My Santa Experience

Mrs. Claus came for a visit. She’s definitely on the nice list.

A few months ago, I was asked to become a volunteer Santa at Delray’s spectacular holiday display at Old School Square.

It was an honor and one that I shared with several close friends who were also asked to put on the red suit and greet scores of children who come to “Santa’s House” located right next to the famous 100 foot Christmas tree.

It may sound silly, but playing Santa is a big deal.

My good friend Jim Nolan nailed the role for years and years and he told me how special the experience was for the children who sit on Santa’s lap and for Santa himself.

It’s a magical experience to hold a baby for a photo as they prepare for their first Christmas and watch new parents glow with joy.

It’s also very special to meet a vast array of beautiful children who believe in Santa with every ounce of love in their hearts.

But before I tell you how wonderful it all was—the hugs, the smiles, the awe you see in a child’s eyes, the offbeat questions (are Reindeer’s smarter than dogs?) and yes the ones who see you and hide in their mom’s arms —I have a confession to make.

The whole experience stressed me out.

I’m not one to put on a red suit, white wig, beard and gloves. It’s just not me.

And so I was stressed out about my four hour shift last Sunday night.

Would I make a credible Santa? Could I answer the questions? Could I ask the right ones to draw out the shy children and encourage them to share their Christmas wish lists?

We did receive training at the beautiful home of Charles and Elise Johnson that featured an actual graduate of Santa School. (There is such a thing).  We learned to “Ho Ho Ho” and how to handle difficult questions and what to do if a child was frightened by the Santa experience. Our instructor looked exactly like the real thing and during the social part of the training showed me his drivers license. It read S. Claus. Could it have really been him?

Maybe.

Anyway, let’s just say I was nervous.

Aside from the desire to deliver for the kids, there’s the logistics of the assignment.

Wearing a beard and a warm suit for several hours is not an easy thing in Florida. And I will forever sympathize with the Santa’s I encounter from here on out.

Several of the toddlers I met enjoyed touching the beard and then had trouble getting untangled. Good thing it wasn’t real hair or it might have hurt.

Anyway, I absolutely loved the experience. And it was an experience.

My excellent helper/photographer Rachel  and I met with children of all ages including several grandmas (one wanted a grandpa for Christmas), 20 somethings (one asked for a 1965 Chevy Impala and the other asked for world peace) and a homeless woman who just wanted a hug—that wish was granted.

All in all it was a magical experience. Not sure I will repeat it, but if you haven’t tried it I highly recommend it. Just make sure you can find an air-conditioned space to sit and a comfortable white beard.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dangers of Ego & The Value of Good Stewards

You can still move the big rocks without breaking everything.

I’m fascinated by the strange tale of WeWork.

The seemingly innovative co-working company with the brilliant branding and patina of cool has imploded before our very eyes.

First, the company abandoned its long anticipated IPO, then it fired its high-flying CEO Adam Neumann, then it cost its largest investor Softbank billions of dollars and now comes the human fall-out with one-third of its employees—about 4,000 people—being laid off just in time for the holidays.

Merry Christmas.

Bah humbug.

It was only a short time ago that those people were working for the most publicized start-up in the world, a company once valued in the tens of billions for a boss who flew around the world in a $60 million jet and summoned the heads of stock exchanges to his home so they could audition for his business.

Now he’s gone– albeit with a platinum $1.7 billion parachute— a huge reward for an egomaniac who hurt a whole lot of people on his team by serving his ego and ambition over the bottom line.

It’s quite a tale, but sadly not an unfamiliar one.

We all know examples of people who crash into our lives, businesses and organizations armed with bravado, ego, bold ideas and often a whole lot of charisma.

Some actually have the goods and deliver. But many crash and burn and sadly take a slew of people with them.

A few years back, I was asked to talk to a wonderful group called Creative Mornings. The topic I was assigned was genius, a challenging topic to distill.

Since giving that talk, my feelings have evolved somewhat on the topic of genius.

While I still admire those who are blessed with genius, I have become more acutely aware of its darker side.

Mr. Neumann of WeWork is clearly a genius— on some level at least. He took an idea—co-working—and made it so cool that cities that were able to attract a WeWork saw it as validation that they were an “it” place.

Softbank poured billions into Neumann’s vision which went beyond co-working to a fully fleshed out lifestyle brand. And then it crashed, under a tsunami of hubris.

A similar fate happened to the founder of Uber, whose ride-sharing idea, swept the world but whose arrogance and over the top “bro” culture ultimately forced his dismissal.

Another good example of a supreme talent who wore out his welcome is Antonio Brown, who recently gave a pep talk to the Atlantic High School football team. I’ve been told the talk was great, but Mr. Brown went from being a top wide receiver making millions to unemployed after a series of bizarre incidents which ultimately led him to being bounced from the NFL. The descent was really fast.

