Old School Square Makes Us A Village

The anchor is a beacon.

We went to a great party Sunday afternoon to celebrate a generous donation to Old School Square.

And we were reminded about how art builds community.

Margaret and Robert Blume stepped up to make the transformation of the Cornell Museum possible.
When the newly renovated museum re-opens in November, we predict that visitors to the space will be amazed.

As Old School Square CEO Rob Steele puts it: the museum will become an important community asset for Delray Beach with profound and enduring benefits.
That’s exactly what it should be. Community museums and art centers are meant to be treasured assets valued by residents, tourists and artists.

None of this would be possible without the generosity of donors like the Blume’s, dedicated staff (and Old School Square has a terrific staff), a committed board, volunteers and a supportive city.
It really does take a village.

The Blume’s were taken by Old School Square’s story and it’s importance to the community and stepped up as a result.
Let’s face it, when it comes to philanthropic dollars there is enormous competition. You have to have a compelling mission and an ability to deliver in order to stand a chance with so many worthy causes to choose from.

Those of us who are board members and fans of Old School Square are hopeful that others will be inspired to step up and help Old School Square in its important mission. Rob and his dedicated team have created naming rights and other opportunities for philanthropy and involvement.

Here’s hoping that many seize the opportunity to shape the future. Old School Square is a special place and plays a central role in our community.

I’m reading a great book by musician Dar Williams called “What I Found in a Thousand Towns” which is devoted to the observations of an artist who has spent a life on the road.
Ms. Williams is a self taught urban anthropologist and her eyes have been trained to see what works in towns she visits that thrive.
In her book, she notes a concept she calls “positive proximity” —or the creation of spaces where people can gather, meet, talk, experience music, art and community.
Sound familiar?

That was the genius of Frances Bourque’s idea when she looked at a dilapidated old school sitting on the very best real estate in town.
She saw a place that could be the focal point of our city. A place that could build community.

Over the years, Old School Square has delivered.

It’s where we practiced for our All America City awards, where we gathered to light the Christmas tree and Menorah, where we thanked volunteers, where we held a vigil after 9/11 and where we met as neighbors to discuss race relations.
It’s also where we met to discuss our downtown master plan, where we have lit unity candles on MLK Day and where we attended weddings and other important personal celebrations.
In its classrooms, we have seen artists of all ages learn and explore their passions. On its stages, we have experienced magic.

Old School Square is our most important asset. It belongs to everyone. It honors our past, informs our present and speaks to our future.
And it needs our help. Now more than ever.

We need to complete our parks plan, reinvent for the future and make the most of the amphitheater.
If we fulfill its promise, we will remain a strong community. In  a world that’s increasingly polarized and growing more remote thanks to technology (and fear of one another) we risk losing “positive proximity.”
That’s a loss we may never recover from and will be sure to regret.
Old School Square was the key to Delray’s revitalization three decades ago. It’s even more important to our future.

I Loved Those Days

It’s not been a good moment for the news media lately.
Fake News has become a hash tag and public opinion polls consistently rank journalists low on issues of trust. But I’ve seen both sides.
I’ve watched lousy reporters botch or miss stories and I’ve seen great ones illuminate our understanding of the world. Broad labeling of people and institutions is the lazy way out–life is much more nuanced.
Readers of this blog know I spent my early career working—very happily– in newsrooms.
Today, I have an ownership interest in the Delray Newspaper and Boca Newspaper but because of a hectic schedule and a day job I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like “newspapering.”
I miss it.
Especially newsrooms, which are just magical places filled with smart, funny, talented and colorful people.
My favorite newsroom was at the old Monday-Thursday Paper’s on East Rogers Circle in Boca Raton which was later relocated to Fairview Drive in Deerfield Beach.
Those newsrooms were filled with editors, reporters, photographers and assistants and they crackled with humor, activity, the clacking of keys and a fair amount of profanity.
I loved it.
The Monday Thursday Papers (later renamed the South Florida Newspaper Network) was one of the largest community newspaper groups in the country and the largest in the southeast.
We were big. We were good. We were relevant and we covered the news in a slew of cities from Dade to Port St. Lucie.
It was a blast because of the people. I loved coming to work because I was surrounded by talented characters who told stories that were often better than the ones we wrote. Why? Because the stories behind the stories were always better. We live in an area rich with characters and chasing them down often led to some great adventures.
Not that our news stories weren’t good.
They were and we regularly walked away with lots of hardware at Press Association gatherings.
We had grizzled editors, oddball reporters, incredibly inventive photographers and colorful people who designed the pages of the papers  on “flats” using glue, pica poles and exacto knives.
This was all before the advent of desktop publishing which revolutionized the industry and cost a few people their jobs.
We also had a huge printing press, a large circulation department and across the wall sat the advertising sales staff. We believed in a separation of church and state– so to speak– so while we were friendly, those of us on the news side were decidedly our own team.
We ate lunch together, gave each other space “on deadline” and served as each other’s human thesaurus when we found ourselves at a loss for words. After work, we hung together in places like Dirty Moe’s, sharing stories about the people and places we covered.
We had a managing editor named Tom Sawyer, who had a heart of gold but could be a curmudgeon of legendary proportions. We took pride when he praised us and also when we made him turn red with anger. He would chase us out of the newsroom with the famous words: “no news happens here. Get out of the newsroom. Go to your cities.”
And we did.
We hung out at lunch counters—the Green Owl, Ken and Hazel’s, bars—The Frog Lounge, Paradise Club, Powers Lounge, we rode with cops and firefighters, embedded ourselves in ERs and Trauma Centers and spent long nights at city commission meetings writing the first draft of local history. It felt like important work and twice a week our  stories ended up on thousands of driveways.
It felt like we were making an impact. And I think we did. We created a narrative for the cities we covered.
For me, covering Delray Beach, the narrative was of a fascinating and complex city that was determined to rise above its challenges and work together to build a brighter future. There were bumps along the way, but the arc was steady and it was fun to write about the progress and the challenges. It was my graduate education and what I learned from watching mayors, commissioners, department heads, business leaders, detectives, paramedics, volunteers and road patrol officers was invaluable.
Sometimes I find myself missing those days and especially those smart, vibrant and funny people who worked alongside me in the newsroom.
So I went online  to “hear” their voices, and I was able to find some of  their words on the Internet.
While it wasn’t ideal and there were many I couldn’t locate (Jim Baker, sportswriter extraordinaire, where are you?) I did find a few and I managed to enjoy their writing once more.
Here are a  few snippets:
From an editor I learned a lot from…

