Keep Your Amazon Headquarters; Build Your Own Ecosystem

NY is paying $61,000 per job and Virginia is shelling out $796mm in tax incentives to land Amazon’s second headquarters.

I saw an article in the Tampa Bay Business Journal recently that caught my eye.

The headline was a show stopper for those of us who care about economic development and the use of public dollars: “Incentives are becoming less important than workforce.”

Which is another way of saying that today—maybe more than ever—talent rules. And the cities and regions that develop, nurture and attract talent will be the cities that win.

The Business Journal’s headline may sound funny in the midst of perhaps the biggest incentive gusher ever which was the pursuit of Amazon’s H2 headquarters and its promise of 50,000 jobs and billions in economic impact. Congratulations to our friends in Crystal City and Long Island City: the two winners of the Amazon sweepstakes who will split the prize.

But even amidst the gaggle of mayors who threw incentives Amazon’s way, the smart guess was that Amazon would choose a headquarters where executives believe they can hire from a deep pool of talent. Northern Virginia and New York City are both regions rich in tech talent.

But also playing into the decision was Amazon’s desire to be in a city or region where today’s and tomorrow’s workers will want to live.

I’m a passionate student of economic development and it’s endlessly fascinating to me how cities and regions work or don’t work.

I think the most successful places practice economic “gardening” which is an effort to grow your own companies rather than throw money chasing corporations that oftentimes take advantage of cities by threatening to leave if you don’t ante up.

If you grow your own and create an environment where companies would be foolish to leave, you won’t to have worry that someone else will steal your jobs by waving checks at CEOs.

So how do you create an environment conducive to economic gardening and how do you keep the garden healthy and sustainable?

I like the analogy of threads—you have to knit a fabric and build a community by adding to– not tearing at –the fabric of your city.

Threads include: good schools, a good support network for parents, strong and safe neighborhoods, a clean environment, great parks, recreational opportunities, a range of housing options, good transportation networks, strong and ethical governance, business friendly regulations, a people friendly or tolerant atmosphere, abundant art and culture, a sense of place, efficient and competent local government, great health care and the list goes on.

If you build a strong fabric and create a place that is brimming with opportunities– both economic and social—over time you will create a dynamic and sustainable environment that generates jobs by keeping and attracting talent.

Consequently, if you tear at the fabric by pulling threads, chasing away investment, making it hard to get established and hard to get rooted you will send a message to go elsewhere. In those types of places we send a clear message. We are essentially telling our children that ‘yes we raised you here, but there’s nothing for you here so go elsewhere as soon as you can.’

And we will tell outsiders that their investments are better spent elsewhere.

Growth and change are hot topics around these parts. Recently, the South Florida Business Journal reported that there was $950 million of projects underway in downtown Delray Beach. That’s both a source of angst and pride and I can understand both feelings.

Growth and change can be hard to swallow, especially if it swallows up what we like best about our towns. But growth and change are also inevitable. The best communities find a way to shape and manage growth and change.

The best cities also focus on the opportunities that growth and change can provide: they maximize benefits hopefully for as many people as possible, while minimizing impacts.

They talk through the tough issues, raise the level of discourse and do their best to build for the future.

In many ways, we are all stewards. We are here to leave a better place for those who come next. If we adopt a mindset that we need to be concerned about not only our quality of life but also that of others, we have a chance to create something good. But if we have an “I’m in the boat, pull up the ladder” mentality we ensure that the future either drowns or heads elsewhere and that the boat we’re in will sink.

It’s better to swim than it is to sink.

 

Thinking About Lasts & Firsts

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” Author John Banville

In life, we tend to celebrate “firsts”.
First birthdays, first steps, first words, our first car, first job, first home.
I’ve been thinking about “lasts” lately.
Recently, I got my last haircut from Karyn Premock at Rex’s Hair Salon.
I’ve been going to Karyn for probably 15 years or more. Every five weeks for a decade and a half and last week marked the last cut.

After “retiring” three years ago with a great party at 5th Avenue Grill, Karyn hung around until she sold her house in Lake Ida and built a new one in Tennessee.
She’s famous around these parts, with a client list of well known locals. She held on to a few of us after she “retired” and I was lucky to be one of the fortunate few. But now it’s over. Karyn is moving on.

