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Water Cooler Wednesday: Urbanism’s Holy Grail


Vibrant—adjective: having or showing great life, activity, and energy.

We took a ride Sunday afternoon to visit Abacoa in Jupiter.

We had a nice lunch at JJ Muggs and decided to walk around the town center before making the long trek back to Delray Beach.

There were about six other people in the restaurant at lunch hour and when we walked around we saw no cars, no pedestrians, no activity and no energy.

Sure, it was a hot day in the middle of summer but when we cruised Atlantic Avenue on our way home, we saw lots of people walking, biking, shopping, dining and taking advantage of the shade at Worthing Park.

There was life.

There was activity.

 There was energy.

In short, Delray Beach is a vibrant place.

Even at 3:30 in the afternoon. Even  on a very hot summer day.

I don’t mean to disparage Abacoa, it’s a very nice place and maybe it was having a bad day, but I raise the issue of vibrancy because when it comes to urbanism and redevelopment it’s the Holy Grail.

Vibrancy is what you strive for. It’s what citizens in Delray Beach have dreamt about since the 80s, when Mayor Doak Campbell formed the Atlantic Avenue Task Force in an effort to rejuvenate a decaying downtown.

Cities are interesting because they are full of life. It’s fun to walk around a city because you get to experience sights, sounds  and other people. You never know who you’ll bump into. The magic of cities happens when those collisions occur. Is the experience always pleasant? No. But it’s life and that’s good.

The great place making philosopher Jane Jacobs once said that “the sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers. Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity.”

Delray Beach worked a very long time to attract street activity. Once upon a time it was front page news when a coffee shop named “Java Junction” opened in the site of a long shuttered shoe store. The proprietors were slightly ahead of their time. There wasn’t enough foot traffic and the business closed.

Back in the 80s, when vacancy rates downtown were 40 percent and businesses closed for the summer, citizens and elected officials dreamed of a day when Delray would have a parking problem.

Vibrancy was the goal; but not an end unto itself. Agree or disagree with whether or not it happened –but the goal was to achieve a vibrant downtown without losing the city’s inherent charm.

Thus the tagline of the 2001-02 Downtown Master Plan was “keeping the charm.”

The goal was to blend the old with the new, to keep a human scale in terms of building heights and to increase vibrancy by encouraging sidewalk cafes and downtown housing while also creating open spaces and cultural amenities that would appeal to people of all ages.

When the long desired parking problems arrived, new garages were planned, built and financed and surface lots in some cases became parks. These decisions did not take place in a vacuum. Citizen input was solicited at every step along the way.

What resulted was a downtown that has achieved national prominence and recognition. City officials from all over the state and nation have visited for ideas and inspiration.

They don’t visit to see empty streets. They come to study the elements of what makes a town lively and to bring back ideas that they can use to breathe life into their own cities.

A few nights ago, I had the pleasure to speak to the Parrot Cove Homeowners Association in Lake Worth.

The discussion centered on the challenges and opportunities facing their community. I am part of a team that plans to renovate the historic Gulfstream Hotel, which the city sees as a catalyst for their downtown.

We talked about what went right and what went wrong in Delray and the truth is redevelopment has its hits and misses. But we talked about how  it’s important to keep iterating, engaging, planning and implementing.

There were three takeaways from my experience in Delray that I wanted to share.

First, how important it is for the community to be involved. Second, that even if you achieve some success you can’t become complacent—“downtowns are never done” we used to say and third in order to keep a place safe and sustainable—you need vibrancy.

Very simple concepts; but not so easy to achieve.



Real Estate Monday: Foreclosure Story Still Being Written

Central Florida, Miami and Port St. Lucie are still plagued by high foreclosure rates.

Central Florida, Miami and Port St. Lucie are still plagued by high foreclosure rates.

I remember a conversation I had with an urban planner some years back.

It stuck with me.

She said that during the good times, it’s hard to see an end. It feels like the party will go on forever.

She also said that during the bad times in real estate, it’s also hard to see an end. You feel like the busts will drag on forever.

For those of us who weathered the recent boom and bust, those words probably ring true.

As an elected official from 2000-07, I remember a post 9/11 recession followed by a boom that was extraordinary.