“As someone who loves history, particularly American history, I have long been astounded by the brilliance of our Founding Fathers. They gave serious thought not only to whether they were being unfairly taxed or lacked fair representation, but to the  question of what rights naturally fall to individuals of our species in the natural order of things — the very essence of liberty. They studied Greek and Roman history, read the works of those civilization’s great orators. And a central ingredient of the philosophical stew which became the spiritual and civil framework for our country was the inherent right to stand up against injustice — even to the point of taking up arms. Patriotism in their eyes was not flag-waving and anthem-singing, but taking bold action, whether on the battlefield or the halls of Congress, to ensure that every citizen be guaranteed fundamental rights associated with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (Those words were not just a political catch-phrase to the Founders.)  As an ardent fan of these great thinkers, I support every citizen’s right to protest in whatever manner he or she feels appropriate (and doesn’t physically harm others) and I consider those acts of protest patriotic. Even if it means allowing moral degenerates to peacefully espouse racial and ethnic hatred.”  

From another editor, who I thought was an exceedingly cool human:
“Summer 1985 and I have  press passes at SPAC to interview Aimee Mann and Til Tuesday. I wander off backstage to look around, make a quick turn around a sharp, dark corner, and run smack into this skinny guy with stringy blond hair, who I assume is a roadie until he says in a rich baritone drawl, “Hey, watch where you’re going there.” Realizing that it’s Tom Petty, I fire off an apologetic retort, something akin to, “Uh, oh, you homma, eya, yah,” and run away. I’m relatively certain he secretly dedicated “Even the Losers” to me later that night. (We get lucky sometimes.)
From a reporter who left for a big gig in The Keys.

“We are going to make it. We’re the Keys. We’ve done this before (though not on this level). We know our collective community character, and it is strong. We are going to make it, with all of us helping each other.’

From an editor who became a dear and lasting friend and confidant:

“Yeah, back in the day, there were no helmets or heart guards – just pure unadulterated playing. Our game was kickball out in the street. No helmets, no any kind of guards, and certainly no helmets when we rode our bikes. I actually had a hard time learning how to balance my two-wheeler, so I can’t imagine what it would be like if my head was weighted down with a helmet too. The only game I would admit could use some sort of protection was Dodge Ball – which I’m guessing is probably outlawed these days. Who would sanction kids throwing a big, round hard ball at someone – just for fun? And it was okay to get dirty, roll around in the grass and scrape knees. There wasn’t a lot of germ-a-phobic behavior – no hand sanitizer, for sure. But we all survived.”

From a reporter who spoke with a great Irish accent.

‘Time traveler’ says aliens are coming next year but he has no info on who wins 2018 world cup, clearly a fraud.’

 

I think my old friend from Belfast was reacting to a tabloid headline. He always had a razor sharp wit–most of the journalists I know do. Spend some time in that environment and you either develop one or get cut to pieces.

My great buddy Perry Don Francisco texted me last week to alter me to a story on NPR about community newspapers.

That’s how I met Perry, the legendary owner of Boston’s on the Beach.

I was a reporter. He was making news by doing great things in the community. He never wanted the attention but he liked that the causes got ink. We became close friends over the years and he has taught me a lot.

So following Perry’s advice I caught an NPR podcast last week about newspapers. It was a solid piece.

