Remembering Bob….

Bob with Lori Levinson, Diane Colonna, Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Musco, Jon Levinson and Ron Hoggard during a conference out west.

On paper, Bob Costin and I shouldn’t have been friends.

He was tall. I’m short.

He loved the Red Sox, I love the Yankees.

He was a Republican, I’m a Democrat.

He wasn’t keen on Chinese food and loved lobster. I live for orange chicken and can’t even look at a lobster.

Bob Costin was 30 years older than me when we lost him last week. He lived a long and very good life, but losing him sure does hurt.

He’s family.

Diane and I love Bob and his lovely wife Sonya.

We are not alone.

Everyone who knew Bob —and there were many —loved him.

He was warm, funny, optimistic, smart, sensitive, caring, open-minded and lived one heck of a life.

Bob when he was president of FTD at the White House with Betty Ford. This image is in the Ford Presidential Library.

Bob and Sonya owned Costin’s florist in downtown Delray for decades and Bob became president of FTD, rising to the top of his profession. He travelled the world for FTD and was famously in Iran when the Shah was overthrown. He and his contingent had to run through the airport to escape when the country fell to the Ayatollah.

He told stories with gusto and wit and we hung on every word. I will miss those stories.

And I’ll miss the calls when we discussed the news of the day. We were different people from different generations but we always found common ground.

Diane grew close to Bob when he served as a CRA commissioner. He was a really good CRA commissioner and very supportive of staff and his fellow commissioners.

He would later run for and serve a term on the City Commission. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Bob on the dais. We called him the “high commissioner” in deference to his 6’5” height.

I relied on Bob. I truly did.

I valued his experience and his common sense wisdom.

He was the opposite of me in terms of temperament, and I needed his quiet mentoring.

He was calm, I was high strung. He had decades of perspective; I was still a young man in my 30s.

You can see Bob’s nameplate in this shot. He was a calming influence on the dais.

Having Bob on the commission gave us confidence and I knew he had my back. He had a sparkle in his eye when he looked at you that put you at ease even during the tensest of moments.

I knew he believed in what we were doing and that gave me comfort. He had a gentle way of framing issues and injecting humor and common sense into the conversations we were having with each other and with the community.

We were change agents. We were moving things forward, making noise, pushing ideas and driving hard and fast. But we were also having fun—largely because of Bob.

He set the tone.

And he calmed the waters too.

Bob would amble over to The Green Owl every morning where there used to be a table of civic fathers (all men, no women) who sat and held court.

I liked all the men who sat at the table—Ernie Simon, Mayor Leon Weekes, Charlie Gwynn, Ken Ellingsworth, Bob Miller, and a few others. All civic giants; all long-term players.

I think most were OK with me, but I wasn’t a peer. I wasn’t one of them. Bob was.

And if they had a beef with a decision we made, Bob explained the rationale behind the vote and smoothed the waters.

He knew how to lead with grace. Even when he disagreed with you; he was affable. He showed respect for others and he was respected by all as a result.

Bob Costin was old school.

A flip phone. No email.

When we would comment on the large volume of emails we were getting on a hot issue, Bob would smile.

“I didn’t get any,” he would say. “My modem must be down.”

And then he would laugh, that big, garrulous, wonderful and warm laugh.

I wish I had a dollar for every time he used the “modem” line which was always followed by that laugh.

I liked so much about Bob, but I loved three things the most.

First, his hunger for knowledge and his ability to keep an open mind.

Sometimes people of a certain vintage get a reputation of being closed off to change. Not Bob. He was willing to try things. Willing to take a leap.

“We have to keep up with the times,” he’d say. “People will understand.”

Bob and Diane in front of the Costin’s rock star RV.

I also loved how much he was devoted to Sonya, a teacher who ended up working alongside Bob at the florist. They were quite a pair, married for 65 years.

They did so much together. Travel, RV adventures, a dream lake house in Georgia and an occasional Red Sox game. Ugh, those Red Sox.

Bob would call me if the Sox beat the Yankees and rub it in.

I was not above giving it back to him.

When we invited Bucky Dent to get a proclamation on the 25th anniversary of his epic home run to beat the Sox at Fenway in 1978, Bob whipped out a Red Sox cap as Bucky came to the mic.

It was an epic moment. And everyone, including Bucky, laughed.

They traded some good natured barbs and a special moment was made immortal.

Bob used to joke that he lived on Federal Highway before living on Federal Highway was cool.

The Costin’s had a cottage on U.S. 1 where Putt N Around now sits. He lived there before the townhomes made the neighborhood fashionable.

His cottage was moved and is now an office in the Old School Square Historic Arts District.

I drive by it frequently and last week when I passed by, I got a lump in my throat.

I remember Bob calling from Georgia and asking about his house after a hurricane. Would I go by and check on it?

Sure, Bob.

Of course, I would tell him that it was gone, trying my best to sell that story, but all I heard was that laugh.

“You know Jeff,” he would say. “I would’ve emailed you, but my modem is down.”

Bob served two years on the commission, opening a seat for Rita Ellis to secure. Rita would follow me as mayor.

We continued to stay in touch, often going to dinner—but never Chinese.

“Next time, Jeff,” he would say.

So, we kept going to Longhorn and a few times to Il Girasole.

We talked Delray. We talked national news. We met up at a wedding in Italy. We met Bob and Sonya’s  RV friends and we avoided Chinese food and email. And we talked about my kids.

And that’s my third favorite thing about Bob. He was genuinely concerned for your kids and family. He adored Commissioner Jon Levinson and his wife and their three daughters and attended many a dinner at their home, including holidays.

When I got Covid, Bob, who finally got a smart phone, texted me encouraging words. Every single day.

Don’t give up. He wrote.

You’ll be ok. He texted.

And I didn’t. And I was. Eventually.

Lately, Bob was sick.

Diane and I went to see him. He smiled. He looked different but still had that wonderful voice. His last words to us was “I love you guys.”

We said it back.

And now that he’s gone, I realize something. Bob’s modem was never down.

A modem is a device that that is used to transmit and receive information.

That was our Bob.

He brought us information from a place of goodness, kindness and love.

Love for people, love for community, love for Delray Beach.

We will miss this man. He was the high commissioner, a wonderful man and a friend to so so many.

We love you Bob.

