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A Trip to Naples, Yields Some Lessons

Upscale and stylish today, 5th Avenue in Naples also had some hard times.

Upscale and stylish today, 5th Avenue in Naples also had some hard times.

Fifth Avenue in Naples is an elegant main street.

It features some great restaurants, a boutique hotel and a nice array of retail stores.

At night, the street is vibrant, filled with boomers who seem to enjoy a lively but decidedly upscale vibe.

It doesn’t feel like a late night place, but that’s OK. For me late is 10 p.m. these days.

We had a chance to spend a day and night in Naples recently when we attended a Florida Redevelopment Association meeting focused on Business Improvement Districts (BID); particularly Naples successful model which includes a partnership between downtown property owners, city government, the chamber and CRA.

My wife Diane is president of the FRA this year and I spent a few years on the board many years back so it felt good to reconnect with an association that has done a great job advocating for CRA’s, DDA’s and BID’s over the years.

The focus of the day was the history, present and future of Naples’ much loved main street, 5th Avenue South, which like many Florida main streets has reinvented itself over the years through good times and bad.

In December 2010, in an effort to jumpstart the avenue, a group of civic, business and city leaders got together and formed a Business Improvement District that levies a tax on property owners that is then reinvested into beautification, events and marketing.

The Naples BID is a good model for other aspiring streets and may serve as inspiration for places such as Palmetto Park Road in Boca and Congress Avenue in Delray.

The goal of the Naples effort was to re-establish 5th Avenue South as “the place to go” in Naples.

An active board of directors, a small but entrepreneurial staff along with a strong core of merchants and downtown evangelists has restored 5th Avenue’s luster and importance in the wake of competition from nearby lifestyle centers and shopping districts.

We heard from Mayor Bill Barnett, BID President Michael Wynn (whose family has owned property on the avenue since the 40s), BID Director Lise Sundria and Naples CRA Director Roger Reinke on how they work together on branding and marketing efforts.

Mayor “Bill” as he is affectionately known has been an elected official for 24 years with some time off between terms. His historic perspective and involvement has proven invaluable as he recalled efforts in the 80s to transform the look and feel of what had become a tired downtown.

“It took people with vision,” he said. “And the changes were not without controversy,” he said. “Downtown is the heart of Naples and the heart was broken.”
Two early catalysts were the conversion of a suburban style Nationsbank building into the Inn on 5th, an attractive hotel that has become an important economic engine for the district and the hiring of new urbanist town planner Andres Duany whose team came to Naples with a slew of ideas.

It took political will and some time to add the design elements needed to rejuvenate 5th Avenue and BID President Wynn said Mayor Bill has been a champion of that vision.

“The mayor’s warmth is an asset,” Wynn said. “It makes a difference to have a mayor who believes and who is engaged along with us. We’re fortunate.”

The Duany plan drew upon Naples historic strengths as a hub for tourists, fishing and commerce.

Leaders also wanted to remind people that 5th Avenue led directly to a beautiful beach, a fact that was somehow lost as Naples bled tourists to other popular west coast beach communities.

The Wynn family has more than 70 years of history in Naples and as president, Mike Wynn has a unique perspective of how the city has boomed and busted through the decades. The city got its first traffic light in 1949 and thrived through the 50s before being hit by Hurricane Dennis, a category 5 storm that devastated downtown Naples.

Along with many other cities—Delray included—5th Avenue was hard hit by suburban flight and the rise of the mall in the 70s and 80s, with vacancy rates hitting as high as 40 percent. Former Delray CRA Director Chris Brown, who was at the Naples meeting, can relate.

“When I came to Delray in 1991, I closed my office door at 5 p.m. and nothing was moving on Atlantic Avenue,” he said. “There was roughly 1 million square feet of commercial space and 500,000 of it was vacant. I thought…’what did I get myself into’ here.”

The situation was similar in Naples and the retail that was left was marginal at best. There was even an adult bookstore on the avenue, hard to imagine given today’s upscale vibe. Office vacancy downtown was also 50 percent, Wynn said.

“Like many cities, we came together,” said Wynn. “We realized we needed to act and act fast. We also realized that for the avenue to have life, we actually needed to have people coming downtown.”

Not a revolutionary concept, but hard to pull off because it requires a tremendous amount of promotion and hard work.

The BID was formed in part to compete with competition from other shopping districts. Key strategies include beautification, relentless marketing and promotion and 12 street festivals. The BID, a non-profit, also organizes block captains, provides business counseling and also offers local businesses an array of marketing services. Money for the BID is raised via assessment and the BID also does some fundraisers that ultimately raises over $400,000 annually.

Wynn said the BID takes to heart the wisdom of the great placemaker Willliam H. Whyte who said: “what attracts people most, is other people.”

Wynn said the BID hopes to compete by embracing the arts, retail, office, tourism, events and a vibrant food scene.

Rod Castan, VP of the BID and a property owner from the Courtelis Companies, said 5th Avenue won’t rest on its laurels because of competition and an ever changing commercial landscape. On his wish list: more chain stores which he says drive retail traffic that also supports mom and pops, a small boutique theater and a need for more housing near the downtown, which appears to be under way.

“When the avenue suffers, the whole city suffers,” says Wynn who also serves as president of his family’s chain of Ace Hardware stores.

How true.

 

 

We’re Asking Too Much Of Officers

Baton

It’s Monday morning.

Another weekend of carnage in America. Another three police officers murdered. Another three shot in Baton Rouge.
When the news flashed, I thought immediately of Dallas Police Chief David Brown. His words ring truer every day.
“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” the police chief said at a briefing last Monday. “We are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem, let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”
Chief Brown is correct. 
In Delray too, we ask a whole lot of our police. And our firefighters too.

