The Power of Saying Yes

Peter Kageyama preaches the virtues of loving your city.

The talk could have been titled: “Just Say Yes.”

“Or for goodness sakes….relax and experiment.”

We’re talking about author/speaker Peter Kageyama’s keynote at last week’s “Community Conversation” at Old School Square convened by the Delray Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Kageyama is the author of “For the Love of Cities” among other books and pieces that encourage people to fall in love with their city and experiment. The St. Pete resident is a dynamic speaker who shows real world examples of how cities from Auckland to Anchorage and Grand Rapids to Greenville, S.C. have benefitted from “co-creatives”—people who move forward with ideas and projects that help you fall in love or stay in love with their cities.

Most of the projects are small—some are bold and some are simple and they can range in cost from $20 to a whole lot more—but the end result is often surprise and delight.

Kageyama believes cities should be fun places that encourage experiments and pop-up experiences—even if you have to break a few rules along the way.

Examples ranged from a lip dub version of “American Pie” in Grand Rapids that garnered 5 million views on YouTube to a $1,200 project in Greenville, S.C. that placed statues of brass mice in fun places downtown. It may sound silly—and it is—but the message is that’s Ok, cities should be fun.

But these projects also create value—Grand Rapids’ version of the Don McLean classic was in response to a report that the city was dying (Get it: “the day the music died”) and stirred hundreds of citizens to show the world that their city was alive and had pride. The statues of cute little mice in Greenville is an endless source of fun for visitors and locals alike and even led to a children’s book.

From murals and dog parks to public art and drum circles—cities that have personality win our hearts, minds and wallets.

And when you fall in love—you tend to commit, volunteer, invest, interact and put down roots. It’s community building and in a polarized world full of all sorts of sad and calamitous stuff these little “endearments” make a huge difference.

The cities that are fun will win and the cities that are boring will lose.

This debate has been simmering in Delray for a few years so Mr. Kageyama’s presentation was both timely and relevant. While Delray was named “America’s Most Fun City” there’s been a lot of hand wringing over festivals, parades, parks, 100-foot trees, tennis tournaments etc.

We hear about “full cost recovery” and the burdens that some of this stuff place on city budgets, staffing etc.

But we never really talk about the value of these types of activities or the cost of being boring.

Kageyama started his presentation with a pyramid giving a hierarchies of elements cities strive to deliver.

At the base is functionality and safety: cities need to function (permits, toilets flushing, roads in good shape etc.) and they need to be safe. The next level is the ability of a city to be comfortable: are there places to sit, is their shade, is our downtown walkable, can we ride a bike without being killed etc.)?

The next rung is conviviality—are we nice to each other? Is our public discourse toxic or civil?

The top of the pyramid is fun. Do we enjoy living here? Do we enjoy each other as neighbors? Does our city create opportunities for us to connect?

A local panel consisting of our Downtown Development Authority Director, Old School Square President, West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition Director, Chamber President and the head our Marketing Cooperative talked about the need to work collaboratively—which is the true definition of an All America City.

There was a palpable sense in the room—and I see and hear this in my travels around town—that Delray is tired of dysfunction, infighting, divisiveness and a lack of progress on key initiatives ranging from ideas to help South Federal Highway to enacting the hard work of the Congress Avenue Task Force. (Disclosure: I chaired the task force, it’s no fun to see the hard work of dozens of volunteers gather dust on a shelf).

But it’s not just the big ideas and vision that is lagging—it’s the small stuff too. The sense that city staff has been stifled, that talent is frustrated and that we are at risk of losing the creative spirit and sense of community that distinguished Delray.

Interim Chamber President Vin Nolan—an economic development professional—said it best when he said in cities “you are never done” and if you think you are then.. you really are done.

Rob Steele of Old School Square senses a desire to take Delray to a new level of creativity and inclusiveness. He’s right.

