on the panel was a talented social entrepreneur named Lauren Harper, the founding director of Social Ventures Partners Miami, which is part of a philanthropic network with more than 39 affiliates in 9 countries and over 3,400 partners making SVP the largest network of engaged donors in the world.

We had a great conversation on how impact investing works and how communities and organizations can tie into the movement.

It was part of a day that brought a who’s who of players in the field to Boca Raton.

Here’s just a few of the stars who spent time at Lynn last week: the aforementioned Ron Cordes of the Cordes Foundation who chairs Lynn’s Social Impact Lab, Paul Rice, founder and CEO of Fair Trade USA, Eric Glustrom, CEO and Founder of the innovative Watson Institute (which now has an office on the Lynn campus), Eric Stephenson of Align Impact, Steve Fox of Impact Global Education, Felice Gorordo, CEO of Emerge Americas and a slew of other superstars in the impact investing and entrepreneurial worlds.

That all of these players—worldwide influencers—were gathered at Lynn is extremely significant and very exciting.

Lynn sees itself as a convener—which is a great role for a university to play—leading conversations around important topics and emerging opportunities.

Lynn’s new Social Impact Lab, includes event space and co-working opportunities giving both students and the community a place to gather, interact, collaborate and create. I had a chance to meet some really interesting students last week some of whom have ideas for social enterprises or businesses that have as part of their DNA plans to give back.

One student, Raymond Francois, is an aspiring food entrepreneur who is a Coast Guard veteran. As part of Lynn’s Social Impact Lab, Mr. Francois was able to travel to Macedonia where he worked with locals on community projects. The experience was life changing. As a result, his post grad plans include a business that would bring healthy food to underserved local neighborhoods. That’s very cool.

By investing in the next generation of game changers and opening a world of possibilities to their students, Lynn University guarantees against disruption and positions itself for years of success.

That this exciting world is happening on Military Trail ought to make all us very proud and excited about the future.

 

 

 

Things We Loved In March

Legends train in Delray…former Delray Open Champ and Delray resident Kevin Anderson and Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova.

 

Things we loved in March
We schlepped all the way to the Miramar Cultural Center to catch a lecture by two-time White House photographer Pete Souza and he was worth the trip.
Mr. Souza served as President Reagan’s photographer and then did an 8 year stint in the Obama White House.
His photography is magnificent. Of course there are the iconic shots—the President and his national security team watching Seal Team Six take out Osama Bin Laden, a five year old African American boy touching the President’s head and marveling that his hair is the same etc. etc.
But it was the behind the scenes shots of family, staff and life as POTUS that truly captivated.
Souza has released a few books and has a large following on Instagram if you want to check out his work.
The Miramar Cultural Center is pretty special too.

In Praise of LF
Leadership Florida is an organization that is close to my heart.
I’m a graduate of Class XXIV and I’ve tried to stay involved by attending annual meetings and serving on a few committees. The organization is dedicated to training, convening and educating leaders in politics, academia, business and non-profits. I think the best legacy of the organization is that it helps instill a love of Florida into those who participate. We may love our cities, we may love our regions but Leadership Florida helps us appreciate the wonders of our state.
For decades, Wendy Walker was the organization’s leader and guiding light. She retired about two years ago and has remained in touch with the organization.
Last month, Diane and I and fellow LF grad Jon Levinson had a chance to meet Wendy and her family for lunch at the marvelous River House in Palm Beach Gardens.
It was a great afternoon of catching up, talking about the state of our state and learning where other graduates have landed.
If you value leadership, I urge you to check out the organization and apply for one it’s programs. It will change your life.

Discover the Theatre Lab

We attended a play at the FAU Theatre Lab for the first time in March.
“To Fall In Love” by Jennifer Lane (remember that name she’s a wonderful talent) was given a reading by Theatre Lab Artistic Director Matt Stabile and the talented local actress Niki Fridh.
The play was directed by Louis Tyrell, a name that should be familiar to local theater goers.
The experience was electric.
And we highly recommend that you visit this small little gem of a theater on the FAU campus.
In fact, the Lab will present another  Jennifer Lane play “Harlowe” through April 14. Call 561-297-6124 or visit https://nam03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=www.fauevents.com&data=02%7C01%7C%7C0e30c440221440d3afe308d6b2e205d8%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636893081156480236&sdata=m6rM1LHn3wc8rSXhEO0F5f6YmroVDN1%2BFB9mZwAHaDU%3D&reserved=0 for more information.
After the play, Tyrell and the two person cast answered questions about the performance. It was an intimate and engaging experience and we were amazed at how two talented actors with no props other than a music stand could turn a reading into a transformative and emotional experience.
The Theatre Lab is a gem.