When I went to the mail box I was often greeted by fliers from people wanting to buy my house—I wasn’t alone.

Water cooler conversation often started like this” “can you believe that they just sold a house in Lake Ida for X?” and was often topped by “can you believe what they are getting for townhouses downtown”?

When I went to City Hall, there were sometimes lines out the building at the Planning Department with people submitting plans for additions, new construction and new developments. It was that kind of an era.

Then it ended. Boom. Like a window had slammed shut.

We saw values decrease, development dry up and a ton of people hurt by the foreclosure crisis.

That’s why it was heartening news to see a new study last week by RealtyTrac which saw foreclosure rates fall to the lowest level in eight years.

But the Sunshine State is still suffering, with pockets –including Miami and Central Florida– still dealing with a very high volume of foreclosures.

RealtyTrac released its Midyear 2014 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report, which shows a total of 613,874 U.S. properties with foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — in the first half of 2014, a 19 percent decrease from the previous six months and down 23 percent from the first half of 2013. The report also shows that 0.47 percent of all U.S. housing units (one in 214) had at least one foreclosure filing in the first six months of the year.

Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, pointed out: “There continue to be concerning trends in some states and local markets that clearly indicate those markets are not completely out of the woods when it comes to the lingering foreclosure problem left over from the housing bust. While it’s important that any remaining foreclosure infection is addressed promptly to keep it from festering, foreclosures are no longer a widespread contagion threatening to derail the housing market’s return to full health.”

Atop of the list of markets “not completely out of the woods,” was Florida. Foreclosure starts in the first half of the year affected one in 74 housing units in Florida. The figure was three times the national average. The RealtyTrac report indicated “Florida scheduled foreclosure auctions have increased annually in 16 of the last 18 months.”

Additionally, most of the cities that suffer from high foreclosure rates are in Florida:

Despite the annual decrease, Miami posted the nation’s highest metro foreclosure rate: 1.65 percent of all housing units (one in 61) with a foreclosure filing during the first half of the year. Eight other Florida metro areas joined Miami among the top 10 metro foreclosure rates nationwide: Orlando at No. 2 (1.57 percent of all housing units with a foreclosure filing); Port St. Lucie at No. 3 (1.49 percent); Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville at No. 4 (1.49 percent); Tampa-St. Petersburg at No. 5 (1.41 percent); Lakeland at No. 6 (1.35 percent); Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach at No. 7 (1.29 percent); Ocala at No. 8 (1.26 percent); and Jacksonville at No. 9 (1.24 percent).

Still, nationally June was the 45th consecutive month foreclosure activity was down on an annual basis.

“Over the next six to nine months, nationwide foreclosure numbers should start to flat line at consistently historically normal levels,” Blomquist.

That’s good news, because housing is such an important part of our economy.


Weekend Best Bets: Bus Loop and Bowling

Burt and Max's is a prime stop on the Delray Bus Loop

Burt and Max’s is a prime stop on the Delray Bus Loop

Three Weekend Ideas:

The Bus Loop: East Meets West

When:  July 19, from 6-11

Cost: $30 at check-in.

East meets west – connecting downtown Delray to Delray Marketplace (at Lyons Rd.).  Hop on one of the free trolleys and check out 12 great restaurant and bar stops, each offering a complimentary drink and/or appetizer.

Support the Delray Center for the Performing Arts and have fun. Sounds like a winner. To register, visit

Check Out Mizner Park

Summer time is a great time to visit Mizner Park.

We are hearing great things about Kapow!, we love Villagio and Rack’s and adore Max’s Grille.

The summer music series is a winner.

Coming soon: John Legend.

Strikes For Life Bowling Tournament

When:  Sunday, July 20, registration 10 a.m., bowling starts at 11 a.m.

How much:  $60 that benefits a good cause

Where:  Strikes @Boca, 21046 Commercial Trail, Boca Raton

What: The Gift of Life is having a Strikes For Life Bowling Tournament on July 20. Fun 21, Eliminator, Brackets & Scratch Pot Games Available, as well as a silent auction and raffles. For more information call 561-982-2900 or email


Water Cooler Wednesday: Engage Or Lose Trust

Hard to earn, easy to lose, really hard to regain

Hard to earn, easy to lose, really hard to regain


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a survey on stress last week.