When egomaniacs fail, they fail fast.

There are other examples too.

Mark Zuckerberg is undoubtedly a genius, but his creation Facebook, has suffered from issues as a result of privacy lapses, data breaches and the spread of misinformation.

His formidable technical genius is often undermined by a personality that is often unwilling to own issues of his own creation. Or maybe it’s the realization that even he is not smart enough to fix what’s dangerous about his own platform.

Regardless, while I remain a fan of genuine genius and appreciate its presence in art, song, design, business etc., I’ve come to appreciate the concept of stewardship and the importance of good stewards.

Sure there is a place for the game changers and disruptive mavericks. There is also a time when the dishes need to be shattered, but there is also a real need for people who are responsible and talented stewards.

A good steward knows they are in their position for a set period of time. They know that many have come before them and that many will follow them. They have respect for the past, seek to understand it and do their best to shape a brighter future knowing someday they will hand off to another leader.

They may not get the attention of the maverick change agent or genius, but they understand their job is to protect, enhance and position their organization for future success.

Sometimes I wonder whether that concept is lost on politicians.

So when a Senator blocks a Supreme Court pick or a President ignores Congress or attacks institutions are they unaware that they have now normalized those behaviors and therefore those “favors” will be returned? When we act as if we are the last people who will steer the ship, we risk sliding into a cycle of bad behaviors and reprisals. What gets lost in the cycle of rewarding friends and punishing enemies is the actual job of governing—or any sense of stewardship. Yes, someday you will pass the baton so please don’t break it in pieces.

I’ve seen this dynamic play out locally when newly elected leaders question past decisions without the benefit hindsight and context. What might have made sense in 1991 may not make sense in 2001 or in 2019. Or it just may— if you take the time to understand and look at the big picture.

None of this is to say we shouldn’t try and do big things. We need to move the big rocks, as we used to say in Delray.

But just make sure that when you move them you don’t crush what’s underneath. And always strive to keep your humility. Because, even if you are a genius, you don’t have all the answers.

Adam Neumann built a great brand at WeWork. But it crashed and burned and cost thousands of families and investors dearly. It crashed because the genius whiz kid thought he could do no wrong.

That’s a sure recipe for disaster whether you are a CEO or run the corner store.

A better mindset is to wake up a little scared and try and anticipate what can go wrong. A better way to lead is to try and protect the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mingling With Some Mayors

Lots of stories inside this building.

Recently, six Delray Beach mayors had lunch with the new class of Leadership Delray at the Delray Beach Golf Club.

The mayors spent 90 minutes sharing, listening and answering questions from the next generation of local leaders. It was a lot of fun.

Leadership Delray is a program of the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce.

I graduated many moons ago and the program has included future commissioners, mayors, business, city and non-profit leaders. It’s a good program. And an important one because we desperately need leadership in our community.

The mayors brought a perspective from 1990 to the present, but since all were active in local affairs before being elected, the history represented really dates to the late 1960s and early 70s.

Considering the city is still young–the town was incorporated in October 1911—so covering 50 plus years of local history is pretty significant.

Which means we were here for the tumultuous 80s—which was marked by political division, crime and drugs —but also by great vision and the establishment of important institutions such as the CRA and Old School Square.

Tom Lynch and Jay Alperin, who led our city through the Decade of Excellence, were in the room to tell the Leadership class about their triumphs and struggles as they beautified the downtown, laying the ground work for the renaissance that came as a result of a lot of hard work and immense public investment.

David Schmidt and I were there to share stories about the Downtown Master Plan, the move of Atlantic High School, the rezoning of Congress Avenue and our desire to improve schools and race relations.

More recent history was covered by Tom Carney and our current Mayor Shelly Petrolia.

Tom Lynch and I were seated together at a table with an engaging group of emerging leaders who worked for the city, CRA and Police Department. Many were fairly new to Delray but they asked really great questions.

I think the mayors who attended would agree that it is important to share local history and the context that informed certain key decisions.

It’s also important to listen to the views of emerging leaders and so we asked our lunch table for one word that they felt was essential for successful leadership. We heard words like integrity, courage, commitment and compassion. Those words sum it up.

As we ended the lunch, I was sad to see the Leadership Delray class go and the mayors—my predecessors and successors— scatter back to their lives.

I think that history can be used as an educational and community building tool.

We don’t have to look far for a great example: Boca.

The same week the Delray mayors gathered, the Downtown Boca Raton Rotary Club held its 5th annual “Mayors Ball.”

Here’s how the Boca Rotary describes the event.

“The Boca Raton Mayors Ball is the one of the signature annual fundraising events of the Rotary Club Downtown Boca Raton. This enchanting black-tie event celebrates all that is great about Boca Raton. Through our partnership with the Boca Raton Historical Society we highlight the storied history of our favorite Florida small town. Each year at the Mayors Ball we present the George Long Awards to individuals and institutions that have gone above and beyond to make Boca Raton the greatest place to live, work and play.