And it made me think about my newspaper days and all of those great voices who served this community so eloquently. Newspapers were better than tweeting, deeper than Facebook and the photos were better than what I find on Instagram (and I’m a fan and user of all three platforms).

And that’s why I’m so reluctant to recycle the old copies of those papers in my garage. I’m just not ready to say goodbye.

Something Has Changed

Jason Aldean covers Tom Petty’s “I won’t back down.” Neither will we.

Two musicians have been on my mind since the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Jason Aldean was on stage at a Country Music Festival when the carnage began and issued a heartfelt statement in the aftermath. His words have stuck with me: “Something has changed in this country and in this world lately that is scary to see.”

Indeed.

Tom Petty passed away while we were trying to process the Vegas shooting. He was 66. Mr. Petty meant a lot to me and to music fans of my generation and beyond. In reading through some of his interviews, I saw a quote that also made me think.

Petty gave an interview to USA Today upon the release of what would be his last album, 2014’s “Hypnotic Eye”, a record he said was about “what’s happened to the human that’s lost his humanity.”

Petty went on to say: “I’m not extremely political. I just look at what makes sense to me. I would think we’d be in the streets demanding that our children be safe in schools. I see friendships end over politics. I’ve never seen so much anger. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. In a two-party system, ideas are argued and you compromise. You’re not supposed to stop the process.”

Mind you, this was 2014. Things have gotten a lot angrier and nastier in the past three years haven’t they?

We see violence all over the world—people brutalized in Myanmar, blown up in Britain and France, girls kidnapped in Nigeria, cartel violence destroying cities in Mexico—the list goes on and on. And we see violence and unspeakable acts here as well.

But something else is afoot.

Something else is happening.

It’s a lack of civility. A lack of respect for common decency. An inability to see other points of view.

We live in a divisive society and taken to its extremes we become tribal and if you are not in my tribe you must be stupid, evil, bad—or somehow less human.

But Jason Aldean’s full statement called on us to remember that we are all human—and we are all Americans, even if we disagree—maybe especially because we disagree. Isn’t that what America is supposed to be about?

Democracy is loud and messy at times, but Lincoln and others reminded us to be mindful of our better angels. We sometimes lose track of those angels and we lash out.

We see it on cable news, online, in our nation’s capital, in Tallahassee and right here at home in our city halls.

We can blame it on social media. We can blame it on #fakenews. We can blame it on Trump. We can blame it on Hillary.

But the buck stops with us.

I write down quotes that make me think. I got this one from the former CEO of Office Depot. Bruce Nelson and I used to meet here and there when he was running the show at their old Delray headquarters out on Congress Avenue. Mr. Nelson once said to me: “You stand for what you tolerate.”

It’s an interesting quote isn’t it?

So why do we tolerate nastiness, bullying, incivility and lack of results?

Why do we wait for the knight on the white horse to arrive and save the day, when we have the power to bring about positive change?

Something has changed.

We are tolerating too much nonsense.

Our leaders work for us—why are we afraid of them?

If we want to see a just world, a gentler, and safer place why do we tolerate nonsense?

If we want to solve problems, why don’t we?

 

 

Help Wanted: Leaders Who Can Provide Stability

Stability provides a great foundation for progress.

It may be hard to believe, but there was a time—not too long ago– where working for the City of Delray Beach was an appealing prospect.

Delray was the city on the cutting edge.

A city of vision, promise and innovation.

We were known for being collaborative—a place where City Hall played well with non-profits, the business community, sister agencies and neighborhood associations.

Delray.

Got.

Things.

Done.

A lot of things.

To be sure, it was never nirvana.

Delray has always had its challenges and problems—all cities do. And we have had our share of big ones—from schools that need a ton of help, to crime, drugs, irresponsible sober home operators, civic bullies, poverty and racial tension. And that’s only a partial list. Many of these issues have proven to be stubborn and they have frustrated all sorts of efforts. But there were gains as well.

This was a place where you could see visible progress—on projects large and small. This was a place where many challenges were overcome and as a result opportunities were created.

It was a place where city leadership—staff, uniformed personnel, elected officials, citizens, business owners and volunteers — believed that by working together you could create a better, stronger, more resilient and caring community.

Consequently, it was a pretty good place to work.

Mayors and commissioners—for the most part—were kind and respectful to city staff. Delray became known for its stability—especially among department heads many of whom lived here and were deeply committed to the betterment of this city.

Like all large organizations, we had some clunkers.

Like all complex entities—and cities are very complex—mistakes were made.

But progress was made as well.

Giant strides. Things that make your heart swell and give you a sense of civic pride.

What happened in Delray Beach did not happen by accident.

It was envisioned. It was planned. And there was execution across the board.

Now some people don’t like what happened here and I respect that opinion.

I have a business acquaintance who moved to Hobe Sound because it just got too busy here for his tastes. Nevertheless, he finds that he drifts back here often to eat or catch a show at Old School Square. He won’t miss the Delray Open because he loves tennis under the stars. He also invests here from time to time and encourages others to do so.

