No News Is Bad News

This paper looks interesting.

Local news is endangered nationwide.

That’s not good news.

Democracy really does die in darkness.

According to a recent report on the state of local news, there are 204 counties in America with no news outlets and 1,562 counties with only one.

The Local News Initiative at Northwestern University reports that 2,900 plus dailies and weeklies have failed since 2005, including 130 in 2023.

Technically, we don’t live in a news desert, but our news diet is full of empty calories.

We have two daily newspapers that are shells of what they once were, and with all due respect to my friends in local TV News, they cover “big” and “visual” stories. They don’t cover the nuts and bolts of cities, the stuff you need to know.

What’s filled the vacuum are anonymous emails, social media posts (that are often way off base) and well-meaning citizen journalists who try, but often fall short for lack of time, reach and resources.

When I moved to South Florida in 1987, the Boca-Delray area enjoyed wall to wall coverage. We had three daily newspapers (the Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and Boca News and on big stories the Miami Herald would come to town), the twice weekly Monday Thursday Papers, a few local magazines, a handful of local radio stations (with actual news departments) and three TV stations.

You had to work hard to be uninformed in those days. Reporters were part of the community; we knew our beat reporters and they were often with us for years.

It wasn’t uncommon to see editors at City Hall watching meetings and trying to get the small details right to make their stories better. Today, editors sit in some remote newsroom (or in their living rooms) and my guess is many wouldn’t know Atlantic Avenue from Atlantic Boulevard. Ugh!

If you want to see how out of touch they are, read their political endorsements—utterly clueless. Check that, embarrassingly clueless. I mean pull your hair out, scream at the moon, pinch yourself to see if your hallucinating clueless.

I digress.

Sadly, the internet ate newspapers.

Local journalism is a casualty of technology and frankly some bad decisions by corporate actors who killed papers by the thousands.

Newspapers caused some of their own struggles.  Many failed to invest in their newsrooms and the industry missed the boat on how tech would devastate their bottom lines. Craig’s List and eBay destroyed classified ads, Zillow and the like took away real estate ads and Google took the rest.

Yet, we need journalism.

The loss of local newspapers means we know less about the places where we live and the people who serve us. I believe we’ve lost a great deal of civic engagement because we’ve lost newspapers and because we’ve ceded the public square to those who yell the loudest or those who have an agenda.

Yes, the very notion of community is at risk as we sink into our phones. I was a young reporter in a Delray Beach where reporters competed for scoops, fresh angles and what we called “enterprise” stories that were a little more in-depth than taking dictation at some commission meeting.

I’d like to think the community was better informed and more engaged as a result. More people voted, more people volunteered, and more people turned up at city sponsored charettes. (Remember those?) And if you must look up the word, it’s because we haven’t had a gathering of the community to share ideas in a long time.

We were also building back then, downtown needed CPR, neighborhoods were plagued by crime, there was a sense of urgency to breathe life into the city and to attract investment. These days we wrestle with success. (P.S. I’d much rather manage success than deal with a crack cocaine epidemic.)

So, when I hear candidates vow to solve traffic downtown or complain about leaf blowers, I scratch my head. We worked 25 years to put traffic on Atlantic Avenue. And the only leaves blowing were tumble weeds down our main street.

Want to solve traffic? It’s easy, create places nobody wants to visit.

For the rest of us, if you want to avoid traffic downtown, please use the grid system. Delray has wonderful “bones”—as a result I can zip around town by using the grid. I use Atlantic when I want to see what’s going on. It’s a great street my friends, but if I have get somewhere quick I use our wonderful grid.

But let’s get back to local journalism.

Regardless of where you are in your city’s lifecycle journalism is important. Accurate Information is valuable currency.

So, is there hope? If so, where?

I have some optimism in a nascent effort called “Stet Media.”

“Stet” is an old copy-editing term, lost on a generation of young journalists but the term brings a smile to this former reporter. Stet Media Group provides local news coverage in Palm Beach County.

From their website https://www.stetnews.org/ “ Yep. We’re different.

 

We don’t chase the story of the day. No car wrecks. No clickbait. (OK, we’ll tell you when a Cheesecake Factory is opening. Because: cheesecake.)

 

Our passion is public interest journalism. That means the stories we write, how we engage with readers and the events we hold are all guided by one question: How are we serving the community?

 

In town after town, news has gone dark in Palm Beach County. There are plenty of hardworking reporters, but years of cutbacks have narrowed reporting to fewer topics and fewer towns. Bloggers and smaller news organizations are doing great work, but too many are flying below the radar.

That’s where we come in. We’re writing stories others aren’t. We emphasize context, not just news. We’ll share important documents. We’ll highlight compelling stories from other reporters and show you where you can read more of them.”

Music to my ears.

Stet just celebrated its one-year anniversary.

I wish them well. Their reporting is stellar. There’s talent at work here.

They tend to be West Palm/North County focused but maybe as they grow they’ll dedicate some resources to Boca-Delray–we sure have our share of news and misinformation.

 

 

More Of The Good Stuff

I found the sweatshirt on Amazon. Didn’t order it, but will try the words on instead.

During a recent weekend trip to New Smyrna Beach I saw a guy wearing an interesting t-shirt.

Using my trusty iPhone I discreetly took a picture so I could decipher the treatise he displayed on his shirt.
Here’s what it said:

More Music. More Love.

More Sunsets. More Kindness.

More Road Trips. More Hugs.

More Fun. More Peace.

More Wandering. More Art.

More Laughs. More Dreaming.