 Proceeds from the Boca Raton Mayors Ball are directed to local nonprofits focused on health and wellness initiatives through our “Service Above Self” grant program. “

I’m told that the event raises six figures for charity. Six figures!

I know Delray has the need. Maybe, we ought to do our own event and support Delray charities.

Twice before, Delray Mayors past and present gathered for an evening to raise money for the Delray Public Library and the Delray Beach Historical Society. These “Mingle With the Mayors” events were staged kind of the like the TV show “Inside the Actor’s Studio” allowing audience members to ask questions. They were fun events and well attended.

The concept doesn’t have to be limited to mayors—but could include evenings with locals who can provide a historical perspective on past and current issues.

These are bonding and educational opportunities. These types of celebrations build community—which is never a bad thing.

 

 

 

Things We Loved in November

Marie Horenburger was a Delray city commissioner, Tri-Rail board member and former Boynton CRA commissioner.

Things we loved in November 
Well it was a busy month and this month will only be busier. We wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season…
Good to see former 32 East and Tryst chef John Thomas resurface at a new restaurant in West Palm Beach.
While he will be missed in Delray, it looks like his latest concept Sassafras, which features southern cuisine has great potential.
It’s the latest offering from the always interesting Sub Culture Group and is located on Narcisssus Avenue.
Sassafras also features sous chefs who have worked at Dada, Farmer’s Table and 32 East. 
The first and hopefully annual 65 Roses on the Avenue event to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was a smashing success.
The event was held at the Old School Square Fieldhouse and featured catering by Jimmy’s Bistro.
I’m proud to note that our companies; CDS International Holdings and Celsius were presenting sponsors.
The event was an eye opener about a disease that affects tens of thousands of people. Researchers recently made a major breakthrough which is validation that support of the foundation’s efforts makes a big difference.
Kudos to the Delray Chamber of Commerce for featuring western businesses.
The 2019 West Delray Business Expo held in November at the Big Apple Shopping Bazaar is an important step as the chamber has long sought to include and represent businesses in the greater Delray area. Bravo.
Welcome aboard Shannon Eadon.
Eadon took the reigns as the new CEO of Old School Square after a successful stint as Development Director at the Bergen Performing Arts Center.
OSS has been without a CEO since May 2018 when Rob Steele resigned.
We’re looking forward to seeing Ms. Eadon take Old School Square to new heights.
Congratulations to Joe Hart on his retirement after 30 terrific years as a Delray Beach Police Officer.
Joe has made a tremendous difference in our community and will be missed. Just a nice guy and a super cop. We wish him well on his future endeavors.

Congratulations to Ron Tarro for being awarded Maverick Mentor of the year at FAU Tech Runway, a startup incubator in Boca Raton.

Ron is a tech veteran, Delray resident and all around nice guy.

We continue to be impressed with Elisabetta’s.
We celebrated several birthdays there this month. Excellent service, great food and the atmosphere can’t be beat.
Congratulations to the three newest members of Boca’s Walk of Fame. 
Philanthropist Arthur Adler, former Fire Chief Kerry Koen (who also served as Delray’s Chief) and Florida Atlantic University which was represented by President John Kelly are the newest honorees.
There are now 81 members of the Walk of Fame which is truly a terrific idea.
We were terribly saddened to learn about the passing of former City Commissioner Marie Horenberger.
Marie was a bright light, always so friendly and positive.
She was deeply interested in local government and was a fixture at the Palm Beach County League of Cities. She was deeply involved in both Delray and Boynton Beach serving on that city’s CRA.
She was also a lobbyist with a gentle touch. A kind woman who always asked about your children and family. Regardless of what was going on in her world she always found something positive to focus on.
We will miss her smile and kindness.
We were also touched by the loss of a special young man that we learned about. Here’s the story from a gofundme campaign set up in his memory.
“On Wednesday, November 13th at around 7 am the world lost a truly special soul. Rodney Cox Jr. passed away just feet away from his bus stop as he was on his way to school. Before he could make it, he was tragically struck and killed by the Brightline Train. We will miss his joyful spirit and his contagious smile will remain in our hearts forever.

To show our Love for Rodney and his family Directors from 505 Teen Center, EJS Project and Milagro Teen Center came together to create this GoFundMe to assist with expenses while allowing the family the opportunity to support each other during this difficult time.

Rodney was such a talented and kind young man with an infectious positive attitude towards life. His family held a candlelight vigil and a large crowd showed up to pay tribute to his life and to support his loved ones. There were so many great memories shared about the type of person Rodney was and the lifelong impressions’ he left during his short time here in the physical.