You can have progress, job creation, opportunities and fun without breaking the bank or losing your uniqueness and charm. Nobody said it was easy. But enlightened leadership welcomes ideas—isn’t afraid to experiment and looks for ways to engage citizens. Kageyama mentioned the Delray Affair—our city’s signature event, both historic and important.

Why not have a series of events that encourages us to have an affair with our city?

Why don’t we invite people to fall in love with Delray?

We can fix leaky pipes, collect parking fines and fill potholes—that’s the functional part and it’s important. But we can have fun too.

I think we’re ready.

Check that, I know we are.

 

The Power of Compound Interest

There’s a famous quote from Albert Einstein on the magic of compound interest: “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”

Warren Buffett was another big believer in the concept. He once said: “Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up like compound interest.” (500 pages? Really Mr. Buffett?).

The definition of compound interest is the following: “Compound interest is the addition of interest to the principal sum of a loan or deposit, or in other words, interest on interest. It is the result of reinvesting interest, rather than paying it out, so that interest in the next period is then earned on the principal sum plus previously-accumulated interest.” Got it. It’s easy.

I’ve been thinking about compound interest as we head into yet another election season in Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

And I’ve decided that I want to support candidates who believe in the concept and how it might apply to leading communities.

I’m looking for candidates who believe in learning from the past and those who believe in tapping into the vast knowledge that exists everywhere you look so that we earn interest and not pay the price for ignoring hard earned knowledge and experience.

I recently had lunch two former elected officials including a former mayor who is in the process of moving to Delray.

Inevitably, the conversation turns to shop talk—as we share war stories and opine about local politics.

One former elected said something that I agree with—he felt that the best local elected officials are those who are capable of changing their minds if given new information. That very simple act—seeing something another way–shows that an elected official is capable of evolving.

It also demonstrates that an elected official is capable of taking a position that may—hopefully only temporarily—cause them to lose some supporters.

Because if elected officials are beholden to their base or an influential handler, the chances of growth and success decline markedly. But if they are capable of growth, they will add supporters over the long- term and gain respect for their well-thought out positions.

Now that doesn’t mean that you ignore people or fail to represent them, but it does mean that you have the ability to lead with an open mind based on information that may come to light in the course of debate.

This ability to grow and evolve is in many ways the beauty of local government, where you don’t have to vote with a team as politicians tend to do in a partisan, legislative environment.

That type of blind faith in your team leads to gridlock or progress that gets built and then undone when the opposing team takes office—and the opposition always gets in at some point.

I prefer the compound interest approach to community building where one group builds upon the accomplishments of the previous group. That style tends to build traction and sustainability.

It helps enormously if you have elected officials who follow community driven visions and take the time to set goals.

City Commission’s and Council’s tend to fall apart when you have five free agents or factions working on their own pet projects or those who are hell bent on undermining their colleagues.

That doesn’t mean that elected officials can’t disagree or debate, but it does mean that once the vote is called and decisions are made it’s time to move on. Commission’s that endlessly litigate, refuse to make decisions or continually revisit old issues tend to get nothing done—which frustrates citizens and confuses staff.

I want to support candidates who get this—because frankly if they don’t– they are going to fail.

I don’t want elected officials who believe they only represent those who supported them or worse yet gave them money.

I talk to many business people who feel the need to “cover their bets” by writing checks to everyone even though it’s clear that they may prefer one candidate over another.

They do this is out of fear—because they are worried that candidates are watching and will exact retribution if they get elected.

For the most part, when you support everyone out of fear, you’re either trying to buy votes or insurance against revenge. If you think about that—it’s horrible. Who wants to live and invest in such a place?

Projects should be supported or opposed based on whether they follow the city’s rules, advance the community’s vision or are good for the city. Period. Not whether your name showed up on a campaign report or not.

Those who tend to cover their bets end up spending twice as much as they should and being trusted by neither campaign.

So pick a candidate and have the courage of your convictions. You’ll win some races and lose others, but if we elect the right candidates there won’t be anything to fear. And if you are the victim of retribution take a bunch of people to City Hall and speak up about it. Remember, elected officials work for us. We don’t work for them. It’s called servant leadership.