More Adventures. More Happiness.

More Concerts. More Smiles.

More Freedom. More Creativity.

More Movie Nights. More Life.

I can’t argue with a single word. 

I didn’t see what the back of his shirt said but maybe it was a companion list of what he’d like to see less of. 

That list could be endless. But that “more” list… well that’s kind of special. I can’t stop thinking about it. 

Recently a friend told me about the four pillars of life: work, family, love and spirituality. Build all four pillars and you’ll find fulfillment. 

I can’t argue with that. But I do think life is a journey not a destination and your work continues until you can work no more. 

Anyway, I think I will keep the t shirt list nearby and use it as a guide. 

Last week, as I perused the news I became momentarily overwhelmed: Ukraine, inflation, lawsuits , predictions of a depression in the 2030s and Russia getting some crazy weapon we don’t have an answer for yet. It can drag a person down. It can make you want to cut that t shirt up and chuck it all. 

Not me. I’m not going down that path. 

So I did when I usually do when I’m feeling on the brink, I hugged my wife and lost myself in some music. 

“Late Night Willie Nelson” popped up in my Spotify feed. Yes! A brand new Willie album that features the amazing Norah Jones and Wynton Marsalis. 

And I thought how lucky are we to be alive right now. 

If it all ends tomorrow–and I don’t think it will– we will have been around to listen to The Beatles, we heard Joni Mitchell sing and listened to lyrics by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon. 

We got to see Patrick Mahomes play QB, Roger Federer glide around a court and Michael Jordan soar through the air. 

We got to go to the movies and watch Brando command the screen and we got to see the most perfect romantic comedy ever: “When Harry Met Sally.”

We see people cured of cancer who were once sentenced to die and we see foster children find permanent homes because of our own 4Kids of South Florida. I can go on and on. What a wonderful life. 

The same day I saw the t shirt, I stood on a beach at night with my wife and her family. My family.  I adore these people.  I listened as my brother in law Paul pointed his phone toward the heavens and opened an app that told us what constellations we were looking at. I marveled. 

Such a night. It’s such a night. 

Sweet confusion under the moonlight.

As I write this I am listening to Willie Nelson sing Stardust. Friends, it doesn’t get better than this. 

So let’s add more stargazing and more Willie to that t shirt list. 

More gratitude too. 

Reunions

Remembering our time in Oz while enjoying Elisabetta’s.

Recently, I reunited with three guys I went to college with at Suny Oswego.

I hadn’t seen two of the guys for 38 years—ever since we left the shores of Lake Ontario to embark on this mystery ride, we call life.

We managed to stay in touch via Facebook.  I watched their lives unfold on social media. Birthdays, trips, graduations. It’s fun to keep tabs.

But seeing each other in person was special.

We met at Elisabetta’s on Atlantic Avenue, and we wore Oswego State baseball hats to mark the occasion.

The hats served as a calling card, and we had at least six people come to the table to present their SUNY bonafides. This one went to Cortland, another one went to Oneonta, and one had a friend who went to Oswego. It was fun to compare notes.

Seeing people after 38 years apart is an interesting experience. Last time, I saw Joe and David, their entire lives were ahead of them. Last time I saw Stu was 10-12 years ago when we met at Brule in Pineapple Grove for a beer.

I’m proud to report that everyone did well in life and love. They are successful professionals with happy marriages and kids who are doing very well. I found myself taking pride in these guys—I had seen them when they were young and wild. And we shared those stories, filling in details that one or more of us forgot. It was fun to relive those days—pre-cell phone, one computer on the floor of the dorm, when Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Bruce Springsteen ruled the radio.

We spent our nights at the Tavern and on Bridge Street and quite honestly, I don’t remember talking much about the future. We were living in the moment, careening from good time to good time. It was a special time in life.

Anyway, we vowed not to wait another 38 years to get together (the odds aren’t that good for us to make it) and I certainly encourage you to reconnect with old friends. It was a very memorable evening and I must say these guys loved the Avenue, which also made me feel good.  I went home at 9:30. They were just getting started.

Embracing The Oops

A good quote stops you dead in your tracks and makes you think.

I ran into two quotes recently that did just that.

“A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams.” – Herb Caen, legendary San Francisco based columnist.

“Better an oops, than a what if” – author unknown.

I like them both and they go together.

If you are going to have a broad vision and big dreams, you are going to have to take some risks. And with risks come the inevitable “oops.”

Those that make a dent in our world risk the “oops” because they fear regrets more than they worry about mistakes. We need these kinds of people in our world. They are the ones who move the mountains, and we need those mountains to move.

I’ve been thinking about vision, dreams and risk a lot lately.

We are a little more than a month away from another big election in Delray Beach. In March, we will have a new mayor. That job means a lot, even if we have a “weak” mayor form of government. City Managers run the day to day—and obviously that’s important. We need our toilets to flush, our roads to be free of potholes and our taxes to be spent efficiently.

But mayors and commissioners are important too. They provide leadership, set policy and if they are good, they are stewards (and sometimes architects) of a city’s future.

A good mayor can move mountains. I’ve been watching mayors in this town since I arrived here way back in 1987, when this was a very different town.

I’ve seen good mayors and frankly I’ve seen awful ones too. The good ones make a difference, they leave legacies. The bad ones leave scars—opportunities lost, dreams dashed, investments and human capital chased away.

Leaders come in all styles.