The Costin’s in Georgia with Chuck and Pam Halberg.

Further Adventures….

Shameless plug…available on Amazon. If you are interested in Delray you may like it.

A few years back, I wrote a book.

“Adventures in Local Politics” was an attempt to chronicle my experiences as an elected official from 2000-2007.

It was also an attempt to write the book I was looking for and could never find—a primer on local government. I wanted to share some insights about the things that I saw that worked and I wanted to share what didn’t, because I’m a firm believer that mistakes are a great teacher.

During Covid, my old publisher went belly up and I learned that my book would no longer be available on Amazon or other outlets.

Since I still get a few stray requests for books, I decided to find another publisher and refresh my work. I spent about six months adding a new introduction and working with a new editor to tighten up the manuscript.  I decided not to update the story because I felt I should preserve my original experience. In other words, I didn’t include current events. I figure that’s what this blog is for.

Still, the experience of revisiting the Delray I once knew was powerful and potentially instructive to a growing movement of people seeking to make our hometown better. There’s lessons in the book that I firmly believe resonate today.

Still, revisiting the Delray of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s was impactful.

So much has changed.

It’s as if the town that I knew— and fell in love with—has vanished.

Now I am not talking about the physical changes, which are many and certainly important. I’m talking about the atmosphere, the feeling in town, the sense of community and the general mood.

Truth be told, Delray is not alone. The world has changed and so has America.

Some of those changes have been good and some have been…well …not so good. I’m trying to be diplomatic.

I think the fundamental change is that there is a coarseness to our society.

There’s less kindness.

Less teamwork.

Less collaboration.

Less trust.

Sadly, there’s a lot more nastiness, individualism, and suspicion of each other.

As happy as I am— and I am blessed– and as happy and fortunate as many of my friends are, I can honestly say that an overwhelming majority feel that there is something fundamentally wrong these days. Things just don’t feel right.

Diving back into the galleys of my old book I was transported back to a different time and a very different place. I miss that place. I loved that place. I long for that place and so do many of my friends.

We were a community and a country brimming with possibilities and aspirations. Each year things seemed to get better. You could feel the optimism in the air. It was electric and our confidence in the future grew alongside our vision which was exciting and seemingly within reach.

The trust in each other grew as well. When we saw our collective dreams become reality, we believed that anything was possible.

Yes, I know it’s easy to glorify the past, easy to brush past the sins and the mistakes. And mind you, there were plenty of both.

There were lots of heartbreaks and disappointments, but we seemed to absorb them better as a society back then. Some of the setbacks actually made us closer.

I’ll give you an example.

I served in the wake of 9/11. Do you remember what a shock to the system that was? The horror? The sadness? The fear?

We discovered that many of the terrorists were living among us. They were at our library; the mastermind of the plot filled a prescription at Huber’s Drugs. Those monsters lived in The Hamlet, at Laver’s Racquet Club and worked out at a gym on Atlantic and Military Trail.

It was all so surreal, but we came together.

We gathered at Old School Square for a vigil, gathered again at the Community Center for a prayer service and beamed with pride when our police department created a volunteer Homefront Security force staffed by senior citizens wearing berets and sharp uniforms.

Those beautiful souls– many were World War II veterans and members of our Greatest Generation– patrolled our public buildings. They watched over us and were proud to give back once more to a country and a city that they loved.

And we loved them back.

I remember talking to Charlie Goldberg and Bob Banquer, two of the most dedicated volunteers you can imagine. They were concerned, but they weren’t worried. We beat the Nazis, they told us. We surely won’t allow the terrorists to destroy our way of life.

And we didn’t. We didn’t allow the terrorists to win.

But I do wonder, if our divisions will do what the Nazis, the Soviets and the terrorists couldn’t do. And I’m not alone in my worry.

Right here at home, there is so much paranoia and mistrust. So much division.

Who’s behind this group? Who’s behind that candidate?

MAGA people will save our nation. MAGA people will destroy America.

We speculate on social media. We make things up. We try and hurt each other. And often, we succeed. To what end?

There wasn’t so much of that back in the day. There was some of it, but for the most part we got most of what we aimed to do over the finish line. The theme of the commission I served on was “community unity.” It was a phrase coined by Commissioner Alberta McCarthy that we happily embraced and truly believed in.

Did we achieve that lofty ideal?
Do you ever?
Maybe the best aspirations are always just out of reach. Maybe they are designed to be big enough to never quite be achievable but exciting enough so that you never stop trying.

Of course, there was no social media back in those days but that’s not really the problem. It’s a tool. You can use a hammer to build something or you can hit someone over the head. It’s how we use the tool that matters.

I like Facebook. I get to wish my friends a happy birthday, share pictures of Gracie our new golden retriever and I have an opportunity to see what old and new friends are doing. Heck, the platform even helped my little bird Bailey get rescued last week. (It’s a long story and a good one, it will be in the next book or an upcoming blog).

Nope, there’s something else in the water.

As I read through my book, I remembered anonymous emails, mailings and rumors designed to divide us, frighten us, and misrepresent some of the work being done in town.

It was there. It could be vicious, but it was an aberration not a way of life.

And when our local government pushed back with the facts, those facts were embraced and believed. Local government was trusted by residents who knew the men and women who worked at City Hall.  There was a base level of faith in institutions.

They knew their local government wasn’t perfect. They knew that mistakes would be made but they also assumed –correctly— that the people working at City Hall were trying their best. You may have been angry that Mayor Schmidt (one heck of a mayor by the way) favored moving Atlantic High School, but most people didn’t think he meant to do the city harm.

In fact, I think one of the reasons the more vehement opponents of that move failed to defeat those who favored the new school was because they assumed a corrupt rationale for the policy. There was none.

Like the idea or not, most citizens understood that the policymakers serving the city loved Delray Beach. We just had a different vision for the future.

I’m not sure if that’s true today. I’m not sure elected officials or government employees get the benefit of the doubt anymore. Check that, I’m sure that they don’t.

That’s a fundamental shift. And that’s sad.

Yes, many of the aforementioned have earned the distrust of their constituents. But what about the good ones? And what about our system?

Do we trust it, does it still serve us. Why aren’t we attracting better leaders to do the important work of building community?

So, yes, I miss the old days of trust, aspiration, partnership and yes love.

