The Four Freedoms

On this Memorial Day please remember that some gave all.

I’ve been watching the debt ceiling debate for months now.

Most people, I suspect, have been focused on this for a few weeks, but I’ve been concerned for a while because I’ve learned (the hard way) to be wary of extremists—on both sides of the aisle. As Maya Angelou warned us: “when someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

Good advice. Please be forewarned.

We live in an age where norms, values, expertise, experience and even morals are being brushed aside, like lint on your collar. We used to question and challenge assumptions and that’s healthy.

But these days we conclude and we slam our minds shut.  We discard, disparage, and destroy.

This is troubling news, but very real. It’s a fever that promises to break us before we break the fever.

So, when I heard rumblings about the debt ceiling months ago, I became alarmed. We have gone to the edge of a cliff a few times with the full faith and credit of the United States at risk only to pull back. But this time feels different to me, I hope I’m wrong, but I believe there are forces who want us to jump off that cliff. I hope there’s really a deal.

But this isn’t a discussion about the nation’s deficit, which is atrocious and embarrassing. Future generations will curse us, of that I am certain. We need to live within our means. It’s just that simple. But we don’t.

Still, this debate is about paying our bills. It’s about not endangering America’s economy and our place in the world.

A responsible government would pay its bills and then immediately sit down and come up with a plan to tackle the debt or  at least get it under control. But we are no longer responsible, we are tribal. There’s a difference.

We have become captive to the extremes, and I believe that most of us are not extreme.  Therein lies the problem.

We are stuck in a car with reckless drivers and that car is running over the norms, values and morals that built this nation. It’s heartbreaking.

Whenever I get overwhelmed by the gravity of a situation, I seek a change of scenery and the advice of wise counsel. I highly recommend both.

We happened to have a trip to New England scheduled so I was able to change my scenery to that of the Maine seacoast. There’s something about the history of New England, the architecture, the kindness of the people and the lobster that settles you. (Ok, I don’t like lobster, but I hear it’s good in Maine).

When I returned, I checked in with my good friend Kerry Koen for a heart to heart. I wrote about Kerry, our beloved former fire chief (he served both Boca and Delray in that capacity) a few weeks back. Anyway, Kerry loves history as do I. In preparation for our talk, I spent time on the plane reading about FDR’s “Four Freedoms” speech and the Atlantic Charter, written by Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. I also read the 14thAmendment, especially the clause that says the “validity of the public debt, authorized by law … shall not be questioned”.

Pretty heady stuff for a short flight—I’m so glad we bought the comfort plus seats on Delta which gave us an extra centimeter of leg room….

I digress.

The Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms speak to fundamental American values. Not Democratic values or Republican values—American values.

The first of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms is freedom of speech and expression—not just here but everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom to worship G-d in his or her own way—everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—-which means that everyone the world over should be economically secure.

The fourth is freedom from fear—especially the horrors of war.

Later, in the same speech FDR outlined six goals:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.

Jobs for those who can work.

Security for those who need it.

The ending of special privilege for the few.

The preservation of civil liberties for all.

The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

The Four Freedoms served as a justification for America to confront Hitler and his fascist followers. As captured by painter Norman Rockwell, the freedoms were considered values central to American life and an example of American exceptionalism.

Ask yourself, how we are measuring up to those values?

The Atlantic Charter, issued in August 1941, was a joint statement by America and Great Britain which called for no territorial aggrandizement, no territorial changes made against the wishes of the people (self-determination), restoration of self-government to those deprived of it, reduction of trade restrictions, global co-operation to secure better economic and social conditions for all, freedom from fear and want, freedom of the seas, abandonment of the use of force, and disarmament of aggressor nations.

The charter, ambitious and idealistic, was hugely influential and historians believe it was one of the first steps toward the formation of the United Nations.

It’s a monumental document written by serious people trying to save the free world from unimaginable evil.

Values and ideals should be ambitious. They should inspire and move people toward building a better world.

Like everything else, there are local parallels to national and world affairs.

Cities should have visions, values, and ideals. They should be inspiring and exciting to old timers and newcomers alike.

Those visions need to be updated every 20 years or so, if you believe what my good friends Chris Brown and Kim Briesemeister write in their great book “Reinventing Your City.” If Chris’ name sounds familiar, well it should. He was a pioneering CRA director and currently sits on our Planning and Zoning Board. Kim used to run the West Palm CRA. They know their stuff.

Visions are meant to be refreshed, but values and morals are meant to last. Still, even the strongest values are vulnerable to indifference and bad behavior.

Once lost, we enter dangerous seas. We become adrift from our moorings. There’s a reason we refer to a moral compass—our morals should guide us— always.

We hear a lot of talk around these parts about the Delray Way, but I wonder if we have lost sight of what that phrase means.

Here’s what I remember and understand it to be.

When confronted with a problem, we acknowledge the challenge and work together to make things better.

We try to be inclusive and involve the community.

We strive to make the community a safe place to serve, whether we work here or volunteer.

We respect differences, celebrate our diversity as a strength and find ways to move forward. We compromise. We put the community first, above our egos and our ambitions.

I grew up in this town watching people who practiced the Delray Way every day. I watched them revive a dead downtown, I saw them address education , I saw them clean up crime riddled neighborhoods and I saw them take three old and dilapidated buildings on the corner of Atlantic and Swinton and turn it into a community gathering place.

As I reviewed my friend Chris Brown’s book last week, I saw a photo of Old School Square in 1985. It was barren, beaten and blighted. Chris and Kim used the restoration of Old School Square as an example for other city leaders to take look at the assets in their community and make the most of them.

A few hours later, the magic of serendipity occurred. Chris called. We don’t speak regularly, but we do stay in touch. He made a point to call me each month as I recovered from Covid. I make it a point to learn from him when we speak. So, I asked Chris about Old School Square, and he told me that all the redevelopment we saw in Delray—the value, the vibrancy, the excitement—emanated like rays from that site.

As you know, the group that created Old School Square, that shepherded the restoration and more importantly infused the place with the idea of community was booted by the previous commission from the site after 32 years.