I remember my first haircut at Rex’s which was located just off Atlantic Avenue in those days.
I was on the City Commission and I kept hearing all of these rumors about goings on at the city. When I asked people where they were hearing such things a great many said Rex’s. So I figured I’d go there out of self defense and also to learn what people in town were talking about.

Then and now, Rex’s was like a community water cooler and if you wanted to get a pulse on the town you had to go there.
My wife Diane was already a client and she recommended Karyn. I’ve been there ever since.

I’m going to stay too, even now that Karyn is gone. I’m going to move over to Rex’s chair. I’ve grown to love the place and I don’t want to go anywhere else.
A guy needs some continuity in these fast paced times.

But I have to say I was emotional when I hugged Karyn after the last hair cut. We didn’t say goodbye, we said ‘see you soon’.

I’m sure we will see her again but it was emotional nonetheless.
We have shared a lot over the years. Our talks  included gossip, politics, news, stories about our families, movies we’ve seen, people we know and life in general.
So you grow close. You become friends. And then one day, you get your last cut and things change forever. Isn’t that life?

I felt the same way a few months back when I traveled home to Stony Brook, N.Y. and visited all of my personal landmarks.
I remember moving day when we settled into 22 Moss Hill Place, but I honestly don’t remember the last time I left that house. I’m pretty sure I didn’t realize it would be the last time.
Because if I had, I would have savored the experience instead of bounding into my car and driving off.
Isn’t that life too?

Rushing from place to place, marking firsts, a few key anniversaries and special occasions but rarely recognizing transitions or endings.

Recently, after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, I decided to donate to HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), the Jewish organization that so offended the shooter because they help refugees coming to America.
I mentioned the organization to my dad and he told me that HIAS had helped my grandfather when he immigrated from Russia in 1920.
I didn’t know that and I felt a surge of emotion at the news. I absolutely adored my grandfather, he was my first hero, and the connection moved me.

And I was reminded that I didn’t realize at the time that when I went away to college it would be the last time I would ever see my grandfather.

He passed while I was in school in Oswego, N.Y.
There’s obvious lessons here. To be conscious and aware and present and appreciative and “woke” as they say these days.
And it’s all true. It’s good to be all of these things.
It’s also important to understand that life is change. Life is transitions. And life should be appreciated and savored.

When I walked into Rex’s for the first time all those years ago, much younger, idealistic, full of excitement for my city and in the middle of the action in town, I didn’t realize I would make a friend, that I would enjoy years of conversation and laughs in a great barber shop and that I would see friends enjoy the same experience.

Cut after cut, year after year, until the last snip.

A Woman of Grace

Deborah Dowd at the Women of Grace luncheon.

Every now and then, you meet someone who exudes goodness. 
My friend Deborah Dowd is such a person. 
I’ve known Deborah for many years now.  She’s inspiring, kind and dedicated and earlier this week she was recognized by the Bethesda Hospital Foundation during their “Women of Grace” luncheon. 

 
The event—celebrated before a huge crowd at the Delray Beach Marriott—honors women who devote their lives to making a lasting difference as volunteers in our community. 
Past winners include luminaries such as Frances Bourque, Barbara Backer and Sister Mary Clare Fennell.


It’s hard to imagine our community without these incredible women. They have shaped, molded and inspired so many. 
Deborah Dowd is in good company and she’s a deserving honoree. 


While she was cited for her incredible work on behalf of the Achievement Center for Children and Families, she’s also been dedicated to Old School Square and has served on a slew of important city advisory boards. 
Deborah was also an amazing teacher enjoying a stellar career distinguishing herself as a reading specialist. She touched generations of kids and she seems to remember them all. 
Just as important—they remember her.

She told the story of running into a former student at a local Walmart recently. She taught the young man in 1976. He remembered her. How cool is that?
Great teachers touch lives. I’m still in touch with a few of mine—including my favorite of all time Mr. Romanelli. He was my fourth grade teacher. I hope you’re still in touch with a few of your favorites.
Knowing Deborah it’s easy to imagine her as being the favorite of scores of students. 


Her local volunteering efforts also indicate her wonderful taste in nonprofits. The Achievement Center is a model organization transforming the lives of so many children and families in Delray. 
Deborah describes the center as her “happy place.”  That description resonates. It’s perfect. If you haven’t visited the Achievement Center, make it a point; I promise you won’t be disappointed. You will be uplifted. It’s that good. 