Good Books
We have a few books to recommend this month.
“Blitzscaling” by Linked In founder Reid Hoffman is a good read and helpful if you want to build a company that will conquer the world or at least its market.
Really enjoyed “Return on Courage” by Ryan Berman which talks about the benefits of being courageous in business and in life. Dare to try, dare to be different and take some chances. Simple advice but oh so hard in entrenched organizations.  But those people and organizations that do find the courage reap outsized rewards and change the world.

Celsius + Creative Mornings
Close readers of this space know I’m a huge fan of Creative Mornings Palm Beach.
And knowing their caffeinated audience I thought our beverage company Celsius would be a good fit.
So I replaced my personal sponsorship of the group with a Celsius sponsorship and I’m pleased to report that Creative Mornings and Celsius have hit it off! So check out an upcoming Creative Morning and make sure you sample Celsius, a local company that’s doing some great things.

The Gazebo rocks & Senor Burrito is also great

Chicken Chablis, French bread and two good friends dining at the bar/counter at Boca’s sublime Kathy’s Gazebo. My friend had liver…he said it was good. I’ll have to take his word for it.

There are few things in life better than sitting at the bar at Senor Burrito with a margarita, chips and a plate of carne asada. Trust us on this. Seriously.

Welcome iPic Delray

The red carpet gala at the new iPic Delray was one of the best parties ever. Truly.
This project is another level. The art work, the design, the comfort of the pods, the finishes.
CEO Hamid Hashemi and his team deserve kudos for their  perseverance in the wake of toxic opposition. iPic’s  execution and vision is something to see.  The project is a wow.

New Digs for Stuart & Shelby

Congratulations to Chuck Halberg and the team at Stuart and Shelby on the grand opening celebration  of their new headquarters on 4th Avenue in Delray.
The office looks great and a big crowd turned out for a genuine good guy who does so much for the community.
We wish them many more years of continued success.

Days of Wine & Seafood

It was great to see the Delray Wine and Seafood Festival return to Old School Square.
Great seminars, awesome food and the “wine down” garden was brilliant.

 A terrific job by producers Festival Management Group. Nancy, Bern, John and Lindi are something special. If you missed it this year, make sure you mark your calendars for next year. And don’t miss the pairing seminars. We attended a Cabernet seminar featuring Napa Valley wines such as Frog’s Leap, Spring Valley and Rutherford. Paired with great food courtesy of Caffe Luna Rosa’s terrific chef Ernie DeBlasi . It was a memorable experience. P.S. Caffe Luna Rosa has magnificent crab cakes and lobster rolls.

Only in Delray

Sharp eyed tennis fans got a major treat in March when they stumbled on Delray’s Kevin Anderson training with legend Martina Navratilova at the Delray Tennis Center.
The former Delray Open champ hails from South Africa but fell in love with Delray after playing here. He soon bought a home and even adopted a rescue dog at the CRA Green Market. Pretty cool.
Martina was in town and the two had a chance hit a few balls and chat about the tennis life.

Speaking of tennis, Delray sensation Coco Gauff earned a wild card to play in the prestigious Miami Open. Quite a coup for the 15 year old junior champ as the Miami Open is considered one of the world’s top tournaments—a step below a Grand Slam. Coco won her first WTA tour match beating fellow wildcard Catherine McNally 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. On a related note, she was also featured in Forbes magazine in March.

A New Venu
We checked out West Boynton’s Venu last month, a live music venue, restaurant and bar in The Canyon Center.
The food was delicious, the happy hour menu was inexpensive and tasty and the acts range from tribute bands to national acts such as Los Lobos and the Marshall Tucker Band. Rascals legend Felix Cavaliere played there in March. Really interesting place. We were there the same night they had a sell out for a Queen tribute band.

Burgers and Wine and Cars

Highly recommend Zimburger, a burger and wine bar in the Town Center Mall.
The veggie burger is outstanding and so are the truffle fries, which may cancel out the veggie burger.

Imagine our surprise when we stumbled into an appearance by rock hall of famer and Cars frontman Ric Ocasek at the mall’s Wentworth Gallery.
It turns out Mr. Ocasek is also a fine artist and the gallery was featuring his paintings.
I’d say seeing his art work was “just what I needed” but that would be too obvious.