Some are quiet, some are charismatic. But in my mind, the good ones have courage and pride themselves in being servant leaders. They work for the people, too often we get that equation all wrong. They are kind but willing to make tough decisions. They can bring their neighbors together and they also have the fortitude to look them in the eye and say what needs to be said.

I write this during yet another ugly election season.  Last week, I spent an hour of my life watching a video produced by the Sun-Sentinel in which they “screened” candidates running for Seat 1 on the commission, that happens to be my old seat.

It was an ugly affair.

It wasn’t illuminating but it was telling.

I saw anger, accusations, ego and “gotcha” questions, I did not hear any discussion of ideas, solutions, or dreams of what this town can be.

That’s the good stuff folks.

We need more signal and less noise. We’ve lost that on the national level years ago and I fear we are in peril of losing our nation as a result. We are less about delivering results for people and more about ensuring that our enemies fail. It’s ruinous and it makes me angry. We the people deserve better. Our children and grandchildren will suffer. History will not be kind.

Locally, we used to be oasis from that nonsense. We are no longer. And that’s why it is becoming harder and harder to find people willing to run and expose themselves to a toxic stew.

We can do better. But we don’t.

I’m what they call a super voter. That means I get a lot of campaign mail.

It’s often a steady dose of misinformation, innuendo, and pandering. We hear about “overdevelopment” but nobody defines it—do we think a four story building is too tall, do we pretend there’s no property rights or even more important— a need to create housing or expand the tax base?

Where are teachers, cops, nurses, firefighters, and those who work in service industries supposed to live? “Who cares” is not the answer. If you are in the boat, please don’t pull up the ladder, let’s responsibly make room for those who drive our economy.

Let’s welcome them to our community, let’s give our children a chance to come back here to live, work, play and serve our town.

Candidates vow to tackle traffic, taxes, and crime but I don’t see detailed plans to do any of those things. My hunch is they don’t have a plan other than to pander to your fears and get your vote. Last week, I got a mailer from a candidate promising to lower my homeowner’s insurance rates? Really?! Give me some details, I’m all ears.

The media doesn’t do anyone a favor by majoring in the minor. How about some questions about sea level rise, the housing crisis, the fact that Old School Square is still an unresolved mess/opportunity. What’s your vision for economic development? What’s your vision for the arts and culture in Delray Beach?

What skills do you bring to the dance? Because if you are elected, your job is to drive positive change not sit up there and bicker, harass staff and punt on important decisions.

In the interest of transparency, I am supporting Ryan Boylston for mayor and Jim Chard and Nick Coppola for City Commission.

Ryan is a hard-working commissioner, he’s aspirational and we need aspiration—desperately. Nick is a kind man. He connects with people. He chairs our code enforcement board and is VP of the Sherwood Park Homeowners Association. He’s involved in several local non-profits as well.

Jim has worked harder than just anybody in town over the past two decades on a vast array of issues. He’s smart, kind, and knowledgeable.

I’ve spent time with all three candidates over the years, they are community builders. They aspire.

None of them have all the answers, nobody does. The two best mayors I’ve seen here or anywhere else were smart, honest, and courageous people. Their names were Tom Lynch and David Schmidt. I covered Tom when I was a reporter, and he became a friend and mentor. I sat next to Dave for a few years on the Commission before succeeding him when he termed out. He taught me and others by example. Dave handled every issue with grace and humility. He empowered people. He was quiet but resolute.

Tom and David’s greatness stemmed from their inclusiveness—they listened to their fellow commissioners, they worked well with staff, and they listened to the community. They made sure we had goals and strategic plans that involved all the stakeholders in Delray. They didn’t divide, they didn’t pander either. They were willing to risk their seats—they embraced the ‘oops’, because they believed in the what ifs.

 Note:

We got an email last week letting us know that Rev. Juanita Bryant Goode has resigned from CROS Ministries.

Juanita is a friend and has been a wonderful community servant. She is embarking on another chapter where she will work directly with people during challenging times of illness and hospice care.

Juanita has a huge heart and for nearly three decades she served CROS Ministries in a wide variety of capacities including overseeing the Delray Beach Pantry and The Caring Kitchen Program.

She will be missed. Thanks my friend, for all you have done and all you will do.

Chasing Lightning

I missed the fedora years, but worked with a few reporters from that era.

Mark Twain said finding the right word is like capturing lightning.Sometimes the muse allows you to experience what that’s like. Sometimes the muse goes missing.

These days, I’m  chasing lightning. I’m trying to see things, trying to look deeper, trying to slow things down just enough to understand a little bit more.  I’m trying to catch lightning and put it out into the world.

I write this blog, have written two books (and sold two copies of those books!) but if you want to write, you write. It doesn’t matter if it sells, you keep putting your thoughts out into the world. And who knows, maybe someday…

I write because I love it. I write because it helps me order my cluttered mind and I write because occasionally I strike a nerve and someone sends me a kind note or stops me at the grocery store and mentions that they liked this or that.

You remember the slings and arrows—they leave a mark. But a kind word is fuel. High octane fuel.

I don’t expect to be James Patterson or Stephen King, I just write for the pure pleasure of it.

Once upon a time I made a living as a journalist. You make very little money, but you learn a little bit about a whole lot of things.I covered business, crime, government, agriculture, education and sports. I wrote feature stories and had a blast doing it.

There’s nothing like working in a newsroom, surrounded by young talent and grizzled veterans. Some of those grizzled veterans liked us newbies and others couldn’t tolerate us. I liked every single one of them. Those that were friendly, became friends and mentors. Those that couldn’t stand the sight of us also managed to teach us —a curse word at a time.