Old School Square is another cause near and dear to Deborah’s big heart. She’s a super board member and volunteer for this important Delray Beach institution. 
And let me assure you, she’s appreciated. Deeply appreciated. 
Kudos to Bethesda Hospital for recognizing these amazing women:

Debralyn Belletieri– American Association of Caregiving Youth

Gail Oliver– Gift of Life Marrow Registry

Beth Schatman– Alzheimer’s Community Care

Patricia Tormey– Forgotten Soldiers Outreach


It’s important to say thank you to special people. It’s important to show gratitude and it’s important to volunteer as Deborah and so many demonstrate each and every day. 
Women of Grace one and all. Role models for us all. 

Trauma In Our Systems

Editor’s Note: Today, we turn over the blog to our friend Suzanne Spencer. Suzanne is a leadership consultant who has a great passion for community and for healing. We first got to know Suzanne in her capacity leading Delray’s Drug Task Force. A friendship ensued and we’ve had many conversations on a variety of subjects. We are pleased to share her thoughts.

By Suzanne Spencer

We cannot prevent hurricanes or earthquakes, floods or volcanic eruptions. But we can ensure that both people and communities are better prepared and more resilient.” Miroslav Lajcak

Lately, through my research, I have come to gain a deep and rich understanding about the internal disruption that is often silent and occurs in our beliefs about our self; others; our emotional responses; how we see the world and come to understand our place in it. We unconsciously hold “assumptive beliefs” about the world in which we live.

One of these beliefs is that the world is benevolent and our impression that overall the world is good and that we can trust in the virtue of people. Then there is the assumption that the world is meaningful and that there is some sense-making out of experiences that happen to us and others in the world. Lastly, the belief that the self is worthy, the idea that we get what we put into life and there is some sense of predictability and control over our outcomes. (Janoff-Bulman, 1992).

What we may not realize is that trauma can cause a silent disruption to these worldviews. An internal shift can take place that causes damage to our individual and organizational systems. As the prevalence of trauma continues to increase, so too will our understanding as a greater society; as organizations; as communities; and as families of the effect that secondary trauma exposure plays in our everyday lives…. otherwise known as vicarious traumatization.

When we understand that trauma is an emotional response to an event or to an experience that is deeply distressing, then it is somewhat easier to see how we are increasingly witnessing (auditory, emotional, physical) and are exposed (whether direct or indirect) to traumatic experiences and events that are becoming cumulative and chronic.

I wonder.

What will be the long-term implications for our children, our families, our schools, our workplaces, and our society?

I worry.

Because a traumatized population starts to detach from those they love, things they love and communities they love. Traumatized people unknowingly make decisions out of fear, become desensitized to atrocities and lose their ability to feel empathy for each other.

I am hopeful.

That as pain spills into our personal and organizational systems, that we will respond to it as a cry for connectivity; belongingness; community and inclusion. We will adopt human-centered answers that reinforce our consciousness, recalibrate our organizational missions; recognize that our definitions of diversity and inclusion must expand beyond that of color, race, gender; and that resilience will be the antithesis to shattered world assumptions.

 

Suzanne Spencer is a  Doctoral Candidate, M.S.,  Civic Activist

     Human & Organizational Development Consultant

 

 

References

Janoff-Bulman, Ronnie (1989). “Assumptive Worlds and the Stress of Traumatic Events: Applications of the Schema Construct”. Social Cognition.

Janoff-Bulman, Ronnie (1992). Shattered Assumptions. New York: Free Press.

October Musings & Memories

Happy Halloween!
October loves

Lunch at the Cuban Cafe with two leaders I admire: Pastor Bill Mitchell and Karen Granger of 4 Kids.
Pastor Mitchell produces the terrific Boca Lead series which in October featured the incredible work of Simon Sinek. If you want to be a better leader this is the community to explore.
Taking the dogs to Lake Ida Park in the evening when it is finally cool and there’s the hint of a breeze. The best part of the year is nearly here.
Fresh Kitchen and Bolay–both in Boca are terrific.
So good. Every time.
The recently remodeled Delray Elks Club looks great. Terrific job and some really nice people are members.
Bagels With and Bagels with a Schmear are also so darn good…oy the carbs…
Delray Beach author and poet Letit Flose is making some noise.
Her original poem, “It’s We,” has been selected to appear in A Garden Of Black Joy: Global Poetry From The Edges of Liberation & Living! 
 