Someone overdoses on heroin let the cops and paramedics save them. No facilities for the homeless guy who scares you, no worries call the cops, they’ll deal with it.
We want our cops to live in our city but we don’t pay them enough to live here and if you mention the need for workforce housing–which almost always requires density– we adopt policies that make sure it will never happen. (I’m holding out hope for Congress Avenue).
And when it comes time to compensate them we cry poverty and moan about their pensions.
Are pension liabilities a concern? You betcha, a big one, so why not roll up our sleeves and help solve the issue because you can’t just wish it away and the men and women who protect and serve us deserve security when they retire. If you have financial acumen think of applying for the pension board, maybe you can help. But don’t begrudge a cop or a firefighter if they have a pension. They earn it.
It’s a tough season to be a police officer in America. It’s a tough season for everyone period.
Last week I had the occasion to speak to several officers. They are aching for their brothers and sisters in Dallas and now in Baton Rouge.
When I was on the City Commission we solved a serious attrition and recruitment issue with a package that included take home cars for officers who lived in Delray or within a few miles of the city. The literature at the time showed that having police cruisers in neighborhoods lowered crime and was popular with residents who felt safer living in a neighborhood populated with officers.
I believed that, still do.
But last week, I heard from a few officers who were concerned about bringing their cars home. They were worried about being targeted. They had read reports from around the country that police cars were being vandalized.
It’s heartbreaking to hear.
Our community has been largely supportive of our Police Department for a long time now.
I’m not referring to politics and labor negotiations –which have been good and bad over the years depending on the players involved– but about the larger community which seems to get how important our police officers are to the welfare of our city.
Every chance I get (this time included) I like to credit our officers for creating a safer city which enabled our turnaround to take place. If a community doesn’t  feel safe, you can’t attract investment or families. It’s just that simple.
But these days, there’s an overall feeling of unease in America. We are not immune.
We have so much work to do. So much trust to restore. So much fear and hatred to overcome.
We shouldn’t rest until every boy and every girl is given real opportunity. We shouldn’t rest until and every man and woman goes to bed knowing they can find a job and if not they will still have a roof over their head and food for their families.
Is that asking too much in a country with our resources and ingenuity?
I don’t think so. I don’t believe most Americans feel this way either.
We wrote last week, that while our national politics were a mess, there was hope for progress in our cities. 
So we have to get to work. We have to create a community of opportunity for everyone. 
We have to be focused on jobs, education, strengthening families, enriching our cultural opportunities and restoring civility. Have you seen a city commission meeting lately?
Too often instead of debate, we engage in coarse, personal attacks. We label people, dismiss them, call them self serving or worse. We can do better. We have done better.
It’s going to take work. It’s going to take vision and investment. It’s going to take dialogue and a commitment to understanding. More people have to be engaged in the important work of community building.  
It starts with engagement and dialogue. But it doesn’t end there. It doesn’t end period. We have to keep  working. There are problems to solve and we can do it. There are opportunities to create and we know how to do that as well.
We can’t just leave it for the cops to handle. They need our help. Now.
 

The Power of Local Leadership

Our future depends on our choices.

Our future depends on our choices.

I’m a big fan of New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Even though our politics don’t quite line up, I always glean something from Brooks’ writing.

This week, Brooks wrote an excellent column in the wake of the Dallas, Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights violence.

It was a quick trip through history and a treatise on how societies can come unglued after major upheavals such as economic dislocation, technological advances and war.
While Brooks concludes that we are not quite broken, he does believe we are peering over the abyss. It’s a dangerous place for a country to be and is often characterized as polarization after tragic events rather than a coming together.
Brooks opines that the answer to America’s problems during similar fraught eras has always been leadership. He is spot on.  Leadership responds to the moment and helps us navigate to a better place.
What’s especially interesting is Brooks’ contention that the answers to America’s many challenges may come from local leadership–local police, local non profit leaders, neighborhood reformers and mayors.
All across America, cops, educators, local elected officials, public servants and local innovators are making strides and changing lives.
Brooks is hopeful that some of these game changers will make the leap and fix our ailing and frequently embarrassing national politics.
Lord, I hope so.
Meanwhile, it’s clear to me that the places that will thrive and create opportunities are those cities and communities that are blessed with dedicated, visionary and brave civic entrepreneurs who fix neighborhoods, improve schools, eradicate crime and find ways to create economic opportunity for all.
If you’re lucky to live in such a place count yourself among the fortunate.

But it’s not enough to sit back and count your blessings because transformation is never ending and you can’t grow complacent or declare victory. Your work is never done. And progress can be more easily squandered than gained.

It’s critically important to find and nurture local leaders, empower them, support them, help them, defend them and if you do–watch your city soar.
If you are not so lucky and you are plagued by corrosive leadership or lack of leadership– get involved and resolve to make change.

Bad leaders=bad outcomes. That’s the law. Wish it was different, but its immutable.

On the local level it’s possible to change things with an injection of one or two solid, mature leaders who realize that being an elected official is a job to do not a job to have. There’s a difference.

It’s not about their resumes or egos or personal preferences, it’s about moving a community forward by serving it.
If you are not sure what you have on your local council or commission, take the time and figure it out.

Attend a meeting, view a few online, email an elected official and see what happens.
If you watch a meeting observe whether they are focused on ideas, opportunities and problem solving or whether they are fixated on each other or grandstanding statements. It’s easy to tell. Watch how they treat the public and city staff, are they courteous, warm and professional or are they dismissive, rude and distracted? Do your elected officials ask questions, do they listen to facts or are they reading from a script with a closed mind? Are they empathetic? Are they able to frame issues, calm the community and focus on what’s important? Or do they fan the flames and major in the minor?
If you send an email on a local issue or concern do they respond in a timely fashion? Is their response” canned” gobbledygook or detailed and sincere? You’ll know.
Positive change can happen quickly when the right people are in the right seats on the bus. You’ll spin your wheels if they are not on the bus and you’ll eradicate whatever progress that’s been made if the hard workers in your city  are under that bus.
Block by block, brick by brick, that’s how we get America and our cities moving again.

We’ve Been Traveling Over Rocky Ground

reuters

“Rise up shepherd, rise up
Your flock has roamed far from the hill
The stars have faded, the sky is still
Sun’s in the heavens and a new day is rising

You use your muscle and your mind and you pray your best
That your best is good enough, the Lord will do the rest
You raise your children and you teach them to walk straight and sure
You pray that hard times, hard times come no more
You try to sleep you toss and turn the bottom’s dropping out
Where you once had faith now there’s only doubt
You pray for guidance only silence now meets your prayers
The morning breaks, you awake, but no one’s there
 There’s a new day coming
A new day’s coming” –Bruce Springsteen, Rocky Ground

Life has a way of getting your attention when you least expect it.
Last Thursday night we were at Mizner Park dining with family and marveling at the MacLaren’s, Ferrari’s and Tesla’s cruising by.
It was a week when a town nearly went bonkers on social media over the Garlic Festival and when adults argued with each other over whether it is proper for a high school dance group and Cub Scouts to volunteer in exchange for donations.
Wow.
Talk about ridiculous. And small.
We witnessed people squabble over whether John Prince Park was in Lake Worth or in unincorporated Palm Beach County which suddenly became “important” because that’s where the Garlic Festival ended up after a terrific 18 year run in Delray.
But then you come home and switch on CNN and see footage from Baton Rouge, Dallas and Falcon Heights.
And suddenly reality sets in.

People were dying.