Our city editor when I started writing about Delray was a guy named Tom Sawyer. That was his real name. I was 22 years old when I started at the Monday-Thursday Papers and Tom took me out to lunch on my first day. We went to Tom Sawyer’s restaurant on Boca Raton Boulevard and he told me that the place was named after him. I think I believed him. Tom was slight in stature but loomed large in life. He had a big bark, but a soft heart. He had been around the block many times and would turn beet red when he was mad, which was at least once a day. You never wanted to be the reporter, editor or photographer who made Tom red. He would stand in the middle of the newsroom and cover his eyes with his hands waiting for the rage to pass.

I liked him. He was my “Lou Grant” and I knew if I listened he could teach me a lot.

I became especially close to a sportswriter named Jim. He was a terrific writer, immensely gifted but a classic underachiever.He wore sweaters year round, even in summer, had a beautiful dog named Mario and he loved women.I sat next to him in the newsroom and we exchanged copy. I’d look at his stories and he’d look at mine.I was young and trying to figure things out, he was older and experienced. He had style and craft and when I read his stories I knew I had a long way to go. He was good. Real good.He was also troubled.

Sometimes, after work, we’d go to a bowling alley bar off of Cypress Creek Road for a beer. I thought it was an odd location, but I’d follow Jim anywhere thinking that maybe over beers I’d gain a nugget of advice that would make me a better journalist.I soon learned that he went to the bowling alley bar because he had a thing for the bartender who looked a lot like Elvira—Google her and you may remember.He wasn’t exactly there to give me tips, but it was fun anyway.

One evening, the movie “Platoon” was playing at the bar and my cool friend suddenly broke out in a cold sweat. Without taking his eyes of the screen, he recounted his experiences in Vietnam as a medic. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the bottle of beer in his hands. He was riveted by the movie. “This is what it was like,” he said. And then he stopped talking, but in that instant I saw what my friend was wrestling with.

It was an unforgettable moment, and I learned a lot that night. Every experience makes you a better writer. Jim left the paper for a new life in Denver, but he made a lasting impression. I’ve been looking for him ever since.

I left journalism a long time ago, but journalism never left me. The writing part anyway.As we speak, I’m trying to write a play. It’s a stretch for me, the craft requires different muscles but I think challenging yourself as you get older is a good thing. I don’t know if it’s any good, or if it will ever see the light of day, but I’m determined to finish.I’m trying to catch lightning. And I don’t plan to stop any time soon.

Here’s To The Best Of The Rest

Chip Conley, a former advisor to AirBNB is now guiding people through mid life.

I listened to a terrific podcast recently.

It was about middle age.

Midlife is interesting, isn’t it?
It’s the only part of life that is often followed by the word ‘crisis’.

But we try to stay somewhat positive in this space so let’s reframe middle age as a time to blossom.

As Dylan sang: “It’s not dark yet.”

No, Bob it is not. But it’s fall and you can see winter just over the horizon.

Still, there are some things we can do if we wish to live to a ripe old age.

You need three things to live to 100 according to Chip Conley, the founder of the Modern Elder Academy which helps middle-aged people find meaning in the second half of life.

Purpose.

Community.

Wellness.

Find those three things, says Conley, and you will add years to your life and life to your years.

Let’s take a closer look.

Purpose—well that’s easy when you’re young. You wake up and you build. You build a career, you raise a family, you find your place in the world. But as you age, things shift. Maybe what you were passionate about at 35 doesn’t float your boat at 55. We must reinvent.

I’ll share what Chip Conley says on this subject. He got this from Carl Jung.

“Imagine that you are standing outside on a sunny day. Think of yourself as a sundial. In the morning, as the sun rises, you cast a long shadow in one direction. As the morning continues, your shadow gets shorter and shorter until, at noon, you cast no shadow at all—with the sun being directly overhead. This implies that by midlife we can lose our sense of identity as we strive to live up to others’ expectations. Yet, there is a profound change in the later stages of our lives.”

Jung continues, “But in the afternoon of life, something new happens. We begin to cast a shadow again.”

As author John Tarnoff infers, “the key difference is that the shadow is lengthening away from us in a new, opposite direction from the one it took during the morning. This metaphor encourages us to redefine ourselves, extending into new territories as we mature, which can be seen as an essential aspect of shaping our legacy.”

That’s a lot to chew on. Hey, it’s Carl Jung!

But basically, what he’s saying is that you can stay young by redefining yourself. You can remain vibrant and purposeful by learning new things. I see a few examples in my life.

My friend Joe in Raleigh, N.C. learned to ride a one-wheel. One wheeling has become Joe’s passion. He races and has found a community with those who share his love of speed (and spills).

My friend Randy learned to play guitar and now he sends his friends videos of songs that actually sound like music. I’m not saying he’s Bruce Springsteen, but he’s good and I don’t have to refinance my house to see him play live.

And of course, there’s my wife who learned Mahjongg, and now basically runs a Mahjongg parlor out of our dining room.

Some people try new businesses, some learn new languages and others travel, volunteer, garden, read, write, or learn how to dance.

It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you have a purpose other than watching TV, which, sadly. is the avocation of so many in middle age.

Community-–I love this one. Find your tribe, Conley advises. Get involved, join Kiwanis, find a group to run/walk 5K’s. It doesn’t matter. Community is essential to long life and happiness.

Wellness—Illness starts with the letter “I”—which is a metaphor for being alone. Wellness starts with the word “we”—which is another way of saying that purpose and community creates well-being.