They received poems from all over the world – from Cape Town South Africa to New Orleans to Berlin, Germany and rigorously selected 114 poems to be included in this year’s anthology.
Very impressive. Amazon has her two books of poetry. Highly recommend both.
Deepest condolences to the Walsh family on the loss of Tom Walsh, patriarch of the family that founded and runs Ocean Properties.
OPL has significant holdings in Delray including the Delray Marriott and Residence Inn.
The company has properties throughout North America.
Delray’s own Tre’ Quan Smith was on the receiving end of the historic pass from New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees that set the new record for career passing yards.
Brees has now passed for nearly 41 miles—astounding.
We’ve written about Tre’ Quan before. His involvement with Delray Students First, now College Bound, his attending Village Academy etc.
His NFL career is off to a stellar start.
Here’s what future Hall of Famer Brees had to say about his rookie teammate.
“Tre’ Quan stepped in and did a magnificent job. Credit to him for the way he has come along here in his rookie season. Really made a ton of progress each and every week, especially the last couple weeks this kid can really be a big part of our offense.”
That’s high praise from an NFL legend. Wow!
We lost two other local icons/contributors in October.
Detective Kenny Herndon passed away and it was gratifying to see an outpouring of love and support on social media from an array of retired Delray police officers. He was very special.
Bob Miller, a long time leader in the city’s business and sports community also passed in October.
Miller Field is named after Bob who did a lot for Atlantic High School sports and Little League baseball. He was a long time leader at the Chamber of Commerce and ran a very successful State Farm Insurance agency on Federal Highway for decades. Just a great guy.
Both Mr. Miller and Sgt. Herndon will be missed.
I wanted to share a tribute to Mr. Miller written by Bill Wood, our former chamber president and another amazing guy. Bill shared this on Facebook so I don’t think he will mind if I share these wonderful sentiments.
“Over the last several decades Delray Beach has been blessed with an amazing group of remarkable men and women who provided wisdom and guidance to the development of our city.
Sadly we just lost one of those remarkable leaders…
Bob Miller.  Bob passed away this October and even though we have not talked in years I already miss him and his stories of growing up in Delray Beach.
Hopefully there are biographies popping up on Facebook about Bob’s life  that will outline his many contributions to our city.
In simple words Bob was (among other things) a husband, father, teacher, coach, fisherman, businessman (over 40 years) and leader in the community… there is a reason for the name “Bob Miller Little League Park”.
The people who helped make Delray an outstanding community were not all Mayors or City Commissioners… most were residents, business folks, remarkable individuals who loved our city, believed in it and wanted to make it better…
The Chamber of Commerce recently held one of it’s Leadership Programs featuring several of our past Delray Beach Mayors.  Jeff Perlman (a former Mayor), in the most recent installment of ‘Your Delray Boca’ wrote about that and towards the end of his blog Jeff said this… “We need people with passion, a love for the town, humility, emotional intelligence, strength, foresight and courage to step up and lead.”
We do need people with those attributes but… we have been blessed by having former leaders, like Bob Miller, who had the passion, the love, humility, intelligence, strength, foresight, and courage to be a leader in our great community over a long period of time.
I am so grateful for remarkable men (and women) like Bob Miller who collectively made Delray Beach – as the Chamber saying goes – a great place to live, work, and play.”
Other highlights: an evening at the Elks (congratulations on their award from the Chamber).
We discovered Prosper Ice Cream on Congress Avenue. Magnificent.
And we also enjoyed some great pizza with a stagiano salad at Renzo’s. Highly recommended.
If you can don’t miss “The Old Man And The Gun” Robert Redford’s farewell to acting. He’s terrific, as he always is and so is Sissy Spacek. Two old pro’s who transcend the screen. It’s worth a visit to the theatre.

Tree Of Life

“These are wonderful people, good souls, who were just coming to synagogue as they usually did,” Rabbi Chuck Diamond, Tree of Life Congregation.