It seems that politics is one of the top daily stressors in the lives of Americans; second only to juggling schedules of family members and more stressful than car trouble and commuting hassles.

Congress has approval ratings in the single digits; colonoscopies and root canals are rated higher than congressmen.

Even the Supreme Court –long respected by Americans in polls– has an approval rating of only 47 percent, one of its lowest ratings in the last 14 years.
So what bothers Americans about politics?

  • The inability to get something done.
  • Failure of government to perform basic functions well
  • Failure of government to solve problems.
  • Failure of politicians to find common ground.
  • A feeling that they are being lied to and that government isn’t working for them but for special interests.

Among the various groups polled, “millennials”  have less trust in government than ever and tend to trust government to solve problems less than older Americans, according to the Foundation’s findings. That doesn’t bode well for the future. Something has to change.

A few years back, the Florida League of Cities produced research showing that the most trusted level of government was local government, the type closest to the people. Polls also showed that people trusted their mayors more than their Congressional representatives.

I wonder if that still holds true.
Locally, Boca and Delray were able to progress because voters trusted local government’s ability to deliver. In Delray, every bond issue brought before voters passed and usually by overwhelming margins.

Because elected officials took the time to engage the community on issues ranging from infrastructure needs and parks to a new library and the need to support a beautified downtown. But referendums also passed because taxpayers believed in their local government’s ability to deliver on citizen’s visions. They viewed City Hall as an extension of the community, not some alien building full of faceless bureaucrats but rather a place that was engaged with them in solving community issues and seizing opportunities.
That trust is the most valuable commodity imaginable. It’s hard earned, can be easily lost and once lost hard to regain.
That’s why it’s important to constantly engage stakeholders on issues large and small. Governments that skip this piece do so at their own risk. Citizen engagement takes more time and effort but it’s essential and once you have buy in great things happen. Just look at Boca’s amazing parks and Delray’s dynamic downtown.
Larger governments find it harder to engage citizens and are more susceptible to monied interests.
Special interests also play locally–but city government is still the level of government where people matter most. But…that is true with one giant asterisk… only if they pay attention, engage and vote.
You have to do all three. There are no shortcuts.

Real Estate Monday: Foreign Buyers Love Florida

Foreign buyers find real estate in the Sunshine State a solid investment.

Foreign buyers find real estate in the Sunshine State a solid investment.

When it comes to real estate, foreign buyers are seeing the value in purchasing property in the United States.

And Florida is by far the most popular place for foreigners to invest.

Since 2007, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has conducted a yearly survey to measure the level of sales of U.S. residential real estate to international clients. The survey provides information about the origin, destination, and buying preferences of international clients as well as the challenges and opportunities faced by REALTORS® in the international market. The 2014 Profile of International Home Buying Activity presents the analysis of data gathered from REALTORS® on purchases of U.S. residential real estate by international clients made during the 12 months ending March 2014. There were 3,547 respondents to the survey, conducted from April 14 – May 14, 2014.

The term international client refers to two types of purchasers of properties.

  • Type A, Non-Resident Foreigners: Foreign clients with permanent residences outside the U.S. These clients typically purchase property for investments, vacations, or visits of less than six months to the U.S.
  • Type B, Resident Foreigners: Clients who are recent immigrants (in the country less than two years) or temporary visa holders residing for more than six months in the U.S. for professional, educational, or other reasons.

For the period April 2013 through March 2014, the total sales volume to international clients (“international sales”) has been estimated at approximately $92.2 billion, a 35 percent increase from the previous period’s level of $68.2 billion.

 The dollar level of international sales was roughly 7 percent of the total U.S. Existing Homes Sales (EHS) market of $ 1.2 trillion for the same period.

 Compared to the previous year, sales to foreigners increased both in numbers of transactions and in average price. Of total international transactions, approximately $45.5 billion were attributed to Type A non-resident foreigners; and approximately $46.7 billion were to Type B resident foreigners.

Florida again topped the nation as the state of choice among international real estate buyers, capturing 23 percent of sales transactions in the latest yearly report from the National Association of Realtors.

China led the way, accounting for $22 billion in purchases of U.S. real estate for the 12-month period, or 24 percent of total foreign sales, NAR said. A year earlier, Chinese purchases of U.S. real estate amounted to $12.8 billion, or 19 percent of total foreign sales.