We were a place where you could feel embraced because you were. And that meant everything.

I didn’t write about Old School Square’s demise in the new/old book. But I did write about its importance as an idea and as an object of civic pride. The restoration and revitalization of those historic buildings were important to the evolution of our town and our civic culture. It was not only important it was elemental. And we just flushed it away.

Hundreds of donors and volunteers—likely thousands— feel an attachment to that campus and the non-profit that created and breathed new life into those old and once decrepit buildings.

The Delray I knew and wrote about wouldn’t have handled the issue the way it was dealt with recently.

If audits were late, there would have been an inquiry and a sit down. If performance lagged there would have been a series of meetings and a pledge to work together to fix what was wrong.

The efforts of volunteers and donors would have been acknowledged and more importantly respected.  There would have been love (tough if need be) and room for thanks as well.

We are devoid of those fundamental building blocks of community today both here and across our great land. Nobody but the corrupt fears accountability. But respect, gratitude and yes love are the table stakes behind anything of value or it won’t last.

I took a visit back to that world I wrote about. And I didn’t want to leave it. I live in the same exact place but somehow, I feel very far from home.

If you want to take a peek back at that Delray here’s a link: https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Local-Politics-Jeff-Perlman/dp/1736105167/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1RNPO1P6WQWTY&keywords=adventures+in+local+politics+jeff+perlman&qid=1655317745&sprefix=%2Caps%2C53&sr=8-1

 

Congratulations

Delray Beach Police Detective Paul Pitti retired last week after 25 years of distinguished service to our community.

I met Paul at the beginning of his career, and it was clear to all those who worked with him that he was going places in the department.

I happened to talk last week with one of Paul’s former supervisors and he said Detective Pitti was one the “best men I ever had a chance to supervise.” High praise indeed because we have been fortunate to have a bunch of great men and women serve and protect us.

Blessed with a great personality, a wonderful sense of humor and a ton of skill, Paul was a valuable contributor everywhere he was assigned.

Fortunately, he won’t be going too far. Paul will become a Highland Beach Police Officer going to work for Chief Craig Hartmann, also a former Delray officer.

We wish Paul the best. Highland Beach is getting a good one.

On a sad note, we learned last week that retired Delray Police Officer Mike Kosick has passed away.

Mike was one of the early downtown police officers assigned to keep an eye on things when Atlantic Avenue began to pop. He also distinguished himself during several undercover assignments.

We mourn his loss.

Speaking of our Police Department, my company CDS International Holdings was proud to be one of many sponsors of the annual Delray Citizens for Delray Police Awards Dinner recently.

Thanks to the herculean efforts of Perry Don Francisco and Chuck Halberg, the banquet has become a favorite event bringing together current officers and retirees to celebrate the best of the PD.

This year, Sgt. Andrew Arena, Capt. John-Crane Baker, Lt. Scott McGuire and Detective Pitti were honored for their long service to the department.

Administrative Assistant Stacy Tarantino was recognized at the 2021 “Patricia Taylor Employee of the Year” and Detective Anthony Sala was named 2021 Officer of the Year.

Service Award recipients were Sgt. Paul Weber, Executive Administrative Assistant Beatrice Screciu and Administrative Assistant Patricia Swain.

We are blessed to have such a wonderful police department. Our Fire Rescue department is also top-notch. It’s so important that we recognize these special people.

 

Birthdays, Father’s Day, A Puppy & A Beatle

Celebrating decades of friendship at Avalon nature trail in Stony Brook, NY. earlier this year. Dewey is the good looking one.

This is a big week for me.A big, important and wonderful week.My father, two of my best friends, my new golden retriever, and one of my all-time heroes are celebrating birthdays. Plus, it’s Father’s Day.So this is a time to celebrate, a time to rejoice and a time to take stock.I’m sharing my bounty in the hopes that it will inspire you to think about yours or to create one if your lacking. It’s never too late to resurrect or cultivate a relationship. And you know what? Life is all about relationships.Close readers of this blog know how much I admire my father.

He’s my hero and someone who has made a profound difference in my life and the life of everyone he has encountered. He’s just a good man. And when I survey the landscape these days  I realize that he’s a rare commodity in a troubled world. I appreciate him more and more as time and life go on.On this Father’s Day, I find myself thinking about how fortunate I have been to have such a great father and I hope I’ve been a good father to my children.

I also find myself thinking about the father’s who’ve lost children in Uvalde and elsewhere. Life is capable of delivering us sorrow beyond words, a fact I remind myself of when I find myself stressing about something that will be insignificant a few months from now.So that’s a reminder to enjoy the little perks  of life—a lunch with a good friend at Granger’s, the squirrel who comes to the door and watches us watching television and the first birthday of your golden retriever.Yes, our Gracie turns 1 on the first day of summer. A good dog—and they are all good—changes your life. Gracie happens to be a great dog.

She’s a joy. A character. A beauty.

She’s friendly, affectionate and so well behaved. She delivers a large dose of love everyday without fail and has an endless reserve.I wish I could say the same about myself.Dogs make you question your priorities because dogs—Gracie especially—-have their priorities in perfect order. Happiness equals good sleep, good (or any) food, affection, long walks and spending time with your pack.

Speaking of my pack, two core members are celebrating birthdays this week; my buddies Andy (we know him as Dewey) and my brother from another mother Scott.I go back a long, long, long time with these guys. I’m talking 50 years back. We graduated high school 40 years ago—together.So, if you have old friends you know how special they are. And if you have lost track of your friends look them up and reach out. It’s worth the effort.

I’m so proud that I have stayed in touch with my childhood friends. We are all proud. Life doesn’t make it easy. Deadlines and commitments what to leave in, what to leave out, Bob Seger once sang.

