Finding Inspiration @ Boca Lead

Pastor Bill Mitchell who has an extensive background in business draws big crowds for BocaLead.

 

I have to be honest, I’m more apt to say no these days than yes to social functions.

It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I’m tired, very busy and fantasize more about a Lazy Boy and a cold beer than I do a banquet and a baguette.

Over the years, I’ve been to countless luncheons, fundraisers, ribbon cuttings, cocktail parties and functions; you just get to a point where you just want to chill and binge on Netflix.
But there are certain people I just can’t say no to…Karen Granger is one of them.

Karen and I have known each other for many years and through many careers. The former President of the Delray Chamber is with a wonderful organization called 4 Kids these days and she’s happy doing important work for children and the community.
So when she invited me to attend a leadership luncheon I said yes.
Why?

Because I trust her judgment and because we are passionate about many of the same things. For example, we are both leadership junkies.
So Karen took me to a monthly event called BocaLead at Boca Community Church and it was amazing. Just as Karen promised.

A capacity crowd of 450 people packed into the event to hear Pastor Bill Mitchell give a fascinating and practical presentation on how to be a better leader.
It was something.

Everywhere I looked I saw community leaders—business leaders, non profit leaders, political leaders and educational leaders. These are the people who are dedicated to making Boca the finest city in the world. Yes, the world. They are ambitious in Boca and at BocaLead.
That’s a wonderful thing.

Newly elected Commissioner Ryan Boylston was there and we both agree that we would love to see something like this in Delray.

Apparently, the BocaLead concept is expanding to other cities.
Each month, the attendees enjoy lunch and fellowship and then learn about life and leadership.
Yes, it’s set in a church and it is part of Boca Community’s ministry, but the message was inclusive of all faiths.

The message is also decidedly optimistic, calling on leaders to dig deep, be present, recharge, give back and do good in the world.
That’s always a good thing, but especially now with where we are as a society these days.

It’s also very reassuring to know something like BocaLead exists and to see it so popular.
I can’t believe I didn’t know about it. I’m glad I do now.
I urge you to check it out. And mostly, I’m grateful for my friend Karen Granger.
For thinking of me. And for all she does for people and the community.

For more information on BocaLead visit http://www.bocacommunity.org/bocalead/

 

 

Making History, Living History

Yvonne Odom

““If we lose love and self respect for each other,this is how we finally die”
― Maya Angelou, who would have been 90 today.

Last week, civic rights icon Linda Brown passed away.

She was the historic figure and namesake in the landmark Supreme Court case “Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas” which overturned school segregation in 1954.

When I heard the news, I immediately thought of my friend Yvonne Odom.

Mrs. Odom was the brave student who integrated Seacrest High School seven years later in September 1961. Seacrest would later become Atlantic High.

Mrs. Odom was in 10th grade that year when she walked into that school alone. It’s hard to imagine, from the vantage point of 2018, what that must have been like.

When Mrs. Odom went to Seacrest on her first day, a white stranger reached out and took her hand. That stranger was Paula Adams, a student council member. She wanted to help Yvonne cope with the stares of students.

As we remember the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Assassination today and this week, much is being written about the civil rights movement and how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go.

Race is clearly still a major issue in America—our schools, neighborhoods and many institutions remain segregated—despite the 1954 ruling. And yet there’s been progress.

Back In 1961 Delray, the school’s administration was so worried about Yvonne’s safety that they asked her to use the faculty bathroom.

They didn’t know her well. She insisted on using the student’s restroom. She was not afraid.

Mrs. Odom paved the way for future African students at Seacrest/Atlantic.

And she walked away from a lot to be a leader–people give up a lot to be “the first.”

At Carver High School, she was a standout in many ways. Her basketball coach was the legendary C. Spencer Pompey who had identified Ms. Odom as a leader. He was right, as he always seemed to be.

Writing the name C. Spencer Pompey gives me an opportunity to tell you how wonderful he was—a gentleman, an historian, a mentor, a leader, a teacher and a pillar of strength not only in this community but throughout Palm Beach County and the state. People like the Pompey’s (including his wife H. Ruth), Elizabeth Wesley, Solomon D. Spady and others are important. They become important people because of the impact they make, the legacies they leave, the lessons they impart and the lives they mold—positively.

Yvonne Odom was and is a leader. She is an important person.