On America’s streets.
I have a deep respect for law enforcement officers forged over years of watching them save Delray Beach. I had the unique privilege and opportunity to ride with our officers. I was an eye witness to their challenges, I saw their dedication and their courage.
I spent hours with officers taking notes as they patrolled the most dangerous streets of our city. I saw how the job impacted them in good ways and in not so good ways.
I saw them smile when they pulled up to a crowd and were greeted by people who genuinely liked and trusted them. I saw the chemistry and the rapport. I saw the closeness and the good natured ribbing.
But  I also saw an officer stare at the sky and hold onto a telephone pole for balance after responding to a rape call. The victim was nine years old. Being a cop is a tough job.
I will never know what it’s like to put on a uniform and not know whether today will change or end my life or somebody else’s.
But I do know what it’s like to try and comfort a community after a teenager is shot dead by an officer. I can’t help but think of Jerrod Miller these days. Google the name if you’re new to town.
So yes watching the news after an evening at Mizner Park ogling sports cars snaps you back to reality.
The reality of families dealing with the shooting of a loved one and the reality of officers murdered and injured  in Dallas.
It puts life in perspective. In a hurry.

It makes you want to focus on bigger things and deeper questions.
What are we doing? What are we focused on? Why it does feel that things are spiraling out of control?

It has been a helluva few weeks hasn’t it?
The massacre in Orlando. Terror in Turkey and throughout our world.

Insensitive, lightweight politicians who are so far from being leaders that it is almost surreal.
We seem to be spinning off our axis.
As a nation and I’m afraid sometimes as a community.
An old friend asked me what I thought was going on?
And I think the answer is simple.

We are losing our sense of community and our sense of what it means to be Americans. We are becoming tribal, quick to label, quick to condemn and ignore.
We are in desperate need of kindness, empathy and understanding. We seem to be getting  a steady and almost lethal dose of meanness, disrespect and ugliness.
The issues come and the issues go, but how we handle them leave marks. That goes for our national discourse and the way our local communities behave.
The conversation and decision making process can either enhance us as a community or diminish us. And too often these days– and for a long time now– they are diminishing us. How we make decisions matter; maybe as much as the decisions we make.

And if we slide into bad habits, one day we will inevitably pay the price. One day the stakes will be more than the fate of a festival or whether we should permit a particular business to open. If we don’t learn to compromise, invite and encourage dialogue we risk civility and we lose community. And then it’s too late.

Conversation helped us in the wake of Jerrod Miller. It was difficult for sure, but there was an effort to come together. But the shooting didn’t provoke the conversation. We had already embarked on a discussion about race. I don’t think we solved our issues. In fact, I know we didn’t. But I think the conversation made a difference. It just has to be ongoing and it has to lead to change.
Looks what’s happening across our nation.
In our politics, in our reactions to tragedy or terrorism and in how we seem to drift further and further apart rather than come together.
It doesn’t feel safe anymore.
It doesn’t feel stable.
We need to transcend. We need to think and we need to stop, breathe and consider.
I’ve been an observer of local government for 30 years. I like to write about what I observe. That bothers some people. So be it. I think we all have a civic responsibility to speak out and I won’t be silenced. You shouldn’t be either.
But I’ve noticed that when my writing is assailed it’s often not on the facts or even on philosophy it tends to be based on the gall of having an opinion, expressing that opinion and distributing it. When they want you to just go away, or they threaten to harm your business or blame you cryptically for stirring controversy you know you’re onto something. You hit a nerve, you exposed a truth, you lifted a cloak that others would prefer remain veiled.
That’s what conversation and writing is supposed to do. Nothing is ever solved through violence whether in deed or in word, but a lot gets settled with conversation.
A few years back, I observed some odd decision making as if there was a puppet master or two behind the scenes using elected officials as marionettes. A group of people grew tired of it and many of those elected officials were replaced by others who promised to do things differently. But what I have observed lately is not transparency, it’s something else entirely.
When visioning is replaced by personal preferences, when processes seem to be hijacked by agendas one has to wonder. Those of us who care about our community have a right and an obligation to speak out and seek change. If we don’t, we lose our community over time and when we lose our community we are in danger when something tragic happens.

In Washington, we see an inability to act against Zika, to even talk about ways to prevent lunatics from getting weapons of war or to effectively deal with a growing opiate crisis gripping America.
We look to leadership for ideas and solutions. We also look to leadership to engage not keep their own counsel or to listen only to a few people who never dare to differ or who stuff money in super pacs and campaign accounts.
We look to leaders to forge compromise, to frame issues and transcend the noise and do what’s right not what’s politically expedient or popular at the moment. We want them to think five, ten, twenty years ahead. Past the next election. Past the next post on Facebook.
Last week’s violence in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Minnesota led to a lot of national introspection.

We have separation not unity. We have divisiveness not community. That’s both our challenge and opportunity in our nation and in our own backyards.

In Praise of Leadership Florida

LF

Ten years ago, I spent the better part of a year attending Leadership Florida (LF), a statewide program designed to give participants an in-depth view of the state’s challenges and opportunities.

I know the term “life changing” has become trite and overused, but my experience in the class program left a lasting and deep impression on me. I’m not alone in that assessment and over the 34 year history of the program—considered one of the finest state leadership programs in the nation—about 1,500 men and women have come away with similar feelings.

The experience instilled in me a love of Florida and a deeper appreciation for its diversity and history. I have lived here for nearly 30 years now, a decade longer than my native New York, and so Florida has become home even though I will always feel an allegiance and a passion for the Empire State.

But my love affair was with Delray Beach. Sure, I liked Florida, but I didn’t have a love for the state until I experienced Leadership Florida. In LF, I found a community of leaders committed to the betterment of their cities, state and nation. They hail from business, the non-profit world, education and government but the common ground among this diverse group is a commitment to making a difference. We are Democrats and Republicans, conservatives, moderates and liberals and since the program is 34 years old there is a wide age range involved. In fact, my son Ben just graduated from College Leadership Florida and I have friends who have been involved in the executive program (for CEOs), Connect (for young professionals) and a new program for educators (hoping my daughter attends). You can say that LF covers a lot of ground.

Every year, LF holds an annual meeting featuring world class speakers on a variety of topics. This year the event was in Orlando which led to a lot of discussion on the mass shooting and what can be done to make our state safer.

The speakers also talked about poverty in Florida (1 in 6 live below the poverty line), the shrinking middle class and what it means for America and of course leadership.

Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize winning historian and author, gave an engaging speech on this moment in history—Trump vs. Clinton—reminding everyone that while this year is extraordinary, America has had its share of interesting and tumultuous politics throughout its history.