Still, I’m sure others despise the hustle and bustle and long for the days when we were a sleepy village.

I’ll be honest, I don’t.

My frame of reference goes back 30 years and while I’ve always loved Delray, I wouldn’t trade the 1980s version for today’s city even with our warts and challenges.

I think most people feel the same way. That’s my hunch anyway. We have a good city, not a perfect city, but a good city.

In fact, we are such an interesting place that you would think top tier talent would flock here.

They don’t. Not anymore.

We are about to choose a city manager from what everyone seems to think was a pretty thin list of candidates. There were three finalists out of a small pool of applicants and on October 10 commissioners may move forward and choose a manager. That list is now down to two applicants, with one dropping out. You can go to the golf course this evening and mingle with the finalists—that’s what passes for public input these days—a cocktail party. I attended the last cattle call party at 32 East which produced Don Cooper. It’s hard to learn much about someone in such an environment.

When the head hunter was asked why a city like Delray was not attracting interest, the recruiter answered honestly. Delray is considered a challenging environment these days. It’s not the salary being offered—which is competitive, it’s the toxic political atmosphere and the commission’s reputation for infighting and micromanagement. To quote the Palm Beach Post: “Delray Beach has a ‘reputation’ for micromanagement and ‘other negative things’, according to the consultant for the Mercer Group which was hired to find candidates.

That’s sad, because they should be turned on because this should be one of the best jobs in America.

Hopefully, commissioners will make the right choice this time and hopefully whoever they choose will succeed. We need the next manager to be successful, because so many others have fallen short in recent years.

Since longtime manager David Harden left in 2012 we have seen five managers/acting managers come and go. We have seen a truckload of assistant managers/department heads/middle managers/city attorneys, rank and file and others leave as well.

This is not the sign of a healthy organization.

But the sun still shines. The property values still climb and Atlantic Avenue is still busy. You can flush a toilet (without a generator), call 911 and get great service and your trash gets picked up twice a week. So why should you care? Here are a few reasons why:

If you’ve run a business of any size, you know that turnover is costly. So if you pay taxes you should care.

If you run a business in town or want to build a home or add a new kitchen you should care too, because if your City Hall has issues you may find that efficiency suffers and over time that will cost you.

This is NOT A SLAP at city workers. This is a plea to make their lives better and get out of their way. Hold them accountable, but let them do their jobs.  I happen to know many and we have still quite a few talented people on staff.

But I worry that talent is being stifled. I worry that our best minds at City Hall are frightened. I am concerned that rather than rely on staff, we are hiring expensive consultants and then often ignoring their advice as well. I am worried that other cities are catching and passing us—and that impacts everything from quality of life and home values to job prospects and our sense of community and civic pride.

When government organizations get frightened, they seize up like an engine without oil. It’s safer to keep your head down than to rock the boat. The best minds—if situations permit—will leave as soon as they can. We are losing talent to Lake Worth, Boynton Beach and other cities. That hardly ever happened.

Many are taking lateral positions too—so it’s not as if they are leaving us for traditional reasons such as career advancement.

In July, I was the guest speaker at an event called “Bourbon Sprawl.” It’s a great group of urbanists, business people, planners, architects and others who care about community. They talk about issues impacting cities and they have a few drinks. It’s a fun group.

A few Delray Beach employees attended that event. I won’t name them, because I don’t want to expose anyone. I didn’t know most of them—and I hadn’t worked with any of them. But after the talk, I was told that city staff could get in trouble for talking to elected officials or if they made recommendations without being invited to do so.

And I left that event wondering how an elected official can do their job if they are not allowed to learn from the subject area experts that work for our city. Notably, one of the people I spoke to that night is gone. Too bad, because I sensed a bright mind who could have done great things for our community. I don’t know what the specific policy is, frankly I don’t care. Because if your staff feels stifled and frightened something is amiss. And we the people, lose out on their knowledge, talent and expertise.

I get the desire of a City Manager to control the flow of information, but I remember learning an immense amount from listening to and reading the work of our planning, financial, engineering, parks and public safety personnel. There is a middle ground which always includes the manager, but also enables policymakers to glean knowledge from subject area experts so they can make good decisions.

I was a young reporter here in the 1980s when we last suffered from instability at City Hall caused by strife on the dais. City Hall was a revolving door in those days. Then we had a landmark election that saw Tom Lynch, Jay Alperin and David Randolph sweep into office and we enjoyed a long run of stability, innovation, achievement, civic pride, community unity and problem solving. They set an example for future leaders.

At the time, staff remarked at how civil the Mayor and commission were—respectful of their professional acumen while still able to hold people accountable. I went to every meeting in those days. And I can tell you the mayor and commissioners questioned staff vigorously, but always respectfully. Assumptions were challenged and decisions were made. Not all were correct, but the batting average was really good and so we had progress. Lots and lots of progress.

 

We need to get back to those days. Before we give it all back. And if you think we’re bullet proof, let me assure you we are not.