My friends and I are well into middle-age, which Conley defines as 35 (kind of young if you ask me) to 70 (that’s encouraging).

As close readers know, I have a set of childhood friends that I visit via Zoom every two weeks. I cherish these friendships, our common history, and the fact that we care about each other like brothers.

We started this Zoom “happy hour” during Covid, to reconnect and stay close during a trying time for everyone.

And we’ve kept it going.

We are all turning 60 in 2024, except for one guy who is a year younger but who is an honorary sexagenarian. That’s the honest to goodness word for people between the ages of 60 and 69. I will resist the obvious joke here because this is a serious and G-rated blog.

Pause….

Anyway, we’ve decided to get together IRL (in real life) this year to celebrate. The guys will be coming from New York, New Jersey, California, Wisconsin, Virginia, and North Carolina to spend some quality time with each other.

We have decided what we do not want—and that’s anything that could be considered epic—at least in the traditional sense of the word.

No Burning Man.

No Bungee cords.

No jumping out of planes (a few of us did that; it did not work out well for me) and no places where motorcycle gangs might want to hang out (we did that too and lived to tell stories about the experience so why press our luck).

We just want to be together and laugh, talk, and share.

But even the sharing has been redefined. Back in the day, we roomed together. We used to be able to sleep in cars, on beaches, and one time on a cold hard table in a dorm TV room in Buffalo, N.Y. (Don’t ask).

Happily, those days are gone. They are never to return.

As a result, we are designing this trip around snoring and prostates—-everyone gets his own room and restroom.

This reunion will be driven by conversation, shared memories, and aspirations for the future. That sounds epic to this soon to be sexagenarian.

 

 

 

 

 

Savoring What’s Magical

 

The winners of the first annual Catalyst Award: Sergeant Danny Pacheco and Pastor Bill Mitchell. Photo by Amy Pasquantonio (who is terrific).

I had a magical day last week and I just want to share.

Have you ever walked into a room and gotten swept away by the spirit and positivity in the air?

Luckily, I’ve experienced magic a few times in my life and when it arrives it makes you feel fully alive.

I live for those moments, but they can be few and far between. But when you get swept away you want to live in that moment. You don’t want it to end.

So, here’s what happened.

I co-hosted a lunch on behalf of the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation at La Cigale where we got to celebrate our grantees and honor two people who are doing amazing work in our community.

People who devote their lives to giving back are very special. I like businesspeople and admire entrepreneurs—their success creates the type of wealth needed for non-profits to address some of our most pressing needs.

But there’s something extra special about the philanthropic world so when you put those people in a room and mix them together, the molecules change.

Our goal at the foundation is to build community. Our hope is our grantees can work together and leverage each other’s strengths if possible.

We are off to a good start, but as the song says, ‘we’ve only just begun’.

A few years back, a colleague and I were asked by Mr. DeSantis to create a foundation. We reached out to friends who connected us to philanthropic leaders across Florida and the country. These leaders were generous with their time and advice, and we built the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation using best practices that we studied. It was an incredible experience to dig into this world. When we presented our business plan to Mr. D he was all in.

We started modestly with a few quiet grants in December 2022, had a busy 2023 and we are off to the races in 2024. Along the way, we are meeting and supporting philanthropic leaders who are making a difference in our community and beyond. Our areas of interest include health and nutrition (Carl was the founder of Rexall Sundown, one of the leading vitamin brands in history), leadership and entrepreneurship, faith-based charities, and civic innovation. We have a special project supporting early childhood education in South Africa where Carl spent many happy years, and we are all in on tackling Alzheimer’s Disease.

Many of our grantees were able to come to La Cigale to learn about each other’s programs and we saw them interact and partner in real time (thrilling!). It’s natural for these type of leaders to collaborate. It was a room full of optimistic problem solvers with big hearts. I wish I could harness and bottle their enthusiasm for making our world a better place.

We are getting behind “name brands” like the Mayo Clinic and Max Planck Society, but we are also working with promising non-profits such as Delray based Bound For College and The EJS Project as well as established local standouts such as 4 Kids and the Achievement Center for Children and Families. We’ve discovered the amazing people at Boca-based Second Chance Initiative and we are working with FAU on a promising program that will harness services for families who are impacted by Alzheimer’s.

It’s such a joy.

As we were celebrating, I couldn’t help thinking about my friend Carl and what his entrepreneurial talents have made possible. I wish he was here to see it all, we lost him in August, but I believe he knows what’s happening.

When I think of Carl, I can’t help but smile.

My goodness I miss him.

He was really something.

Carl was a man of action, he made things happen.

He was compassionate, generous, and colorful —in a word —he was a catalyst.

To honor that spirit— which led to so much good in the world— we wanted to create an award that recognizes the catalysts in our midst. The people who show us what is possible if we act, never give up and dare to try.

And so, we created the Catalyst Award to honor those in our community who are making good things happen.

This is a no-strings-attached cash award to individuals who exhibit transformational leadership and contribute significantly to their community. You cannot apply for this award; the work you do speaks so loudly that it can’t help but be noticed.

The catalyst award celebrates individuals who inspire and motivate others to excel.

The award recognizes those that go above and beyond to contribute to their community’s well-being.

Just as a catalyst triggers chemical reactions, the recipients of this award spark positive change wherever they practice. They are known for their ability to identify areas in need of improvement, and they take proactive steps to bring about transformational change.

They are impact players; just like Carl was.  And we are blessed to have them working in our communities.