A devout Jeffersonian, Meacham lamented that his guy was being overshadowed by rival Alexander Hamilton thanks to a popular Broadway show featuring rap music intermingled with history.

His idea is to follow “Hamilton” with a show called “TJeff” that would celebrate the life and legacy of our nation’s third president. But humor aside, the graduate of Suwanee College (which he describes as a cross between “Deliverance” and “Downton Abbey”) reminded the audience of how George Washington took pains to solve the bitter feud between the Jefferson camp and the Hamiltonians only to be swiftly rebuffed. Ahh….politics.

Meacham did say that effective leaders throughout history tended to be good writers and tended to know exactly how to reach their followers. Today, that could mean tweeting and getting your message across in 140 characters.

Meacham was fascinating, glib and helped to put this particular moment in our history in perspective.

My other favorite speaker was Ambassador James Joseph who now runs an ethics and leadership center at Duke University. Joseph was ambassador to South Africa when Nelson Mandela came to power. Throughout a long and distinguished career, he has served four U.S. Presidents and has observed leaders at all levels of government.

Joseph seemed to long for a time when “leadership was defined as someone who inspired us and appealed to our better nature.”

Today he sees a tremendous amount of anxiety, alienation and adversity but believes that all of those concerns can be addressed without the bitterness we are seeing today. He says the meanness of public life is the biggest challenge facing leaders and that we must find a way toward national reconciliation.

“A fear of difference is a fear of the future,” he said. “We have to find a way to co-exist.”

He sees four elements to leadership, three traits you need and one you need to avoid:

  • Emotional Intelligence—which he defines as having the ability to be the adult in the room, having compassion and self-control.
  • Moral Intelligence—good leaders know how to think about and talk about values without succumbing to insults or caving into politics.
  • Moral Imperialism—leaders need an ability to resist the urge to divide and develop skills to unite and compromise.
  • Social Intelligence—recognizes the many ways the world is changing.

“I want to see leaders who understand this phrase…’I want to be me without making it difficult for you to be you’,” Joseph said. “Effective leadership turns me and you into us.”

Joseph and his wife, an Emmy Award winning documentarian, spoke to the College Leadership Florida graduates at lunch. There he spoke about the importance of hope.

“Effective leaders are not just agents of reconciliation but agents of hope,” he said. “Hope sustains innovation, hope builds profits and the gift of hope is as important a gift as life itself.”

Well said.

I hope you’ll consider applying to Leadership Florida.

 

 

 

On Events: Hit Pause & Create a Win

Garlic Fest has become a Delray tradition providing much needed funds to local non-profits and schools. Photo by VMA Studios courtesy from Garlic Festival website.

Garlic Fest has become a Delray tradition providing much needed funds to local non-profits and schools. Photo by VMA Studios courtesy from Garlic Festival website.

Sometimes you have to slow down to get it right.

The challenge and the beauty of local government is that you often know the people impacted by a particular vote. You can’t say that about other levels of government.

If you are a state legislator or a member of congress you vote far away from home and usually with your team–be it Republican or Democrat.

Most people in your district probably don’t even know what you’re doing. But on a local level, your neighbors know. And that’s a good thing.

You can’t hide in local government. Ideally it keeps you grounded and accountable. People know when you show up and when you don’t. They see how you treat people. They can see when you read a prepared statement, answer a text, roll your eyes at a speaker or fail to read the backup material.

If your kind, they notice that too. If you’re rude they see that as well. Chances are you are lecturing someone’s friend, a neighbor, or someone you see around town. So tone matters. A lot.

I don’t like what’s happening to special events in our town. I’m not alone.

I think the process has turned into a game of bait and switch and I think the opposition to events has been overstated. I think the costs have been too.

I’m not sure if it started out this way and I’m not sure there has been any sort of diabolical intent, but somewhere along the way this attempt to make the special event process better went off the rails or was co-opted by an agenda.

I think event producers and the organizations that host festivals volunteered in a good-faith effort to make things better; I don’t think they would’ve shown up to plan their demise.

I’ve seen polling numbers of registered voters in this city for over 20 years and events have always scored very high. I can’t imagine that two decades of polling by firms relied on by elected officials past and present would be that far off.

Sure, there are those who despise events. I heard from a few during my seven years in office. A few in particular have been impossible to please despite efforts to soothe their bruised sensibilities. At some point, you have to apologize and move on even if they won’t. As much as you may wish to, you simply can’t scratch every itch and you certainly can’t run a city based solely on the wishes of those who complain. There are others to consider too.

At some point you have to wonder why a business can’t make a crowded street full of pedestrians work for them. At some point you have to wonder why some people can’t just take one for the team because maybe the particular event works for someone else, benefits a non-profit or is a city tradition enjoyed by many. I think the point is when life gives you lemons make lemonade and if you can’t make lemonade, there’s always another day.

Tonight, the city commission may or may not decide the fate of the Garlic Festival. Nobody is quite sure, including the fest’s producers, because she and her team have been unable to get a clear answer on process from anybody.

Somehow that doesn’t feel right. We are supposed to be a village right? Why are we acting like we live inside of a Kafka novel?

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m friends with Garlic Festival founder/producer Nancy Stewart-Franczak and her husband John. I like them. I think they are good people who mean to do well by the community. Nancy’s partner, Bern Ryan, is a good guy and Nancy’s small team consists of really nice people. They are a part of our community. A valuable part.

Nancy has lived in Delray for 25 years. She has been active as long I’ve known her which has been a long time. She has volunteered for many community causes, works very hard and gives back in many ways. She loves this city. She should be treated with respect. She hasn’t been. That’s my opinion based on what Nancy and others who support her have told me.

She’s been told that what she has brought to Delray is dispensable. I don’t think it is.  Neither do the non-profits who have benefitted from her event, even though some question the business model. See, the Garlic Festival has raised close to $600,000 for non-profits in its 18 year history here. People volunteer their time and their causes benefit. If the Boy Scouts or Police Explorers or any number of groups who volunteer don’t like the model, they can opt out. But apparently, they do. And it’s their choice to participate or not. They have told city commissioners that the event is meaningful to them and their causes and activities.

That said, no festival is beyond being asked to improve.

Nancy volunteered to be part of a process designed to mitigate some of the concerns raised about special events. She did not know she was donating hundreds of hours over nearly a year to destroy her livelihood and two decades of hard work.

Think I’m exaggerating? I wish I was.

But she and other event producers came to the table in good faith and they compromised by agreeing to shrink the footprint of their events, avoid road closures and in Nancy’s case get rid of rides which seem to upset the delicate sensibilities of some. Tell that to the kids and their parents who might have enjoyed the rides, I’m sure they’ll understand the need to make sure that our city doesn’t resemble a carnival.