Diamond was a rabbi at Tree of Life until about a year ago when he retired. Like many in the tight knit Jewish enclave,  Rabbi Diamond remained a part of the community and knew the victims of Saturday’s tragedy in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He knew and had experienced their goodness.

Isn’t that always the case?

Aren’t they always good people who end up massacred or gravely injured while worshipping, going to school, attending a concert, sitting in a movie theater etc.
Take a look at last weekend in America.

A close look at 72 hours—two African Americans shot at random at a Kroger by a gunman who had tried to barge into a church earlier, the arrest of a hate filled crazy who terrorized the nation by sending pipe bombs to those whose politics he didn’t like and the massacre of 11 mostly elderly Jews as they went to synagogue to mark the Sabbath and to attend a baby naming ceremony.

One of the victims was 97 year old Rose Mallinger; a fixture of the congregation and a beloved member of the community.

We are being told by our so-called leaders to fear a “caravan” of desperate people or “others” who are coming for our jobs, benefits, possessions and privilege from outside our borders.

But maybe we should fear those who are already here. Those who decide to “go in” as the American Nazi wrote on some hate filled website and murder 11 good people or the mentally deficient steroid abusing loon who drove around in a van professing his hate with images of people he didn’t like in the crosshairs.

72 hours in America.
And this hate and violence is starting to feel very close to home.

I mentioned in an earlier post  that my wife and I were walking our dogs a few weeks ago when we heard gunshots across Lake Ida Road.
There for the grace…you know the rest.

I’ve been to Squirrel Hill, it’s a short distance from where my sister in law lives. A nephew has visited that very synagogue.
The pipe bomber spent his last weekend of freedom working at a strip club a few minutes away in West Palm Beach.

On Saturday night, we met a few old friends for dinner in Pompano Beach. Of course, the talk of the dinner was the craziness of our politics and the violence of our society in general.
We talked about being afraid to be out in public. We talked about how frequent the violence has become, how angry people seem to be and how our leaders and communities seem ill equipped to actually do something about it.

So we will see a few days of thoughts and prayers, some vague promises to tone down the rhetoric and then life will go on until the next tragedy which is never far behind.

We are taught that love will win.
That love will outlast hate. And I want and need desperately to believe that.
But these times are testing those beliefs and our faith in humanity itself.

Consider…
Famine in Yemen, children wasting away because some rich Saudi prince is playing politics.

A Washington Post columnist cut into bits in a NATO member’s embassy because he’s a critic of a regime?!  But the show went on when the country that sent the hit squad held an investment conference the very next week. Oh and we’ll sell them more weapons too. Not because they have shown how responsible they are but because we can’t afford not to cash their checks. It ought to be the other way around. We shouldn’t dare cash their checks because now we’ve put a price on our values.

Something very important is being lost in all this carnage, nastiness and looking the other way.
Something very basic.

Our decency.

Our values.

The moral high ground or even an attempt to hold it.

Where does it end?

We are at an inflection point and a reflection point as well.

Which road do we go down?

It’s not a hard choice but we have to make it. Love and hope or hate and fear.

Rose Mallinger, a 97 year old Woman and 10 other good souls  were  murdered this weekend by a Nazi in Pittsburgh. Two people were gunned down in a Kroger by a man hunting people of color.
It’s not supposed to happen here.

We are supposed to be better than this.
We are supposed to be a beacon for the world.

A Gathering Of Mayors

“It’s possible to be fierce, fierce in your dedication to change, to what’s right, to making things better–without finding the source of your power in the destruction of others.”– Seth Godin

 

Last week, thanks to the efforts of the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce and the talented Suzanne Spencer, seven former Delray Beach mayors met with the new class of Leadership Delray for a roundtable discussion on leadership and local history.

It was a blast.

And the Seth Godin quote above was a common thread for these mayors who represented local history from the 1980s through today.

Doak Campbell, Tom Lynch, Jay Alperin, Dave Schmidt, Tom Carney, current Mayor Shelly Petrolia and I shared stories, challenges and experiences from our days and nights in the trenches of local government.

It was a special afternoon and we need more of these types of get togethers because local history is special and relevant to the issues that we face today. The gathering was recorded by the class and will be given to the Delray Beach Historical Society. I look forward to seeing and sharing it with you someday soon. Each mayor brings a unique perspective to the job. My theory is that public office is much like an MRI–it reveals who you truly are. Your good qualities are revealed and your weaknesses too as expressed in decisions you make and your leadership style.