Rodney aka @foreign.rich3 (his artist name) was an extremely talented artist with a gift of turning his lived experiences into stories through his music. He always talked of being a star one day to share these stories but most importantly he wanted to “Take care of my family, we are going to be Rich one day”. To know him was to believe him because he put in the work and stayed committed toimproving his craft.

Even though we all mourn during this difficult time we must reflect on his memory and smile because that’s is exactly what he would have wanted!

Amen…
We finally went up on the roof, with a visit to the rooftop bar at the new Courtyard Marriott on US 1 just south of Atlantic Avenue.
The rooftop features a great happy hour from 4-7, picturesque views looking west, fire pits and friendly bartenders.
Really cool addition and they make great margaritas.
Dishes We Dig
We remain fans of the pecan crusted chicken at Sazio. It has been too long.
Love the southern chicken sandwich at Granger’s, which is fast becoming my go-to place. Great food, wonderful service, easy parking and fair prices. Bravo.
Three vegetarians and three carnivores walked into Harvest…
Sounds like the beginning of a joke but it’s a true story and all six of us came away happy with our meals.
Harvest on Linton and US 1 remains a really great and healthy dining option for palates of all persuasions.
We enjoyed an amazing Thanksgiving at the wonderful La Cigale.
Great food, attentive service and a wonderful ambience made for a terrific holiday. P.S. There is no better biscotti in all the land.
We also recommend Baciami in Boynton Beach.
The Italian restaurant is owned by a Delray family and features a large menu, great service and ridiculously good cannoli cheesecake. Just a fabulous experience.
We also dined with friends at City Oyster and enjoyed the ambience of the avenue a few steps away not to mention some really great food. It’s good to rediscover a long time favorite.
Have a great December and thanks for reading.

Thankful…

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

It’s my favorite because it celebrates gratitude which for too many of us is an unsung concept.

I’ve learned that if we only focus on what’s wrong or what bothers us, we will never be happy. But if we focus on what we are thankful for in our lives we often realize that things aren’t as dire as they might seem in those stressful moments.

After losing my sister in law last month and seeing several friends and personal heroes of mine pass in October, I felt a sense of dread. What I was experiencing was much deeper than sadness, this was different, it was heavy and I felt exhausted.

Of course, you press on. You go to work. You call friends. You attend to social obligations and in my case you look after senior dogs and two demanding cockatiels, when all you want to do is crawl off and be alone.

During this period, I got a call from an acquaintance who reminded me of a simple concept and it lifted my mood instantly. It was Halloween time and he was feeling overwhelmed with commitments. The last thing he wanted to do was take his children trick or treating. But then he realized that if he changed one word he could change his mindset—almost instantaneously.

The advice was to trade the word “have” to “get.”

So instead of having to take his kids trick or treating, he gets to take his children around the neighborhood. And what a privilege that is.

For me, instead of ‘oh, boy I have to go home and feed, walk and medicate my dogs’, I get to do those things. My 17- year- old blind rescue Chihuahua is still happy and alive and cute as can be. And my beloved golden, who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, is still wagging his tail and giving me more joy than I can express. I get to be take care of them. For that, I am thankful also beyond words.

Luckily, I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, including a great career, interesting business opportunities and challenges, a wonderful wife and children and terrific friends.
I’m also thankful for the heroes in the community that I get to write about on this blog and for all of you who read my ramblings and reach out via comments, texts, emails, social media etc. It means the world to me.

I can’t list all of the people that I am grateful for, which is a wonderful “problem” to have. But in a broad brush, I am truly thankful for all those who serve our community whether it’s their job or whether they volunteer.

Delray Beach and Boca Raton are the communities they are because of these people and those who create economic, educational and social opportunities for all of us.

So I am thankful for the disrupters, the entrepreneurs, the leaders, the philanthropists, the business owners, the investors, the educators, social workers, health care professionals and those who protect and serve us.

From the time I was a little boy growing up on the north shore of Long Island I have admired those who came before me—those who paved the way so that others could grow and succeed. My first hero was my grandfather, a Russian immigrant who sacrificed everything so that his children and grandchildren could come to America—the land of opportunity. The land of hopes and dreams. My grandfather Abraham  and my other grandparents overcame enormous hardships and challenges and escaped from those who would have killed them because of how they worshipped. They gave us a chance to succeed in a great country.

I suppose my DNA explains my issues with bullies and those who stand in the way or don’t care whether others succeed or have opportunities.

The “I’m in the boat pull up the ladder” group and the trolls that afflict every community are not my cup of Celsius (shameless plug for our fitness drink).

No, I much prefer those who unite to those who divide, those who encourage to those who criticize and those in the arena trying to make things better to those who sit on their couches and complain about everything.

I’ve seen good people attacked, ridiculed and lied about—but I am thankful they get up every day and keep pushing.

They and we get to serve and what a privilege that is. They and we don’t have to.