One final thought on compound interest: it doesn’t mean you can’t be a disruptor or that you must continue to do things the same old way.

In fact, the best elected officials take things to the next level; they push, question, challenge, work hard and don’t stop at the first sign of resistance. They are not afraid to lose their seats if it means doing what they feel is best. They embrace change; they evolve.

They are civic entrepreneurs willing to take calculated risks, push the envelope and ask ‘why not’ when they are told something can’t be done.

But they do study the towns they seek to lead. They learn from the mistakes and from what has worked in the past.

They don’t keep their own counsel…they seek and welcome input from a wide range of stakeholders. Those are the candidates who tend to win and tend to get things done during their terms in office.

The one’s who reap the rewards of compound interest, not those who pay it.

 

 

 

What She Found In A Thousand Towns

A love letter to some great places.

When it comes to great books, I’m on a roll.
I just finished “What I Found in a Thousand Towns” by Dar Williams.
Ms. Williams is a critically acclaimed folk singer. I don’t know much about her music although I plan to fill that deficit as soon as I can find the time.
But she’s a good writer and an even better observer of towns.
The book chronicles what Williams learned visiting 1,000 or so towns as a traveling musician for the past thirty years.
Not content to hang out in green rooms and hotels when she’s on the road, Williams has become an urban expert of sorts. She knows what makes towns work and her book is a travelogue of places I now yearn to visit.
Places like Moab, Utah, Beacon, NY and Phoenixville, Pa.
Her insights are smart and refreshing.
She doesn’t advocate large scale transformations —stadiums, spending huge on luring Amazon to your town etc. –but she does talk about the importance of coffee shops, performance spaces, walking trails, art and projects that bring people together.

She coins two important phrases: positive proximity and conscious bridgers.
Both are important to creating special places.
Positive proximity refers to activities, places and initiatives that bring people together.
They could be hills for sledding, playhouses, art centers, great parks, coffee shops etc.
It’s important for towns to have these places. They build community, create relationships and lead to all sorts of cool outcomes.
Conscious bridgers refer to people in your towns who connect people to others. They are alchemists, initiators, starters—sort of like community spark plugs— essential for ignition.
I’ve seen both positive proximity and conscious bridgers since becoming passionate about cities some time ago.
If you have both magic happens.
If you have a deficit in these areas…well let’s just say your town will suffer.
So encourage great places that bring people together and activities that encourage collaboration and teamwork.
And when you find a connector, embrace her and let her connect you. You won’t regret it and that’s how great towns happen.

Rankings, Ratings & Quality of Life

Leawood, Kansas seems like a great place but…

The personal-finance website WalletHub has released its report on 2017’s Best Small Cities in America.

It’s interesting and provocative.

Boca Raton scored high on most measurements, but the analysis revealed some areas of concern. And Delray Beach—despite being the great city we know it to be—has some work to do if you believe the indicators.

First the highlights:

WalletHub’s analysts compared more than 1,200 U.S. cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 across 33 key indicators of livability. They range from housing costs to school-system quality to restaurants per capita.

 

Top 20 Small Cities in America    

  1. Princeton, NJ   11. Newton, MA
  2. Lexington, MA   12. Melrose, MA
  3. Leawood, KS   13. Brookfield, WI
  4. Milton, MA   14. Sammamish, WA
  5. Brentwood, TN   15. Kirkland, WA

6 .Los Altos, CA   16. Saratoga, CA

  1. Carmel, IN   17. Dublin, OH
  2. Needham, MA   18. Palo Alto, CA
  3. Holly Springs, NC   19. Westfield, NJ
  4. Littleton, CO   20. Fishers, IN

 

Best vs. Worst

  • The Villages, Florida, has the highest homeownership rate, 96.25 percent, which is 108.1 times higher than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the lowest at 0.89 percent.

 

  • Plainfield, Illinois, has the lowest share of the population living below poverty level, 1.90 percent, which is 27.5 times lower than in Statesboro, Georgia, the city with the highest at 52.3 percent.