Doak Campbell presided over a somewhat tumultuous time in the 80s, with a revolving door of city managers and department heads, worries about crime and concerns about how to revive a desolate downtown. Despite a fair amount of political infighting, Doak’s commission made some huge and important moves: establishing a CRA, forming the first historic districts, agreeing to restore Old School Square, focusing on downtown and passing a landmark bond issue which led to tremendous improvements in the city’s infrastructure and how we viewed our future prospects. Mayor Campbell left his successors with money, a vision and some very promising seeds. He was a successful mayor.

Tom Lynch and Jay Alperin followed Doak. They successfully implemented the Decade of Excellence bond and brought needed stability to City Hall and to politics itself. On their watch, the Tennis Stadium was built and the seeds were planted for a downtown renaissance. Stability is very important to success. We tend not to appreciate stability until we lose it and we see the damage that volatility can bring to a community. Tom and Jay were gentlemen and they treated city staff and the public with respect; challenging both to bring solutions not just complaints to Commission chambers. I respect their leadership skills and learned a lot from watching them as a young reporter covering city government.

David Schmidt and I followed and we emphasized community engagement and citizen driven planning which led to a downtown master plan, a cultural plan, a parks plan, an effort to improve race relations and a continued focus on education. I learned a lot from sitting on the dais next to David. The commission’s we served on were ambitious and energetic–we wanted to bring about positive change and work to advance what other mayors had started. We saw ourselves as civic entrepreneurs and wanted very much to engage and involve the community. David empowered those who sat next to him on the dais and was always a calm and reasonable voice even amidst heated controversy.

Tom Carney wasn’t mayor for very long but he has been involved for many years serving on the Housing Authority, CRA and as founding president of the Arts Garage. We were glad he was at the roundtable to lend his long term perspective.

Newly elected Mayor Petrolia was gracious in her remarks referring to the success of Delray and her role as a steward giving the analogy that she was handed a golden egg and it’s her responsibility not to break it.

She also outlined the pressures facing current leadership ranging from crime concerns, schools, how much growth there should be (and where) and the need to shore up our infrastructure.

Based on the questions that Leadership Delray students asked, I think there was a good appreciation for the challenges of being a mayor of a town like Delray.

I often consulted with my predecessors because I knew that they loved Delray, had relevant experience in the issues we were facing and would understand the unique pressures of the job.

I saw former mayors and commissioners as resources that I could tap into in order to understand the genesis of issues and what paths were possible.

To their credit, they gave advice willingly knowing that ultimately I would make my own decision but that it would be informed by their valuable input and perspective.

I couldn’t imagine not tapping into the wealth of knowledge that exists here and I’m sure in other communities as well. Of course, you want a range of opinion and so the most effective elected officials seek out all sorts of voices—young and old, business owners, people from different parts of the city etc.

That’s how you succeed in what is a very difficult and all-consuming job.

Delray is a dynamic and challenging city. There are incredible opportunities and a lot of daunting challenges as well.

We need people with passion, a love for the town, humility, emotional intelligence, strength, foresight and courage to step up and lead.

Last week, I found myself in a room with a bunch of those types of people and I left feeling connected, happy and excited about our past, present and future.

Thanks Chamber, thanks Suzanne Spencer, thanks Leadership Delray and thanks to my fellow mayors for being so inspirational.

 

 

In Praise Of The Local Food Scene

Caffe Luna Rosa has thrived for decades by keeping pace with trends and sticking to the classics.

So I have this theory that I thought I would share.
My theory has to do with food—in particular restaurants—and my feeling is that we are experiencing a golden age of culinary talent.
We live in a community that seemingly has an endless array of truly unique and wonderful restaurants.
It wasn’t always this way.

When I moved to South Florida 31 years ago it was not uncommon for us to travel to Miami and Fort Lauderdale to find a good restaurant.
These days, Delray and Boca offers a dizzying array of special restaurants that not only serve great food but also take their design seriously. Dining has become an experience. And when done well it’s really something to behold.

I’m writing this a few days after finally experiencing The Grove, a highly touted restaurant in Delray’s Pineapple Grove neighborhood.
I’ve been hearing friends rave about The Grove for quite some time so I was curious to see if what they were saying was true.
It was.