And for all those who try—who take a beating but keep on chugging along– I am grateful. You bring so much to so many.

Happy Thanksgiving.

See you after the holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

The Arts Garage: Fulfilling Its Vast Promise

Unique experiences such as a reading and “playwright talk back” distinguish Delray’s Arts Garage.

When Marjorie Waldo took the reigns of The Arts Garage three years ago the organization was in crisis.

While The Arts Garage had earned a lot of applause  for its edgy programming and for presenting a wide range of jazz and blues artists in an intimate setting, the organization had become a political lightning rod with messy finances.
Enter Ms. Waldo.

Thanks to her leadership, a stellar board of directors and a dedicated corps of volunteers today the Arts Garage is on solid footing and is no longer a political punching bag.

When Ms. Waldo, a former school administrator, came aboard one of the initial “fixes” was to cancel  the theater season, a necessary financial decision but not an easy one for someone who has a degree in theater from the University of Virginia and is passionate about the magic of the stage.

So I was intrigued when I saw tickets go on sale for “The Monroe Doctrine”, a new play by Mark Scharf (remember that name) a celebrated American playwright.
Was theater making a comeback at the Arts Garage?
Yes, but in a wise move, the Arts Garage will dip it’s toes back into the theater world in a measured and financially sustainable way.

“The Monroe Doctrine” was a play reading, featuring a very talented cast of local actors. It was not a full fledged production with sets, producers, a full run etc.
The reading was a great success. The play is wonderful, the audience was engaged and the playwright was there to answer questions and share insights. In short, it was a unique experience. Intimate, unique and special.
This is how theater could work at the Arts Garage.

Perhaps readings, new works, playwright “talk backs” and opportunities to talk to the cast is the formula for success.

The Arts Garage has a wonderful “black box” theater nd there is clearly an audience for smart plays and readings.

So keep your eye on The Arts Garage. The organization remains an important player in Delray’s arts and cultural scene.

Many of the people in the audience were acting students at the Arts Garage which was a cool footnote. (I always wanted to act, but I have a face for radio).
After all the turmoil and tumult, it’s heartening to see The Arts Garage emerge on sound footing and firmly focused on the mission with an engaged leader who clearly loves her job.

Ms. Waldo is a former school administrator, I got to know her when she ran the Youth Enrichment Vocational Center, an innovative charter school founded by two close friends from the Delray Beach Police Department Johnny Pun and Fred Glass. As an educator, Marjorie has the requisite mix of warmth and passion mixed with an ability to manage what can be at times an unruly environment. It’s a great skill set to run an arts organization.

Still, while the finances have improved, this is a non-profit we are talking about. One that relies on the good graces of our Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the city and generous patrons.

So if you’re looking for a cool and important place to invest your time and charitable dollars, you may want to consider this wonderful organization.

A Legacy & An Ecosystem

BDB President Kelly Smallridge honors Brendan, Tom and Connor Lynch for their business leadership as Plastridge Insurance celebrates its 100th year.

Eight years ago, while serving on the board of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, I had the opportunity to co-chair a brand new task force focused on entrepreneurship in our community.

While the BDB is well-known and highly respected for its economic development efforts and its ability to recruit, retain and help businesses expand we felt there was a gap when it came to helping and celebrating local entrepreneurs. So we created a task force and held a successful event that filled the vast ballroom at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. We clearly had tapped into something.

The task force continued on and eventually my good friend Connor Lynch, the talented and super smart CEO of Plastridge Insurance became chair. I’m proud to report that Connor, the task force and the BDB have taken the effort to a whole new level.

The recent “Entrepreneurship Luncheon” presented by JP Morgan Chase & Co., attracted a large crowd, included a hallway full of booths featuring new companies and was graphic evidence that something special is happening here. And that’s a good thing.

The entrepreneurs are here. They see Palm Beach County as fertile ground to grow their companies and they are impressed with the talent that is available in the local job market.

For sure, we aren’t Silicon Valley, Boston, New York or Austin. But we don’t have to be. We can grow something special here. Something unique. Something sustainable.

Groups like Palm Beach Tech, 1909 and yes the BDB are playing a critical role as are our universities and the FAU Research Park.

The luncheon’s two keynote speakers were two young entrepreneurs who are proving that companies can start here, grow here and thrive here using local talent and attracting talent from other markets.

Ryan Gay, CEO of Levatas, an AI solutions firm and Shay Berman, founder and president of Digital Resource were beyond impressive to listen to—they were downright inspiring.

Mr. Gay started out in 2006 with a small team: a visionary, an operator (himself) and someone with a big brain. They paid their first employee with Taco Bell meals—he was joking (I think). But from those humble beginnings, Levatas now has 80 employees and does digital work for clients such as IBM, Intel, Dell, Office Depot and Nasdaq.