Distance, time, wives, kids, careers and now even politics can separate  you from people who mean so much.But if you can navigate those things the rewards are enormous.We’ve managed to do it. And I’m so grateful.Today, when I look at these guys via Zoom across the years and the miles I still see the kids I once knew. They are there, right in front of me. While we talk about current events, we can also access decades of history. Nights spent in Dewey’s legendary Karmann Ghia, summer days playing tennis with Scott but mostly dreaming of the future. Where would it lead?Today, we have most of that answer.  Not all of it. Nope, we are not done yet.But I can say this, when I talk to these guys I’m overcome with pride. They’re good men. And that fact satisfies something very deep inside.My buddies share a birthday week with one my all-time heroes Paul McCartney.The “cute” Beatle turns 80 on June 18.I have loved The Beatles for as long I can remember. I have listened to their music almost every day since I was a little kid.So Paul is a big deal for me and a few hundred million people. It’s amazing and inspiring that he’s still out there performing, writing and recording music. A blessing in a screwed up world.My dad, two friends, a golden named Gracie and a Beatle.I just boosted my spirits writing this.I hope you have your own version of this happy tale. Have a wonderful Father’s Day.

She’s a lot bigger now but just as cute.

To The Class of 2022…

The Arts Garage was a nice venue for the EdVenture Class of 2022 to celebrate.

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the commencement of the EdVenture Charter School. The event was held at the Arts Garage in Delray Beach. It was a moving ceremony because each of the graduates had to overcome a lot of challenges to earn their diploma. It was a stark reminder that many of our young people face steep odds and that we are fortunate to have educators, counselors and volunteers who devote their lives to ensuring that they have a shot. I want to thank my friends Barbara Fitz, the executive director of the school, and board member Jennifer Costello-Robertson for inviting me.

I thought I’d share my commencement speech in the hopes that others may be inspired to volunteer on behalf of our children. They are the future and we need these young people to succeed maybe more now than ever.

 

To the graduates, parents, educators, staff, board and assembled guests…thank you for the honor and the privilege of being with you on this important day.

I’m deeply touched to be here.

I’m impressed by what I have learned about the EdVenture Charter School and I happen to be acquainted with your Executive Director Barbara Fitz and one of your board members Jennifer Costello-Robertson. They are both very special leaders. You are fortunate to have them in your lives.

10 years ago, a high school graduation speech went viral on the internet. A teacher named David McCollough told the graduates of Wellesley High School that they were not special.

It was an interesting message…and it was meant to advise students to put their phones down, stop taking selfies and think about others. I think that is good advice.

But I am here today, to tell you that you are special.

You are part of a unique class of graduates.

Your high school experience at EdVenture Charter School will forever be linked to a pandemic that has taken the lives of over 1 million Americans. I was almost in that category. I am lucky to be here having gotten Covid before there was an effective vaccine or even a treatment. I spent 40 days on oxygen at a hospital just up the road.

I was fortunate.

Many of the people who got sick during that Covid wave ended up passing away.

Life teaches us to count our blessings and to understand that we must make our time here count.

You have all been through a lot to earn your high school diploma.

You studied through an historic pandemic…you persevered through an experience that nobody in the past 100 years had to live through and you thrived. You are resilient, you are strong and yes you are special.

You are a special graduating class.

Your journey in life is just beginning but you’ve already learned some key lessons.

Life is unpredictable.

Life is fragile and education is the key to success in a world that is changing rapidly.

I graduated high school in 1982…40 years ago.

There were no cell phones, most families didn’t have a computer, there were no streaming services, there was no internet and there was no social media.

Apple the company was around but when most people heard the word they thought of a fruit, not a Mac computer or an iPhone.

Amazon was a river, MTV played music videos and the word “selfie” did not exist.

All of this is to say, that one day, you will look back on your high school years and be amazed at the changes you have experienced.

 

EdVenture was established in 1988 to support students who were falling through the cracks. Its mission is to help you learn grit and determination.

Those are the two skills that will guarantee you a successful life.

The third skill is a love of learning.

You don’t have to love school, but if you love learning…. you will go far in life.

And we need you to go far. We need you to make a positive difference.

 

Your generation has been handed a mixed bag….

We carry more technology in our pockets than most presidents had access too.

We are blessed to live in a world where scientists are unlocking answers to disease and sickness.

We have so much to be thankful for….and yet there are challenges too.

The world can be a hard and a dangerous place as we have seen these past two weeks with mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.….you will need grit and determination to get where you want to go.

We all have individual paths…personal journeys that we all must take. But while your grit and determination will mean so much….so will your network. Family, friends and community count for a lot.

If you have a supportive family, that’s wonderful. Some of us may not be as fortunate, please don’t let that stop you. Find, keep and cherish your friends. Build and be part of a community. Nobody succeeds alone…we all need a hand.

 

40 years ago….when I stood under a hot sun waiting for my diploma I had no idea where my life would take me. I knew I was going to college, but I ended up not liking where I started and transferring to a school far away from home.

When I left for Oswego, New York, on the banks of Lake Ontario, I didn’t know that I would never come home again. Oh, there were visits and weekends, but that was it…. I never lived at home again.

Life takes you places you don’t plan for. And that’s the magic of life…Savor it all….

My journey took me to Florida after I graduated and into a career as a newspaper reporter, a business owner and eventually the mayor of Delray Beach. I didn’t foresee any of that happening.

I thought I wanted to be a lawyer.

After leaving politics, I went back into business and worked with the team that had purchased a controlling share of an energy drink called Celsius.

I never thought I would be an executive at a beverage company….

But I have learned to say yes to adventure. I have learned to not let my fears stop me from trying new things and I have discovered that the best things in life are the things that we feel a little uncomfortable about doing….

My wish is that you will take some chances, try new things, and be prepared for the opportunities that life provides.

Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Be responsive. Be open to change.

Don’t let fear ever stop you.
Magic happens when you say yes…but good things happen when you are prepared…so please don’t stop learning….we are all students even when—especially when—we graduate.

 

You’re here because you’ve done a lot of hard work. But more than most, you’ve shown great determination to achieve what you have.

So on you go…

The world needs you.

There is important work to be done and you can make a difference.

Whatever path you choose, take it seriously, but enjoy it. Savor the moments…like this one with beloved family, friends and teachers who care about you.

I wish you all the fullest lives possible. Never lose faith. Never lose heart. We can’t wait to see you thrive. Congratulations!

Congratulations Coco

I think everyone in Delray was glued to the TV Saturday morning to root for hometown heroine Coco Gauff as she vied for her first Grand Slam title in the finals of the French Open.

Coco put up a valiant fight before losing to world number one Iga Swiatek who has won 35 matches in a row.

I’ve been a tennis fan for almost 50 years and for what it’s worth here’s what I saw.