 

  • Fort Hood, Texas, has the shortest average commute time, 11.2 minutes, which is 3.9 times shorter than in Lake Elsinore, California, the city with the longest at 43.6 minutes.

 

  • East Lansing, Michigan, has the fewest average hours worked per week, 28.2, which is 1.7 times fewer than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the most at 49.1.

I would suspect that many of us who live in Delray and Boca wouldn’t trade living here for anywhere else—especially now that the good weather has kicked in. I don’t think there are too many people who would look at the rankings and sell their home in Lake Ida or Woodfield Country Club for a home in number 3 ranked Leawood, Kansas either. (No offense to Leawood, we’re sure it’s wonderful).

So where do we rank?

Delray ranked in the 60th percentile—the top cities were in the 99th percentile. Boca ranked in the 98th percentile.

Delray’s overall score of 57.62, trailed Boca which scored a 66.01. Number one ranked Princeton scored a 73.36.

Delray ranked 870th on affordability—not a surprise considering the run-up in home prices and the lack of new product on the market. Boca ranked 733rd on affordability.

Delray’s economic health ranked 436th with Boca coming in at 224—hard to imagine that there are that many cities healthier than Boca which seems to rake in companies and jobs by the truckloads. On the education and health measurement Delray ranked 728 and Boca 520.

Delray scored an impressive number 51 on the all-important quality of life ranking with Boca an even more impressive number 14. Interestingly, my guess is that residents of each city wouldn’t trade places—both cities are appealing for different reasons. Sarasota ranked number one in quality of life—and if you’ve visited lately you’ll see why.

On safety, Delray scored number 924 and Boca 543.

Lots to chew on certainly.

Rankings, awards, contests etc., are fun to debate, but in the end they are just numbers and things. It’s hard to measure a community’s spirit, aspirations, closeness, friendliness or ambience.

Still, they can be used to benchmark so that cities can strive to do better. Some cities—like Santa Monica—try to measure happiness. Delray used to survey residents on a range of issues and topics and policymakers at the time found the findings interesting and helpful. Cities can be noisy places—especially with the advent of social media—and sometimes (often) the squeaky wheels don’t represent the majority opinion on a given issue.

As for the Wallet Hub findings—I think we should take another survey in January and see if Boca /Delray would score somewhat higher than Princeton, N.J. as the place to be.

 

Growing Our Own

No bigger game than Amazon.

November is National Entrepreneurship Month.

I didn’t know that, but as far as I’m concerned we ought to be spotlighting and helping entrepreneurs 12 months a year.

Since 2008, there has been a net decline in new business creation in the U.S. One of the contributing factors appears to be a growing aversion to risk for young adults who grew up during the Great Recession.

 

A new survey by Junior Achievement shows that 9-out-of-10 parents would support their kids starting a business as adults, but only 1-in-3 teens say they would consider becoming an entrepreneur, identifying “risk” as one of the top reasons for not striking out on their own.

We need to reverse that trend—it’s not an overstatement to say that if we don’t we will lose our edge as a nation.

America was built by entrepreneurs: people in business, government, science, education and the non-profit world who took risks because they saw opportunity.

Entrepreneurs are the people who solve problems, build, create, sustain and design successful societies.

We’ve all been reading lately about the efforts of close to 250 cities and regions to lure a second Amazon headquarters and its promise of 50,000 jobs. It’s a big opportunity—no doubt a game changer for the lucky winner who will have to put up billions in incentives to make it happen. South Florida, including our own Business Development Board, is playing the game and to some extent I guess you have too.

But personally, I would rather make an investment in seeding a new generation of entrepreneurs than throwing money at an already wealthy company like Amazon. I prefer what they call “economic gardening” (growing your own) to chasing smoke stacks or the modern digital version.