Mr. Berman came from the cold of Michigan to West Palm Beach and started a company on a couch that has twice made the Inc. 500 list as one of America’s fastest growing companies. He has stayed true to his adopted hometown, growing his company while remaining in downtown West Palm.

He started the company with $5,000 and a dream. Today, at age 27, he is growing by leaps and bounds.

At the luncheon, my friend Connor, his brother Brendan (another super smart businessman) and their dad Tom, a former Delray mayor (among the very best in my opinion) were recognized for Plastridge’s 100th anniversary—an astounding achievement in today’s complex and fast changing world.

All three Lynch’s are devoted to Palm Beach County making significant marks in business, entrepreneurship, government, education, philanthropy and economic development. They are writing an amazing legacy. I’ve been fortunate to watch them and occasionally work alongside them.

Brendan and I serve on the board of a company we’ve both invested in and 30 years since meeting Tom, I still find myself seeking out his advice and counsel. Connor and I have served on several non-profit boards together and he’s always brought good ideas and insight to the table.

Kelly Smallridge, President and CEO of the BDB, noted that she if ever wrote a book about the history of economic development in Palm Beach County Tom Lynch would be at the top of the list of contributors.

It was heartening to me to hear that, because I believe that Kelly is right and that Tom is immensely responsible for so much of the good we see in Delray and also in Boca where he was also very active as a past chamber chair and School Board chair.

To see his sons run with that legacy of civic achievement makes my heart sing with gratitude.

In order to build a better community one that will support entrepreneurs and everyone else frankly—we need civic leaders. We need champions and long term thinkers who focus on the horizon and then do their best to make things happen.

It’s called leaving a legacy.

The job is never done. Success is never final. We will never arrive at the destination but we still need to commit ourselves to the journey.

Check out www.bdb.org and make sure you get tickets to next year’s entrepreneurial event. Better yet, let’s commit to helping grow entrepreneurs—whether it’s trying out a new product, spreading the word, becoming an angel or seed investor, starting your own company or encouraging someone who has done so we all have a meaningful role to play.

 

The Climate Like The Times Are A Changin’

I saw an old friend the other day and she told me she was considering moving back to the northeast.

“Why?” I asked. “I thought you loved South Florida.”

“I do, but I just can’t take the heat anymore,” she said.

I get it. So do the lonely unworn sweaters that sit in the dark recesses of my closet. They long to be seen.

We are coming off the hottest October since record keeping began 127 years ago and temps nearing 90 degrees continued into early November.

I’ve lived here 32 years and you don’t have to be a climate scientist to understand that the weather is changing. I don’t remember worrying about King Tides or even talking about them until recently.

As for hurricanes, well we’ve always lived in fear of them but now we are told that they will be stronger, more frequent and will move more slowly in the future which means more havoc and destruction.

But let’s back up a tad.

There are those who deny climate change despite the overwhelming science and the evidence we are seeing with our own eyes. But pick up any newspaper or tune into any news station and it sure seems like the climate is making a lot of noise these days.

Freak fall snowstorms. Record droughts. Wildfires. Super storms. Heat waves and rising seas are there for all to see or I suppose deny.

Luckily, in Florida anyway, most of the public seems to get it.

A recent survey by Florida Atlantic University reveals that most Floridians are concerned about climate change but don’t feel government is doing enough to address the problem.

Two-thirds of Floridians are concerned about the well-being of future generations due to climate change and that Florida state government is not doing enough to address climate change impacts, according to the first-ever Florida Climate Resilience Survey conducted by the Florida Atlantic University Center for Environmental Studies (CES).

The statewide survey shows that 68% of Floridians either agree or strongly agree that climate change has them concerned about the well-being of future generations in Florida. Only 28% said that Florida’s government (state, county and municipal) is already doing enough to address the impacts of climate change.

Here are some of the highlights of the survey:

  • A majority of respondents support future solar energy production in Florida (51%).
  • Almost half of respondents are willing to pay $10 per month to strengthen Florida’s infrastructure (such as bridges, roads, stormwater systems) to weather hazards (47%).
  • A majority of respondents are in favor teaching climate change causes, consequences, and solutions in Florida K-12 classrooms (68%).
  • More than half of Floridians (56%) state that climate change is real and that it is largely caused by human activity, including 44% of Republicans, and 59% of Independents, and 70% of Democrats.
  • Nearly 6 in 10 Floridians (59%) believe their household to be well-prepared for climate hazards, with survival supplies such as food, water, power generators, phone chargers and radios.
  • Most Floridians are moderately or extremely concerned about hurricanes becoming stronger or more frequent (65%), temperatures rising (61%), and rising sea levels (59%).