A follow up story in the Post covering Commissioner Shelly Petrolia’s run for Mayor noted the “chaos” and turnover at City Hall. That’s a good story—but the Post enabled Commissioner Petrolia too artfully—but falsely—shift the blame to Mayor Glickstein. People all over town had a good laugh over that spin.

Sorry, but you own your fair share of the chaos after 5 years. Readers of this blog know I am no fan of Mr. Glickstein. But in fairness, he can’t be blamed for all of the chaos, dysfunction and lack of progress on everything ranging from Congress Avenue to the Old School Parks Plan. It takes three elected officials to tango.

Coincidentally, that’s how many seats are up this March.

 

Don’t It Feel Like Something From A Dream

“He had history, he had gravitas, he had insight, he was the antithesis of a prepubescent rocker, all poses and no substance. He’d lived, played bars, gone to shows, and when he finally put out a record…

It was the one he wanted to make.

Those are the ones that last. Not the ones made for a market, chasing a hit, but personal statements, of truth.” Bob Lefsetz on Tom Petty.
I grew up with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers on the turntable and on the radio.
Saw him live many times including my first night in Florida in July ’87 when my best friend Scott and I christened my big move from NY to the Sunshine State with a Tom Petty show at the old West Palm Beach Auditorium  aka the ‘leaky teepee.’
Life seemed so infinite back then.
I was 22, living in the Sunshine and music was a huge part of my life.
Today, I’m 53, still living in the sunshine and music is still a big part of my life.
A great song has the ability to inspire, spark memories or evoke emotion. It’s magic. And Tom Petty was among the best magicians.
But my heroes are fading fast. Bowie, Gregg Allman, Glenn Frey, Lou Reed, George Harrison so many more–all gone.
John Lennon was the first musical icon whose tragic and violent loss hit me hard.
My same friend Scott, along with a few other friends took the train to NYC to join a vigil in Central Park. I will never forget it. How could John Lennon be gone?
Those friends are scattered now.
Scott left Florida for Virginia, one went to California for school and never came back and one became famous on ESPN. Others went to North Carolina, Wisconsin and New Jersey.
I suppose that’s life. We stay in touch as best we can but we will always have the music, if not the artist.
“Even the Losers (Get lucky sometime)” was on the radio in my ’68 Camaro when Scott and I had a near miss on a Long Island highway.
“Here Comes My Girl” gave us swagger (it never lasted) when the biggest thing in our life was working up the courage to talk to someone we thought was cute.
“The Waiting” got me through more than a few heartbreaks.
I fell for Stevie Nicks when she sang with Tom on “The Insider” and “Listen to Her Heart” became an anthem when you were hoping someone you liked would leave the bad guy and give us nice guys a shot.
Yesterday I was driving to a meeting blissfully unaware of what was going on and desperate for a moment of levity after a day full of horrific news out of Las Vegas when I turned on Tom Petty radio.
“Jamming Me” was on and I cranked it up as I cruised Swinton Avenue. The music instantly lifted my spirits. Pure rock n roll, with jangling guitars, hooks galore and Tom’s unmistakable voice…
And then I heard the news. Just like that. Gone…And it is just so hard to fathom like so much that happened on that terrible day.

Things We Liked In September

Congrats to the DBMC and Chamber!

Well, September 2017 may not be remembered fondly thanks to Irma, Harvey and Maria.

October is off to a heartbreaking start as well with a horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Still, we aim to stick to our tradition (starting last month) of pointing out some good things in our world and community.

Things we liked in September…
In no particular order…

  • Neighbors helping neighbors pre and post Irma. At times like this, we sometimes discover and often rely on neighbors to help us prepare and cope. For this we are thankful.
  • The Abe and Louie salad
  •  Cream of Mushroom soup at Madison’s. It’s a great restaurant. Try it.
  • Old School Bakery. There are no words to describe the artistry of Old School’s bread.
  • WPTV’s Steve Weagle doing stellar work pre and post Irma. We also rediscovered Bryan Norcross and send shout outs of appreciation to other local meteorologists.
  •  The yeoman’s work done by city staff and utility workers in Boca and Delray to help us get back on our feet post Irma.
  •  The book “The New Brooklyn” by Kay Hymowitz. If you love cities and want to gain some insights on gentrification look no further.
  •  Actress Kristen Bell of “Frozen” entertaining senior citizens and others while riding the storm out in Orlando.
  •  The Good Place on Netflix-starring Ms. Bell.
  •  The black and white cookies at 3Gs.
  •  The guy who plays Spanish guitar at Farmers Table in Boca.
  •  The zest for life and learning that we see from our friend Connor Lynch.
  • A photo of Dr. Craig Spodak with the great Simon Sinek on Instagram. Mr. Sinek wrote the great book “Start With Why”, which is a must read. Dr. Spodak is also an inspiration.
  •  My new grand puppy Riley. An adorable golden (are there any other kind?).
  •  The memory of Phish an adorable Chihuahua and a longtime fixture at the Delray Green Market. Hugs to Jim and Lori Nolan.
  •  Thanks to Hypower Electrical Services and John Potts of TAW Power Systems for their efforts to restore power to the Sandoway Discovery Center saving animals and sea life that were endangered by the loss of electricity. Awesome.
  •  Marisa Herman’s stellar work at the Delray and Boca Newspaper. Make sure to catch her front page article on 92 year old author Bob Levinson in this month’s Delray Newspaper.
  •  Debbie Stackhouse Smith too!
  • Happy one year anniversary to Delray Morning Live and kudos to the excellent hosts Kate Volman and Ryan Boylston. Joe and Mika have nothing on these two.
  •  The music of Steely Dan. Rest In Peace Walter Becker. Thanks for decades of unforgettable music.
  • Congratulations to Dupree Jackson Jr.