The first ever winners honored last week are Sergeant Danny Pacheco Jr. of the Delray Beach Police Department and Pastor Bill Mitchell of Boca Community Church.

Danny founded “Delray Kicks”, a soccer program that works with children, most of them immigrants who might otherwise run from the police. Instead, Danny, Officer Mark Lucas and others  have created a program that has built relationships, taught citizenship and generally changed the lives of the kids they serve. One mom of a player called Danny an “angel.” We agree.

Danny is a special kind of leader.

He is an immigrant from Peru and he has a special feel for the immigrant experience and what these children experience.

When he said he wanted to become a police officer, people scoffed at him. Danny not only became an officer, but he also became a standout leader and community servant. Hearing him tell his story was powerful and emotional. The value this catalyst creates is incalculable. We can’t say Danny and Delray Kicks are completely unsung, his program made the national news a few years ago but more people need to know, and more people need to take pride in the value he and others in our police department bring to our city.

I shared that sentiment with our Police Chief Russ Mager who was at the luncheon. Chief Mager started his career when Delray was a far more dangerous place…the police department’s work made our community safe for success to take root. That work continues with people like Danny.

Our second Catalyst winner is the amazing Pastor Bill Mitchell, whose Boca Lead program has made a huge difference in Boca Raton and has now scaled to other cities in Florida and the Midwest.

Every month, a sold-out house fills Boca Community Church where attendees get a lesson in life and in business and community. You see corporate chieftains and small business owners, educators, non-profit leaders, elected officials and others gather to listen to Pastor Bill’s lessons. As a longtime “business guy” before entering the ministry, he can relate to anyone. If you haven’t experienced Boca Lead, I urge you to do so. You will leave inspired with tools to help your business, organization, and family. Bill Mitchell is a Catalyst and a man I deeply admire. He’s inspirational and has lived the lessons he imparts.

Leaving La Cigale last week, I felt hope for our world. I won’t let that go. I hope you don’t either.

If you want to feel magic get involved in a non-profit, attend a Boca Lead event, mentor a child, check out local cultural offerings, coach a team, rescue a pet—and celebrate those who work quietly, often with few resources, to make our world a better place.

 

 

Love & Light

 

Today would have been Martin Luther King’s 95th birthday.

Each year on MLK Day, I make it a point to listen to a speech, read something he wrote or take a stroll through his famous quotes. MLK has been a hero of mine, even though I was not quite 4 when he was assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39.

Each year, I think of Dr. King in the context of ‘the dream’ and whether America or my own community is living up to the ideals he outlined during his famous speech.

I think it’s obvious that we aren’t there yet. The promise of the United States remains a work in progress.

And that’s OK, because as Americans we are responsible for working toward a more perfect union and since perfection may be unattainable our jobs are never done. But we are called to never give up, to never stop striving to live up to America’s  ideals.

Those ideals—all men (and women) are created equal, the pursuit of happiness, freedom, Democracy—have inspired people all over the world. Those ideals are to be cherished and protected.

This year, on my hero’s birthday, I fear for America’s future and for MLK’s dream. I don’t think I am alone.

And so, in reading some of Dr. King’s most famous quotes in the wee hours of this morning I was struck by six gems which meet the moment.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.”

“A lie cannot live.”

Yes, that’s only five. But if you stay to the end, I will share the 6th.

When you read MLK two words rise above the others. They are the themes of his life, and they are evergreen. Love and light–those words will never be archaic or wrong.

And yet we are lacking both in our world right now.

We cannot remain silent. We are in the same boat now.

In this new year, I will be looking for love and light. I will strive to help those who are struggling to build a better world.

Last week, my colleague and I visited Boca Helping Hands, a wonderful charity that brings so much light to our community. We heard about programs designed to give people the skills they need to build better lives. It filled our hearts with light and hope.

As you enter the facility, there’s a saying carved into the front desk: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Indeed.

As we moved through the facility and saw the bustle of volunteers hard at work, a long line of cars lined up to receive a bag of food and a hot meal. They are the working poor, or as the government characterizes them ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed).

They are our neighbors—our brothers and sisters.

Yes, in our “wealthy” community there remains great need.

The recipients of the food were getting sustenance and a dose of love. Another program provides children with nutrition to get through the weekend. Yes, children go hungry in our community. These are our children.

When the kids are given food to take home, they are receiving love and light provided by an army of volunteers and philanthropists who shine brightly and love greatly.

Love and light. That’s the beauty of MLK. A bullet may have ended his life but his work endures, which is why I saved the sixth quote for last.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

It’s just that simple.

A Call To Heal

A rendering of the planned Wallach Center at FAU.

We stumbled on an interesting sign during a recent visit to FAU’s Theatre Lab.

The sign announced the future site of “The Kurt and Marilyn Wallach Holocaust and Jewish Studies Building.”

I was intrigued, so I did a little research and learned that the Wallach’s pledged $20 million (with $10 million going to the building) to create an education center dedicated Holocaust Studies, Jewish Studies, human rights, and leadership training.

When looking into the program words like dignity, compassion, human rights, and understanding were peppered throughout the literature.

“This is truly a transformative gift that values the strength of education in combating anti-Semitism as well as hatred and intolerance of any kind,” said Dr. Michael Horswell, Dean of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters. “This building will become a living testament and example for thousands of students and community members who pass through its doors.”

Let’s hope so.

As we begin a new year the usual promise of a fresh start is shadowed by an ominous feeling.

Our nation is divided.

Our world is dangerous.

There are conflicts that have the potential to spin out of control. It’s a scary and uncertain time.