“Florida’s prosperity is strongly influenced by its climate,” said Colin Polsky, Ph.D., director of the FAU Center for Environmental Studies and lead author of the study. “Our warm

temperatures and abundant rainfall support our top-tier tourism, agriculture and other industries. But our weather patterns also present Floridians with risks, such as flooding and high winds.

Today, the prospect of climate change adds to our risk profile in ways we are only starting to understand. The results from this first quarterly statewide survey paint a picture of how resilient

Floridians are to the climate risks we face.”

Younger Floridians ages 18-49 are more likely to agree with the scientific consensus on climate change and its attribution to human activities (60 percent) than those ages 50-64 and 65 and over (51 and 52 percent, respectively).

“Since the early 1990s, the climate change question at the national-level has become increasingly polarized along party lines,” Polsky said. “Yet in recent years a growing number of

states and cities have taken meaningful actions to recognize, study, and address climate change. These actions are largely consolidated in blue-leaning states, unlike Florida, and the national level discourse remains polarized along partisan lines.”

Yet, the business community is viewed by a large swath of the electorate (45 percent) as the group who will, through innovation and entrepreneurship, lead Floridians to successfully adapt to weather hazards.

“In my experience in southeast Florida for the past five years, the private sector leaders are, regardless of party affiliation, are not only actively concerned about challenges linked with our

changing climate, but also committed to meaningful actions,” Polsky said. “They’re even getting impatient. Now through this survey, we may be seeing similar support statewide for climate

solutions grounded in innovation and entrepreneurship.”

It’s about time.

Or maybe it’s too late. I sure hope not.

So much is riding on how we meet this challenge.

Much of our tax base sits along the coast. So much of our population is vulnerable.

We have no choice but to try and figure things out.

Awareness is important, but taking action is critical.

P.S. Sprawl like development isn’t the answer.

 

 

 

 

Veterans Day

 

Many years ago– it was 1987 to be exact–I drove a blue ‘78 Toyota Corolla 1,328 miles from Binghamton N.Y to South Florida to take a newspaper job in Boca Raton.

I worked for the Monday-Thursday papers which were pretty famous in those days in a warehouse type office on East Rogers Circle.

The newsroom was populated with amazing characters. Talented writers, editors and photographers.

The managing editor’s name was Tom Sawyer. He took me to lunch on my first day at work at the restaurant also named Tom Sawyer.

He looked me in the eye and told me the place was named after him. I think I believed him. I was young and naïve. He was grizzled and experienced. He was also tough and gruff and would help me grow up fast in the business.

In the newsroom they sat me next to a sportswriter named Jim Baker.
He was a good writer, about 20 years my senior.  Jim was experienced and wore sweaters every day even in summer.
We quickly became friends and he sort of served as a mentor for me even though I was writing news  and he was covering locals sports. I shared a lot of what I was covering in a rip roaring 1980s era Delray Beach and we talked about sports, music and politics.

Jim was a Vietnam Veteran. And I’m thinking about him today which is Veterans Day.

I’ve long lost track of him and have tried periodically to find him. To date, I haven’t.
But even if I never do, he made an impression on my life.

I hadn’t really known a Vietnam Veteran before and over the course of my brief friendship with Jim he would occasionally open up about his experiences over beers at a bowling alley we would frequent off of Cypress Creek Road.

The bowling alley is long gone but I was told it was once owned by tennis hustler Bobby Riggs. I’m not sure if that was true or just an urban legend. South Florida was different back then. Less built up and we found ourselves driving south for amusement because there was nothing much to do in my new hometown Delray. Jim lived in Sunrise and so Cypress Creek was on his way home.

Jim liked the bowling alley bar because the beer was cold and cheap and the bartender looked like Elvira. Google her if you must. But she was a big name back then.
One day, the Oliver Stone movie “Platoon” was playing over the bar and I could see Jim’s demeanor change.
The color drained from his face, the man who wore sweaters in 90 degree heat started to sweat and slowly he began to tell me more about his experiences in Vietnam.
He was a medic. He saw a lot. Things were never the same for him he said. There were more details and he told me the movie was a very accurate depiction of what life was like in the jungles of Vietnam. He spoke softly and slowly his eyes never leaving the screen. I remember his face looked very pale as if the color was drained from it.

I just sat and listened. I may have thanked him for sharing. It’s hard to know what to say. I was 22 or 23 at the time. I really hadn’t lived much yet, but I remember recalling that Jim had seen a whole lot more when he was my age. What he saw changed him because there is just no way to experience war and not have it change you.

Since then, I have known and talked to several other Vietnam vets, a few World War II vets and a few Korean War veterans. I have also met some brave soldiers, men and women, who went to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I hope you have also had a chance to know and talk to people who have served.

They are special people. We enjoy America because of their service and their sacrifices.
There is no America without them. It’s just that simple.