The food was sensational, so was the service and the interior design.

The menu was small but offered some really inventive dishes that were spectacularly prepared.
My friends ordered pasta—that was perfectly cooked, short ribs that looked magnificent and I had crusted chicken that was so flavorful and unique that I find it hard to describe.
Even the bread was extraordinary.

The night before I had dinner with another friend at one of my favorite neighborhood spots—Papas Tapas where I never fail to have a great meal.

Brule, Caffe Luna Rosa, City Oyster, Tramonti—the list of Delray delights just goes on and on.

Boca  also  has so many wonderful spots: Domus, Abe and Louie’s, New York Prime etc.
In an age where chefs have become celebrities and dining out has become a cultural experience I’m surprised that Delray-Boca doesn’t have a bigger reputation as a foodie destination.
Sure, Atlantic Avenue and places like Mizner Park are popular attractions but I think we have the potential to be a national food destination.

So what’s holding us back?

We have many great restaurants and more than a few talented chefs, but there’s a few holes to fill and opportunities to seize.
First, we can use a little more diversity in our repertoire.
More ethnic offerings—like you’d see in a bigger city. And I’m not just talking niche food offerings, there’s a puzzling lack of great Chinese restaurants in our local market. Southern cuisine would be another great hit and seems to be somewhat lacking in our marketplace.

We can also use more culinary education to develop and nurture talent for the industry.
In addition, the industry can use some good old fashioned PR.
There’s no reason we can’t be known and branded as a great culinary destination like Charleston, Traverse City and Asheville which would drive more innovation, jobs and tourism.
We’ve come a long way since the 80s—it will be interesting to see what comes next for our local food industry.

The Magic Of Urban Myths

Hmmmm…looks legit

I’m a fan of the Thrillist blog, which is a daily compendium of cool stuff from all over the world.

Last week, they had a really interesting post on urban legends which included a list of the top tales from each state.

The list included gems such as:

Georgia’s curse of Lake Lanier which includes tales of malevolent catfish and strange drownings. Now I know why former City Commissioner Bob Costin enjoys the lake so much.

Maryland’s infamous “Goatman” which allegedly does all the things you would expect a deranged half-goat/half man to do: kill teenagers, eat dogs, scream like a goat, etc. But the most terrifying aspect is just how deep the myth goes in the psyche of residents. The USDA was even forced, at one point, to publicly deny accidentally creating the beast in their Beltsville agricultural research center.

Then there’s Montana’s “Hitchhiker of Black Horse Lake” which refers to an apparition that allegedly haunts a desolate stretch of Highway 87.

Supposedly, drivers experience the body of a native-American man — clad in jeans with jet-black hair — slamming into their windshield as they drive near Great Falls. Legend has it those who encounter the hitcher suddenly find his body bouncing off the front of their car. When they stop to help, there’s nothing there and no damage to the windshield. The hitcher, meanwhile, repeats the cycle endlessly, trapped in his own personal hell as he repeats his moment of death with whichever driver happens to be passing by. So next time you curse the roundabouts in Pineapple Grove, remember it could be worse. A lot worse.

Florida’s entry on the list is the infamous “Skunk Ape”-–which some believe is a relation of Bigfoot.

According to legend, a fully-grown Skunk Ape stands anywhere from 5 to 7 feet tall and weighs approximately 450 pounds. They can be detected by a horrific odor that’s been described as “sun-baked animal carcass” and “rotting garbage.” They mostly eat berries and small animals, but from time to time they’ve been known to ravage farms and tear wild boars to shreds. Recently, a Skunk Ape HQ has popped up in the Everglades where you can book tours or reserve a spot on a hunting expedition to finally prove the hairy beast is real once and for all.

No one is quite sure where the legend began, but theories believe that the Bigfoot myth traveled south to the swamps of Florida where it took on a hairy life of its own.

We are intrigued by the idea of a Skunk Ape headquarters (http://www.skunkape.biz/swamp-eco-tours/). It sounds like an interesting place to work.

The HQ is run by a guy who claims to be a Skunk Ape expert with 40 years of experience.

According to the Swamp Ape HQ, the Apes have great hearing and are very elusive. And while they live “nomadic” lives and tend to concentrate in places like the Everglades and other Florida parks, some have allegedly been seen near cities.