When we are faced with these challenges, it seems natural—maybe even logical—to tune them out or try to ignore them. But we can’t.

We just can’t.

We must confront hatred and intolerance. We must step up and defend Democracy, decency, and human rights. Somehow, someway, we must dial down the hate. We have the tools to do so. We just need the will.

There are inspirations and guides everywhere if we open our eyes. People who lead with love and compassion. Organizations that are trying mightily to overcome those who seek to foment hate and divide us.

We must rise above.

Over the holidays, we watched the Kennedy Center Honors which included the great Billy Crystal.

Mr. Crystal was lauded for his comedic chops, his many hit movies and for the longevity of his career. It was great to see scenes from “When Harry Met Sally” (which is the perfect romantic comedy) and “City Slickers” which was a boon to dude ranches everywhere.

But what struck me most was Whoopi Goldberg’s tribute to her friend. She invoked a concept called “tikkun olam”, which is a Hebrew phrase that calls on us to heal and repair the world.

She said Billy Crystal was all about tikkun olam, doing right by people, healing the world in his own way through humor.

My grandparents and parents did not use that term when I was a child. But they encouraged my sister and I to be “mensches.”

A mensch is someone who tries to do the right thing—always.

In a world in need of repair, we need mensches more than ever. I’m hoping the Wallach Center mints mensches.

Here at home, we are heading to yet another election season where voters will be hard pressed to choose amidst the nasty rhetoric and flat out lies about candidates. Lost in the cacophony of mail, social media wars and robocalls are serious discussions about important issues. We don’t debate ideas; we don’t talk about challenges, and we don’t seem to be discussing opportunities either.

What a shame.

Candidates vow to “fight development”, “cut taxes and spending” and find “innovative solutions to traffic.” But we don’t see the details, do we? We never see the details.

You’re going to fight development? Ok, what are you going to do to provide housing? Are workers supposed to magically appear to serve you in restaurants, dress your wounds in the hospital and teach your kids and then just vanish? Don’t they need places to live?

You say you are going to cut taxes and spending? Wonderful! What are you going to cut? Roughly half the budget goes to police and fire, do you want to invest in those critical departments or do you want to lose our best to nearby agencies who are always hiring and always looking for great cops and firefighter/paramedics.

Then there’s traffic.

What are your solutions? More lanes? That doesn’t work.

You’re going to vote to stop that new apartment complex? Great, so our workforce gets to clog our roads driving from elsewhere when they could be living in town close to their jobs.

Everyone one of the challenges I mentioned are real and every one of them can be made better with detailed analysis, strategic decision making and the political will to involve the community and then stick to your guns when the critics fire up their laptops and call you a turd on Facebook. And you can count on that happening.

I know I’ve been rambling a little here…just taking my mind out for a spin. Thanks for bearing with me.

I’ll conclude with something else I saw over the recent break. I opened the sewer they now call “X” and was greeted by some hate-filled hack barking about Kwanzaa. Apparently, this holiday didn’t cut it for this charmer. It wasn’t “real”, it was “offensive” and “fake.”

I feel sorry for this person. I do. She was so unhappy with Kwanzaa that she had to share her venom with the twitterverse.

Like magic, a longtime resident, began posting about Kwanzaa on Facebook. Each day, he explained the principles of Kwanzaa. I had seen them before, but I had forgotten what I had learned. The posts allowed me to revisit the principles and because they were served in daily doses, I was able to think about them and process their meaning.

My favorite was UJIMA (oo – GEE-mah): Collective Work & Responsibility. Here’s how it was explained.

“Collective Work and Responsibility reminds us of our obligation to the past, present, and future, and how that will affect the role we play in the community, society, and world,” he wrote.

“As residents of “The Set.. (a historic neighborhood in Delray) we must make our neighbors’ issues our collective responsibility. By doing this, we can solve our struggles together. Each one, teach one.

To transform into the Beloved Community envisioned by our ancestors, each resident must buy into the principle of “Ujima”. We must care for – our public spaces, children, elders, history, and institutions. The health and welfare of The Set is the responsibility of all residents.

Our personal sense of Beloved Community is the key to successfully transforming our neighborhood. Each resident must love and care for The Set and pass the legacy on to our children. The Set must be recognized as unique and something to be protected.”

Well said.

I like the notion of collective responsibility. I agree we have an obligation to the past, present and future. We are called to heal the world. Let’s get after it.

New Year’s Day


 

Happy New Year!