The election in March saw candidates who supported the eviction lose to candidates who want to restore the site and heal a community that needs healing.

When a community or a nation needs healing, I would argue the best path is to go back to your values and ideals. If you’ve strayed, you should come home.

We need to go home. We have the compass. Do we have the will and the leadership?


Last week, we wrote about the tragic murders of Karen Slattery and Georgianna Worden and the death warrant signed by the governor for the killer Duane Owen. A day after publication, it was reported that a hold was put on the execution pending psychiatric evaluation.

According to the Florida News service: “Gov. Ron DeSantis temporarily put a hold on the execution of Duane Eugene Owen and ordered a psychiatric evaluation of the death row inmate after his lawyers argued that he may be insane.


Owen, 62, is slated to be executed by lethal injection on June 15. But DeSantis issued an executive order calling for three psychiatrists to evaluate Owen.


According to the order, Owen’s lawyers sent a letter to the governor that included a neuropsychologist’s “recent evaluation” saying that Owen “meets the criteria for insanity.”


Owen was “feeling that he is a woman in the body of a man” and “was trying to fully become the woman he really was,” according to the order, which quoted from the neuropsychologist’s report.

We will keep you posted.

Reliving Heartbreak; Appreciating Our Officers

Duane Owen at the time of his arrest.

Duane Owen today. Photo courtest Florida Department of Corrections.

The name Duane Owen is back in the news.

If you’ve been around Boca-Delray since the 80s, that name may ring a bell and give you pause.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a death warrant for the convicted murderer last week and the date for execution is June 15.

Owen murdered Karen Slattery, 14, while she was babysitting in Delray Beach almost 40 years ago. I wasn’t living in Delray Beach back then, but when I arrived a few years later people were still talking about the tragedy and the murder of 35-year-old Georgianna Worden, a mother of two in Boca Raton who was also brutally killed by Owen. The community had been traumatized by the crimes which were savage in nature. Those scars remain.

As a reporter, I got to know Karen’s father Eugene who became a victim’s right advocate and devoted the rest of his life to the memory of his daughter. Mr. Slattery would die in a plane crash at age 58 in June 1989. He was flying a homemade single engine plane when it crashed on Hypoluxo Road just west of I-95. Once again, the community was shocked, but Mr. Slattery’s advocacy lived on.

He had raised $50,000 for a reward leading to the arrest of Karen’s killer. While the reward was never claimed, the money was used to fund the Karen Slattery Education Research Center at FAU. A student at Pope John Paul II High School, Karen’s 1987 class memorialized her by planting a tree in her honor on campus. I think the tree is still there.

I also got to know the detective who worked the case, Rick Lincoln.

Rick was a lieutenant at the time and would rise to interim chief before becoming the number two official at the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office.

Rick would talk about the case during Citizen Police Academies and often referred to it as the worst crime scene he had ever seen.

After an extensive investigation by Delray and Boca police, Owen was arrested.  He seemed to delight in teasing detectives with bits of information. He admitted to a flashing charge at FAU and some burglaries but was mum on the murders.

Instead, he would dangle bits of information. He wrote vile poems for the detectives.

“Roses are red, you pigs are blue, if you count up my victims, there’ll be quite a few.”

But the game ended when police found a single fingerprint at the Worden home. Owen was careful, using his socks to cover his hands but they found that one print. He would later be tied to other violent crimes including a rape at a motel in Boca.

Even after the fingerprint tied him to the Worden murder, he refused to admit to killing Karen Slattery. A few days later he finally confessed.

He has spent the ensuing decades fighting the death sentence. Those appeals lasted more than twice as long as Karen Slattery’s short life. Such is the system….

Around this time, I was covering a lot of police stories. I spent hours on “ride-alongs” with our Tactical Team who were battling street-level drug sales in Delray. I also tagged along on midnight warrant sweeps and sat in the back of cruisers while Field Training Officers were working with rookies. I developed a great respect for the men and women in blue.

I also interviewed several criminals including murderers, traveling to prisons all over the state. I made a few attempts to interview Owen, for what in hindsight, I can’t tell you. You are not going to gain any insights, only excuses. You stare into empty eyes.

But I did learn a lot from the cops I came to know. Some were hard lessons about how people can be so cruel to each other. Our police officers and firefighters see so much. But while these images are seared into their brains, they still have a desire to serve and protect.


It’s not for the money—because they don’t make much, especially if you consider the job they are tasked with. The risks are enormous, the toll is both physical and emotional. The job isn’t getting any easier as we invent ways to hurt each other.

Still, the best officers care…a lot.

Rick Lincoln cared.  I admired him and so many others along the way.

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a local detective. We talked about how far Delray has come.

I told him what I tell others: the Delray Beach Police Department made it safe for people to invest here and therefore we can thank our officers for Delray’s revival. That doesn’t mean there isn’t crime…there is. But I think we have a great Police Department. A great Fire-Rescue department as well. I feel safe here. Along the way, we made an investment in these departments, and they have served us well. We must continue to invest in public safety.

Still, when I see the mug shot of Duane Owen I am reminded of the evil in this world. I’m reminded of the damage they do to generations. And I am reminded that communities have scars. Eventually we heal and life goes on, but the scars remain. The painful memories linger.

Let’s be grateful for the men and women who devote their lives to ensuring that justice is served.


A Wake Up Poll, Saying Goodbye To A Special Planner

Scott Pape gets an earful of praise from City Manager Terrance Moore at his retirement party last week. Three mayors, three planning directors and a room full of current and retired city staff came to celebrate Scott’s storied career.


Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a poll that blew people’s minds.

The pollsters asked a cross-section of Americans whether they thought that life for their children’s generation would be better than it was for them.

The answer: no.

Check that: it was heck no.

By a 78-21 percent margin, Americans did not feel confident that their kids would have a better life. One percent didn’t know.

That’s a startling number and as one commentator put it: “the poll quantifies a generational and political divide that shows a rot at the very soul of our nation.”

When you use the word “rot,” good news usually doesn’t follow. Whether it has to do with your house, your marriage, or your nation, you really want to avoid rot.

Here’s what the Journal found.