Fortunately, there is a lot beginning to happen on the gardening front: FAU and Lynn University have good business schools, Tech Runway at FAU has potential and the business community in Palm Beach County is relatively strong. Boca Raton’s economic development efforts are impressive, West Palm Beach is coming of age and Boynton Beach has some very exciting projects under consideration. Northern Palm Beach County has a very strong business community anchored by a progressive Chamber of Commerce (shout out to our friend Chamber president Beth Kigel) and Lake Worth has tremendous potential especially in the energy sector.

As a two time board member of our BDB, I can attest that we have a solid economic development organization that in my opinion has been a little starved of resources by the county over the years (relative to budgets in Broward, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties).

I’m especially intrigued and excited by some of the emerging groups of young creative entrepreneurs that we are seeing pop up: Creative Mornings Palm Beach, Palm Beach Tech and One Million Cups are just a few of the groups emerging filled with energy, ambition and community building potential.

There are also some real interesting co-working spaces popping up.

I’m especially happy to see the growth and excitement behind Palm Beach Entrepreneur Week Nov. 10-18. (Like The Beatles song, that’s actually an 8 day week).

Highlights include a meetup at the Social House in Lake Worth, a Creative Morning at Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, a pitch competition in West Palm Beach, a Florida Venture Forum showcase at FAU’s Tech Runway and more… Check out the website for a full schedule: https://eweekpb.com/#landing-events

All this is really cool to see. But we need more.

More angel investors, more mentors, more venture capital, more news about entrepreneurs and more outreach into schools. The Boca Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a great start. We also need more affordable space in key downtowns like Delray—not easy to do based on market forces and high prices.

We sit in a great location—close enough to Miami (an international city and a gateway to the Americas), close to an emerging Fort Lauderdale and within a county that offers a great quality of life.

If we reach our potential—the Amazon’s of the world will be asking to move here and ideally the next Amazon will be born here.

10 Things We Liked About October

 

Matthew Farmer serenaded Lifetime Achievement Award winner Frances Bourque and hearts swooned.

10 Things we liked in October.
1. Bat Mitzvahs. Especially Bat Mitzvahs at Boca Pointe. Especially Bat Mitzvahs that include blackberry mojitos and chocolate fountains. Oh and a great young woman and great people too. That we love.
2. Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” in Pittsburgh. We know lots of Pittsburghers in Delray and Boca and we like them all.
3. The Matzo Ball soup at Deli On Rye in Boca.
4. Sitting at the bar for lunch at the Gazebo in Boca, a local classic. Elegant and delicious.
5. Frances Bourque being recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Delray Chamber. The founder of Old School Square is quite simply a local heroine. She made it all possible.
6. We loved seeing good guy Pedro Andrade recognized by the Chamber as Business Person of Year. The GM of Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza is terrific. Period.
7. Congrats to the Conde Center for Chiropractic Neurology for also winning an award from the Chamber for their business success and growth. Founder Dr. John Conde also finds time to give back.
8. Margaret and Robert Blume stepping up to lead the effort to rethink the Cornell Museum at Old School Square.
9. The pork chops at 5th Avenue Grill. We knew they had great steaks, but the pork chops are magnificent as well.
10. Believe it or not– but I’m told by a well known deli maven that Caffe Luna Rosa serves a great pastrami sandwich. Maybe the best.
See you in November a month devoted to giving thanks.

Honoring A Local Legend

Frances Bourque: A Lifetime of Achievement.

Editor’s Note: We received a few requests for the speech honoring the Delray Chamber’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Frances Bourque. Frances was honored Friday night at the Delray Marriott. It was a memorable evening and her speech was sensational. Video coverage of the awards ceremony can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Delray Newspaper.  Here’s the transcript of the intro…

Well, what can you say about our honoree…Frances Bourque?

This tribute can be six words…I love you. We love you.

I truly believe that none of us would be sitting here in a beautiful beachfront hotel… in a vibrant downtown…if Frances Bourque had stayed in the Glades or set her sights on Boca Raton or West Palm Beach. We were forever blessed when she came to Delray.