    Keep your eye on him. He’s a powerful and committed leader with a big heart. And boy do we ever need heart in our world and communities.

  • We are also immensely impressed with WiseTribe and its leader Jacqueline Botting.
  • Congratulations to the Delray Marketing Cooperative and Delray Chamber of Commerce for winning international recognition. The International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA), which recognizes the world’s best event producers, recently announced the winners of its annual Pinnacle Awards during its 62nd annual convention  in Tucson, Arizona. The Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative (DBMC) and the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce each received a Gold Award, the IFEA’s highest honor, proving once again that when it comes to showing the public an awesome time no one can compete with Delray Beach events, even on an international level.The DBMC won for Best Newspaper Insert for the Famous 100 Foot Christmas Tree and the Chamber won for Best Promotional Video for its Seek in the City Scavenger Hunt.

    We know we missed some good news–so this is only a partial list. But also a reminder that even in difficult times, we have much to be thankful for.

 

We Have Some Work To Do

Most of America is deteriorating economically.

That’s the conclusion of a new study recently reported by Axios.com that has created a stir in cities and state capitals. It probably hasn’t made a dent in Washington, where they are too busy talking past each other and raking in big bucks for re-election to care.

Axios is on online news organization. They have some really good journalists and their coverage is usually pretty insightful. So what did Axios find?

Economic prosperity is concentrated in America’s elite ZIP Codes, but economic stability outside of those communities is rapidly deteriorating.

What does that mean?  U.S. geographical economic inequality is growing, meaning your economic opportunity is more tied to your location than ever before. Which means that your location better have a plan to keep their economies viable.

A large portion of the country is being left behind by today’s economy, according to a county-by-county report released this week by the Economic Innovation Group, a non-profit research and advocacy organization.

Key findings:

New jobs are clustered in the economy’s best-off places, leaving one of every four new jobs for the bottom 60% of ZIP Codes.

Most of today’s distressed communities have seen zero net gains in employment and business establishment since 2000. In fact, more than half have seen net losses on both fronts.

Half of adults living in distressed ZIP Codes are attempting to find gainful employment in the modern economy armed with only a high school education at best.

The map: The fastest growing Western cities (such as Gilbert, Ariz., and Plano, Texas) and “tech hubs” (Seattle, San Francisco, Austin) dominate the list of the most prosperous cities in the country. Cities that were once industrial powerhouses in the Midwest and Northeast, like Cleveland and Newark, are now more likely to be on the distressed end of the spectrum.

The cycle: Fewer new companies are forming than ever before, which disproportionately hurts distressed communities. The new businesses that do get started are often located in thriving communities where educated workers are. So talented people are forced to leave places with little economic opportunity — even if they have personal and family reasons to stay — to move to those where there is opportunity.

So how do we rank?

Economic Distress Indicators for: Palm Beach County, FL

Population: 1,378,810

% in Distressed Zip Codes: Palm Beach County 4.7%

% in Prosperous Zip Codes: Palm Beach County 35.1%

 

No High School Diploma: Palm Beach County 12.2% U.S. 13.3%

Housing Vacancy Rate: Palm Beach 8.2%  U.S. 8.3%

Adults Not Working: Palm Beach County 26.9% U.S. 28.2%

Poverty Rate: Palm Beach County 14.5%  U.S. 15.5%

Distress Score: 14.3

Distress Rank: 446

Overall, Palm Beach County is rated “comfortable” with indicators meeting or exceeding other counties and the national average. I also looked at three zip codes in Delray Beach and found interesting stats.

In 33445, which includes a lot of Delray Beach west of 95 and 30,460 people, the distressed rating was 30.2, more than double the rate for Palm Beach County. In my zip code, 33444, home to 22,440, the distress rank was a dismal 59.5. The downtown/beach area zip code, 33483 had a distress rating of 21.6 and consists of 11,850 people.

Distress was measured using 7 metrics.