  • Asked to describe the state of the nation’s economy, 1% (not a typo) chose “excellent.”
  • 56% said a four-year college degree is “not worth the cost because people often graduate without specific job skills and with a large amount of debt.”
  • 33% said they have very little or no confidence in public schools.
  • Tolerance for others, deemed very important by 80% of Americans as recently as four years ago, has fallen to 58%.


The numbers look even worse when compared to Journal polling data from 1998.


  • Patriotism is very important: Dropped from 70% to 38%.
  • Religion is very important: Dropped from 62% to 39%.
  • Having children is very important: Dropped from 59% to 30%.
  • Community involvement is very important: Dropped from 62 % to 29%.
  • Money is very important: Rose from 31% to 43%.


Blame it on politics, Covid, inflation or the very wrong decision to end Ted Lasso, but something is amiss in our society.

Patriotism, community involvement and having kids–and believing they will live in a better America— are the core values of our nation.

It’s a lot to grapple with, but grapple with it we must because so much is at stake.

As concerned locals, we should be asking what we can do here in Boca/Delray to address some of these issues?

If you are involved in a college or university, you need to be laser focused on the value you are providing students. Will they get a return on their investment of time and tuition?

I’m happy to report that I think Lynn University, FAU and Palm Beach State are focused on those very questions. As a trustee at Lynn, I’ve been impressed with the focus Lynn puts on providing “hands-on” educational opportunities and making sure students are engaged and getting what they need to succeed. As a private institution, Lynn can pivot and innovate– and they do.

FAU, coming off a basketball season for the ages, is blossoming and serves as an economic engine for our region. Let’s hope the specter of partisan politics surrounding the selection of a new president doesn’t set the school back. If the powers that be recruit a great educational leader in the seat, not a political hack who needs a job, FAU will soar.

Likewise, Palm Beach State is doing a good job preparing students for careers with low-cost certificate and degree programs in fields ranging from manufacturing and welding to construction and marine services.

As for local public schools, this requires a very deep dive.

Delray Beach schools need our care and attention. Our city has a rich history of supporting local schools and it looks like we need to undergo another visioning process to address some pressing issues which includes test scores, graduation rates and declining enrollment at local schools.

We need to empower our Education Coordinator and Education Board to bring the stakeholders to the table so we can find strategies to positively impact local schools. Promising programs to support our youth exist: Bound for College, Milagro Center, KOP Mentoring Network, Roots & Wings, EJS Project and the Achievement Center are good examples. We have a foundation in place on which to build something unique in Delray. It will take a village and a vision to knit these programs together and create a compelling narrative that this can be a learning community


The distressing numbers on community involvement are another cause for alarm.

Some of the lack of interest may stem from cynicism, some may be caused by economic strain and some by the lack of a “community water cooler” (i.e. local news) that once made it easy to find out what was going on in town.

Regardless, there was a time when city government was designed to encourage civic engagement. Virtually every department in the city was focused on getting the community involved.

Examples include citizen police academies, resident academies, police and fire volunteer programs, open houses, neighborhood dinners, neighborhood task teams, charettes, visioning, community reading initiatives, events, festivals etc. There were numerous and varied “connection” points; opportunity upon opportunity to get involved.

It’s never been easy to engage the public, but community building is critical and worth the effort.

The Journal poll was a wake-up call. I hope we answer the alarm.



  • 70.0%: In 1998, 70.0% of Americans said that patriotism was very important.
  • 38.0%: In 2023, 38.0% of Americans said that patriotism was very important.
  • 62.0%: In 1998, 62.0% of Americans said that religion was very important.
  • 39.0%: In 2023, 39.0% of Americans said that religion was very important.
  • 59.0%: In 1998, 59.0% of Americans said that having children was very important.
  • 30.0%: In 2023, 30.0% of Americans said that having children was very important.
  • 62.0%: In 1998, 62.0% of Americans said that involvement in community was very important.
  • 29.0%: In 2023, 29.0% of Americans said that involvement in community was very important.
  • 31.0%: In 1998, 31.0% of Americans said that money was very important.
  • 43.0%: In 2023, 43.0% of Americans said that money was very important (Sources: NORC at The University of Chicago and The Wall Street Journal, 3.27.23).


Odds and Ends

Congratulations to Detective Charles Lunsford who was named 2022 Officer of the Year by the Delray Elks Lodge.

Charles’ dad Scott was a legendary Delray officer, so clearly the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

Great job.


Condolences to Lt. Gary Ferreri on the loss of his wonderful grandfather Richard Lewis who passed away recently at the age of 98.

In March, Mr. Lewis received the Legion of Honor Award for his service in World War II. The Legion of Honor is the French government’s highest honor. Mr. Lewis saw action in the Battle of the Bulge.

“He was a man that never complained about anything, he literally went through hell and back as he was captured and held as a POW for 4 months in Germany. I have had the honor and privilege to hear many of his stories, about the men he saved on the front line, his time in prison camp, and so much more,” Lt. Ferreri said in a Facebook post.

His grandfather went back to Normandy to walk the beaches last June.

He will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.


Recently, Delray lost a local icon with the passing of Bruce Gimmy.

The long-time owner of The Trouser Shop on Atlantic Avenue, Mr. Gimmy was known for his colorful wardrobe and lately for his participation in Delray Fashion Week.

Rest in Peace.


I’d also like to wish a happy retirement to Scott Pape, who spent 37 years—most of them in Delray Beach—working as a city planner.

Scott is not only a great guy, he is universally respected. Known as the “fixer” Scott was often tasked with the most sensitive projects in town—including Ipic and Atlantic Crossing because Planning Directors through the years knew he would be fair, thorough and professional regardless of circumstances.

It’s not easy being a city planner in any city—especially Delray which can be a challenging place  when it comes to the public square. But this town has always been known for its outstanding planning department and Scott was a star among stars. We wish him well in his next chapter.




Gord’s Gift

Music as medicine.

We interrupt our regular programming to talk about the loss of Gordon Lightfoot.

The Canadian singer-songwriter passed away at 84 last week and I’ve been playing his music non-stop.