The year she left for Seacrest to make history was going to be her sophomore year at Carver High School. She had been chosen by Mr. Pompey to be captain of the girls basketball team. She was also slated to be part of Carver’s Homecoming Court, which was a big deal and a major honor.

But she left for Seacrest for a more important mission….and because she was African American, school officials thought it best to minimize her contact with the white kids. That meant: no sports, (impacting her ability to earn a college scholarship), no physical education classes and no rides on the school bus.

According to Sun-Sentinel archives, Palm Beach County desegregation began with a lawsuit filed in 1956 by West Palm Beach attorney Bill Holland, who objected to school officials’ refusal to let his son be admitted to a West Palm Beach elementary school.

 

A committee, which included Holland and Odom’s father, the Rev. Randolph Lee, went to black families’ homes to recruit black students to attend white schools in Jupiter, Lake Worth and what was then Palm Beach Junior College.

 

Lee, a minister who worked with Holland and the attorneys, decided his daughter fit the profile of what they were looking for.

 

Mrs. Odom was one of five students who were used in the group’s plan to integrate. She fit the bill: a top student who exhibited strength and character.

Mrs. Odom’s father, Rev. Lee, worked hard to ensure his daughter’s safety, working with administrators to make sure she was OK.

In my own prior interviews with Mrs. Odom she said she was never physically abused but was called derogatory names on two occasions.

She went on to a distinguished career in education, including teaching at Carver Middle School.

She has also been involved deeply in the Delray community for decades.

Linda Brown also remained involved in the “movement”. She was an important person.

As was MLK.

A single bullet changed the world 50 years ago in Memphis.

A half century later we continue to mourn the death of MLK—but the work continues. It always does. We are nowhere near the mountain top. To some, that may be a depressing prospect and truth be told there are sad elements to this journey, but to others the dream is so compelling, so valuable and so important that they are willing to keep on going. Thank goodness for their commitment.

We are lucky to have people like Yvonne Odom in our midst—living testaments to history but like others she is not merely a relic of the past. She remains hard at work in the community. As it should be. As we all should be.

 

 

 

Things We Loved In March (with one exception)

March Madness ends in April. Our prediction: Villanova.

 

March was a great month.

Glorious weather, lots of things happening: St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Flora Exhibit at Old School Square, March for Our Lives etc.

Here’s what caught our eye:

Students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School joining Hamilton Star Mandy Gonzalez onstage of the Crest Theatre at Old School Square.
Our friend and local hero Joe Gillie described the event beautifully on Facebook: “This is why Old School Square is here.” Yes indeed. Preach Joe!

Receiving a text message from another of my heroes Bill Wood. Trust me, it’s a thrill. Ask him to text you and you’ll see why.

The Dr. Zhivago drink at Che with some empanadas of course. A truly great spot on the Intracoastal in Delray; especially at sunset.

Blowing off steam at the Silverball Museum in Delray. Pick up the Delray Newspaper and check out the back page for special offers.

Elections! Ok I’m kidding. Just checking to see if your paying attention.

My sister in law Maria’s artichoke chicken (which sadly returned to Pittsburgh).

Texting with Marisa Herman and Scott Porten and watching Scott fall behind as the lightning fingers of Marisa and the quick wit of a certain middle age blogger engulfs him in speed and humor.

Bagels from Bagels With. Also, Bagel with A Schmear, where the owners are beyond nice.

Dinner at Grato in West Palm. Worth the drive from Boca and Delray. Don’t miss the cauliflower side dish.

Kibitzing with the deli crew at Fresh Market.

Seeing Celsius on the shelf at Fresh Market. (Shameless plug number one).

Watching a Miami Heat game and seeing a Tabanero hot sauce ad. We are the official hot sauce of the Heat. (Shameless plug number two).

The weather.

Spending time with and texting with Old School Square founder Frances Bourque.

Voting alongside Jim Nolan. Well known Delray raconteur.

Seeing the Persily’s. Great people.

Visiting with Sandy Tobias and Cathy Weil from the Seagate at The Hamlet.

Name checking Pame Williams.

March Madness brackets and rooting for Syracuse along with Deborah Dowd.

Jen Costello turning 50! Where oh where did the years go? Then again her boys are now a foot taller than I am.