Coco will win her share of slams because she’s not afraid of the moment, she knows she belongs. At age 18, she’s already a force, already a role model. I think she will be one of those “important” athletes whose talent and persona transcend the game. She ran into a buzzsaw in Swiatek, who is also very special. But the great ones often need to taste what the finals feel like before they take the next step and win it all.

Look for Coco to have a big Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

 

Remembering Stan Weedon

We lost a good man recently.

Stan Weedon, a former planner for the City of Delray Beach, has passed away.

A celebration of life is planned for Mr. Weedon, Saturday, June 11 at 1 p.m. at the Indian Hammock Lodge in Okeechobee.

Stan worked in long range planning. My wife worked with him.

Often times, people like Stan Weedon are overlooked but they contribute to the success of a town and we should honor those contributions.

We send our best wishes to Stan’s wife and family.

 

 

 

 

Remembering Our Friend

She was a force of nature.

Always smiling, always so full of life, always happy to see her tribe.
She was beautiful. She was kind. She was funny. And now she’s gone.
We lost Karyn Premock in an ATV accident last week in Tennessee and hearts in Delray are broken.
If you knew Karyn, and so many around these parts did, you loved her. You couldn’t help it. And she loved you back.
Karyn was a stylist at Rex’s Hair Salon in Delray for decades and during that time she touched the lives of hundreds of people who flocked to her booth for a good haircut at a reasonable price and a conversation that never seemed to end. There were laughs galore, some gossip and a whole lot of opinions on issues large and small. I love the place and I really love Karyn. We became friends outside the booth and she and my wife were close.
When she retired, her friends and clients (one and the same) packed 5th Avenue Grill in a tribute nobody will ever forget.
We shared stories and laughs and testified to how much we adored this woman who brightened our lives every time we sat in her chair.
Karyn was so locally famous that newspaper stories were written about her book of business: she cut the hair of city commissioners, business leaders, State Representatives and all kinds of local legends.
The Sun Sentinel quoted State House Majority Leader Adam Hasner as saying that if you wanted to win a local election you
had to have Karyn as your hair stylist. Sure, you’d look good but more importantly she could guarantee you hundreds of votes because that’s how robust the shop was and how much Karyn interacted with a wide swath of this town.
I came to Karyn out of self defense. My wife Diane was already a client and had recommended that I go there, but for some reason I was reluctant. But as an elected official, I soon realized that if I didn’t go to Rex’s I would never have my finger on the pulse of the community. Every haircut was a learning experience. Karyn was a focus group with scissors and a blow dryer. The amount of information would sometimes be so dizzying that you would leave the shop needing a nap. I loved every minute of it.
When the hurricanes came roaring through Delray in 2005 and 2006 and I found myself shaggy haired and working around the clock, Karyn was kind enough to come to my kitchen and cut my hair and Rep. Hasner’s as well so we could look presentable and be comfortable as we helped the community recover.
When I was hospitalized with Covid in the summer of 2020 she called Diane every day to check on my condition.
That’s who she was…caring, loving and always willing to help.
She retired to Tennessee to live a dream life with her husband Dan complete with horses on a great piece of land. She was happy.
We missed her. Delray missed her too, but she found bliss in her bucolic surroundings.
I could go on and on about our friend Karyn. But right now I’m just heartsick. She was a bright light and I am reminded of what I already know—we are fragile beings and our lights can go out just like that.
When we write the stories of communities, we often tell the tales of the mayors and managers, the business titans and the other movers and shakers who make things happen.
But we often give short shrift to the special people who make a place a home. People like Karyn who quietly touch lives, make us smile, tell us jokes and make us feel at home every time we are in their presence.
We live in a fast-paced, complicated and ever changing world. We are surrounded by tragedy and heart ache. We are consumed by deadlines, work, bills and a whole lot of b.s.
 But if we are lucky, if we slow down just enough, we may just catch some magic.
Hundreds of people found warmth, love, humor and magic in Karyn Premock’s booth at Rex’s salon over the years. We were enriched by the experience. She made this place feel like home. She loved her customers. And we loved her back. We genuinely did and we always will.

We’ll always remember Karyn’s smile.

 

Choosing Love

Shoponebuffalo.com is raising funds for victims of the mass shooting at Tops supermarket.

When I first started my journalism career, I worked for a small newspaper outside Binghamton N.Y called “The Country Courier.”

The paper was based in a town called Conklin. It was a little speck of a place, and I was just passing through. I hadn’t thought much about Conklin until we learned that the racist murderer who killed 10 people in Buffalo came from there.

There are so many mass shootings in America that it has become easy to grow numb. But this mass murder broke through and hit us square in the heart….until the next one. And there always seems to be a next one.

When I heard that the shooter came from Conklin, it just seemed hard to fathom.

My memories are hazy, but I remember a small bucolic town in the southern part of Broome County near the Pennsylvania border. It has been described as a “Mayberry” kind of place. The 2020 census says a little over 5,000 people live there. Conklin is about 200 miles from Buffalo. It is nearly 98 percent white and less than one percent African American.

I remember covering town meetings and being bored beyond belief. There weren’t a lot of exciting issues in Conklin to write about and I surmise that the people liked it that way. I remember driving home late at night after a council meeting through country roads back to Binghamton and encountering a cow in the middle of the road. We scared each other and I remember thinking how lucky I was to see it before it was too late. I would soon move on and forget all about Conklin until last weekend.

I checked the local coverage of the shooting, knowing that reporters would beat a path to the hometown of the shooter trying to determine if “place” somehow contributed to the hatred and depravity needed to coldly murder 10 innocent people. I had tried the town’s website, but its bandwidth was overwhelmed by people looking for answers. I couldn’t get access.

So, I turned to the local newspapers that I used to know.

The reporters went to a local diner for answers, like I used to do when I moved to Delray and got a job at the old Monday-Thursday Papers. We used to go to Ken & Hazel’s or the Green Owl for the local scoop. In Conklin, that source of local sentiment would be Jane’s, a local landmark.

From the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin:

“Who would think, at age 18, growing up in such a beautiful community, to have such hate?” said Jane Lazaros, who’s owned the restaurant on Conklin Road for 28 years. “What is all this hate?”

That’s the question many in town had on Sunday: Where did the hate come from?