Each song perfectly crafted, every song a story, revealing truths that are universal and lasting. And that’s why the music of Gordon Lightfoot will endure.

Music is the most magical art form. The best songs reach into our souls and tap into something deep.

I’ve been listening to a broad range of Gordon Lightfoot’s songs this week, but I keep going back to “If You Could Read My Mind.”
The song was released in 1970 and 53 years later, after countless plays, it still packs a wallop.

In 3 minutes and 49 seconds, Gordon captures love gone wrong, failure, the loss of passion and the pain of being brutally honest. It’s not an angry song. It’s a love song. But he’s letting go and it breaks your heart.

In under four minutes, I’ve taken a ride with a master and the music allows me to better understand my own journey.

If you’ve ever had love and lost it, the song just slays because of its truth and its humanity.

This is what great art does—it touches us, shapes us, defines us, and makes us feel things we’d just as soon bury.

I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember.

But as I grow older, the songs reach deeper, and I find I need them more to help me understand a very confusing world. I am rediscovering old songs, listening to lots of new music and searching for songs that convey meaning.

It’s a happy search and when I find a special song or a promising artist, I want to share my discovery with my wife Diane. It’s like sending flowers that last forever.

My friend Blake shared something on Facebook after Gordon Lightfoot passed. It was from a column written by Bob Lefsetz. Lefsetz is one of my favorite writers because he angers and delights me often in the same piece. Here it is:

“I’m not talking about a performer. I’m not talking about an award-winner. I’m not talking about someone who is rich. I’m talking about someone who learns the basics and then walks into the wilderness, on their own journey, following their own compass, not someone else’s. And it’s got nothing to do with what you look like, but rather what goes on in your brain. AI (Artificial Intelligence) can create something that sounds like the past, but it can’t create something that sounds like the future, after all it’s based on scraping the internet, and the new, the bleeding edge, the breakthroughs are never there. No one can teach you to be an artist. Not even Rick Rubin. Sure, you can be encouraged, but more often you’re discouraged. The odds are too long. Your choices are bad. You’re not that good. But some stay the course and break through. That’s Gordon Lightfoot.

Decades from now people might not know Gordon’s name, but I guarantee you they’ll be singing his songs. Because they contain truth, and for that reason they are timeless. But it’s not only the words, but the changes and the vocals. Gordon Lightfoot had it all. I’d implore you to remember him, but his songs will do the work for him.”


Those songs will do the work. They will endure. Mr. Lefsetz captures the artistic process, it’s about finding your voice, sharing insights, revealing truths—even if they are inconvenient, maybe especially if they are inconvenient. This is how we evolve as people.

Art endures.

Art moves us forward or makes us look back and truly see.

There’s so much noise in our world these days…so many distractions.

But art clarifies, explains, and raises questions too. Music enlightens, calms, excites, and touches us. It reminds us of our humanity.

And we need reminders.

“If you could read my mind, love

What a tale my thoughts could tell

Just like an old time movie

‘Bout a ghost from a wishing well

In a castle dark or a fortress strong

With chains upon my feet

But stories always end”

Yes, stories always end. But the music lives on.

The Teachers In Our Midst

The chiefs who left a legacy: Kerry Koen and Rick Overman attending the Bronze Star ceremony at Old School Square for retired Officer Skip Brown.

If you’re lucky, teachers show up in your life long after you’ve tossed your last mortar board in the air.

I’m lucky.

I’ve been blessed with the best teachers imaginable.

They’ve taught me lessons large and small. They’ve taught me things I didn’t know, and they have reminded me of things I may have forgotten but shouldn’t have.

The best teachers may not even know that they’re educators, they just share their hard-earned wisdom in doses you can absorb and at times when you need to hear what they have to say.

This piece is dedicated to my good friend Kerry Koen. To call Kerry a teacher is an understatement. He’s more like a professor and I’ve hung on to every word of his eloquent lectures for a long time now.

If the name Kerry Koen rings a bell, it’s because he’s a revered retired fire chief who served both Delray Beach and Boca Raton with distinction.

Chief Koen is universally respected, and that’s a rare thing these days.

Let’s face it; we’re a cynical lot, aren’t we? Not the good readers of this blog of course, but society as a whole.

We’ve become snarky and insensitive. We don’t give weight to expertise, service, integrity, intelligence, and kindness.

Institutions we once had faith in, we no longer trust.

But I still believe.

I believe in the good people I’ve met and grown to love and respect.

In the top tier of that list is my friend and teacher Kerry.

We became friends through my involvement in Delray—first as a reporter, later as a city commissioner and finally as a mayor and now way beyond that blip in my life.

Kerry had left Delray before I got elected and served Boca with distinction before being lured back by City Manager David Harden.

We had a solid relationship during my commission tenure; Kerry taught me a lot about the fire service and the challenges of serving a city as complex as Delray Beach.

Our downtown had come to life on his watch and while that was good, it presents challenges as well, especially if you are in the public safety business. Large crowds, lots of traffic, special events, tourists, alcohol. It’s a lot.

Then 9/11 happened and our world and our little city changed. Now when we rode with firefighters on the bright red engines and handed out treats on Halloween, we would receive calls from panicked parents concerned that the sugar spilled on the kitchen table from their kid’s candy buckets might be anthrax. We found out that several of the 9/11 plotters were living in our city—going to our library, filling prescriptions at our downtown pharmacy, attending our local gyms.

It was the end of the innocence. Our world was forever changed.

In dangerous times, we look for extraordinary leadership. Our little city had that with Chief Koen and Chief Rick Overman, who ran our police department.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that Mayor David Schmidt never lost sleep about doings at City Hall because he had faith in city staff. I’ve been thinking about that statement, and it was true for me as well.

I lost sleep over my ability to handle a racially charged shooting, hurricanes, and other controversies but I never lost sleep over whether our fire or police departments could protect and serve us.

I had faith in the men and women who served, and that faith continues today. And in my opinion, Kerry played a big role in building a magnificent Fire Department that continues to serve us long after his retirement.

We can trust that when we dial 911 that we will receive top-notch services. We can trust that if we face an emergency—manmade or Mother Nature- that we are in good hands.