March fact: Delray Beach’s mean credit score is 719, ranking the city 734th in America and in the 71st percentile of cities in terms of credit. Boca’s mean credit score is 722, putting the city in the 76th percentile and ranking the city number 620.
Number one ranked: The Villages, Florida at 807. The  worst credit scores can be found in Camden, NJ at 541.  Stats were compiled by Wallet Hub.

A trip to the Miami Open on picturesque Key Biscayne. The event is moving next year to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens after 32 years at Crandon Park. The move has many locals sad, all the more reason we should keep the Delray Open and stop wasting taxpayer money on a lawsuit that had to be amended by a lame duck commission—an admission that their costly politically motivated suit was on shaky ground. Enough already. (Sorry, couldn’t contain the rant).

Lunch with Mark Sauer at the Cuban Cafe…he’s inspiring. So is his Delray Students First.

Until next month…be safe.

Remembering A Good Man

Bernie Dahlem

We lost a great Delray guy earlier this month and I just can’t let it pass without telling you more about him.
Bernie Dahlem, former president of the Beach Property Owners Association, passed March 6. He was 88.

Mr. Dahlem loved Delray Beach and he gave back in many ways.
I think the biggest gift you can give is the gift of your time as a volunteer.
Time is the one asset you can’t make more off. Once you spend it, it’s gone. Forever.
Bernie gave a lot of his time to Delray and it paid off.

It paid off,  because he was an advocate for the barrier island and it’s neighborhoods but he also took a great interest in the city as a whole. His concern and gentle ways helped a great many civic causes and it’s these types of efforts that builds a strong community.

Mr. Dahlem was also a great advisor to elected officials because he spoke plainly, he spoke softly and he always had his facts straight.
He was also good about suggesting solutions. Bernie was a great touchstone for me during my term in office and I also know he helped many other elected officials on thorny issues relating to parking, bike lanes, traffic, landscaping, beach renourishment, reclaimed water, etc. etc. He always smiled and he always brought you solutions.
That’s a breath of fresh air during days when problems get dumped on you by the truckload.

Maybe that was the engineer in Bernie. Problems were mere equations to be wrestled with and solved.
Mr. Dahlem was an engineer by training and education.
He was also a highly successful shopping center developer in his native Kentucky.

Bernie was the chairman of the Dahlem Company, a commercial construction and real estate concern founded in 1931.
But before joining the family business, Bernie earned advanced degrees in civil engineering and served in the U.S. Navy.
He would remain active for years in the Naval Reserve. Here’s a great photo of my friend that I found on the Internet.

In Kentucky, Mr. Dahlem would become active in the International Council of Shopping Centers, serving as state director of the organization.
Dahlem Construction built several landmark projects in the Bluegrass state including the Actors Theatre of Louisville and several major shopping centers and banks.
He would later serve as president of the Actors Theatre, chair of the Louisville Fund for the Arts, board member of Republic Bank and Louisville Chamber of Commerce.
He was also heavily involved in the University of Louisville where he was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame as a result of a stellar collegiate swimming career.
And the list goes on. He was a remarkable man.

His obituary also noted that he was a humble and generous man of impeccable character and integrity.
That he was.
We were lucky to have him in Delray.
He will be missed.
Bernie Dahlem left a positive mark on Delray.
I will miss his laugh, his thoughtfulness and that twinkle he had in his eyes.
What a good man, he was.

Happy Passover and Happy Easter and thanks for reading. Be safe.

We Are All Going to School at Stoneman Douglas

A sixth grader from Don Estridge Middle School tells a large crowd at the Old School Square Pavilion that she’s tired of being scared.

We attended the “March For Our Lives” gathering at Old School Square Saturday.
It was moving and important.

We are experiencing a movement in our nation sparked by the amazing students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
They are standing up to the NRA.
They are standing up to our feckless politicians.
They are fearless, committed and have title to the high ground. Their timing couldn’t be better.
America is ripe for change.

And it will be the children of the greatest nation in the history of the world who will restore our ideals.
Yes, this about gun violence, school safety and gun law reforms. But it’s also about citizenship, accountability, responsibility and activism.
In 845 communities all over the world, people are saying they have had enough.

This time it feels different. You can see it in the eyes of the Parkland students and the young people they are inspiring all over the world.
They are not going away. They won’t be bought, co-opted, fooled, triangulated or kept quiet.
Thank G-d.