“Foreign buyers are being enticed to U.S. real estate because of what they recognize as attractive prices, economic stability, and an incredible opportunity for investment in their future,” NAR president Steve Brown. co-owner of a Dayton, Ohio, brokerage, said in a statement.

 Among the Chinese, the favorite state remains California, which accounted for 35 percent of sales, followed by Washington (9 percent); New York (7 percent); Pennsylvania (6 percent); and Texas (6 percent.)

 In Florida, buyers from Asia accounted for just 8 percent of sales, while Latin Americans accounted for 26 percent of foreign purchases, and Europeans totaled 28 percent.

 However, Realtors say that Chinese buyers are showing increased interest in Florida and that they expect sales to increase in coming years as buyers flee an overheated Chinese market. Chinese investors are also being lured by EB-5 opportunities, in which they invest in projects in order to obtain citizenship. A majority of EB-5 projects have a real estate component, although mostly commercial such as hotels, restaurants and mixed use projects.

Chinese are also starting to show interest in high end condo’s and waterfront real estate, experts say.



Weekend Best Bets: Summer Specials

The DBMC shares some summer ideas, including Sandoway House options for kids of all ages.

The DBMC shares some summer ideas, including Sandoway House options for kids of all ages.

The Legendary Johnny Cash

The Arts Garage’s production of “Ring of Fire” has been a huge critical and commercial hit with sold out shows and rave reviews.

A few tickets remain for matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

The show features the music of the legendary Johnny Cash.

Visit for tickets and more information, but hurry tickets are selling.

 Oh What A Night

While we’re talking about music legends, walk like a man (sorry we couldn’t resist) and make sure to see Jersey Boys at a theater near you this weekend.

Don’t believe the reviews, the movie is terrific and the music of the Four Seasons is sublime.

It’s also just a great story of four guys from Newark who made it in a very tough business with a unique sound and infectious songs.

Word of warning: the music will stick in your head. The movie includes most of the hits including killer versions of “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”


Summer Happenings courtesy of the DBMC


The From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Paper as Art exhibition at the Cornell Museum in the Delray Beach Center for the Arts showcases a world where ordinary paper has been transformed into extraordinary works of art. The exhibit runs until Aug. 24. There’s a $5 admission fee. Nearby, there’s Art Cinema at The Crest every Wednesday, with screenings at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. followed by a group discussion. There’s a $10 fee.


At the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Sushi & Stroll is back for three more Fridays:  July 11, Aug. 8 and Sept. 12. Events are from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and include Taiko drumming performances. Tickets are $7.


Visitors can take a “Ride & Remember” Trolley Tour, hosted by the Spady Museum on July 12, Aug. 9 and Sept. 13 from 10 a.m. to noon at a cost of $20.


Summer at the Sandoway House Nature Center is when people will find the Jurassic Parts exhibit, featuring hundreds of shark parts through Aug. 31 for $4. Don’t miss daily shark feedings while you’re there.


Art Walk in Downtown Delray, offering visitors a chance to view special artist showings at galleries and studios in the Pineapple Grove Art District, is back on the first Friday of every month.


Great Things to Do and Summer Specials

Residents and tourists will find no place cooler than Delray Beach for water sports and for summer discounts at golf courses, tennis centers and most hotels and attractions. For example, if a full day of golf is too much, they can head over to Putt’n Around Delray Beach for a round of mini golf.


Delray Yacht Cruises is offering special rates for its two-hour daily narrated Intracoastal cruises and on brunch and dinner cruises.

Along with a great beach, you’ll find cool things under the sea when scuba diving, or snorkeling. Scuba Center Delray can get you set up. For fun on the water try paddle boarding, sailing and surfing. Delray Beach Watersports and newcomers The Salt Fly specialize in these kind of activities.


For wine and art connoisseurs, Vino Van Gogh Wine and Art Bar in Pineapple Grove offers a summer special of two classes and two glasses of wine – one each for you and a friend, or two for you – for $50.


Water Cooler Wednesday: In Praise of Joe Riley

Mayor Joe Riley has led Charleston for 40 years.

Mayor Joe Riley has led Charleston for 40 years.