Kerry’s superpower —so to speak— is to always see the big picture. He has an analytical mind and draws connections to the past and the future. He “sees” where we are headed and generously shares his thoughts which are prescient, deeply felt and ultimately hopeful.

He sees trends and is steeped in history.

But he’s also current and forward-thinking, which is of great help to those of us who cherish his friendship.

Still, I find myself thinking of his time as chief and how deeply I admired his approach to the job.

We are a diverse community and Kerry got out of his office at the main station on West Atlantic to engage with civic leaders. He grew close to people like Alfred “Zack” Straghn, a local civil rights icon, and he cultivated strong relationships with the people of Highland Beach. His department served Highland Beach and he took that mission to heart.

The relationship between Delray and Highland Beach was win-win and now that’s gone. Losing that contract is a loss for both municipalities—a mistake that I would wager would not have happened if Kerry could have helped it.

After my 7 years of service, Kerry vowed to stay in touch. And he did. He made the effort. We began to meet for lunch and conversation. There were phone calls and emails too. Every interaction is memorable. He taught and I listened and learned.

He sent me interesting pieces to read, suggested subjects for this blog, shared wonderful photos of his travels and coached me through my ups and downs.

He showed me things—passages from books, meaningful quotes, historical tidbits and invited me into his home to show me a fire bell display he had built over time.

He has such unique insights. He sees the things I miss. He changes how I view issues and how I see the world itself.

And remarkably, I am not alone. There is a large cohort of us who benefit from Kerry’s generous intellect. He has “groups” in Boca and Delray—connections in Chicago, Memphis and Illinois that he tends too lovingly.

Some of us know each other and we marvel at his capacity to build and sustain relationships.

When I think of the richness of this world, how much there is to know, experience and learn, I get overcome with gratitude.

The experts say there is an epidemic of loneliness in this world. Last week, loneliness was labeled a public health issue.

There is no vaccine for loneliness, but there is a remedy: connection.

These days my community involvement is much smaller than it used to be. Some of it is cultural, (Delray is a different place but a new day has dawned!), some of it is where I am in life and in my career, but I’ve tried to keep up as best I can with the special people. We may not see each other much, but the connection is there.

The ties that happily bind us all.

With Kerry Koen it’s easy, because he makes the effort, checks in and because he cares so much.

He’s remarkable. A gift—- to so many lives. And for that I am  forever grateful.



Storm Clouds

Here’s a question that stopped me in my tracks while mindlessly strolling through Twitter in the wee hours last week.

“How much worse can things get in a country where the population is armed to the teeth and conditioned to live in a constant paranoid state of fear?”

Below the question were these two photos…



A 16-year-old is shot through a screen on a front door, then the 84-year-old assailant opens the door and shoots him again. The young man, Ralph Yarl, gets up and goes to THREE houses to get help because no one would help him. When he went to the fourth house, the owner ordered him to lay face down on the ground with his hands behind his back before calling 911. Doctors treating the teenager say they have no idea how he survived. He was shot in the head and arm when he went to pick up his siblings and knocked on the wrong door.

Meanwhile, across the country in Hebron N.Y., a 65-year-old man is charged with second degree murder after he allegedly shot and killed a 20-year-old woman April 15 after the car she was in mistakenly drove up the man’s driveway.

She was looking for a friend’s house on a dark street. Her friend pulled into the wrong driveway. It cost Kaylin Gillis her life.

Can you imagine? 20 years old….

Something’s very wrong in our society.

According to the BBC, there have been at least 160 mass shootings across the U.S. so far this year.

It’s only April.

In each of the last three years, there have been more than 600 mass shootings, almost two a day on average according to the Gun Violence Archive.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Statistics Canada and the Australian Institute of Criminology, in the United States 79 percent of homicides are gun-related, in Canada that figure is 37 percent, it’s 4 percent in the UK and 13 percent in Australia, according to 2020 numbers.

But this blog isn’t going to be a screed for or against guns. That’s been done before and very little has changed. Personally, I believe in the right to bear arms, but I also believe in reasonable gun control measures— like a strong majority of Americans according to polls I’ve seen.

But no amount of carnage seems to change things. If you think guns are the problem; you are frustrated because legislators never seem to do anything meaningful. And if you think people are the problem, you’re likely to be frustrated as well, because we don’t see any action on addressing the underlying issues that cause people to be violent.

It seems like nobody ever changes their mind.

And that should give us all pause.

A society, like a person, that can’t change its mind, can’t learn or grow.

Regardless of where you stand, I think we all have a sense that something very fundamental is amiss. But we don’t seem to do anything but offer thoughts and prayers until the memory of the most recent tragedy is replaced by a new atrocity.

The political class isn’t listening to large swaths of the public and consequently we don’t seem to be solving our problems or seizing opportunities. Our parties can’t work together and that’s a big problem for America.

Service, solutions and sense, the common kind, seem to have left the building.

The headlines that shout violence and death come so fast and frequent that we grow numb. And numb is not a good state of mind. Numbness enables a lot of bad things to go unchecked.

Can it happen here?

I think we all know that answer.

I know friends who now scan the horizon when they shop, dine, or attend an event. Their inner voice asks: “is today going to be my unlucky day?”

As I write this, I just got a Google Alert for Delray Beach.

“Delray Beach Police Searching for Suspect Who Shot Teen” shouts the alert.

Police said a teenage boy was found shot in a parking lot of the Village at Delray apartments in the 600 block of Auburn Avenue. The victim was taken to the hospital by Delray Beach Fire-Rescue. The shooter was still at large.

When I decided to check to see if there was an update, I turned to the Delray Beach Police Department’s Facebook page and I learn that a 77-year-old woman was shot by an unknown assailant while sitting on her balcony in Village Square, less than half a mile from the other shooting. Fire Rescue took her to the trauma unit at Delray Medical Center where she was listed in critical condition. The teen was paralyzed from the chest down.

Here is where I usually try to end with something hopeful and uplifting, but today I just can’t find those words.

I’m not numb, but I am raw.