A small town outside Binghamton, Conklin captures the grittiness of much of rural upstate New York. The greater Binghamton area, with about 195,000 residents, has seen better days, with major employers such as IBM long gone from the region, although Dick’s Sporting Goods and Amazon have opened massive warehouses in recent years to provide some relief.”

What is all this hate? It’s a good question, awkwardly phrased, but we know what she means when she says it.

It’s also a question that is sadly familiar for the Conklin community. It was only 13 years ago when a gunman walked into the American Civic Association immigration center in Binghamton and killed 13 people, wounding four others. I had forgotten about that and that me surprised me. Having lived in Binghamton, that shooting should have resonated with me, but there are simply too many heinous acts to remember them all. That’s sickening.

In that incident, the shooter was Vietnamese American, but investigators determined that he was motivated by racism and hatred for immigrants.

Racism and hatred….it’s an affliction we can’t seem to shake.

There’s a coarseness to our society these days that is having an impact. Words are important. They tend to leave marks when loaded with hate. And hateful messages tend to manifest into actions.

And this week I can’t shake the image of Celestine Chaney, 65. She was shopping at Tops with her sister for some shortcake to go with the strawberries she had sliced at home.

Her sister says they were giggling as they decided to make a shrimp salad and picked out rolls, lamenting the high price of food these days. Just two sisters out on a Sunday enjoying what is usually a mundane chore.

It was an impromptu visit to a neighborhood store. Little did they know that 200 miles away a hate-filled murderer, barely an adult, was plotting to kill as many Black people as he could find….

He found Celestine Chaney and 9 others.

It’s hard to find words that can heal this kind of pain.

We also know that our politicians won’t do anything to address the situation. This time, we are not even hearing a whole lot about steps we can take to stop this kind of thing. We know better now. We know our so-called “leaders” won’t do a damn thing except stoke more hatred in an endless cycle that when taken to an extreme leads to bloodshed.

Meanwhile, the hate keeps coming at us. And it’s armed.

Give us strength.

 

A Matter Of Trust

A rare gem named Pearl.

I just finished a book called “Thank You For Being Late” by Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times.

It’s a fascinating read that seeks to explain the changes happening in our world as technology accelerates and Mother Nature reacts.

But the book really takes off when Friedman returns home to St. Louis Park, Minnesota to describe an idyllic childhood in a middle-class community where people looked out for each other and trusted their leaders and their institutions.

Trust.

Now that’s a powerful word; loaded with meaning and importance.

When you think about it, trust is our most valuable commodity.

When you earn trust—and it must be earned—you can leverage that trust to do big and important things.

Friedman relates a story about the mayor of St. Louis Park backing a solar Wi-Fi program that cost the city $1.7 million. Then winter came and the technology didn’t work. It was a complete loss.

The mayor went to the Chamber of Commerce stood up at a breakfast and told a packed room that he was “the idiot” that voted for the plan. He owned the mistake. His honesty built trust.

And when he walked around the community he was greeted with empathy.

“Too bad that didn’t work,” citizens would say. “What’s the city going to try next?”

That message wasn’t delivered with cynicism or snark. There was no “gotcha” expressed, just a genuine desire to say “hey, you messed up, you owned it, we appreciate that, and we hope you’ll try new things in the future.”

Can you imagine that happening in Washington D.C.?

Can you imagine that happening in Delray Beach?

Recently, a former city water inspector filed a whistle blower lawsuit alleging that she was fired without notice for speaking out about issues relating to water.

The city denies the allegations. In fact, the city denies that she was fired at all. She was merely written out of the budget. P.S. Her son was let go as well.

A few days after the suit was filed, Rob Long, a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, was on Channel 12 saying he could relate to the plight of the whistleblower. There was an attempt to remove him from the planning board because he expressed an opinion about the water that didn’t adhere to the city’s party line.

That’s chilling.

And wrong.

The politics of retribution doesn’t breed a culture of trust—in fact the opposite occurs. A toxic culture creates a climate of fear where maybe the next inspector will think twice about expressing an opinion that could affect public health.

Confident and competent leaders at all levels welcome debate. They see it as healthy and serving the larger purpose of getting to a better place.

In the Friedman book, he finds that the culture of St. Louis Park has remained intact to this day despite decades of change including dramatically altered demographics.

That’s a testament to the community and their strong desire to hold onto important values.

Yes, we live in an era of rapid change, but some things need to stand the test of time. Some values need to be preserved.

One of the things that resonated for me in the Friedman book was the ethos of dialogue and compromise that’s apparently prevalent in Minnesota politics.

I cherish both of those things. And I think they’re missing in our society today.

Dialogue allows citizens to engage, share ideas and build relationships. Dialogue enables trust. It is hard to demonize someone that you know.

Today, the “sides” talk past each other and exist to score points not to serve the nation or the community but to get back at their opponents.

One side exists to “own” the other in an endless back and forth that produces exactly nothing.

As for compromise, well has anybody seen compromise recently? It seems to have vanished without a trace.

Instead, we are seeing the powerful say: ‘why should I compromise I’ve got the power to do what I want? And those out of power saying, ‘how can I compromise? we’re getting bulldozed so I need to stick to my guns’.

This kind of thinking leads to very bad outcomes. It leads to Old School Square being terminated without a conversation or a plan at a cost of millions to the taxpayer. It leads to confusion versus solutions when it comes to water issues.

A twin word to trust is decency.

We don’t hear much of that word these days.

It’s not quite missing like compromise seems to be, but it is rare —like finding a good parking spot on Atlantic Avenue or seeing an albino alligator (see photo above, her name is Pearl, and she made her home at the Gatorland preserve in Orlando).

How do you show decency?

You start by being empathetic, courteous, and benevolent. It doesn’t cost you anything and it buys you everything.

According to Friedman, there really is something to the term “Minnesota Nice.”

Sure, there are problems. Lots of problems. There’s racism, education gaps and affordability issues. George Floyd was killed by police in Minnesota. So it is far from perfect.

But that’s not the point—every place has its problems. It is how you address those challenges that distinguish the winning communities from those that languish.

In Minnesota, they have something called the Itasca Project.

Itasca is a business led civic alliance focused on expanding prosperity and tackling big issues.

It has no staff, is project based, but has produced a ton of results. The organization is data driven and its values center on igniting cross-sector collaboration to take near term actions to solve long term challenges.