In Delray, we heard from students including a sixth grader from Don Estridge Middle School who electrified the crowd with a plea for change. She told a capacity crowd that she doesn’t want to be afraid anymore. She doesn’t want to worry about her 9 year old brother coming home safe.
And it was powerful.
We heard from teachers too, including an Atlantic High Journalism teacher who was passionate about voting and getting things done to create a change in our violent society.
It was a day for children and teachers to lead us—not for politicians to pontificate. (Although a few droned on and on and on).

Let the children speak.

It’s time for the adults to listen or get out of the way.

The day gave me hope.
The children will lead us.
Because the so-called leaders have failed us.
The lessons our children are imparting are profound and abundant.
We must hold our elected officials accountable.
We must vote.
We  won’t stop until we succeed.

They are just getting started.
We need change now.
These children are going to deliver it.
Yolanda Renee King, MLK’s 9 year old granddaughter, summed it up.
“Spread the word! Have you heard? All across the nation, we are going to be a great generation!”
Yes indeed.

And just in time too.

#TroubleBrewing

Seems mighty tempting at times.

There’s a growing sentiment that tech companies are spiraling out of control these days.
There’s even a hashtag expressing the sentiment: #techlash.

Facebook is being questioned around the world for its role in sowing electoral discontent and losing control of  its user’s personal data. As a result, its stock has tumbled this week.
Twitter has been assailed for bullying and misogyny and Google and YouTube have had to answer questions about questionable search results and ads from less than savory groups populating it’s platforms.
It’s enough to make you want to live off the grid like my old commission teammate and dear friend Bob Costin.

At way over 6 feet tall we called Bob the “high commissioner” and often joked that he violated Delray’s strict height limits.
Bob was a wonderful commissioner with a terrific sense of humor but he and the Internet weren’t acquainted.

He didn’t have email, didn’t read documents online and if you wanted to talk to him you had to do it the old fashioned way: call him or visit his table at the old Green Owl.
He was there most mornings by 10 a.m.
Ahh..the good old days.
But my point is during my time in office 2000-07, if you wanted to vent you had to email, call or make an appointment.

Prior commissions—pre email—would eagerly await snail mail from their neighbors; so if you wanted to opine you had to write a letter, find an envelope, buy a stamp and look up an address before you could put your thoughts in front your mayor or commissioner.

Today, we have Facebook and other social media platforms where a robust debate rages 24-7 and city politics are a hot topic.

There’s no filter. No fact checkers. No obligation at all to be civil– short of threatening bodily harm which may get you booted—eventually.
It’s changed the game.

As  a result, lots of people don’t want to subject themselves to the abuse, bullying, misinformation and vitriol shelled out by a wide variety of charmers and so they don’t participate in local politics.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have rarely if ever visited most local Facebook pages devoted to Delray politics and recently opted out of one page I was a “member” of. I won’t judge those who indulge, I just don’t want to.

If the platforms featured intelligent debate, I might feel differently.

But what I saw during the recent election cycle was something less than intelligent or interesting.

What did I see?  Anger, division, polarization, innuendo, lies, attacks, hatred.
We should be better than this.
We need to be better than this.
Truth be told, I saw some kindness too. But the ratio of mean to nice is not even close.
And so I’m out.

I will continue to enjoy Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked In for other things such as sharing pictures of my dogs and birds, promoting local causes and businesses that I like, reading and sharing interesting articles and staying in touch with old friends, favorite teachers and distant relatives.

As for my old friend Bob Costin: he called me in the days leading up to the election blissfully unaware of the toxicity on the Internet.
He’s still not online. He still doesn’t have email.

And he still uses his favorite line when asked why: “my modem is down” before breaking into a laugh I’ve grown to love and cherish.
But despite Bob’s conscious decision to keep his modem on ice, he’s very much rooted in modern life. He’s up on the news (through newspapers), embraces change and is always fun and interesting to talk to.
He was a progressive commissioner back in the day, open to new ideas and had a few of his own as well.

He told me no candidate contacted him before the election. He wasn’t complaining just stating a fact.

But I thought to myself ‘what a shame’ because Bob has so much to share.
And it made me think that at least locally, we ought to make an effort to connect face to face.

We used to have town hall meetings, charettes, neighborhood dinners, community visioning sessions, citizen goal setting workshops and even roasts.
These are the things that build community.