Anyone who witnessed the shooting of the teen or has information about the shooter should contact Detective Kyle Kinney at (561) 243-7828. You can remain anonymous.

Anyone with information on the shooting of the 77-year-old grandmother is asked to call Sgt. Casey Kelly at 561-243-7890.


Leadership Delray Meets The Mayors

Students in Leadership Delray get an overview of how city government works. After dining with the mayors they took a tour of the Fire Department.

The Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce has a nice annual tradition.

Every year, as part of its Leadership Delray program, the Chamber arranges for the class to have lunch with Mayor’s past and present.

It’s a nice event that allows us old timers—I call us the PIPS for Previously Important People— to trot out  old stories and meet up and coming leaders in the community. For the class, hopefully the event enables students to understand where we’ve come from as a community.

Mayors are assigned to different tables for lunch and at the end we stand up and answer a few questions. This year we were asked to address our biggest challenges and to share a leadership tip.

It’s a fun program and you never know—someone in the class may be a future mayor or commissioner. I’m a graduate of Leadership Delray and I’m pretty sure former commissioners Pat Archer and Gary Eliopoulos are graduates too. I’m probably missing a bunch, so I apologize in advance.

Anyway, this year Mayor Petrolia attended along with Tom Lynch and Jay Alperin who served in the 1990s and Dave Schmidt, Tom Carney and some guy named Jeff who served in the 2000s. From the looks of things, I think the mayors had a great time.

As for me, I always enjoy the lunch Q and A, which this year included questions such as:

How much did you have to raise when you ran? (About $20,000, today races can easily hit six figures)

What has changed about Delray since you served? (Just about everything).

Would you run again? (Can you do the job from Maine in the summers? Asking for a friend.)

What do you see as future challenges for our town? (Here’s a short list: sea level rise, affordable housing, infrastructure repairs, a toxic political environment, education, traffic and a need to engage the community and the list goes on…..)

I pay particular attention to the topics that my lunch partners are interested in. The Leadership program attracts a cross section of community leaders from a wide range of fields so it’s a good focus group for determining issues people are interested in. We spent a lot of time talking about the high cost of living in Delray and the challenging nature of politics these days.

I also really enjoy hearing from the mayors. We’re a rare breed, there are only 10 of us still around. This year’s attendees represented 30 plus years of local politics and these men and women have seen a lot: The Decade of Excellence, the transformation from “Dull Ray” to All America City, the discovery that several of the 9/11 terrorists were living here (many in the class didn’t know that), the impact of the opioid crisis and of course Covid and hurricanes.

So many stories. So many lessons learned. I think it’s valuable to share these insider perspectives.

Years ago, we did two “Mingle with the Mayors” events at the Crest Theatre and the Delray Library.

It was kind of like an “Inside the Actor’s Studio” format with a cocktail party thrown in for good measure. I remember learning a lot about my city from listening to Mayors such as Leon Weekes and Doak Campbell who served long before my time in office.

I wish those events and these lunches were recorded because local history is often lost to the march of time.

To guard against some of that, here’s a list of the mayoral challenges and advice given last week.

Tom Carney: Biggest challenge: Balancing a budget during a financial crisis. Leadership advice: engage the community in visioning processes etc.

Tom Lynch: Challenge: Hiring a good city manager after a decade of turnover and fighting illicit drug sales (successfully tackled by community policing policies). Advice: Stay in your lane. Set policy and let the staff execute.

Shelly Petrolia: Challenge: The opioid crisis and Covid. Advice: Work with the community.

David Schmidt: Challenge: Moving Atlantic High School, 9/11 fallout. Advice: Empower the staff.

“I never lost sleep about what was happening at City Hall,” he said. A nice vote of confidence.

Jay Alperin: Challenge: Cleaning up the mess created by Tom Lynch (that was tongue in cheek, Tom was a great mayor). Implementing the Decade of Excellence Bond. Advice: Listen. Good leaders listen and don’t dictate.

Me: Challenge: Hurricanes (back when stores and gas stations didn’t have generators), the Jerrod Miller shooting. Advice: Be kind. You can’t be an effective leader if you aren’t kind and empathetic.

Thanks to Delray Chamber, President Stephanie Immelman, Chamber Marketing Director Sara Mears and the staff at the Golf Club for a memorable afternoon.

Let’s keep the tradition going. You never know who might be taking notes for a future run.









Reggie, Fonzie & The Me Decade

Bell bottom blues….

I love the 70s.There, I said it.I know it’s not cool.  I know the 70s had its cheesy moments. And I realize that the term “jumping the shark” was coined when 70s icon Fonzie literally jumped a shark while on water skis; that was cringeworthy even by 70s standards of cringe.

Still, if you look past the AMC Pacer (which came in refrigerator blue), Fonzie’s lapse and the Bay City Rollers you’ll find much to love about the 70s.But before we list the decades merits, isn’t it weird that decades don’t have identifies anymore?If I ask you to think about the 50s,60s and 80s you’ll get images in your mind. Elvis, Marilyn, James Dean and ducktail haircuts. The Beatles, JFK and MLK. Duran Duran, MTV and Michael J. Fox riding that DeLorean Back to the Future.

But who thinks of the “aughts” or even refers to the current decade as the 20s?It’s not as if we live in boring times…it’s just that we’re lacking in personality. Or maybe we are just too old to suss out the trends.I’m writing this while eating a hotdog at a Five Guys on Linton Boulevard.Layla by Derek and the Dominoes is blaring from the speakers and I’m loving it. My friend Scott and I saw Eric Clapton back in the 80s in Miami. That was 35 years ago and the guitar master was already an “oldies” act. Time flies when you are having fun.

Anyway, Layla was released in March 1971 and the group of 20 somethings sitting near me probably have no clue what the song is about. I’m just amazed that “society” is still playing music from 50 years ago. I don’t remember being a kid in the 70s and hearing music from the 1920s in restaurants or on the radio.But 70s music is being played because the boomers are still around. And because the music was great.I’m not referring to “Disco Duck” or Air Supply, but the Allman Brothers, The Eagles, Elton, Queen, The Who and so many more.The music of the 70s was sublime and yes that includes disco.Movies were also amazing.