The New York Times ran a great story Sunday on Mayor Joe Riley of Charleston, S.C.

The Times called Riley possibly the most loved politician in America.

Cynics may think that’s like naming your favorite disease, but Joe Riley is proof that politics can be noble and that good politicians can get things done and leave a remarkable legacy.

I was fortunate to meet Mayor Riley some years back at a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting. He spoke about place making and believed strongly that mayors should be the chief architects of their cities.

After his speech, I had a chance to speak with the mayor and invited him to Delray. We traded dates, but sadly it never quite worked out and that’s unfortunate because Mayor Riley has some great lessons to teach about cities, places, preservation, new development and leadership.

The Times article notes that Riley made a big bet on culture back in 1977 when he brought the “Spoleto Festival” to Charleston. The festival raised Charleston’s national profile and positioned the city as an arts haven.

Here’s how the Times’ Frank Bruni described his thinking: “Almost as soon as we sat down together, he talked up the annual Spoleto performing-arts festival, a renowned Charleston event that has bolstered the city’s profile. I wasn’t sure why he was choosing to focus on it or how it factored into any political philosophy.

Then he explained his reasons for pushing for it back before it was first held in 1977. “It forced the city to accept the responsibility of putting on something world-class,” he said.

Yes, he wanted the tourists who would flow into the city and the money they’d spend. Sure, he wanted the luster.

But he was also staging a kind of experiment in civic psychology and doing something that he considered crucial in government. He was raising the bar, and Spoleto was the instrument. It simultaneously brought great talent to Charleston and required great talent of Charleston.

“You need to commit a city to excellence,” he said, “and the arts expose you to that.”


Riley, 71, has been mayor since December 1975. He will step down in 2015 after 40 years of leadership. During his tenure, he has been embraced and sued by preservationists and environmentalists, evidence of how hard it is to make and keep friends when you make decisions on the local level.

Unlike state and federal politics, local elected officials vote around the block from where they live. There’s no hiding and the decisions are often personal affecting neighbors and friends. Once those decisions are made there’s no place to hide. And that’s the beauty of local government. It’s the government  closest to the people and increasingly the only level government that seems capable of getting things done.

Says the Times:  “What people want from government, Riley stressed to me, isn’t lofty words but concrete results. They want problems solved and opportunities created. Mayors — ever accountable, ever answerable — tend to remember that and to wed themselves to a practicality that’s forgotten in Washington, where endless ideological tussles accommodate the preening that too many lawmakers really love best.”

It’s important to share Mayor Riley’s philosophy because of the wonderful opportunities available in Boca Raton and Delray Beach especially if local leaders engage the communities they serve and embrace the real power they have. The great thing about cities is the work is never done, even when you experience success; especially when you experience success. The challenge is to stave off complacency and to leverage the opportunities you were given by the hard work of those who came before.

I find Mayor Riley an inspiration. Here’s a sample of his thoughts. We hope you enjoy:

  • “A great city is one that has a dynamic economy and jobs for its citizens. With the work of generations, we have made Charleston a most desirable place to live. We must create and attract more and better jobs here so our people and their children and their grandchildren can stay or come back home and work and live in the community they love.”


  • “A great city works to make sure we remember those who might be forgotten.”


  • “What does it mean to live in a city?  A great city is not only lived in but it is carefully and diversely used. A long time ago it was said that “Charleston was too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash.” That has long since passed. A new affluence has graced our city. And with that, there may be on the part of a few the misunderstanding that they live in or have moved to a place that is like a gated community – affluent and exclusive. But that is not a great city. Great cities are a part of a larger public realm.  There will always be sights and sounds in our city – the announcement from the Coast Guard Station; or on another part of the peninsula ships arriving or embarking; fire engines; and sometime long ago, vendors with their wonderful songs and calls announcing their fresh crabs or vegetables; children romping, healthfully engaged in athletic activities on our playgrounds; students going to college; workers coming to the hospitals; cranes lifting huge containers; scientists and software engineers coming to work; streets and sidewalks bustling with people engaged in commerce, parks and public spaces busily and diversely used and shared; quiet zones for repose, reflection, solitude.  The answer to that question is that a great city, as Charleston is, is a real city – a public place, diverse people and activities working, living, energizing each other and happily sharing their city.”