This is why efforts such as WiseTribe, Creative Mornings, Old School Square, Chambers of Commerce, festivals, green markets and pet parades are so important.
It’s harder to demonize someone standing in front of you. It’s easy to do so online.

And if you can’t demonize someone you may find that there is common ground amidst the very real differences. Or at the very least, we may realize that those differences are heartfelt and honest –rooted in beliefs  sincerely held.

Social media has its place. But when it starts to erode community and humanity, count me out.
I think I will stick to pictures of my dogs sleeping and videos of my birds singing.
It feels a whole lot safer this way.

Public Leadership (Doesn’t Have To Be An Oxymoron)

Former Mayor Nancy Graham.

I’m a big fan of ULI, the Urban Land Institute, a global organization that promotes sustainable land use and good design.
So when I was asked to appear on a panel on public leadership with two mayors I admire—West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and former West Palm Mayor Nancy Graham– I jumped at the opportunity.
My son lives in downtown West Palm Beach and so I visit more often than usual these days. I think the city has  some great things going on including start up incubators, some interesting restaurants and the new and exciting Grandview Public Market which has invigorated the Warehouse District.
Mayor Muoio, Mayor Graham and the citizens of West Palm have a lot to be proud of.

Mayor Graham was a transformational leader who put together the groundbreaking deal for City Place and brought walkability expert Jeff Speck to the city years ago to promote vibrant mixed use and pedestrian friendly development.
We’ve  been friends for years and it was good to see her back in West Palm after years in California. She lives in North Florida these days and remains a very vocal advocate for city’s and her beliefs.
We spoke to a group of young leaders who work in land use, planning, architecture, transportation, development, housing and other important disciplines.

Takeaways included the need to have political courage, the need to engage the public around development issues, the importance of having a vision and sticking with it in the face of opposition and the critical need for mayors to always be learning, evolving and leading.

After all, a bright future is not guaranteed. It  needs to be earned and it requires work, vigilance and determination.
Mayors are uniquely positioned to drive positive change. Local government is perhaps the last bastion of progress and possibilities.
Washington D.C. and state capitals tend to be partisan and therefore prone to gridlock and obstruction.
Cities and counties have unique opportunities to effectuate change and think long term.

But only if they choose to do so. I’ve seen many cities seize opportunities and make miraculous progress.
Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and an array of rust belt cities have managed to come back to life through reinvention, strategic investment and political will.
I enjoy reading stories about Detroit and other cities that are finding ways to reverse decades of decay.  It’s inspiring and gives you faith that problems can be solved.

Locally, Delray Beach, Lake Worth, Pompano Beach, West Palm and Fort Lauderdale are interesting examples of cities that have employed vision, investment and public engagement to forge promising futures.
Each city was wise to choose its own strategy and “style”.

Delray’s scale and emphasis on the arts, culture, sports and diversity proved to be a winning formula that has paved the way to attract creative industries.  If we stay the course, market our amenities and add to the vision we can have more progress and solve our ongoing challenges.

Pompano Beach is pursuing an innovation district as an anchor offering. The city has made impressive strides in recent years.

West Palm seems to be embracing its role as the county seat and has aspirations to be an important city and not just a ‘hallway’ to the airport, Palm Beach and county government as the mayor noted.
BRAVÒ!
I love cities that aspire. I respect cities that have ambitions, plan for the future and honor the past.
Forward thinking. Political will. Vision. Engagement. Strategic investment. That’s the formula.
I’m glad to see ULI embracing the next generation of leadership. It was a joy to be in the room with energetic leaders who want to build anew and take our cities to the next level.
We have a bright future as a result of these efforts.

Mayor Muio.

Threads

“If you don’t know why something is working when it is, you won’t know how to fix it when it breaks.” – Craig Groeschel

 

There’s a lot of writing about cities that refers to something called the  “civic fabric.”

Civic fabric refers to the framework/structure/material that make up communities.

The best leaders add to the fabric—they strengthen, invest in and tend to the framework that make places special.

The opposite of leadership is tearing at the fabric.

When you start to pull threads, you risk fraying the material and risking the structure.

For five years, in my opinion, we have torn viciously at the fabric—and as a result 30 plus years of municipal progress, civic pride and the marrow that makes our community special is at risk.