The Godfather, Rocky, Network, Chinatown, Patton, the French Connection. The list goes on and on.We had Nicholson, Hackman, Redford and Newman. I’m sorry but Mamoa, Diesel and the Marvel flavor of the month just don’t quite measure up.When we ate our TV dinners we watched the Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family and Sanford & Son. The latter was a favorite. My dad’s name is Sanford, so I could relate. My dad’s friends called him Sandy and nobody called me Lamont but I thought it was cool nonetheless.Today, we have reality shows. (But streaming is terrific, I’ll concede that point).The 70s had Watergate and inflation, Vietnam and other assorted horrors but we sure felt more united as a nation even when we were divided; does that make sense?So you may wonder why write about the 70s? What spurred this tribute to that memorable decade?In a word, Reggie.As in Reggie Jackson. Mr. October.Amazon Prime has a great new documentary on the baseball Hall of Famer. It’s wonderful and brings back a cascade of memories. Baseball in the 70s was the best; the uniforms, the handlebar mustaches, the Big Red Machine, Charlie Finley’s A’s, Hammerin’ Hank and don’t forget Delray’s own Bucky Dent and the shot over the wall at Fenway that inspired the replica “Green Monster” at Miller Field in Delray Beach. (There’s your local tie-in).Yes, the 70s were groovy.So hold onto those bell bottoms, keep your vinyl and dust off those ponchos you never know when they’ll be back in style.Note: The world lost a great man over the weekend with the death of Benjamin Ferencz at 103. Mr. Ferencz was the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor and he spent the rest of his life detailing his experiences holding the Nazi’s accountable and making sure we “never forget.”Mr. Ferencz lived for many years in Delray Beach and I had a chance to interview him when I was a reporter. What an honor. I saw him last at a Holocaust museum fundraiser in Boca Raton. He was the special guest that evening at Boca West and you could hear a pin drop when he spoke.  He fought for those whose lives were ended by evil. He was very special.



The Oath…

The biggest crowd in memory turned out to see Rob Long and Angela Burns sworn in.

“Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” Simon Sinek

Delray Beach starts the week with two new commissioners: Angela Burns and Rob Long.

I wish them well.

After a bruising campaign season, Angela and Rob were sworn in last Thursday for three-year terms.

The crowd that turned out to see them was jubilant. There’s excitement in the air, there’s a chance to turn the page and be a better Delray.

Yes, the swearing in was a very special moment for this community. Hope has made a comeback.

Now the work begins.

We had a saying back in the day: first you’re sworn in, then you’re sworn at.

But all kidding aside, serving your community is an honor and a privilege.

I’ve long believed that local government is where we can really make a difference. It’s a big enough job to be fascinating—especially in a city like Delray—and easy to make an impact if you’re focused. After all, if you have a suggestion on a Tuesday night and two of your colleagues agree, change can start happening Wednesday morning.

That’s the beauty and promise of local government.

Make no mistake, serving in elected office is no walk in the park. It’s an awful lot of work if you do the job right. Commissioners can look forward to a lot of reading, a lot of meetings, and of lot of nights and weekends away from family. It’s all worth it.

In a dynamic city such as Delray, you are tasked with being visible, accessible, and responsive. Again, it’s worth it.

You have to become familiar with urban planning principles, economic development, labor issues (the city has three active unions), pensions, capital improvement budgets, municipal finance, how CRA’s operate and function and a whole host of other stuff ranging from coastal conservation and water issues to issues concerning the business community, local schools, neighboring governments, public safety, race relations, civic engagement and more, much more.

It’s challenging but wonderful. It can be stressful but immensely fulfilling.

Governing is the fun part (most of the time), but politics are hardly ever fun and in this town the politics have become increasingly toxic.

While there are ideological differences between factions in Delray, the most worrisome differences are personal.

If the differences were only ideological, there would be hope for compromise. There’s a chance that two parties can sit down and work something out.

But when personality conflicts erupt, it gets ugly. Each side begins to look at the other as an existential threat. That’s what happened nationally and that’s what we may be up against in local politics.

I wish I had answers, but all I have are theories as to how to make the public square safer and better at delivering results for communities.

It does start with leadership and I believe a specific type of leadership; i.e. servant leadership.

Servant leadership is all about making the goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up and doing whatever it takes to help people win. Leaders have to remember that  they work for us, we don’t work for them.

We, as citizens, do have a responsibility to engage, be informed, remain civil and vote. Too many of us don’t practice the fundamental building blocks of Democracy.

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to know Rob Long and Angela Burns better. I think they both held up extremely well under fire, I see them as kind people who are committed to Delray Beach. Both care about education, housing, jobs,  government transparency and the culture at City Hall.

I think they have a chance to do good things. And this community hungers for good things and positivity.

I hope and trust that they will remain visible, accessible, and responsive to all citizens. As I mentioned in an earlier post, in his victory speech last month, Rob emphasized that he was there to serve everyone not just those who voted for him. I like that.


Because this city needs healing.

We also have challenges to face and opportunities to seize.

Good leaders roll up their sleeves and help people win.

If you want to make a complex job simple; that’s the formula.

Finally, one piece of unsolicited advice. The best part of being a servant leader is the opportunity you are given to connect to others. Take the time to build relationships. Take the time to work shoulder to shoulder with the people you serve. Help them succeed and then recognize those achievements. That’s how you build community; that’s how you build and sustain civic pride.

Wishing Angela and Rob and the rest of our commission the very best.



Endings & Beginnings

“The road is long and seeming without end

The days go on, I remember you my friend

And though you’re gone

And my heart’s been emptied it seems

I’ll see you in my dreams” – Bruce Springsteen.

It’s been a rough patch of time.

In the past month or so, I’ve lost five friends, learned that another has a terminal illness and watched yet another dodge a health scare.

Welcome to middle age. Sometimes it feels like a mine field. I step out my door and try and dodge the bad news.

An older friend of mine used to describe aging as “a massacre.”

I know some of you visit this blog for a weekly dose of inspiration and I try to deliver.