  • “Never, ever, ever take for granted the citizens that you’re serving and always be asking yourself, ‘Is this the right thing?”


  • “Leaders should lead. Leaders should not be worried about the next election. They should be worried about the next generation. They should be worried about the next generation looking back at their time in office and say that they did the very best that they could to make sure that now, 25 to 50 years later, we have what we have. “


  • “The need for beauty is embedded in the human instinct. There is never an excuse for anyone, but particularly a government, to ever build anything in a city that doesn’t add to the beauty of the community.”


  • “The restored public realm is something. There is a yearning in the heart of every resident of a metropolitan area. They may not articulate it, but they want it. They need it. And if you give it to them, they will rejoice in it.”


  • “Do Americans want beauty in the city? They desperately want it! They crave it! Life is harsh and cruel and plastic enough. Will our people support this? They will support it. They will rejoice in it. They need it. It is our responsibility to give it to them.”


Delray Fills Key Positions With Veterans

Joan Goodrich will lead Delray's Economic Development efforts

Joan Goodrich will lead Delray’s Economic Development efforts

Delray Beach  is beginning to fill key positions in city government.

Joan K. Goodrich has been hired to become the city/CRA Economic Development Director. She took the helm on June 23, replacing Vin Nolan, who resigned to go into private practice.

The City Commission has hired veteran Broward County attorney Noel Pfeffer as the new city attorney. Pfeffer takes over from acting city attorney Terrill Pyburn, who took the city attorney’s position in Coconut Creek. He will assume his duties July 9.

Goodrich has more than 25 years’ experience in business development, marketing and economic development.  She brings experience with particular expertise in areas such as fundraising and grants, c-level executive management and policy and development advocacy.  Goodrich previously led a recruiting team in the attraction, expansion and retention of 52 companies to the City of Coral Springs, resulting in more than $150 million in economic impact on the local economy, and the addition of $215 million in non-residential taxable value to the city.

    ”Joan brings decades of experience and a highly successful record to Delray Beach,” said Diane Colonna, CRA Executive Director.  “We are very pleased to welcome her to our economic development team.”

 Goodrich earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Stetson University.  Professional affiliations and leadership experience include Executive Director, March of Dimes Foundation (2010-2013), Executive Vice-President, Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward Economic Development Alliance (2000-2010) and Executive Director, Coral Springs Economic Development Foundation (1993-1999).

Goodrich will plan and implement business and economic development programs and strategies jointly for the City and the CRA, with particular emphasis on the downtown and other business corridors within the City.  Specific duties will include establishing and implementing business attraction and retention strategies, incentive programs, marketing and workforce development.

Pfeffer joins a city attorney’s office that has been without a permanent leader since Brian Shutt resigned earlier this year to join a local law firm.

For the past thirty-five years, Mr. Pfeffer has served in the Broward County Attorney’s Office.  In 1984, he was promoted to the position of Deputy County Attorney and, five years later, his supervisory duties were further expanded to oversee the Finance, Real Estate and Transportation Division of the Office of the County Attorney.  His responsibilities included managing a staff of 11 attorneys and providing legal services in the areas of all real estate matters, governmental finance, budget, tax, transportation law and solid waste disposal.  In addition, he has served as lead counsel in connection with numerous complex transactions that involved the negotiation and drafting of Interlocal Agreements, Ordinances and Service Agreements.

  Pfeffer received his Juris Doctor Professional Degree from Nova University Law Center.  He also attended American University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree.  Mr. Pfeffer has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1978 and bar memberships/activities include the Florida Bar Grievance Committee (member, vice-chair, chair 1996-1998), Florida Bar Local Government Section, American Bar Association (1990-2011), and U.S. States District Court-Southern District of Florida (1978).

Weekend Best Bets: Happy Birthday USA

Happy238th birthday America

Happy238th birthday America

Courtesy of the great people at the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative:

It may be hot in South Florida in July, but when it comes to celebrating the Fourth of July, there’s no place cooler to be than Delray Beach, all topped off by South Florida’s hottest fireworks finale.


“Delray Beach has a reputation for a great party and people come here from all over South Florida to celebrate the Fourth of July,” said Stephanie Immelman, executive director of the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative, which produces the celebration for the City of Delray Beach “When they get here they see first hand that it’s always cool in Delray Beach.”