Making Deals and Bringing Jobs to Town
I had a chance to speak to the South Florida Office Brokers Association at their monthly meeting hosted at Delray Central,  a recently renovated office building owned by Grover Corlew, a local real estate firm.
For me, it was a chance to talk about the redevelopment of the Office Depot headquarters across the street and to meet the pro’s who bring the tenants to projects.
It was an impressive group.
I was also very impressed with the renovations done to the newly branded Delray Central office building which looks great.
It’s really good to see investment happening along the Congress Avenue corridor.

A Fond Farewell to a Great Chief

Congratulations to Police Chief Jeff Goldman on his retirement and his new gig in corporate security.
Chief Goldman and I go way way back. He was a young officer on Delray’s tactical team working street level drugs and crime when I was young reporter in Delray back in the 80s, when parts of Delray resembled an open air drug market.
I was able to observe the Police Department’s stellar work on frequent ride alongs at all hours of the night. I got to know Jeff and we’ve been friends ever since.
It was gratifying to see him rise through the ranks and make a difference along the way.
Being chief is a very hard job but Jeff kept his head about him through the opioid crisis, weird politics, spasms of violence in the community and changing players at City Hall, including a slew of city managers.
I will miss him and wish him well in his next chapter.

Inspired Choices
Congratulations to Amanda Perna and Jamael Stewart on been named the new hosts of Delray Morning Live. The duo will replace the show’s founders Ryan Boylston and Kate Volman who have become Wednesday morning staples on Facebook with their live stream featuring a host of local luminaries.
It isn’t easy to do a weekly live show but Ryan and Kate have done an amazing job.
I had a chance to catch up with Kate after a recent show at Capital One Cafe and she’s doing great things in the leadership field as a new CEO of a consulting company. We all know Ryan is super busy as a city commissioner and entrepreneur.
Amanda is a talented entrepreneur herself and Jamael is a rising star as our assistant director of community improvement.
Good to see the Chamber of Commerce involved as the show enters a new era. Tune in Wednesday’s on Facebook.

Making an Impact
Kudos to Lynn University’s new Social Impact Lab on it’s fabulous “Business for Good” conference. Top notch speakers on topics including venture philanthropy, impact investing and fair trade attracted a large crowd. Terrific launch for the new lab which is amazing. (See a future blog for more info).

Long Table, Great Night
Savor the Avenue did it again.
A great night eating at large tables spanning Atlantic Avenue highlights Delray’s terrific restaurants.
We sat with new residents and visitors from London who marveled at our town.
Kudos to Delray Magazine, the DDA and all of the participating restaurants. We were at The Office’s table and it was great.

What a month. See you in April.

It’s The Software That Matters Most

Seth says: hardware is sexy, but it’s the software that matters.

Seth Godin has a saying…hardware is sexy, but it’s software that matters.

Seth is a best-selling author and considered one of the top marketing minds in the world.

So while he might have been referring to products when he talked about the importance of software…I think you can also apply the sentiment to cities and community building.

Hardware can refer to buildings and software can be a stand in for the soft stuff like creating a sense of place and nurturing a feeling of community.

Last week, I had a chance to share a few things about public leadership that I have learned over 30 years with a talented group of young professionals enrolled in the Urban Land Institute’s Public Leadership Institute. ULI is a global organization dedicated to the responsible use of land. I had a chance to meet with 40 or so up and comers at Port Everglades to discuss the challenges and opportunities available in cities today and tomorrow. I tried to instill in these young leaders that they have a responsibility as stewards to leave their communities better off than they found them. There is a lot of work for them and all of us to do.

I think cities rise or fall as a direct result of leadership. I think it’s the software of cities that matter more than anything else.

Don’t misunderstand me, leadership has a lot to do with getting the hardware right…we need the buildings and the projects. We need the investment, the tax base and the jobs.

But the best places get the software right…they have a certain feel about them. You can sense the momentum, you want to be involved…they make you want to stay and leave a positive mark.

Leadership is so important, but we really don’t pay a whole lot of attention to it. Oh, we say we value leadership and we want it and that it’s important. But we really don’t spend a lot of time creating, nurturing, supporting and training leaders. There are exceptions: ULI is investing in the next generation of leaders and so is Leadership Florida. There are others, but we need even more.

As a result of the leadership deficit– in cities— we leave a lot to chance. Whoever, shows up gets to run the place. And unless you get lucky and a group of visionaries show up you run the risk of placing your present and your future in the hands of those who might not be good at the software or the hardware. That’s a real problem.

Because cities thrive if leaders show up and commit to a place. And they fail if the wrong people grab the reigns. It’s just that simple and there are examples all over South Florida on both sides of that ledger.