If you think my friendship with Nancy and Bern might color my views so be it. Dismiss this opinion as biased. But know that while I have attended scores of events over 30 years living in Delray I haven’t gone to any lately and if I never go to another festival I’ll be ok.

Still, I don’t begrudge those who do. When my kids were little we went to Garlic Fest and other events and I looked for activities that they would enjoy. To take a family to a nice downtown event is a blessing. The kids are grown now, but there are other young moms and dads out there looking for something fun to do. Maybe it’s Garlic Festival, maybe it’s a dunk tank at a Wine and Seafood event or maybe it’s a St. Patrick’s Day parade with fire trucks and music. (That event is in trouble too).

These events mean something to this town; they mean something to our resident and to those who own businesses here and those who visit us. I think events are part of our brand. I think they bring value as economic development tools and yes I think they ring cash registers.

Sometimes the sales are made on the day of the event and sometimes they come after because when people come to Delray and experience our city I’m pretty sure that at least a few decide to come back to shop, dine and maybe even shop for a home or a nice hotel near the beach or downtown.

They may even tell some of their friends and relatives.

So while Bacon and Bourbon may not be my thing (and it’s not because I’m kosher and prefer Grey Goose) I have an appreciation for events and their meaning in terms of building community and supporting non-profits.

Downtowns– if they are worth their salt– are places to gather. We are so lucky have a downtown. Many cities don’t.

Others have downtowns that are dead or blighted—as ours used to be.

But we are blessed with a downtown that is vibrant, fun and has fueled a huge increase in property values and quality of life. If that goes away, I will care. And so will you. Because the downtown is our community’s heart and economic engine.

It’s where we go with friends and it’s where we gather when we celebrate and when we mourn like we did after 9/11 or when we needed to raise money when a beloved officer died on his way to work. If you think our downtown is bulletproof or immune to competition I think you’re wrong.

In season, you may have some trouble parking. I get it. In season, it may take you a long time 7-10 minutes in my experience to go from Swinton to A1A (I kept a diary this winter). Heck, sometimes the bridge goes up and sometimes an art fair closes a street. I suppose it can be annoying and I sympathize –to a point.

The opposite of traffic is no traffic. And trust me you don’t want that. We had that and it was awful. Dead, boring, dull, depressing…We used to have nothing but a sea of parking and it wasn’t that great–a sea of asphalt.

if you want to avoid any parking issues build a place that nobody wants to visit. That’ll solve your parking problem and create other issues.

Still, I think we need to see the other side and work together. The organizations and event producers seem willing.

Truth is, we should reinvent our events. We should talk about which ones work and which ones no longer fit. We should talk about what kind of demographics we hope to attract and who we hope to serve.

We should talk about timing, cost, and public safety. We should understand the needs of residents and the importance of tourism to our economy.

But somewhere along the line, this process has gone astray.

Instead of a collaborative effort to improve events–even reinvent them– the process morphed into an effort that will drive them out of business.

From small little walks for charity to events that support our Chamber of Commerce and Old School Square, we are at risk of losing a lot.

If you don’t think our Chamber is worth something you haven’t been there in a while. It’s helping businesses and connecting people all day every day. If you don’t think Old school Square is important I can’t help you because then you don’t understand how incredibly blessed we are to have the arts smack dab in the middle of our downtown. The center was conceived as a place for the community to gather. Events, inside and out, are at the very core of its mission. Do the grounds take a beating? Yep. Should we be discussing how to minimize and pay for that beating? Absolutely. But we should never put velvet ropes around Old School Square and turn it into a static museum. Yes, there are costs that have to be considered, but a cost structure that effectively ends events, may provide some relief to the city, but will also hurt the city in other ways.

Charitably you can call this process a bait and switch exercise—event producers volunteered to help mitigate concerns but did not sign up for a process that would drive them out of town.

But there is a chance to hit the pause button. There is a chance for the commission to exert leadership and get the process back on track. The event producers have acted in good faith and have stepped up to the plate by agreeing to meaningful reforms. It’s the city that has dropped the ball. It takes two sides to collaborate. A one sided process can be called a form of bullying. ‘I’m going to take your lunch money because I can’ is not a good way to run a place.

The city has the power–for now.

They can not only call the shots they can insist on anything they want–in the short term anyway but with lasting scars.

If you want reinvention, challenge the event producers and charities that rely on events. But don’t give vague directions and disappear, sit down and join the process. Spell out what a new vision for events might look like. Work with the producers and festival organizers not on them.

These are people we know. These are important civic institutions. They should not be driven out of town or to their knees financially in the name of reform or because some perceive that events are no longer needed or popular with residents and business owners. I have seen polling data and public records requests of emails that indicate otherwise. I have not seen data or analysis to show widespread dissatisfaction. Nor has anyone else– including the organizations that sponsor and produce the events.

As for costs, let’s talk. Share with the community what they cost, but show your work. I find it hard to fathom that a contained special event can approach the costs of an NFL game.

When we look at costs (and I’m sure that producers would pay more but not triple or quadruple) it’s only fair to consider benefits as well.

If you live close to the downtown you have seen your property values soar at a rate that far exceeds other cities.

It’s not all because of events. Some of it is because of Old School Square and some of it is because of our great shops and restaurants. But events play a role. They distinguish us. They have value not just costs and impacts.

Hit the reset button, invite the innovators to the table and every one should agree to show up with an open mind.

Again, events can always be better and they can always pay more to offset city costs. But they have value too and so do the individuals and organizations that produce, host, create and rely on them.

If a “solution” is imposed it won’t be sustainable. If it’s negotiated with a win-win outcome in mind it will make our village a better place in more ways than we can imagine.

Tonight is an opportunity to save the Garlic Festival and rethink the events policy.

 

Here’s to the Innovators

aspiration

Innovation comes from those who see things that others don’t. It comes from people who not only question the status quo- But keep persisting in the face of all the naysayers. Steve Blank

Innovators and entrepreneurs are fun to hang around with.

They see the world differently, questioning, probing and always trying to find a new and better way forward.

They tend to be optimists; in fact I can’t remember ever meeting a pessimistic entrepreneur.

In order to be an entrepreneur you have to be willing to take risks and willing to fail–sometimes publicly. Sometimes spectacularly.  Those failures—while sometimes painful and expensive– make you stronger.

I’m sure there are fearless people out there-somewhere–but I haven’t met any. It’s not whether you have fears, but whether you can overcome those doubts that allow you to be a successful entrepreneur.

I’m involved with a dedicated group of entrepreneurs on several projects at the moment.