Falling on a Friday this year, the July Fourth celebration is a great way to kick off a holiday weekend, with something going on for just about everyone. For complete details, please visit



8 a.m.        Sand-sculpting contest at the beach, also Sandtastic, a professional sand sculpting team that will be creating an American Eagle and Fireworks.


By 1 p.m.  Portions of Atlantic Avenue east of the Intracoastal Waterway and portions of State Road A1A near Atlantic Avenue will be closed.


3:30 p.m.   Flag-raising ceremony with representatives of the U.S. military.


4 p.m.        Live entertainment starts on the main stage and continues throughout the evening, including The Kinected, a four-piece hybrid rock band frequently appearing at Boston’s on the Beach, plus local favorite Mike Mineo and The Petty Hearts, a Tom Petty Tribute Band.


Plus:          A mini-golf course from Putt’n Around and The McKenna Team at Remax presents the Splash Zone, which promises to be the patriotic holiday’s biggest cool down activity.


To help visitors stay comfortable, this year’s celebration will include a “cool down” tent, complete with misters to help beat the heat or take your chances in the dunk tank. For those who want to cool down with a cool drink, Boston’s, Caffe Luna Rosa and Burger Fi are teaming up to create a beachside beer garden.


Fireworks:  The highlight of the celebration is one of South Florida’s largest and longest fireworks show, put on by Zambelli Fireworks and synchronized to music available on Wild 95.5. The 20-25 minute show will feature more than 500 unique shells that are guaranteed to produce oohs and ahs from the crowd. This year, the fireworks will be launched just north of the Marriott Delray Beach.

Be safe, have fun and enjoy!



Water Cooler Wednesday: The People Equation

Investing in leadership

Investing in leadership

If I’ve learned one thing in my career, it’s that you can have the best systems, the best platform, a great idea, plenty of money and every other advantage but you’ll fail if you don’t attract and keep the right people.

It’s a simple concept, really.

But very difficult to achieve.

Yet, whether you are running a business, a city, a school or a non-profit you will not be able to achieve lasting success unless you create a culture that attracts, nurtures, rewards, ignites and inspires people. Good people.

And if you work hard enough and create just such an environment, you have to realize that your creation is fragile and will not survive complacency or lack of accountability. If you fail to constantly iterate, engage and assess, the gains you made will erode.

Achieving success is just one part of the journey; the key is to sustain success. That’s the prize and it is hard to attain. But worth the effort.

For many years, the cities of Boca Raton and Delray Beach worked with a consultant named Lyle Sumek. Lyle was a former assistant city manager in San Diego and he worked with cities across the country on goal setting and implementation. Lyle had a concept he called “municipal math”; which essentially said it could take 20 plus years to build something of value, but only a year or two to squander what was built if you make the wrong decisions or hire/elect the wrong people. The sad part of municipal math is that once you mess up, it could take 10 years or more to get something back and there were guarantees you would.

Muni math was a sobering concept and it stuck with me. Leadership matters. People matter.

I’m a firm believer that leadership is the key ingredient to success in any endeavor, but  I also believe that we do a poor job of training and developing leaders.

We don’t teach leadership in schools, we don’t study why leaders succeed or stumble, but yet we long for great leaders.

I can think of no other scenario in life in which we yearn for something but don’t take steps to make it happen.

If we want better medical outcomes, we invest in science. If we want better educators, we invest in teacher training. In business, we invest in products and technology. But yet we don’t make a similar investment in identifying, training and developing leaders.

As a result, we watch helplessly as Congress fails miserably to serve our country. We shake our heads when presidents, governors, mayors and other elected officials fail our communities.

In business, we see investments go down the drain; victims of egotistical CEO’s or watch in disgust as a manufacturer looks the other way and produces cars that endanger their customers all because of a culture that enabled people to look the other way.

All are symptoms of poor or inadequate leadership.

I believe that we need to start studying and investing in leadership education and that we need to make such courses available far and wide, in all industries and endeavors.

We live in a great nation. Imagine how much better it would be, how many problems would be solved, how many people would be positively impacted if we were able to develop leaders as accomplished as our best coders, financial minds and scientists. Just imagine.