Events and Things to Do in Delray Beach and Boca Raton

Boca Raton and Delray Beach are among the most vibrant communities you’ll ever find.

Both cities feature a vast array of events year-round that are sure to interest people of all ages and interests. From arts festivals and music events to a vibrant food scene and cultural landscape Boca-Delray has it all.

At YourDelrayBoca.com we strive to curate the best events and give you insider’s tips to make your experience the best it can be.

Leadership Heals

When tragedies strike communities, I think first of the victims and then their families and friends.
But soon after I think of the mayors.
They are often the elected officials tasked with putting the pieces together and trying to make sense of the events in the face of sadness, grief and anger.
So I sympathized with Sadiq Khan in the wake of the recent terror attacks in London and I thought of Mayor Buddy Dyer of Orlando as I read the spate of anniversary stories this week one year after the Pulse nightclub shooting. The largest mass shooting in US history.
I’ve met Mayor Dyer a few times, even had lunch with him once many years ago at a League of Cities convention. He’s been a great mayor transforming downtown Orlando into a dynamic place and expanding Orlando’s brand beyond Disney, time shares and Medieval Times like attractions.
But in the public’s mind he may be remembered more for his handling of the Pulse shooting.
He’s done a yeoman’s job and this week he talked about the unity of Orlando and the resilience of the community in the wake of unspeakable violence.

When you’re a mayor you get to experience the thrill of civic achievement. There are parades, ribbon cuttings, proclamations, awards and photo ops.
You get to experience civic pride and you get to recognize the special people in your community. The couple celebrating a landmark anniversary, the person turning 100, the Eagle Scout, the Little League champs.
It’s a joy.

An honor.

A privilege.

But you also sign on for the tough stuff. The fires that displace families, the crimes that turn your stomach, the natural disasters which endanger lives– the overdoses.
That’s not easy.
Leadership asks a lot of people.
It asks us to be boosters one day and healers the next.
Tragedies shouldn’t define a city. That was the message Mayor Dyer said at an event marking the anniversary.
Achievements are a far better way to think of a place.
But tragedies do mark and mar a place. And they should. Because we must never forget. We must heal–but remember. We must mourn but allow ourselves to love.
It’s easy to succumb to hate. But it’s much better to love one another.
Much better.

Inspiration…

We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to acknowledge graduation season.

As students in Delray Beach and Boca Raton graduate high school and college we wish them well and offer a sampling of our favorite commencement quotes. The first few quotes are from graduations held this year. We also include some of our all-time favorites. We hope they inspire you to do great things. Remember commencement means to begin. So while you may graduate, you are really beginning the journey. Enjoy.

“Summon your compassion, your curiosity, your empathy towards others and your commitment to service. Give more than you receive and I promise you, it will come back to you in ways you can’t possibly imagine.” Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO at Arizona State University.

“Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strikes, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything.” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO at Virginia Tech.

“No matter what other work you do, every day, if you find the issues that matter to you and you get in the fight, you will build a life with more heart flutters and fewer don’t-make-me-move moments.” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren at UMass-Amherst.

“Create. Don’t wait around for people to give you things to do. If you’re a writer, write; artist, paint; builder, build! Opportunities will come to you if you create them.” Comedian Maz Jobrani, UC-Berkeley

“No matter how cliché it may sound, you will never truly be successful until you learn to give beyond yourself. Empathy and kindness are the true signs of emotional intelligence.” Actor Will Ferrell at USC.

The Classics…

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” Henry David Thoreau.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

 Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It is not the size of the arena in which you find yourself that counts; it is what you do with it.” Dr. Irene C. Kassorla.

A Hero Comes Home

This week’s Bronze Star ceremony honoring retired Delray Beach Police Officer Skip Brown was a wonderful and very moving experience. The outpouring of positive sentiment has been overwhelming. Skip and his wife Cheryl and their friends are very pleased. The ‘only in Delray’ reception is why Skip took the rare step of bypassing a ceremony in Washington D.C. to accept the medal–45 years after his service in Vietnam- in Delray Beach. I was honored beyond words to pin the medal on his chest and we send heartfelt thanks to all those who have served and sacrificed for our great nation. Many of you who were unable to make it have sent messages asking for the transcripts of the remarks from the event. I will ask Skip to share his when he settles in back in Alabama. Meantime, there was a great piece on Channel 5 and in the Palm Beach Post on the event. Here’s a link to the WPTV piece: http://www.wptv.com/news/region-s-palm-beach-county/delray-beach/retired-delray-policeman-awarded-bronze-star-45-years-after-vietnam?utm_content=bufferc5c4b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 I hope the above link works…I’m not much very good with technology. If all else fails,  go to WPTV’s website or facebook page to see the story.

My remarks are below. Special thanks to Old School Square, Rob Steele, Melissa Carter, Peggy Murphy, the Honor Guard at Atlantic High, Sarah Crane and Maria Bollan for your invaluable assistance.