Old School Square started it all…It was the catalyst…you were the catalyst… and because you brought your beautiful spirit, vision and brilliance to our town…we—all of us— have reaped the rewards…You are so special…and we are so grateful for all that you have given us.

Because as you taught me… it’s all about people—people who lead with love, boldness, aspiration, care and concern. People who motivate us to join the mission. Frances, your heart is so big and so generous…your vision is so compelling…there was no way we could fail. You lead with love.

That’s our Frances…she is spellbinding and irresistible.

The first time I met her, when I was 23 years old, I was struck by her spirit and her unique worldview. She just had a great way of seeing things… I’ve been enthralled ever since…

Frances and I have laughed together and we’ve shed a few tears too…she has been our rock, the champion of our city’s vision, and she has been the go-to person for so many great people….inspiring them to be involved, give back and make a difference in Delray.

For thirty years—she has taught me…and so many others…what it takes to build and sustain a great city.

Because none of this…none of what we saw in the video… happened by accident. All of the things we love and cherish about Delray Beach is a result of people working together through good times and bad.

None of this could have happened without people like Frances leading the way and teaching us that anything and everything is possible if we dare to dream and dare to try.

 

Great leaders are inspiring, they make you feel good about the mission, they lift people up and they show us the way. They make you believe that your dreams can come true—and when they do —they graciously give others the credit. That’s our Frances…

 

Frances Bourque is my hero and a hero to so many of us in Delray Beach. Where others saw a desolate and blighted downtown, Frances saw boundless potential.

Where others saw a broken down old school, Frances envisioned a cultural arts center that would transform our community by giving us a place to gather—so we could actually be a community. She gave us the biggest gift of all—community.

Old School Square is a brilliant idea… it honors our past, enhances our present and addresses our future. It’s where we gather to celebrate, it’s where we go to dream and it’s where we go to console each other during tough times….it belongs to all of us and it’s an asset—a gift— that we must treasure.

Frances made this happen.

Oh, she had help—but it was her boundless energy, passion, skill and love for Delray that drove the vision. Her optimism is contagious and once we were exposed to the Frances Bourque magic—there was no way we could ever fail.

Great leaders attract people to the cause…and they make us feel that we can move mountains and change our corner of the world.

Frances has been this city’s muse and champion for decades…Old School Square was the catalyst for our revitalization. It created an economy out of blight, breathed life, music and art into a once desolate downtown—and gave us pride of place.

We were no longer “Dullray Beach”…we were Delray Beach…an All America City, a place of possibility, achievement and innovation.

Frances is a most deserving Lifetime Achievement Award winner…she’s a brilliant star…a beautiful spirit…she has gifted us a world of possibility and she has never wavered or gone away… thank goodness.

On behalf of the Greater Delray Beach of Commerce and a grateful community: Thank you. We love you very, very much. Ladies and gentleman…your 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award winner…Frances Bourque.

 

 

A Lifetime of Achievement: Honoring Contributors

Frances Bourque: A Lifetime of Achievement.

On Friday night, the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce will honor three special people at its annual Luminary Gala at the Delray Marriott.

The Conde Center, founded by Dr. John Conde, will be named Business of the Year.
Pedro Andrade, GM of Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza, will be honored as Business Person of the Year.
And Frances Bourque–the extraordinary Frances– will win a much deserved “Lifetime Achievement Award”.
All three represent the best of Delray Beach, people whose work in the community make them invaluable.
I’m glad that after a years break, the Chamber has restored its awards program. It’s important to recognize good people, say thanks and hopefully inspire others to strive.

To be honest, I don’t think we say thanks enough to the special people who give their time, talents and treasure to our community. If we fail to show gratitude and recognize service, we miss an opportunity to educate newcomers and our children. And we risk that important and noteworthy contributions will be missed–and as a result, the history of our city risks being incomplete.

The three Chamber honorees this year are truly deserving and very special.