Celsius is a company that is pioneering a healthy energy drink that is clinically proven to burn body fat and calories. The beverage space is known for innovation–from coconut water and protein drinks to hangover and relaxation drinks –it’s a fascinating and highly competitive space. The beverage business is complicated and capital intensive. The competition is also fierce. But the rewards can be amazing if you can create a hit brand.

Celsius has the added pressure of being a public company with all the scrutiny and regulation that comes with life in the world of Sarbanes Oxley.

It’s also an international business with distribution in Asia, Europe and Brazil. The company does great business via ecommerce and in channels ranging from fitness to grocery, convenience, mass and specialty retailers.

It’s a fascinating business that often comes down to hand to hand combat on the shelves. But when you believe in your brand—as we do passionately– and the importance of introducing a drink without sugar and aspartame to the mass market it’s a privilege to pursue the opportunity.

We believe we can change the world.

So do our investors, which include two self-made billionaires who remain in the game because they still have a hunger to bet on companies and technologies that make a dent in the universe.

I’m also involved with introducing an all-natural, gluten free premium hot sauce and Bloody Mary mix to the market. We recently gained distribution for Tabanero in Publix, a point of pride. We already are on the shelves at HEB, Lucky’s Market, Sprouts and soon a division of Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in America. We are served in close to 3,000 restaurants in South Florida, Tampa and Southern California and have made the cut at some really cool restaurant and hotel chains including Tupelo Honey, Margaritaville, select Marriott’s and Bokamper’s.

It’s been quite a ride. And while hot sauce is an exploding category, it’s also fiercely contested by some huge brands.

So what’s the opportunity that we see? We think we have the best tasting sauce in the world and its healthy too, featuring premium veggies without the vinegary taste. Even people who typically don’t like hot sauce– love Tabanero. To see people enjoy the hard work of your team provides tremendous satisfaction.

It’s cool to be an insurgent brand; to take on the big guys and to develop a fan base all from two small offices in Boca Raton and LA.

Knowing my love of entrepreneurs, I’m often approached by fledgling companies for help and advice and I in turn seek help and advice from others who have made the journey. While business is competitive, I have found that most people you ask are happy to lend an ear, open a door and connect you to others who may be able to help you achieve a dream. Entrepreneurs tend to be generous, another reason to embrace them.

Among the many young entrepreneurs that I have worked with, I see similar traits of curiosity, courage and a strong desire to serve others. I’d like you to know about a few.

I met Jake Artzi a few years back when I spoke to a class at the Boca Chamber’s YEA program (Young Entrepreneurs Academy). Jake and I have stayed in touch and now he’s at the University of Michigan where he is pursuing his studies while also building a company called BoVault.  http://bovault.com/

BoVault is a safe place to store your valuables and charge your gadgets while you enjoy a recreational activity such as a trip to the beach. The BoVault locker has cameras embedded in the unit to provide 24/7 security monitoring. BoVault is completely solar powered and 100% Made in America. It’s a cool technology and Jake is a driven young entrepreneur. I have no doubt he will build a great company over time.

Brian Niles and Patrick Stinus were two guys I met in a Delray coffee shop a few years back. GE trained MBA’s who understand operations and finance, they were business consultants who were so good clients wanted to hire them permanently to run and grow their businesses. But Brian and Patrick had a dream of their own called “Rooster”, a company that helps a huge range of service providers grow their businesses. Armed with a passion to help other entrepreneurs, off the charts smarts and a work ethic that simply won’t quit, I have no doubt that Rooster, a local start-up is going to be huge.

From that first meeting on Atlantic Avenue until today, we have continued a conversation about life and business.

Check out their site: http://www.roosterlocal.com/. At last week’s Business Development Board Entrepreneurs lunch, Brian and Patrick surprised me with a founder’s button, which was a touching gesture that really moved me. Because the truth is, there’s not much I can teach these guys. They are just brilliant people. But I can listen and I can encourage because entrepreneurship can be lonely and more than a little scary. And I can relate very well to those emotions as well as to the highs you experience when you see a product come to life and you take it to market.

This blog is primarily about how cities and towns can be entrepreneurial too. Yes governments can be entrepreneurial and I would argue that they need to be.

Delray has been a very entrepreneurial city taking risks, overcoming the critics and naysayers and creating a vibrant community that has created value both real (dollars, tax base and jobs) and intangible (quality of life).

Boca’s roots are also very entrepreneurial with the IBM PC being invented here among other incredible technological feats that have changed the world.

The city has innovative schools and universities, a thriving tech sector and incredible medical research happening everywhere you look.

In addition, both cities have thriving food and beverage scenes, innovative vacation properties, marketing and media geniuses, artistic visionaries and some very talented designers and architects. The list goes on and it’s exciting to see the area grow and thrive.

The key is to be a community of opportunity, where people of all ages can find inspiration and personal growth.

Critics and naysayers will focus on the negative impacts and all that can go wrong. That’s what they do.

And truth is they play a role. They raise some questions that must be answered and they also serve as inspiration–if nothing else to prove them wrong.

But make no mistake, businesses and communities must embrace the innovators and the entrepreneurs if we are to grow and create opportunities. If you succumb to the negative you’ll be hard pressed to uncover the positive.

Years ago, I had the privilege to work with an Office Depot executive named Sam Mathis. Sam, has since passed, but he touched a lot of lives and he helped our city on a race relations initiative that many thought was foolish but others thought was necessary and overdo. Sam taught me that the sweetest fruit often resides on the part of the tree most difficult to reach. When I got tired, he had a unique ability to read my moods and he would reach out and keep me motivated.

I know we didn’t “solve” the challenge, but I do think we made a difference.

We should all agree on the need to reach and stretch…it makes all the difference. As Steve Blank says: keep persisting in the face of the naysayers.

Celebrating Entrepreneurs Delray Style

Rubin

It’s Sugar CEO Jeff Rubin

Five years ago I co-chaired a committee for the Business Development Board that focused on entrepreneurship.
It was a change of pace for the BDB– our county’s chief economic development organization– which has traditionally focused on recruiting new businesses and expanding existing ones.