Now I am not talking solely about mayors and commissioners—although surely the occupants of those seats are important to achieving any kind of sustained progress.

But I do not believe in waiting for a savior to show up….that may feel good for a little while, but eventually your visionary mayor moves on or terms out. You have to develop the software to create an enduring  culture of leadership in order for success to take root and to last.

So when I say leadership I am thinking broadly…we all have a role to play. The public sector—elected officials and staff, the business community, non-profits, academia, the clergy and the neighborhoods all need to show up and where possible work together on a common vision.

So how do we do that….How do we work together on a common vision?

First I’ll tell you what you don’t do…don’t get stuck and don’t allow your community to get caught in a winner take all contest.

We fixate today on what we disagree on….we see it in Washington and in Tallahassee, but we also see it on the grass roots community level.

We’ve created a giant zero sum game, where I have to lose if  you are to win….that’s not a formula for success or progress. It is a recipe for gridlock and progress that quickly gets reversed when the “other side” seizes power.

I think leadership focuses on what we can agree on.

There is so much noise and so much negativity in the world today…I believe that people are hungry for something to believe in..

We need to build communities that aspire. And as leaders it’s our responsibility to create a culture in our communities that enables aspiration.

We want to build places where people are excited about their present and thrilled about their future potential. We need to champion projects and initiatives that further these goals…and deliver for not only the direct beneficiaries but the broader community as well.

The best economic development is momentum and software that drives progress. Get that part right and it enables you to overcome inertia or any challenge that is thrown your way—be it hurricanes or crime or drugs or nasty characters who get up at meetings and throw bricks. It even inoculates you against the trolls on social media, many of whom sit back in judgment but few who actually roll up their sleeves and try themselves.

Nothing great can be accomplished without enthusiasm, calculated risk and a large dose of inspiration.

Leaders either fill the reservoir with hope or drain it with negativity.

There’s another saying that I just love and it’s this: “There is a difference between leadership and ambition. Leaders have the courage to be unpopular with those that disagree with them. The ambitious want to befriend as many people as possible.”
We need more leadership and less ambition.

 But we also need more aspiration and more emotional intelligence. Hardware is important. Hardware is indeed sexy. But software is heart. Software is love. Software is empathy and it’s gratitude.

Software is what matters.

 

 

 

 

Choosing Something Better

Former Office Depot CEO Bruce Nelson circa 2004.

We get used to behavior.
We get used to patterns.

If things are going well, we expect the good times to continue. We get shocked when something goes wrong.

Consequently, if we are stuck in a negative pattern we get used to the negativity. We’re not shocked when it continues.

That’s dangerous.

We shouldn’t get used to bad things. We shouldn’t become immune to dysfunction.

But I’m afraid we do.

And when we do standards slip and we run the risk of normalizing behavior and performance that we should never accept.

Many years ago, I remember attending a Delray Chamber breakfast where the keynote speaker was then Office Depot CEO Bruce Nelson.

Mr. Nelson was a passionate business leader and a good corporate citizen.
He said something during that long ago breakfast that stayed with me all these years.

“You stand for what you tolerate.”

I don’t remember the context, but the sentiment stuck with me.

It’s an interesting statement because it’s both a call to speak out and a chance to reflect on where we stand as individuals, as business leaders, as family members or as a community or nation.

I agree with the quote.

So partisanship aside, I don’t think any president or any elected leader—Democrat or Republican—should lie.

I think it’s risky to label the media as the enemy of the people and risky to dismiss science and expertise.

It’s not OK to have your own facts, regardless of what the actual evidence tells us.

That doesn’t mean we should blindly believe what we read—the press should be held accountable to tell us the truth and give us the facts.

It also doesn’t mean that we should blindly follow experts.

But I would hope that we adhere to common values and standards.

These days, it feels like we don’t. It feels very divided out there.

On a national level, we have stopped debating the great issues of our time. We talk past each other. And our “leaders” don’t deliver results.

I don’t think leadership divides. I think leadership tries to unite. I’m not seeing that happen on either side of the aisle.

On the local level, I see the some of the same dynamics, especially on social media.

It’s not just a lack of civility, it’s something worse; it’s contempt.

Contempt doesn’t solve problems. Contempt divides.  Contempt does not unite.

We have to find a better way to relate to one another.
And we have to set standards for performance.

Our representatives in all sectors of society have a responsibility to be good stewards. To leave our schools, cities, non-profits, businesses etc., better off than when they found them.
If we don’t believe we can do better, we won’t do better.

We stand for what we tolerate.