It doesn’t give me or others who feel the same way I do pleasure to write those sentences. And speaking truth to power certainly hasn’t been easy. Those who do pay a price…civic projects, causes, businesses, non-profits and friends have been hurt because they have not gone along to get along.

That’s OK.

It’s important to be able to look in the mirror and say you have stood up for your beliefs.

But the temptation is there to capitulate or just throw in the towel.

After all, you might be granted approvals for your projects or initiatives, instead of seeing them litigated, delayed and ridiculed—even if you have a contract (Matchpoint), won an RFP (iPic) or played by the city’s rules (Atlantic Crossing).

My advice: don’t.

Don’t give up.

Continue to stand up, speak your piece and move forward.

If your favorite candidate won the election last night, congratulations.

Local elections can be brutal affairs.

The arguments are personal because we see the combatants around town—we live in each other’s neighborhoods, go to the same stores and restaurants and know each other’s friends and supporters.

But if you won, the work is just beginning.

Serving in local elected office—or any elected office—is a privilege and an honor. As is winning an election. But all it means is that you have a chance to serve and an opportunity to make a difference.

You’re on first base, you still have to get home. And we hope you do, because if you succeed the community succeeds. We all win.

If you lost last night, it’s hard.

I’ve backed many candidates who have lost. It happens. I’ve backed a few winners too.

If you backed someone you believe in, take pride in that. Because something as precious as your hometown should not be about picking winners, it should be about backing someone you believe in.

I believe in Ryan Boylston and was pleased to see a talented young leader with ideas and aspirations for Delray win. Our newspaper endorsed Adam Frankel and he won over an impressive debut from Eric Camacho who I hope runs again. We are also pleased to see Bill Bathurst, a lifelong Delray resident, get elected unopposed. Bill is a very nice man with a lot of ideas and a tremendous passion for Delray.

Many—myself included– were disappointed to see Jim Chard lose, but we want to see Shelly Petrolia succeed as our next mayor because cities do better when mayors succeed.

For those who are disappointed, my advice is to play the long game and stick to your beliefs, because over time it pays off.

My hope is that the new mayor and commissioners are servant leaders who engage, listen, unite, compromise and learn on the job.

Because the fabric begins to fray when favorites are played and rules are ignored, bent, spindled and mutilated to reward friends or punish enemies.

The fabric tears when a city’s volunteers and staff feel put upon, disrespected and disparaged; when City Hall becomes a place you fear rather than a trusted partner.

We are a city in need of healing. That’s my opinion and that’s why I backed who I backed.

That doesn’t change regardless of outcome.

To those who don’t feel that we are in need of healing, you ought to talk to the volunteers in this town or the employees who often can’t afford to speak out so they either remain silent or vote with their feet and leave us for other cities.

That said, I vowed after this election to take a break from some of the local sites on social media regardless of the outcome.

While I’ve never participated in most of them, I did look at one in particular run by good people. But when I found myself arguing with someone I grew up, I decided that it was a sign to cease and desist.

It’s not the folks I’ve never (or barely met) that bother me—how can they because we don’t know each other?

It’s when the people you do know start buying into a narrative that you know in your bones is false, that you need to step away because it’s no good for anyone.

I’m beginning to believe that social media is tearing at the fabric of our community.

I want to revisit this idea of civic fabric, because when you start to pull threads you don’t know which one will trigger the collapse.

Is it losing the St. Patrick’s Day Parade after 50 years? Is it telling every craft brewery to look elsewhere?
Is it calling the CEO of a publicly traded company who wants to come here that he’s an “amateur?”

Is it referring to the founder of Old School Square as “that woman?” Or is it telling your police officers and firefighters that they are replaceable?

I’m not sure. But I know those are examples of pulling threads—ripping at the fabric.

I want to see leaders who lift us up. That’s their primary job, even when (maybe especially when) we see things differently.

 

 

 

Decision Time

Well…we did it again.

We managed to go through an election season without a substantive debate on the issues or a respectful discussion of ideas.

We did however manage to lie, label, disrespect, disparage and sling vitriol at each other with great fervor. And we wonder why people won’t run for public office…

Still, there are some emerging trends we should pay attention too if our goal is to be a stronger community.  One in particular that I think we ought to pay closer attention to are the attacks on a candidate’s supporters and their motives.