And yet, how often do we think of those who serve and have served?
How many veterans suffer health and mental issues as a result of their service? How many are homeless?
The statistics are alarming.
My old newsroom neighbor Jim was clearly affected by his service. I learned a lot from him that day. It wouldn’t be long before he left the newspaper for a new life in Denver. We promised to stay in touch but we didn’t. Sometimes that happens. But I will never forget Jim. How he took me under his wing when I was the young guy in the newsroom, how he befriended me and then confided in me.
Today, I will toast my old friend and all the veterans and active duty service members and thank them for keeping us safe and free.
We should honor them each and every day.

A House Divided

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”—Abraham Lincoln.

I was thinking of Lincoln last week as I watched news coverage of the historic House vote on impeachment.

As member after member rose and went on record for or against, we saw the stark and dark divisions in our country laid bare for all to see. Of course, it was nothing new. We see it every single day and have seen it for years.

And I thought of Lincoln. And whether our better angels have departed for good.

Presidential historian Jon Meacham reminds us that we have been through worse and have always come back and for sure we have. But I have this nagging feeling that somehow what we’re seeing is different.

And I thought of Lincoln.

I went to the Internet to re-read his “House Divided” speech. I hadn’t read it in decades, since I was in school.

The House Divided Speech was delivered on June 16, 1858, at what was then the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, after Lincoln had accepted the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination to run for the U.S. Senate.

The speech became the launching point for his unsuccessful campaign for the seat, held by Stephen A. Douglas; the campaign would climax with the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.

At the time, even Lincoln’s friends regarded his speech as too radical for the occasion.

But when you read it, you can’t help but feel that it is tame by today’s standards. The language is almost poetic, the writing is outstanding and while he argues passionately against slavery it is devoid of personal attacks. Instead it is full of ideas and optimism.

It concludes with the following line: “We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail.”

It is vintage Lincoln, acknowledging the high stakes and the possibility of failure, but ultimately ending on an optimistic note.

I don’t see that optimism today. That belief that things are going to get better, that problems are going to be solved and divisions will be repaired.

Not on the international stage where a teenager chastises the world’s leaders for doing nothing to save the environment and not on the national stage where we see a constant barrage of attacks, lies and accusations. Even locally, we see a ton of negativity especially on social media which can be a cesspool.

In such a world, is there a place for our better angels to make a stand?
Are people willing to put the world, nation and their own community ahead of their tribe?

What will it take for good people to rise up and say enough is enough?
Do we sit idly by as standards and rules that seemed to work for so long get obliterated?

Or will we continue to bicker and watch the heat and anger rise and take us to ever more dangerous places?

It’s a fundamental choice to make, but the path to something better is not clear.

As a hyperlocal blog, I invite you to cruise some local Facebook pages and see what you find.

It seems like almost every post that has to do with local government attracts a large share of cynicism and snark.

Pebb Capital, a fine firm with a deep track record of success in real estate, ponies up a whopping $40 million to buy the Sundy House and the first comment you see is a cynical prediction that the historic structures will be bulldozed and the historic neighborhood trashed. Followed by comments such as “Delray is shot,” no longer charming or in the least appealing. Really? Is that true?

Should we be concerned about historic properties? Of course. But there doesn’t seem to be any trust in the process or in the officials responsible for enforcing the city’s codes and land development rules.

In reality, with Pebb Capital in town, we will actually see the long-awaited investment promised. We won’t ever see 10 story buildings downtown and if you want to see real traffic try navigating Glades Road after 4 p.m.

To be sure, there is plenty to be concerned about in Delray and I have written extensively on those topics. I will note that you only spend time on the things you care about. So when we see columns on instability at City Hall, poor leadership, a lack of long term thinking, incivility, the lack of talent attracted to public service and rising rents downtown it’s not coming from a nasty place but from a love of this community and a desire to see it thrive and be a happy place. I hope the other comments I referenced on Facebook come from that place too. Sometimes I have my doubts.

While fixing the national scene may be a bridge too far, we can always start at home.

Groups like WiseTribe offer a great template for building community.

Another suggestion is to go back to the old playbook.

Delray made significant strides beginning in the late 80s when the city began to offer a slew of ways for citizens to get engaged. From citizen police academies and resident academies to visioning charrettes and neighborhood dinners, there was a concerted effort to find, recruit and bring citizens to the public square so they could work together and building a better city.

It worked.

As important as those initiatives were, they may be even more important today. We cannot let social media be the only or even the primary way for citizens to engage. For sure, there is a place for Facebook. But it is a poor replacement for face to face meetings and social media does not provide a meaningful way to facilitate important conversations.

It’s hard to demonize someone sitting across a table from you, but very easy to do so on Facebook, especially since the platform allows for the use of fake identities.

Sometimes the old fashioned ways are best; face to face conversations still have a place in our hyper connected world. If we lose the ability to relate to our neighbors we will lose the common ground that builds community and with it our sense of belonging.