The Conde Center enjoys a stellar reputation for advancing the health and wellness of its clientele.
Founded in 2006 by Dr. John Conde, the Conde Center for Chiropractic Neurology is known for its state of the art equipment and caring staff.
As a result, the Center has grown in size and now employs 10 people.
Despite a fast growing practice, Dr. Conde serves on several non profit boards and the city’s Downtown Development Authority. He’s involved in the community and finds many ways to support Delray. Over the years, I’ve quietly referred several people to the center.

One of my best friends is a chiropractic physician in California and I’ve learned to appreciate the difference these practitioners can make in people’s lives. I’ve never had anyone complain after visiting the Conde Center. I do hear a lot of raving reviews.

Mr. Andrade is another individual who finds myriad ways to support the community.
Quite simply, he’s a go-to person in Delray. If there’s a good cause, you know Pedro will be there.
He’s just a terrific guy and it feels good to see him honored.
I remember when we approved the restaurant way back when. I had received a letter from a neighbor concerned about “coal emissions” a reference to Anthony’s pizza cooking method.
That’s how new coal fired pizza was back then. Not to worry, all Anthony’s does is make amazing pizza and the best wings imaginable. No smoke stacks.

Which leads me to Frances.
What can one say about Frances Bourque?
She’s my personal heroine. And she serves that role for many many others.
The founder of Old School Square is truly an historic figure in our community. Her work has impacted a generation and will continue to impact Delray forever. There’s not too many people you can say that about.
She continues to be a leadership force in our community teaching us, focusing us and inspiring us.
In short, she’s a treasure.
To see her receive a lifetime achievement award will be a thrill for so many.
Because in so many ways, she personifies the best of Delray: visionary, aspirational, inspirational, historic, formidable, complex, loving and smart.
See you at the Gala…three special  honorees recognized by an important community anchor: our Chamber.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice

Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs wrote,   “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” 

Kind of a nice sentiment right? 

I mean who can disagree?

But maybe..,just maybe…a part of you is wondering if that’s just pie in the sky idealistic hooey. 

And I suppose it may be. But…

Ideals are important. Values too. 

It’s vital that we try and it’s imperative that we strive. 

I keep hearing how we live in an age of disruption where everything we know is being challenged. 

How we work. 

Where we work. 

How we get around. 

How we shop. 

Name the sector or the subject and it’s being rethought. 

Retail. 

Higher education. 

Cars. 

The Presidency. 

It’s both exciting and scary. 

Me, I’m cool with change.

I find technology interesting and I love to learn about new things and new ways of thinking. 

But I also feel it’s imperative that we hold onto some foundations, cling to bedrock values and think about what we want to see last. 

Traditions are important. So are roots and history. 

But they shouldn’t shackle us or prevent us from going to new places in our minds and communities. Values and traditions should inform us and the things that work should endure. 

Inclusiveness is one of those things. 

So Jane Jacobs was right. 

The table —so to speak—should make room for all who wish to sit there and participate. And efforts should be made to involve as many people as possible. We need the coalition of the willing to be ever growing. 

I think often about what my city has taught me (us) if we take the time to reflect. 

We work best when we include, when we seek to unite, understand and engage. 

We fail and we hurt others when we exclude, divide, label and ignore. 

Inclusiveness promotes respect and encourages participation and dialogue. 

A top down “father knows best” style of governing is a dead end. 

Inclusiveness is noisy, cumbersome, time consuming and not as efficient as top down decision making but it’s worth it. 

And it creates human connections. And we need that more now than maybe ever. 

The comedian Sara Silverman has a new show on Hulu in which she seeks to spend time with people who don’t see life as she does. 

I caught a sample episode online in which the Jewish liberal from New England visits a family of Trump voters in Louisiana. 

They talk about hot button topics including  gay marriage and immigration in a humorous way that doesn’t change any one’s mind but does change how they see each other. They laugh. They bond. They leave with their humanity not only intact but enhanced. 

To quote The Beach Boys: “Wouldn’t it be nice”. 

Old School Square Makes Us A Village

The anchor is a beacon.

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

And we were reminded about how art builds community.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over the years, Old School Square has delivered.

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

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

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