This year it has been open season on those who endorse or contribute financially to campaigns. But what if your goal is not to corrupt, but to support someone you believe in? What if your motive is good government? Are we that cynical that we preclude those motives as a possibility. As for economic interests, are we that myopic to label donors selfish just because they may wish to invest in our community and they support candidates that they believe will be reasonable or at least follow the local rules?

That said, I want to share with you a list of some (NOT ALL) of my civic heroes. Many of whom were subject to cynical remarks on social media this  cycle by people– who for the most part–  we’ve never seen serve our community. If they weren’t attacked,  many were dismissed as being unimportant as if endorsements and support don’t matter. I disagree. Here’s why:

Frances Bourque-words can’t describe Frances’ impact on Delray Beach. The founder of Old School Square, lifetime achievement award winner, historic preservation icon. Her vision gave us a place to gather and with it a sense of community.

Tom Lynch—three term mayor, School Board Chair, founding chairman of the CRA, lifetime achievement award winner, accomplished businessman and visionary. We recovered our civic pride as a result of his leadership.  Delray won its first All America City Award and was named the “Best Run Town in Florida” on his watch.

Doak Campbell-former mayor and commissioner. The Atlantic Avenue Task Force, Visions 2000, the creation of the CRA and the establishment of the first historic districts happened during Doak’s era.

Jay Alperin-former mayor and commissioner. 10 plus years service on the city commission. Past chair of Old School Square and the Chamber.

David Schmidt—former mayor and commissioner, president of Sister Cities, long time contributor to the Morikami Museum and someone who I sat next to on the commission for three years. David was a terrific mayor with a model temperament.

Yvonne Odom—civic icon who was the first African American to attend Atlantic High. Mentor to hundreds of young people for decades.

Rita Ellis—my successor as mayor. Past Chamber Chair, past chair of the Downtown Development Authority, longtime Beach Property Owners Association leader and successful business owner.

Bill Branning-two time chair of Old School Square, one of the best CRA commissioners ever, Vice chair of the Chamber, successful businessman and dedicated volunteer. Bill is devoted to all things Delray.

Cathy Balestriere– Past chair of the chamber, CRA commissioner, driving force behind Crane’s Beach House and growing Delray as a “destination.” Active in scores of Delray non-profits.

Scott Porten—a dreaded developer, who took a drive through car wash and gave us Citywalk with places like Brule and took a troubled area of town and gave us The Estuary. Scott is a devoted volunteer serving on City boards, chairing Old School Square and the Chamber and helping to lead the Beach Property Owners for years. He loves this city and gives back constantly. You WANT developers with Scott’s level of concern and passion for the city. Because they care about what they build.

Bill Morris—another developer who chairs Old School Square, supports FAU, the Boys and Girls Club and loves this city with all his heart.

Joe Gillie—longtime president of Old School Square who helped us win all three All America City Awards. Joe is Delray. Period.

Fran Marincola—longtime proprietor of the landmark Caffe Luna Rosa, 19 years on the Parking Management Advisory Board, past chair of the DDA, past chair of the Sandoway House Nature Center and longtime BPOA leader, Fran has a heart of gold. He’s devoted to Delray.

Jestena Boughton—historic preservationist and owner of the historic Colony Hotel, Jestena is a delight who has done so much for our town.

Susan Ruby—former City Attorney, leader in Del Ida and a personal touchstone of mine.

Ann Gannon– Palm Beach County’s Tax Collector, former state legislator, devoted to Delray and good government.

Chuck Halberg– I don’t know anyone who loves Delray more or who gives more than Chuck.

Dave Henninger–gave so much to this community especially the Achievement Center, Chamber, Lake Ida neighborhood etc.

David Randolph—long time city commissioner and mentor to so many.

Zack Staghn–decades of service to the community, mentor to countless leaders and devoted civil rights champion.