But more and more communities are realizing that economic gardening –growing your own–is a desirable strategy. I would argue it’s the most desirable strategy– surely better than throwing money and incentives at companies that may or may not stay for the long haul.
The  entrepreneurship committee is the BDB’s foray into connecting with and supporting efforts to strengthen our entrepreneurial ecosystem. The BDB is an effective convening entity able to bring big businesses, governments and chambers together and introduce them to the next generation of business leaders.
So when my friend, Committee Chair Connor Lynch, invited me to this year’s entrepreneurs lunch I was eager to see what’s happened since Connor and I along with other committee members launched the lunch a few years back with a keynote from the founder of Priceline.
That event was a success and I’m happy to report that this year’s event was even better and far more powerful.
Connor and the BDB delivered.
And what made the event even cooler for me and other Delray folks in the crowd -Chamber CEO Karen Granger, UBS exec Nick Sadowsky, Red Pepper Principal Christina Hammond, Florida Blue’s Beth Johnston, Economic Development officials Joan Goodrich and Liz Burrows and the Small Business Development Center’s Vin Nolan–was that this year’s lunch featured TED like talks from three talented entrepreneurs with strong Delray ties.

ryan

Woo Creative founder Ryan Boylston

The featured speakers were Ryan Boylston founder of Woo Creative and my partner in Four Story Media, Felecia Hatcher founder of Feverish Pops and Code Fever and Jeff Rubin founder and CEO of It’s Sugar.
Ryan runs a successful branding and creative agency, serves on city boards and is an active volunteer for community causes. Together with several other partners, employees and freelancers we are working on creating a Hyperlocal news platform in Delray and Boca. Ryan is a whirlwind of activity and ideas as well as a young father and husband.  You can get exhausted just thinking about his daily responsibilities. Ryan’s talk focused on millennials and business creation. It was fascinating and can be viewed on Facebook’s Woo Creative page. (If I was tech savvy I would have figured out how to add the link).
He also made an important point: while we celebrate the Zuckerberg’s and Branson’s for their moon shot success we need to build the capacity of those starting local businesses so that they can succeed and create  jobs.
Yes. We. Do.

Felecia Hatcher founder of Code Fever

Felecia Hatcher founder of Code Fever

Felecia, who is a delightful and energetic entrepreneur, grew up in Delray (she went to high school with Connor) and her dad has run a successful construction company here for 17 years. She sold Feverish Pops, has written some great books and is now passionately building Code Fever which seeks to teach African Americans and Hispanics the coding skills they need to succeed in the 21st Century.
That type of effort needs to happen in Delray.
Jeff Rubin has an It’s  Sugar store on Atlantic Avenue and has seen his candy business grow exponentially. He’s on pace to have over 100 stores in 2017.
Despite that frenetic pace, he has found the time to connect with students at Carver Middle School teaching students about business and marketing. The effort created a Carver branded gummy bear. How cool is that?
Kudos to the Delray chamber and City education efforts for making that connection happen.
So my friends,  Delray’s Got Talent.

It’s here.

The talent has been attracted to Delray by three decades of redevelopment efforts which has created a vibrant place with great restaurants, events, festivals, cultural activities, recreational opportunities and other intangibles that we need to support, cherish, improve, protect and nurture. These are the conversations we need to be having. How to leverage what has been created in our city.
Unfortunately, our city is not having those discussions and to the extent they are, the discussion seems fixated on costs, negative not positive impacts, inconveniences etc.  All of those are valid items to discuss and debate but it’s not a complete picture if you don’t include the benefits and the possibilities. And I would argue that the benefits far, far outweigh the negatives.
If we want to take care of our future we have to raise the level of discussion beyond whether Garlic festivals should have mechanized rides or whether we should permit a tattoo business into town.
We have to figure out how we can make sure Felecia brings Code Fever to Delray so our children can learn needed skills.
We have to figure out how to improve our public schools. And we  have to figure out where our workforce can live and how we can bring businesses to our downtown (which will never be done) and to Congress Avenue and to our Federal Highway corridor, West Atlantic and “four corners” area at Atlantic and Military Trail.
You can’t cut your way to success, you have to grow responsibly and strategically.
We need expansive thinking, not regressive and deconstructive policies.
The entrepreneurs are here. And more will come and more will emerge if we continue to aspire as a community. They will go elsewhere and our youth will leave  if we don’t aspire. That’s how communities whither and die, when they fixate on negatives, grow complacent or send a message that business (and dreams) should look elsewhere.
Let’s embrace progress and manage change. It’s what entrepreneurs do every day.

Build A Great City

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Nobles.com

The adventure took me to Lake Worth last week.

Thanks to the wonderful Danika Dahl (www.I-Love-Delray-Beach.com) and my friend Greg Rice, I had the opportunity to bring some books and some thoughts to Lake Worth last week.

We had a great discussion about cities, downtowns, economic development and local politics with an emphasis on Lake Worth’s enormous potential. I began by emphasizing that they not me were the experts when it came to Lake Worth. While I have visited the city innumerable times and enjoy the downtown, its restaurants, festivals and beachfront casino and pier, I don’t live and breathe the community like people who live and work there do. But I do think there are some universal truths and principles for community building that can work anywhere if they are tailored to local sensibilities. But when it comes down to it, citizens are responsible for creating the identity, look and feel of their city. And each city should strive to have its own personality and style.

Below are the notes I took with me which framed the conversation. I thought I would share. It was a great night, with lots of intelligent discussion, some super ideas and a lot of inspiration. In an age of social media and technology it’s reassuring to see how powerful it is for people to gather and talk as neighbors with a shared passion for creating a great city. Thanks Danika and Greg for the opportunity. Local blogger Wes Blackman–a  really terrific urbanist himself– did a three part series on the evening that I am very appreciative of. You can find Wes’ blog at http://wesblackman.blogspot.com/.

Forge a Vision–

  • Involve as many stakeholders as possible.
  • Elected officials and property owners must be bought in
  • Begin to Implement immediately; prioritize and get going. If you fail to act, the vision fades and you lose the trust of those who volunteer and care.
  • Celebrate and market the small victories; build momentum because success breeds success.
  • City Budgets should reflect the citizens vision.
  • Stick to the vision: it takes time. Stare down the inevitable resistance and have patience and faith.
  • Remember that visions are living and breathing documents, principles should be stuck to, but good visions grow and are flexible to meet changing times.

Visioning tips:

Each city is different. Build on your strengths and assets. Inspiration can come from local history, local art, local architecture and design, but also embrace new ideas and changing times.

Be mindful of your strengths weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Guard against complacency. Don’t let failures or missteps bog you down, learn and move on. Similarly don’t let success make you smug or lazy.

When elections come, pin down candidates on their views of the adopted vision. Do they see themselves as being responsible to making it happen or are they running to upend the vision?

Require participants to put your city first, ahead of personal agendas, petty feuds and egos. Look for servant leaders and avoid those who think they are the smartest people in the room, regardless of the room they are in.

Remind people immediately when they stray…ignoring problems allows them to fester and grow. Insist that the citizen’s vision be honored. Be willing to fight for it—and count on having to do so.