  1. No high school diploma: Percent of the population 25 years and older without a high school diploma or equivalent
  2. Housing vacancy rate: Percent of habitable housing that is unoccupied, excluding properties that are for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use
  3. Adults not working: Percent of the prime-age population (ages 25-64) not currently in work
  4. Poverty rate: Percent of the population living under the poverty line
  5. Median income ratio: A geography’s median income expressed as a percentage of its state’s median income
  6. Change in employment: Percent change in the number of jobs from 2011 to 2015
  7. Change in business establishments: Percent change in the number of business establishments from 2011 to 2015.

This blog has long championed the importance of economic development and the need to strengthen and diversify our economy.

The stakes are high.

The report also indicated that less distressed communities are healthier communities. The healthier the economy, the healthier the person: People in distressed communities die five years earlier, according to the research.

If we care about our long term financial sustainability and the prospects for our children, we need to figure out a plan to be competitive with other healthy regions.

It’s not about chasing Amazon (good luck with that one) or waving incentives at companies—it’s about leveraging our strengths, improving our schools, nurturing entrepreneurs (economic gardening) working with universities, increasing quality housing that is affordable and building an inclusive community open to ideas, innovation and creativity.

 

 

 

The Joy of Reading

Kay Hymowitz has some interesting thoughts on gentrification.

I’ve gone on a book binge and it feels great.
I’ve been a voracious reader since the fourth grade. That’s when my favorite teacher, Mr. Romanelli,  sparked a desire to learn that still burns 44 years later.
Great teachers will do that. And Mr. Romanelli was the very best.

From C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain to Hemingway, London and Steinbeck–I have been inspired, transformed and transported by great writers.
At Ward Melville high School on Long Island (it’s on not in, just ask Jerry Seinfeld)  I was blessed to have an English Teacher named Mr. O’Connor. His first name was Joey and his students lovingly referred to him as “Joey O.”

He looked like Les Nessman from “WKRP in Cincinnati”,  a popular TV show of that era but unlike Nessman,  Mr. O’Connor oozed cool.
He schooled cocky kids in one on one basketball, fascinated us in class and diffused the wise guys in the back row with memorable quotes:
“Ignorance is its own refutation.”
“You sir are a pebble in the collective shoe of humanity.”
He was great and I loved his class.

We read–happily –whatever he told us to because that was one class you wanted to participate in .
It was too much fun not too.
I lost track of Mr. O’Connor. But I found Mr. Romanelli on Facebook a little while back and I’m thrilled to be back in touch with the educator who flipped the switch for me.
And to realize that we share a love of the Yankees, the Giants, Vermont and politics somehow feels extra special.

All of which is a long winded way of saying I’m so proud of my daughter for going into teaching and I have read some great books lately. I’d like to share a few titles. And because we are a hyperlocal blog there are some tie-ins to Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

The New Brooklyn by Kay Hymowitz– Although I was born in Queens and consider Eastern Long Island home I have an affinity for Brooklyn. My grandparents, aunt and first cousin lived there and we made frequent visits as a kid. So I have an affection for Brooklyn and it’s fascinating history and diversity. This book is a great stroll through the many neighborhoods that make up the borough that has influenced urban dwellers all over the world. Hymowitz is a great writer and if you love cities this is a can’t miss primer on gentrification, race relations, housing, placemaking etc.

  •   Within Walking Distance by Philip Langdon– Langdon explores a half dozen walkable neighborhoods in places as diverse as Philadelphia and small town Vermont. What makes these places special and vibrant is a lesson for other cities such as Delray and Boca. Langdon is an engaging writer with a keen sense of what makes places special.
  •  The Amazing City by James C. Hunt–Mr. Hunt is a former president of the National League of Cities. I had a chance to see him speak recently to the Palm Beach County League of Cities and he delivered wisdom that only a veteran and successful local elected official could possess. Three Delray commissioners and the Boca Mayor were in attendance and if they applied his lessons on how to create an amazing city we will all benefit. I’m going to write more about Hunt’s lessons in an upcoming blog.
  • The Content Trap by Bharat Anand–  Amazing business lessons. So good I may read twice.
  •  Perennial Seller by Ryan Harrison– Lessons on how to create work that endures. And shouldn’t that be the goal?
  •  Hooked by Nir Eyal– Sobering thoughts on how technology hooks/addicts us. Essential to understand in today’s hyper connected society.
  •  Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris– Ferris is a wildly successful blogger/author/podcaster. This is a huge book of his best interviews with fascinating people from all walks of life.  His most recent interview of Ray Dalio is amazing. Dalio runs the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, and recently wrote “Principles”, which is on my night stand waiting to be read. Lots of lessons to mine, scores of amazing interviews with high achievers and interesting innovators.
    Or as Joey O might have said: “if ignorance is its own refutation knowledge is your passport to success.”

Wanted: Civic Giants With Heart & Vision

Terry Stiles

Terry Stiles died Sept 11.
He was 70 and was a civic giant.
He was also a developer.
His success as a builder enabled him to give back to his beloved Fort Lauderdale.
We need more of his kind.
More people willing to step up and give. More people willing to step up and make it happen.