The list of people and organizations involved in this year’s campaign goes on and on. Amazing young leaders: Connor Lynch, Craig Spodak, Emanuel Dupree Jackson Jr., Lee Cohen, Sgt. Gary Ferreri, Rob Long, Kate Volman, Jason Bregman, Joe Collard, Rob Posillico, Amanda Perna, Matt Shipley, Steve Mackey and more.  Neighborhood leaders from WARC, the Northwest/Southwest Alliance, Del Ida, Seacrest, etc. etc.  Unions representing Fire, Police, general employees–the people who protect and serve us.  Organizations ranging from the realtors association to the Human Rights Council and more. Stellar long time contributors such as Fred Fetzer, Jon Levinson, Gary Eliopoulos, Nancy Dockerty, Bob Currie, Bill Nix, Zack Straghn, Cathy Weil, Shirl Fields, Mark Sauer, Suzanne Spencer, Joycelyn Patrick, Rick Caster, Christina Morrison, Bruce Bastian, Ingrid Kennemer and more.
Many of these people and organizations have been labeled: special interests, good old boys, the Establishment and worse.
But they are the people and the groups that are Delray. They represent the past, the present and the  future of our city.
They are the volunteers devoted to this community. The ones who give their time, their talents and their treasure to this town.
They back Jim Chard for Mayor. Most of the above also back Ryan Boylston for commissioner. (Fire backed his opponent, Police stayed out).
Can they all be wrong?
I don’t think so.
They know Delray. They care about Delray.
They’re not special interests. They are the backbone of this City.
And like me they want change. Unity not division. Progress not indecision and infighting. Leadership not bullying.
Tomorrow we have a chance to help Delray.
It’s Election Day.
Please vote.

Leadership Is The Most Important Currency

Tina Turner was right.

A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine sent me an article about one of my favorite subjects: leadership.

 

There are a lot of articles and books about leadership and to be honest a great many of them miss the mark, but this particular article was one of the best I’ve ever read on the subject and I feel the need to tell you about it especially as voters go to the polls in Delray and Boca on March 13.

 

Basically, the author argues that there are two styles of leadership: a “hero” and a “host.”

 

The hero leader takes everything on by herself; he or she assumes all responsibilities and wants to be seen as the savior; the hero per se of the story.

 

Inevitably, hero leaders fail, because nobody– regardless of talent, intellect and energy level–can do it all. No man or woman, as the saying goes is an island.

 

Once the hero slips, we are quick to abandon them as yet another in a long line of people who failed to live up to their promises.

 

So what happens? Well, invariably we look for a new and better hero and the cycle continues building cynicism every step of the way.

 

We have all seen the hero phenomenon play out in our lives, whether it’s a hot shot CEO who is going to come in and turn it all around or a candidate who is going to get under the hood and by sheer force of will fix what everybody else has been unable to mend.

 

It’s the story of American politics at every level of government.

 

Which is why so many of us are disgusted right around this time of year as we cope with a barrage of expensive and slick campaign ads telling us how (fill in the blank) is going to fight for the people and fix everything from crime and taxes to schools and  traffic.

 

But the crop of heroes will fail. It’s inevitable.

 

So are we relegated to an endless cycle of failure, frustration and phonies? Or is there a better way?

Fortunately, there is a better and much more effective leadership style—that of the host, not the hero.

 

The host is a collaborator, a motivator, a convener and an alchemist who brings people and resources together to tackle problems, meet challenges and seize opportunities.

 

He or she doesn’t try to do it alone and does not pretend to have all the answers.

 

Rather, they believe in the wisdom of the crowd and in hosting conversations and problem solving exercises that really and truly move the needle.

 

I happen to think this is the best leadership approach possible. Not only does it involve people, but it challenges them to think and work together. And when they do come up with solutions , there is automatic buy-in because they were part of the process. They were engaged, someone bothered to ask them what they thought and trusted in their abilities to figure things out.

 

Can this work on a local level?

Absolutely, Delray Beach is a prime example of a community that re-invented itself through visioning, and extensive and ongoing community engagement beginning with the Atlantic Avenue Task Force in the mid-80s, Visions 2000 in the late 80s and 90s and through the Citizen’s Downtown Master Planning Process in the 2000s. And then we stopped.

 

We get in trouble when we veer away from that formula either through failing to engage residents or having elected officials think they are heroes who can do it all, and let us know about it later.

 

Can it work on the national level?

Well, that’s a trickier beast to deal with. But perhaps it could… if presidents saw themselves (and more importantly) we viewed them as above partisanship and if somehow they could lead by “hosting” rather than dictating policies. But this only works if Congress can get over its hyper-partisanship and remember they are there to do a job and get things done for Americans; a simple concept that seems to be hopelessly lost at the moment.

 

Regardless, next time you see a mayor beating his chest, or a gubernatorial candidate promising to save Florida remember the host and hero dynamic and ask yourself when the last time someone succeeded without being a host.