 

This is a very special occasion. And I’m glad we can share it here in Delray Beach at Old School Square.

I’d like to offer a special welcome to Skip’s wife Cheryl, city officials, police officers, firefighters and retirees, our wonderful Honor Guard from Atlantic High School and the veterans in the audience. If you are serving– or have served– in our armed forces can you please raise your hand…let’s give them a round of applause… Thank you for your service to our great nation.

Heroism is an overused word.

We talk about heroic athletes and heroic efforts in everyday life—and while acts of kindness and bravery are magnificent and should be recognized—I’m afraid we throw around the word hero so often that it’s meaning can get lost.

I want us to focus on that word this afternoon as we honor a very special man.

A true hero is somebody who exhibits remarkable bravery and shows great courage and strength of character. It’s somebody who is willing to put it all on the line for a cause, a country, a person or something they believe in.

So when I think of the word hero, I think of my friend Skip Brown.

 

Being a hero is his DNA.

It’s who he is.

And so while I’m in awe of Skip’s achievements— I’m not surprised by them.

Sacrifice…service….bravery…selflessness…are the traits of heroes. It’s the stuff that people like Skip are made of.

He is a rare breed. And I wish there were more like him….

 

 

Friendships come in many forms and Skip and I have an interesting relationship. On paper we don’t match up.

Skip is older than me.  Much older…

He’s from the Midwest . I’m from New York.

We have different faiths, different political beliefs and different personalities.

But somehow it all works.  Always has. We are friends in the truest sense of that word.

He’s the big brother I never had, the man I would call –and have called –when I found myself in trouble.

We have been to some very dark places together and he has helped me and many others surface more than once when we thought we might drown. Skip is always there for his friends and the members of his team—which is why he is a Bronze Star winner.

We have also experienced great triumphs and there is no better person to celebrate with than my brother Skip Brown.

When I needed a confidence boost he was there to provide it and if I strayed from my path he was there to return me to the straight and narrow–just like a big brother would. I mention this, because he has performed this very important service for many of us in this community. And we are blessed as a result….this is a man with a very big heart.

The Bronze Star is awarded for acts of valor—but I think there’s also a Bronze Star set of values that enable people like Skip Brown to do what they do in combat and in civilian life. So what are those values?

Skip values leadership.

He values honor and respect.

He values service and he is passionate about community; especially this community.

Skip and I have had many talks over the years–usually in the wee hours of the morning–usually in my driveway. Usually with a dog nearby.

Our conversations have covered the waterfront. And over time we grew close.

But while we talked about a lot of things…. I never pushed him, nor did he volunteer much, on the subject of Vietnam.

Until recently.

He shared his thoughts on the phone and in long emails. He wrote about his experiences and told me that what he saw in Vietnam impacted every facet of his life.

And I realized he was coming to terms with a war he never quite finished either fighting or thinking about.

So I know the stories. Not all of them….but a few important ones. I have heard about the pain and so have others who are close to Skip.

But while the information was always hard to hear and to comprehend——it was important that I know…it’s important that we all know about service, honor…sacrifice and commitment.

Skip has always been a big gruff guy…but he has always had a big huge heart.

And as he has gotten older…I’ve noticed that his conversations are now full of love and affection.

No more holding back.

No more guessing where you stood.

He told many of us that he loved us– and why.

He was giving himself a gift—because it’s important to tell the people you love how you feel–but he was also giving us a gift.

The biggest gift of all.

Because when a hero opens up his heart and soul to you…you listen and you learn…and you become better because of it.

 

So here we are.

Many of you here today are the ones nearest and dearest to Skip.  A few of you are new faces and it’s good that you are here to witness something very special and very rare.

It’s special…because this is a good man, who has given much to his country, his city, his wife Cheryl, his family and his friends…

It was important to Skip that he return home to receive his Bronze Star– and Delray is home.

It was here that Skip distinguished himself as a police officer. First on the road –in a very different and far more dangerous Delray—a place where guns, knives, and rocks were on display night after night.

Then as a K-9 officer with two amazing dogs– Rambo and Olk —who ran down bad guys while on duty and toured schools and community events on their days off.

And finally as the department’s volunteer coordinator under the leadership of Chief Overman and Chief Schroeder—both of whom are here today and are very special men.

Skip built a colossus of a program.

1,300 volunteers at its height. Many members of the greatest generation—the men and women who served our nation in World War II.

They would run through walls for Skip and this city. And he would do the same for them and they knew it.

Skip and the volunteers were here for us after 9/11 when we discovered many of the terrorists had been living among us and we were scared. They eased our minds and provided comfort and security.

Skip reached into every nook and cranny of this city forming bonds and patrols everywhere you could imagine.

When his troops took ill– and when they passed –he was there for them and their families. Always a rock. Always a hero.

It did not go unnoticed.

And so I am glad that his valor in Vietman did not go unnoticed either.—even if it took 45 years and the efforts of a commanding officer who would not rest until this oversight was addressed.