Check it out: https://itascaproject.org/

We need one of these organizations in Boca-Delray.

I’ll See You In My Dreams

My mother and father.

“I’ll see you in my dreams

When all the summers have come to an end

I’ll see you in my dreams

We’ll meet and live and love again

I’ll see you in my dreams

Yeah, up around the river bend

For death is not the end

And I’ll see you in my dreams” –Bruce Springsteen, “I’ll See You in my Dreams”

 

I’ve written a fair amount about my father over the years, but not as much about my mother.

In the wake of Mother’s Day, I’d like to remedy that.

My sister Sharon and I lost my mom, Fay, in October 1998. She was 59 years old, a year older than I will be after my next birthday.

She would have celebrated her 83rd birthday on May 4 and I often wonder how my mom would have aged. She always looked 10 years younger , so in my mind’s eye she’s forever young.

I must admit it feels odd to be approaching the age when she passed. You start to really realize how young she was when she died. How much of life she missed. I can’t help but feel that she –and we—were robbed of so much.

My mom passed away after a 50-week battle with cancer. We had a bird’s eye view to the cruelty of that disease because my parents had moved to Delray just four years earlier. We were there to witness. Thank goodness we were able to be with her.

My mom and dad were young retirees anxious to enjoy a long retirement in the sunshine with their children and grandchildren. It was not to be.

So much of what we plan, tends not to happen. I don’t mean for that to be a negative statement, it’s just the way it is. Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans.

But I still believe that we need to be intentional. I still believe we must plan, aspire, and strive even if life can level us in a heartbeat.

Losing my mother was a shock to my entire family. It was a dagger through our hearts. It’s hard when everyone you love is so sad. Who do you go to for comfort when everyone you know is in pain?

Today, as I think of those agonizing 50 weeks, I realize that I have never felt totally safe since hearing the news that the person I loved the most was diagnosed with something that had no answers—only bad options —radiation and chemotherapy designed to prolong the inevitable.

But on Mother’s Day, I won’t let myself dwell on a life cut short. When you love someone and that someone is special, they live on. They stay with us for all the days of our lives. Their essence and their goodness endures and continues to shape the people they knew and loved.

For the longest time, when I thought of my mother, I couldn’t shake the image of her being sick. I thought those awful snapshots were seared into my brain

I was wrong.

The wonderful people at Hospice by The Sea in Boca told my sister and I that in time those images—while never forgotten—would give way to happier memories. Thankfully, they were right.

It took awhile, but now I can hardly remember those images because they are crowded out by a million memories of a mother who was so good, so loving, so kind and so gentle that her essence crowds out all the bad things in this world.

If I had one wish, it would be that everyone should have a mom like mine.

I only had her for 35 years, Sharon for 33, but her love shines through and lives on in our lives and the lives of all those who knew her.

My mother personified goodness. She had one purpose and that was to take care of those she loved. She was everyone’s best friend, never said no to a request and made everyone around her comfortable and happy. She had a good sense of humor, adored animals, and loved nothing more than to spend time with my dad, her children and grandchildren.

She enjoyed the simple things in life—Mah-jongg games with her friends, lunches out, shopping, hanging out with her bichon, coffee and Entenmann’s cake with my dad after a long day at work. Oh, she loved Neil Diamond and Kenny Rogers too.

There’s a lesson in that kind of simplicity.

On this Mother’s Day, I hope you treasure your mom. For those of us who have lost our mothers, may we continue to carry their memories in our hearts forever.

Audience B. Goode

Colin Hay is a master storyteller.

 

We went to see Colin Hay in concert recently. He was a revelation; just a special, special talent.We bought the tickets a few years ago and thanks to Covid we couldn’t see the former “Men at Work” frontman until now.Since his 1980s heyday, Mr. Hay has carved out a nice solo career. His acoustic music is beautiful and I much prefer it to his better known and much better selling 80s material. In short, he’s a master songwriter and storyteller.He tells humorous tales  in between songs and his voice is so clear you can really appreciate the lyrics—that is if you don’t happen to be sitting near a rude patron.Unfortunately, Diane and I are magnets for the stereotypical rude concert goer.  We attract them just about everywhere we venture.

You know the type: sings badly (to every song), cracks their plastic cup during quiet songs, shakes his ice in his cup so you can’t hear the lyrics and talks incessantly with zero regard for anyone else.Yes, we’ve been exposed to a boorish greatest hits.

The litany of rude is long and sorrowful.Drunks at a David Byrne show, a wack job who threatened a woman seated next to me at an Eagles show, a guy who streamed a college football game during a concert, yet another guy who pointed a light at a performer and was admonished from the stage and various other rude behaviors.

We’ve also noticed—so have the performers—that a slew of people spend their time taping shows on their phones. Very few people seem to be actually present. In a large venue, I may take some video, but I’ve learned to save my photos for the end when the lights go up and the performer is taking a bow.Now mind you we are not going to shows that attract young people who may still be learning to temper their enthusiasm. We are going to many farewell shows that tend to draw fans who were young when Nixon was president.You would think the older set would know better. They don’t. Yeah, I know I sound cranky.

But I’m really not the equivalent of the fun police. I love to laugh and have a good time but I also know that my fellow attendees do not attend concerts to hear me talk, play with my ice or sing poorly to every single song. We get that your a fan, but please –FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY– let us listen to the artist.Whew…that felt better.I should let you know that at the Colin Hay show the guy sitting next to me erupted at the two rude women sitting behind us who were participating in at least a half dozen obnoxious and distracting behaviors.

He did it toward the end of the show after fuming most of the evening. I was too…in the past I’ve said things to the boors but in the back of my mind you worry that some loon will take you out. Did you hear about the idiot who shot a guy for walking his dog on the Kings Point golf course? Wouldn’t it be ironic to survive a horrendous bout with Covid only to be taken out by someone making noise during a song about vegamite sandwiches?Anyway, my row mate’s admonishment got their attention for about half a song. They recovered, started talking and laughing again and then  mercifully disappeared before the encore which was sensational by the way.So where does this leave us?I know, when I share my experiences, that I am not alone. Many of my friends say they have had the same experiences with boorish concert goers or sports fans. As for me, I’ve thought of quitting. No more concerts.