There haven’t been any documented Skunk Ape attacks, but you can buy t-shirts, koozies and magnets.

This kind of kitsch sounds like Old Florida, back when U.S. 1 had all these really great shops selling little palm trees, shark teeth and alligator heads.

Only in America….

 

Leadership That Is Rooted Is Real

“You have to root your leadership in who you are.” – Minnesota State Rep. Erin Murphy.

I don’t know who Rep. Murphy is but this quote—which I stumbled upon while cruising Twitter— stopped me in my tracks.

That’s it!

In 10 words, she’s nailed the essence of authentic leadership. The best leaders, the ones who break through the clutter, the nastiness, the mediocrity and the mud are those who root their leadership in who they are as people.

That’s what the great artists do as well. And folks, leadership is an art.

It’s also a rarity.

When storms hit Florida I often flash back to the hurricanes we faced when I served as mayor. Like every other newsworthy event, the politics can be fraught after a nasty natural disaster. Who is going to yell the loudest so they can be seen as championing the interests of their constituents?

It’s politics as theater…

So you see press conferences with people claiming that the power company is giving their city attention over all others because Mayor Windbag and Commissioner Loud Mouth are “fighting” for their citizens.

It’s really b.s.

While sometimes theater is useful as a tool to make a point or get needed attention, grandstanding is a whole other thing.

So partisanship aside, that’s why Senators from both parties looked like fools during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. It’s a race for the best sound bite, led by politicians who are seeking attention, donations, positioning and publicity and the public sees right through it. Which is why people don’t trust politicians and that’s sad because politics should be a noble pursuit and a public service not a blood sport in which nothing gets done.

Which is why real leadership stands out. You know it when you see it. We hunger for it and once we experience it, the emptiness of any other kind of “leadership” is a stark reminder of what could be.

That emptiness…that void…is what the line in Paul Simon’s “Mrs. Robinson” references when he sings “Where you have gone Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns it lonely eyes to you.”

Well, sadly, Joltin Joe has left and gone away.

So it is our task to find the next wave of true, authentic leaders; not empty suits with manufactured resumes and poll-tested taglines or opportunists blowing dog whistles because they think sowing fear is the key to success.

Real leadership is rooted in who you are.

So I want people who are willing to share.

I want people who have lived, succeeded and failed—especially those who have failed because failure teaches you and allows you to grow.

I don’t want bullies—bullies can’t lead. They can disrupt and destroy. They can tear down and demolish, but they cannot lead.

I don’t want those who have all the answers and so therefore they aren’t interested in being educated.

I don’t want those who care about optics, or keep their own counsel or think they are the smartest people in every room.

I do want those who hunger for knowledge—not just the latest theories, but history too.

History is so important and we often give it short shrift.

I want independent minded people who make their decisions devoid of handlers—but only after they have consulted all sides, gathered information and wrestled to find the best answers.

I want those who can express gratitude—who don’t consider appreciation a weakness or somehow beneath them.

I want people strong enough to demand accountability but also willing to admit mistakes and hold themselves accountable too.

These people exist.

But I fear that they will not venture anywhere close to the public square.

I just read a great edition of “Fortune” magazine which focused on the 100 most influential women in business. These extraordinary people did not rise to the top because of their gender, they are in leading positions because they are smart, accomplished leaders.

And I thought to myself as I read their stories about how incredible these people are; and how they would also make great Governors, Senators, Congressmen and Presidents.

Mayors too….mayors and council members are so important.

I’ve lived in South Florida for 31 years and I have gotten to know, observe and meet some really special people. Some have run for office—some have served, others lost elections. But most wouldn’t consider public office.

Not because they don’t have or could make the time. Not because they don’t care or don’t volunteer, but because the public square has too often become a dangerous, nasty and dare I say it—stupid place.

Petty fights, schoolyard bullies, nasty social media trolls—a ‘gotcha’ environment where people are more focused on “getting” their enemies then actually solving a community’s problems or seizing opportunities.

And unlike war, where you might be able to vanquish your enemy, in politics you win some elections and you lose others but the combatants stay engaged. Sometimes they fight from a position of power, sometimes they wage war from the outside.

But when your focus is on screwing the enemy, it can’t be on doing good in the world.