Hello 2024. Can you believe it? We are almost a quarter of the way through the new century.
Time seems to be moving faster these days. There’s still 12 months to a year, but, to a person, everyone I’ve asked said that last year flew by.
I agree.
Even the holidays were a blur. Suddenly, they were on us and then they were over.
We barely had time to process the year that we just experienced.  And yet, we need to do just that. Life is to be lived, but ideally it should be savored if not fully understood.
Over the holidays, we had a house full of kids and their dogs. It was loud, messy, expensive, wonderful, fun and stressful all at once.
And then most of them left, and the quiet returned.
Thanks to my wife Diane, we took some time from our devices and our busy lives to eat meals together and play some after dinner games, which we haven’t done in a very long time. The games were goofy: “center left right”, ( a dice game not a political test), a card game called “Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza” (don’t ask)  and a question and answer game in which we pull a card that asks a question about our lives and experiences. Now that’s a good one.
These games were the highlight for me, I learned a little about my now adult children, shared some memories from my life and after we pushed away from the table we tried out the new Popstroke with my dad and daughter. And that’s what I will remember. The little moments are really the big moments.
We ate too much, slept too little, saw friends and tried our best to disconnect from our worries which, admittedly, is a work in progress for me. I have a hard time letting go. I’m going to work on that in the new year and beyond.
I have a hard time with transitions and I sense one coming on.
But kids are grounding. They arrive and become “the kids” again, with a pecking order, old jokes and a camaraderie that we take pride in because we are a blended family.
When it got too loud and too much, I simply slipped away and listened to an audiobook called “Die With Zero” which my friend Randy has urged all of his buddies to read (or listen to).
It was a enlightening book that urges us to spend our money now on experiences that enrich our lives and the lives of others. It’s a message that’s hard to argue with assuming you have some means.
We don’t know when our lives will end so let’s enjoy life while we are able and let’s give to others while we are here.
Time, health and freedom are going to be my three words for this year and hopefully beyond.
I used to be laser focused on leadership, entrepreneurship and community but now I want time with loved ones, health to enjoy my life and the freedom to do the things I want to do.
I wish these for all of you as well. More light and less noise as Lincoln one said, more love and less hate or indifference, more empathy for others and more unity and less division.
Have a wonderful 2024.

 

The Wish

Peace on Earth in 2024…

“I waited patiently for the Lord

He inclined and heard my cry

He lifts me up out of the pit

Out of the miry clay”- U2 from the song “40”

What a beautiful song.

Beauty beyond exaggeration.

The best songs transport you. This song surely does—the Irish rock band U2 is among the best ever.

‘40’ was the last track recorded for the “War” album. Bono called the song “40” because he took the lyrics from Psalm 40, written by King David.

Psalm 40 reminds us that a higher power holds onto us during the good and the bad days. It’s a reminder that G-d isn’t done with us yet. Though things may look grim now, there’s hope for better days to come.

Not to get all spiritual with you, but hey tis the season to do just that.

2023 has been a tough year…war, terrorism, mass shootings, political division, ghastly weather events you get the drift.

It’s easy to get lost in the miry clay, as the song says.

But I don’t want us to get stuck, I don’t want us to get lost. I long for us to build a resilient community, adaptable to change, proactive, not reactive, empathetic not vindictive.

We desperately need some counterprogramming and that’s what I am going to serve up for my last blog of the year.

We live in an increasingly complex world and yet the keys to contentment are simple: good love, good friends, a safe place to lay your head, health, hope and meaningful work/purpose.

May you have all those things and fun too.

I’ve come to believe in the power of traditions—and recently I had a chance to continue one. The best traditions are something you look forward to, they enrich you in ways that cannot be quantified.

Every year, around this time, I meet old friends at Arturo’s, a wonderful restaurant oozing with old world charm.

We are an eclectic bunch, most are retired Delray cops, a former pro baseball player, a legendary local restauranteur, a has-been former mayor (me) and this year— for the first time ever— we invited a retired firefighter to join us.

Why?
“Because everyone loves the firefighters,” according to my police officer friends. That is true.

We tell old stories, catch up on the new stuff in our lives, eat wonderful Italian food, laugh, and generally bask in each other’s presence.

It’s a brotherhood of sorts. The affection is palatable. There is nothing these guys wouldn’t do for each other.

I love listening to the stories—police officers have the best stories. They have seen so much.

As I listen, I secretly wish there was a way to share these tales with everyone who lives in our city. They would hear about how North Federal Highway was once a “den of iniquity” with prostitutes, hourly motels, and an adult bookstore.

They would hear tales of long-ago closed nightclubs rife with violence and stories of how gory crimes were solved. And I can’t help but believe that if my neighbors heard these stories, they would be amazed at what’s transpired in our village. Those who know… well they know. But there are so many newcomers, so many doubters and so many people who just don’t know where we came from.

I think our story is a remarkable one. That’s what drives me to write every week.

I have so much respect and admiration for what the Delray Beach Police Department brings to this town. The Fire department too. There’s a reason why “everyone loves the firefighters.”

It is because they are there when we need them to protect our loved ones and our property. The profession attracts good people—wired for service and able to make sense out of chaos. They save lives every day. It’s extraordinary and wonderful.

At the end of the evening, we gather for a group photo. We’re closing the place.

Every year, we have a little less hair on our heads and the hair that’s left is grayer. But the camaraderie grows stronger every year. So does my appreciation. Friendship deepens with time if we open our hearts.

Yes, traditions are good.

Men are notorious for bottling up our feelings. We don’t say out loud what we feel in our hearts. But as we get older and we lose friends and see others enter the waiting room so to speak, we begin to feel a sense of urgency. We reach out, we speak out, we say words out loud. And it feels good to do so.

We summarize because we don’t know if there will be another year. We hope the tradition continues until the last man is standing, but we don’t know when that time will come, and we are keenly aware of our mortality.

Everyone at the table last week has experienced loss: Loss of a loved one, personal health struggles, loss of a career or an identity, loss of innocence and loss of infinite possibilities. Life is finite and time is precious.

But the best part of aging is that we let our let our guard down. And so, when we meet, we sum up. This year, I was given the gift—unexpected– of some kind words from a group of men I deeply admire. And that’s the kind of gift that makes someone rich.

Maya Angelou said people will forget what you said, but they won’t forget how you made them feel.

If you make people feel good about themselves and about their contributions, you have given them the best gift possible.

I want to thank you for visiting with me every Monday. Extra thanks to those who read to the end. Have a wonderful Christmas and see you in 2024.