After all, I’ve had a good run. I’ve seen two Beatles, the Boss, The Band and Buffett. I’ve seen the Rocket Man and the Rolling Stones. I’ve seen The Who, U2 and Dylan. Not too bad.But..I’m not going to let the boors slow my roll.I love music too much. Plus, my hunch is the E Street Band will be back on the road in ‘23.And Springsteen fans are the best.

There’s Something Happening Here….

 

I don’t mean to brag, but just like The Beach Boys sing: I get around.

Mind you, not as much as I used to—my tank is half full these days, but I compensate by reading, surfing the web and listening to podcasts. We live in a wonderful world of content that resides at our fingertips.

If I see a movie or read a book I like, chances are I can find a podcast featuring the writer or a website that includes links to their work so I can go deeper.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about Florida real estate, especially South Florida real estate and what’s happening to our market.

If you’ve lived in Florida long enough, you’ve seen the booms and you’ve seen the busts. You’ve marveled at the prices paid for homes and buildings only to see those jaw dropping deals look like bargains a few years later. But this time it feels different. This time it feels like the very nature of our region is changing.

As I write this, our market is red hot. We are seeing prices that defy description. Land in downtown Delray is trading at $6 million an acre. Homes that a few years ago were selling in the high $200s are selling for four times that price today.

It all seems…well… it all seems  unreal.

And yet….

A whole lot of value has been built in Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

Yes, there’s traffic.

Yes, there are bad drivers and rude people.

Yes, we tend to complain about those things and a host of other maladies real or imagined.

But…

By just about any measure, this is a great place to live.

As a result, people are willing to pay a premium to live here.

After all, we check a lot of boxes.

Good weather + quality of life+ no income taxes = a robust real estate market.

Add in years of low interest rates, easy credit, and lots of money sloshing into the system and you get inflated values.

Yes, real estate is rising just about everywhere, but something different is happening here.

So, what do I mean?

Ok, a few random thoughts based on “getting around” talking to real estate people, reading articles etc.

  • Big finance is all in on South Florida. West Palm Beach is reeling in the firms, Goldman Sachs etc. So is Boca. And Palm Beach Gardens. Wall Street, anxious to have a post -Covid hedge against being locked down in NYC, sees our area with all its wealth and proximity to Palm Beach as a very attractive option compared to NY, New Jersey and Connecticut.
  • West Palm Beach, under the able leadership of Mayor Keith James, is having a “moment.” I’ve always felt West Palm had potential beyond the ups and downs of Clematis Street or the various iterations of Rosemary Square or whatever it’s called this week. For a while, I thought the condos were going to crowd out the ability to land businesses, but there seems to be room left over for economic development and job creation. No less an authority than the Wall Street Journal is singing the praises of West Palm, noting that it has been “discovered” by many Palm Beach types who once never thought of crossing the bridge to own real estate or open businesses.
    One of the more exciting developments is the vision taking shape at Palm Beach Atlantic University. I had an opportunity to look at a scale model of the campus vision in the beautiful board room of the university. The plans include a major investment in health care on campus, a lifelong learning residential component and a center that will train future leaders while celebrating free enterprise. If it comes to fruition, it will be a big leap for downtown West Palm Beach.
  • The University of Florida is also flexing its muscles in Palm Beach County with plans to partner with some of the life science institutes that have sprouted here. I’m a little wary of how this encroachment affects FAU, but the UF brand and political muscle can’t help but make a difference in our region.
  • Speaking of FAU, I’ve had recent meetings with board members, President Kelly and professors. FAU’s ambitions are impressive. The best is yet to come at FAU. Keep a close eye on their medical school–what they are building there is beyond exciting it’s potentially transformational.
  • Lynn University (Disclosure: I serve on the board of Trustees) also has a grand vision that I am immensely proud of. Covid was a wild ride for educational institutions, and I’m endlessly impressed by the team at Lynn which consistently pivots to ride the waves of change. That’s good news for Boca and the surrounding area because Lynn radiates a whole lot of positives for our community.
  • We are also seeing health care take a major leap. The Baptist network—which runs Bethesda and Boca Community—has taken medicine to a new level. I also remain a strong booster of Delray Medical (Disclosure: I spent seven years on the board) and its sister hospitals owned by Tenet.

Health care has become a major economic driver and is essential in a world impacted by pandemic (s). In order for an area to maintain and grow its value, a good health care system is not an option, it’s table stakes.

  • There’s a lot of money moving into Boca/Delray. Take a drive through Lake Ida or Tropic Isle or La Hacienda (off of North Federal) and you almost can’t believe your eyes. So, here’s what’s happening—no judgment just observation. Older homes are being purchased for big money only to be leveled and replaced by even more expensive homes. In many cases, the new residents are replacing people who have lived here for decades and have decided to cash out and either move out of the area and or downsize. The new residents may only live here a few months a year. They are here to have fun at the beach and on Atlantic Avenue. They may never get involved in the community and they may never vote here. They are here for the amenities (again no judgment, we plan to do this in Maine in years to come so I get it.) Regardless, this changes the flavor of neighborhoods and the community. If I were still a policymaker, I would be keeping a close eye on this dynamic.
  • The wealthy and seasonal demographic moving to our community is also impacting schools. Enrollment in Delray Beach public schools is plummeting. This is a sea change from an earlier era when the School District had to add portables to keep up.
  • All these dynamics puts the squeeze on middle class families and those striving to get to the middle class. I often wonder where people who serve as essential workers will live. It is a huge challenge to create attainable housing when land and construction costs are soaring. Usually, the best way to lower costs is to add supply to meet demand. But long and uncertain entitlement processes and an aversion to density makes it hard to add supply—especially in areas near employment centers. Regardless, it will take a huge effort to provide the housing we need to accommodate those currently frozen out of the market. It isn’t fair to put it all on the development community who simply can’t make the numbers work without significant help from government.

Every study I’ve read lately is calling on government to step up with financing tools to bridge the gap but that will require political will, a willingness to take some risks to ensure housing opportunities and some policy innovation that frankly, to date. we haven’t had.

There’s more but that’s enough to chew on for now.

It will take a village to re-imagine our future. It’s coming whether we prepare for it or not, but it will be better if we prep.

Let’s just say that Florida seems to be the new “golden state”—as the bloom fades on “California Dreaming” “Here comes the Sun(shine)” state.