But I also hope you expect a dose of honesty and if I am going to be truthful, I have to share the sad stories too. And the truth is life is beautiful, sad, wonderful, and painful—all at once.

When we’re young, endings are a remote concept. You know things don’t last forever, but there are far more hello’s than goodbyes when we’re young.

But by the time we hit middle age, we slam into a wall. I think they call it reality. And reality— as they say—bites.

I lost a business colleague last week and it hurts. This gentleman visited us from New Jersey frequently and told lots of great stories. He dreamed of the future and urged us to do big things. He called me “kid” or “kiddo” and I liked it because the nickname was affectionate and because well, I’m not a kid anymore so it was good to hear.

My friend talked about getting a place in Delray “someday” but someday never happened. He endured one last Jersey winter and now this man and all his stories are gone just when the leaves on the barren trees grow green again.

A few weeks ago, I told you about losing my friend Beth Johnston, a community servant beyond compare and last week I wrote a little about the lovely artist Susan Romaine and the charming and accomplished Jim Sclafani and a few weeks before that about Skip Brown, a retired Delray police officer who won a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam. As I write this, I just learned that we lost Carl Wesley, a legendary local educator and beloved bandleader who touched countless lives in this community.

These special people added so much to this place we call home. It’s the special people that make us a village; that make us more than a Zip Code or a dot on the map.

For me, that’s what Delray has always been about.

When I drive the streets of this place I’ve called home for 36 years, so many corners, so many buildings conjure up memories of special people. When you live in a place long enough, these intersections are both literal and figurative.

When I come to work, I pass by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and I think of my friend Father Chip Stokes.

I’m not an Episcopalian, but I spent some time in that church when Chip was there because we connected on a human level, and we were passionate about the same issues. Chip’s church sat on the dividing line of Swinton Avenue—a line that kept Black and white apart for so long. I wanted to break down the barriers that divided us—I wanted to smash the prejudices that hurt so many for so long and so did Chip. I saw him as a champion who opened the doors to his church and I wanted to know this man, because I saw his heart.

Chip Stokes is a talented man, and those talents were recognized by his church. When a team came to town interviewing parishioners and community leaders about Chip because he was under consideration to become a Bishop in New Jersey, I found myself choking up describing his role in our community. My reaction surprised me, and I apologized. But describing his heart and the important role he played as a sounding board for so many moved me to my core.

When I drive A1A, I pass Caffe Luna Rosa and Boston’s on the Beach.  I think of the proprietors and founders, Fran Marincola and Perry Don Francisco. Both are long gone from the day-to-day bustle of those landmark restaurants, but they left a lasting mark and continue to impact lives. Special men; like characters out of a wonderful movie. I treasure these guys.

When I drive a few blocks north to George Bush Boulevard, I think of once seeing presidential candidate Michael Dukakis jogging on the street (think about the irony for a moment) and I remember when the Governor and his wife Kitty spent winters in Delray teaching at FAU and working for the Wayside House respectively. I made it a point to meet the Governor and we spent a few days riding with our police officers because he was fascinated by our city’s efforts to embrace community oriented policing, a philosophy of law enforcement that was truly special.

Before I reach U.S. 1, I glance over at St. Vincent Ferrer School ,and I think about Sister Mary Clare. She was so special, so loving, so much fun. She retired and took that marvelous brogue back to Ireland. I miss her.

On my way home, I pass by the Achievement Center and think of my good friend Nancy Hurd, who started her life’s mission over 50 years ago in a church basement. That mission changed countless lives over the decades. She’s retired too, but I see her name adorning the campus every time I head east toward downtown, and I think of Nancy. What an amazing legacy she created.

Loss, illness, and time makes me nostalgic—and appreciative too.

I hope these examples inspire you to be grateful too. I hope they inspire you to continue to contribute.

Middle age…. what an interesting time of life. Yes, there is loss and yes there are times when my head thinks I’m 25 and then I look in the mirror and wonder who is  this old guy  staring back at me?

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s hope and life left. Hopefully, lots of life left. Let me share an example.

I have this friend.

He reads this blog every Monday. He wants me to record it, so he can listen instead of read, but I don’t have the technical chops. But if he reads this far, I have a surprise for him.

My friend’s name is Randy Smith, and he has this great company called Heritage Flooring. The company has been wildly successful and has enabled Randy and others to live great lives.

Randy sails.

Randy skis.

Randy goes to great restaurants and visits exotic locales. And I love that he shares it all with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning.

About a year or so ago, Randy took up the guitar. And you know what?  He rocks.

He sends his buddies videos, and he can sing, and he can play and he’s having a great time doing both. He’s also my age, 58, and I just admire that he’s attacking life with joy, spirit, and resilience. Like others, he has worked hard for his success and overcome all sorts of adversity. But his gusto, his zest for life and personal growth inspires all of us in his orbit.

He’s become an expert in business, politics, human health, investing and now music. And he motivates those of us who feel slammed by middle age to live in the moment. Last week, Randy’s world was hit by tragedy when a beloved colleague at Heritage died at the age of 39; proof that life is fragile, our time finite. We must live now. We must savor our days and create the moments that give us meaning.

I’ll conclude this indulgence—and thanks for taking the ride—with a shout out to a 73-year-old inspiration known as “The Boss.”

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band are on the road and rocking arenas across America. We saw them in Tampa in February and I’m still riding high from the experience.

Anyway, Bruce’s most recent album “Letter to You” is remarkable. It’s about loss, life, love, friendship, death, and the hereafter. The songs pack a punch, and he plays a whale of a guitar. He’s also an inspiration. You may hate his music. You may hate his politics, but you can’t deny that into his 70s he can still play. And there’s something redeeming about someone putting it on the line every night in his 70s.

Recently, I had the privilege of appearing on a podcast called “That One Lyric” hosted by Ted Canova, who happens to have a brother who lives in Delray. Here’s a link to the show and a conversation about a song that has gotten me through some dark days. Maybe it will help you too.


Well, now young faces grow sad and old

And hearts of fire grow cold

We swore blood brothers against the wind

I’m ready to grow young again—Bruce Springsteen, No Surrender.