Mr. Stiles was one of the people credited with transforming Fort Lauderdale from a small beach town into a thriving city.
Some people like what’s happened. I’m sure some long for the  good old days.

But regardless of what side of that divide you fall on, there’s no denying the impact Stiles Corporation has had on Fort Lauderdale. But it wasn’t just the skyline that was impacted, it was the entire business community, the arts scene, health care, education and economic development that was forever changed via one man’s involvement, passion and commitment.

I met Mr. Stiles a few times over the years. I know people who worked for him and we have a few friends in common who knew him far better than I did. But I’m impressed and awed by these civic giants–these local icons who make a dent in their corners of the universe.

Compared to Fort Lauderdale, Delray is a small city. We have had our share of civic icons. And several have been generous.
But we need more.

Boca Raton has been blessed with some incredible philanthropy. Christine Lynn, the Schmidt Family Foundation, Dick Siemens, the Snyder’s, the Drummond’s et al.
They’ve made a profound and lasting difference.

But right about now, Delray can use a few folks to step up and make some things happen.

Old School Square can be a national cultural treasure, the Arts Garage needs angels, the Library, Historical Society, Spady Museum, Achievement Center, Caring Kitchen, Milagro Center, Miracle League, Sandoway House, Impact 100 all need financial support and commitment.

The list of worthy non profits and causes goes on and on. All of them need people willing to say: We need to solve this problem, we need to seize this opportunity or we need to rescue kids, animals, families etc. The city itself is a cause: we need people to step up and devote themselves to making a difference in Delray.
You get the picture.
And it’s not just charity.
Civic leadership also means people willing to commit to designing great parks, improving local schools, building affordable housing, creating jobs and opportunities for all, solving the scourge of substance use disorder, giving entrepreneurs a chance to succeed and artists a place to create etc.
We need civic giants.

Those people who move the needle are those who think long term and have ambition not for just themselves but for others.

We have enough naysayers. We have enough complainers. We have enough armchair quarterbacks playing gotcha, spouting off on social media, second guessing decisions and casting blame.
We need more leaders, angels, healers, supporters, investors, mentors and visionaries.

Yes, it matters who sits on the City Commission. Good mayor’s move the needle, they sell their city. They build civic pride. They evangelize and they nurture and support and still find a way to hold people to account without destroying their spirit.

They build, they fix. They don’t tear down.
And they inspire. They make you want to get involved. They make you want to be a citizen.
But…
We need more.
We can’t rely on five people serving for three years at a time.
We need long term players. People who are committed to creating something positive and important.

Such as:
Reinvent Congress Avenue.
Make Delray a cultural capital.
Create a sports and food Mecca.
Make our schools great, not good, but freaking great.
Vastly improve race relations so we are viewed as a beacon for the rest of America.
Break the cycle of poverty in this town. Learn from other cities but blaze our own  trail of greatness.

We need serious people.
Adults.
We need civic giants, people who  change the game.

Still Swimming After All These Years

 

I read two stories recently about musical legends Paul Simon and Artie Shaw.
One story focused on Simon’s enduring genius and the fact that he is still writing and performing music into his 70s. The other focused on Shaw walking away from music at the age of 44 never to record again.
When you hit your 50s thoughts inevitably turn to “what’s next” as retirement and retirement planning begins to consume a larger space in your mind.
Many of my friends are beginning to think about when and where they’ll retire. Some are trying to figure out how or if they’ll be able to.
Some are stepping away from businesses, others are selling their homes and downsizing and still others are beginning to spend months at a time in other locales.
Truthfully, I feel a step behind.
Oh, I’m beginning to think about aging and changes. My wife recently left the daily grind and is happily consulting these days.
It has been gratifying to see her more relaxed and happier.
As for me, well let’s just say relaxing isn’t my strong suit.

Recently I told you about my talk to Creative Mornings Palm Beach which focused on aspiration, leadership, genius, community and entrepreneurship.
At the end of the talk,  a friend in the audience asked a question that related to the Disney character Nemo and his desire to keep swimming.
The friend wondered whether I would keep swimming and my answer was an emphatic yes..for as long as I can.
For as long as I am able.
So count me more of a Simon than a Shaw.

Fortunately, I’ve been exposed to some amazing people who continue to contribute, create and aspire well into their 70s, 80s and even 90s.
They seem to be very happy.
And so–lord willing– I hope to follow in their footsteps.
Oh and one more thing.
I recently saw this quote from entrepreneur Drew Houston. It struck me:  “There are 30,000 days in your life. When I was 24, I realized I’m almost 9,000 days down. There are no warm-ups, no practice rounds, no reset buttons. Your biggest risk isn’t failing, it’s getting too comfortable. Every day, we’re writing a few more words of a story. I wanted my story to be an adventure and that’s made all the difference.”
That’s it, isn’t it?
I don’t want to get comfortable. And with over 19,000 days lived it’s important to make the last 10,000 or so count. It’s important to keep life an adventure.