 

Brand your street/downtown/city

What is your city’s style, what’s its promise, what’s its vibe? Once you identify your brand identity: market, promote and relentlessly work to bring people downtown.

Embrace change, but make sure change respects your city and its history. You can’t stop change, but you can shape it. The best visions and brands embrace the past, the present and the future.

Establish a culture of “how may I help you” versus “watch me stop you”. This does not mean compromising standards but it does mean being business friendly and making an effort to land deals and make things happen. Developers and investors don’t mind tough standards but they do require a fair, predictable and timely process.

A vision begins getting old the moment it’s adopted. Every day it lingers its damaged, every day you don’t talk about it people will fail to understand it. A vision is a flame. It needs to be tended to and you need to constantly educate the community of its importance and rationale. A vision is your best economic development tool, it’s what you sell.

Events are important. They bring people to your city. They allow for people to meet, talk and gather.

Public spaces and placemaking are critical. But they must be safe and active while also allowing for quiet enjoyment.

Culture is important too.–the arts are critical. Residents seek them out and so do visitors and companies.

Make sure elected officials are champions of the vision. They need to see themselves as stewards with a responsibility to make the vision a reality and to protect the vision.

If there is no vision or if the vision is shoved off to the sidelines personal agendas will take over, the vacuum will be filled with politics.

You need a team. The right people on the bus in the right seats. And those people need to be able to work together well. That doesn’t mean they will always agree but it means that they are able to overcome differences, trust each other and feel passionate about the vision and mission. Once a decision is made move on; there will be times you agree and times when you disagree.

Positioning is critical. Where does your city fit in the local and regional landscape? Delray did not want to become Boca—as successful as Boca is. Boynton should not be Delray. But city’s also have to know what is possible. Boynton is pursuing an identity as a city friendly to millennials—with workforce housing, breweries, an arts scene and inexpensive space for new companies. It’s a solid strategy/position because it counters Delray which has become expensive and a place where it is difficult to win approvals.

A good place to start

SWOT Analysis-

  • An old fashioned tool, but a good place to begin.
  • Strengths—What are the best things about Lake Worth?
  • My take: Outsiders view…
  1. A whole lot of amenities for a small city. A waterfront park, a real downtown, great history, two main streets, human scale, charming cottages, relatively affordable, a waterfront golf course, a beautiful ocean front casino, a great pier, some great restaurants, walkable. Engaged community, abundance of creatives. Central location in county, near airport and other cities. Diverse and tolerant.
  • Weaknesses

 

  • My take:
  • Crime, vagrancy, lack of residential density to support local businesses and restaurants, lack of industry, derelict properties, sense that Lake Worth has been on the brink for a long time but never quite gets there, vacancies downtown. Financial struggles, aging infrastructure.
  • Opportunities

 

  • My take:
  • Great wealth east of the bridge that could be attracted to shop and dine downtown, a great “old Florida, laid back unpretentious downtown” that has tremendous appeal, historic buildings ripe for adaptive re-use, add downtown housing and small office, co-working, incubation, emphasis on artists, ability to attract people to close-in neighborhoods through some bold program that would clean up and stabilize neighborhoods and grow tax base.
  • Threats

 

  • My Take
  • Politics that might resist change or risk taking, infrastructure issues.

All in all, a terrific night…next week my trip to Naples 5th Avenue and the power of collaboration.

 

 

 

Moments…Define Leaders

Leaders not only seize the day, they seize the moments.

Leaders not only seize the day, they seize the important moments.

There are so many nuances to leadership that I’m not sure if it’s possible to fully grasp even a fraction of what there is to know about the subject.

But one thing effective leaders seem to grasp is the power of moments.

The best leaders seem to know when to act.

The best leaders seem to know when to compromise.

The best leaders seem to know when it’s the  best time to seize opportunity.

And the best leaders seem to know the precise moment to frame an issue and make a lasting impression.

We have seen it on a national level during moments of crisis when our country seems ready to learn and ready to move.

Today, is just such a moment and I’m hopeful that Washington can overcome partisanship and politics and do something positive in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando. A moment was missed after Newtown, Connecticut and many moments since then. Each time a moment is missed, people lose faith in their leaders.

On a local level, mayors and city council members also are given moments to seize on issues of far less gravity than what occurred in Orlando a few weeks back. But they are moments nonetheless and they aren’t leaders if they don’t recognize them and do something positive with them.

Often they come in the wake of pitched battles, which can be very personal when waged on a local level because we are often debating our neighbors and friends on sensitive issues.

In Delray, the recent iPic showdown provided a moment and so does the immediate battle over special events in Delray and the hiring of a city attorney.

The iPic moment was missed. There was an opportunity  to acknowledge and address the angst over change and development but also to embrace the opportunity to welcome a new company, jobs, investment and the cleaning up of a derelict property. Sadly, it was missed but there’s still a chance to grab an opportunity.

While certain approvals have been granted, it has been reported that a developer agreement that would actually enable the project to proceed remains elusive. Who is helping to make that happen? That’s a moment to be seized and a chance to make a project better by working together. Because once a legislative decision is made, it’s incumbent to make the most of it. Even if you– especially if you– as an individual elected official voted against something. Because unless it’s immoral, dangerous, illegal, discriminatory or unethical– once a decision is made  you are duty bound to accept it if we are to be a society that respects the decisions made by governing bodies. And if we don’t, then those decisions will never be accepted and we will never be able to rely on a governmental action.

As for special events, the city commission made a point. Actually, several: quality is better than quantity, where possible events should be contained and events come with a cost. The event producers get it and they should be credited with stepping up and redesigning and rethinking many long time events. This is the moment where you declare victory, thank people for compromising, credit them for proposing solutions and move on. There are bigger problems to deal with than Garlic Fest, which many would argue does not even constitute a problem.

Like heroin.

I attended a drug task force meeting last week led by the impressive Suzanne Spencer.

It was an extraordinary experience. In the room, were all the major front line players–treatment providers, business leaders, cops, firefighters, code enforcement personnel, hospital officials and legislative aides.

Folks, we are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. People are dying and it’s not just kids it’s middle age people too. Opioid and heroin Abuse is rampant and scary. And it’s here in our community–and elsewhere too as evidenced by the presence of top-level officials from Boynton Beach and Pompano Beach.

While the stats are depressing and terrifying and the stories of exploitation and death horrifying it was heartening to see grassroots leaders working together.

Information and advice is being shared, people on the front lines seem to be cooperating and they appear to be working on the problem on all ends–prevention, treatment and everything in between. They are leaders seizing a moment.

They deserve our prayers, support, hearts, minds and resources. There are opportunities in crisis and the very best leaders recognize the moment and heed the call.