The Bronze Star is special indeed.

Rare too.

It is awarded to soldiers who distinguish themselves with acts of heroism in combat.

Skip came as close to death as you can possibly can– and he survived to live a life of service.

He provides an example for all of us. Every day that we wake up can be a good day. It can be a day of service, a day of giving back and a day of helping others.

Delray Beach is fortunate that Skip Brown survived that ambush all those years ago.

Because without him and his lovely wife Cheryl— Delray would have been a far different place.

It’s often said that nobody is irreplaceable. I suppose that’s true in a narrow sense. Life does go on —with or without us.

But I choose to look at life another way. Life wouldn’t be as good or as meaningful without people like Skip Brown. You can’t replace people like him. They broke the mold when they made him.

Great people are game changers. They literally bend and shape their corner of the world during the time we have them…into  something  better….

 

And we are thankful for them.

The best warriors are those who are willing to risk it all for a cause.

Skip’s cause was God, country, Delray and the people and animals he has taken care of his whole life. If there’s another life I’d like to come back as one of Skip and Cheryl’s pets. Seriously.  Yesterday he called me from a dog friendly restaurant on the Intracoastal where he was treating his pups to lunch…it’s a good life.

And if there’s a heaven—and I believe there is…I hope it includes tequila under the stars in my driveway  talking to Skip about making our corner of the universe a better place, with a golden retriever and a K-9 at our side—just like the good old days we had in Delray Beach.

Skip Brown…on behalf of your colonel, a grateful nation, your squad –many of whom did not make it– active duty soldiers, veterans and their families, the more than 58,000 names on the wall …. a grateful city and from me…no longer that young man in the driveway—but still very much your brother … congratulations on your bronze star. Well done..my friend. We love you. Very much.

Ladies and gentlemen…bronze star winner Skip Brown.

 

Magic Awaits When You Connect & Commit

When you connect you progress–it’s just that simple.

It’s the little things that make you fall in love.
Saturday we headed downtown for the CRA’s annual Easter Bonnet Pet Parade which never fails to deliver.
It’s a small event: simple, fun, charming and benefits a great cause–Dezzy’s Second Chance Rescue.
Norman Rockwell would have loved it.
It’s these types of gatherings that build community and make you fall for a place. And it’s these types of opportunities that we must seize, savor and support.
Peter Kageyama wrote a book about the intangibles called “For the Love of Cities.” I’ve seen Peter speak a few times and he never fails to deliver.
He talks about the importance of creating events, experiences and places that foster affection for your city.
In my book, “Adventures in Local Politics” I write that love is an important component of community building and leadership.
When people fall in love they commit. And when they commit they invest–their time, money, talent, creativity and passion.
And the rest takes care of itself.
Once people commit to a community, problems can be solved, challenges can be met and tragedies become easier to deal with.
Consequently, the good news is sweeter because there is a community of people to celebrate with.
These are not difficult or complex concepts but building community isn’t easy.
In case you haven’t noticed (and I bet you have) our society is divided these days. And Delray is not immune from those fault lines.
All the more reason why it’s important to come together when we can.
Recently, we’ve had a few opportunities. The Delray Affair, The Pet Parade, Impact 100, the upcoming Police Banquet sponsored by Delray Citizens for Delray Police and more.
There are many ways to connect. But only if we look. And I hope you do. Because it makes all the difference.
You’re needed and you’ll benefit by getting involved too.
Not a bad deal.
The best leaders connect. The best citizens too.
Here’s a free event that I hope you’ll think about coming to see.
On April 25 at 4 pm Old School Square’s Crest Theatre will host the awarding of a Bronze Star to retired Delray Beach Police Officer Skip Brown.
Skip spent 20 years as an officer in Delray and a great deal of that time was spent building community. He managed the Police Department’s volunteer program and specialized in reaching hard to reach segments of our city.
He was all about making a connection.
If you want a dose come to the Crest a week from Tuesday. The event is free–bring the kids. It’s a teachable moment and a chance to honor valor and bravery.
Meanwhile, find ways to get connected. It makes all the difference.

 

 

State of the Arts

Arts Advocacy Day was a few weeks ago.

If you missed it, don’t worry most of us did.

But the day gives us a chance to assess the state of the arts and the important role culture plays in our community.

While there is some question about federal support for the arts in Congress, it appears states and cities are doubling down on their investments because they see—rightly—that the arts serve as an important economic development tool. In fact, one could argue that both Boca and Delray’s “edge” comes from a burgeoning arts scene.

While food and beverage have played a significant role in Delray’s renaissance, the arts made it possible for restaurants and other businesses to succeed. Old School Square was the catalyst for Atlantic Avenue and the many festivals and special events helped to create Delray’s vibrant and valuable brand.

In Boca, technology, education and medicine (MeduTech) are big factors in the city’s success, but layer in a robust arts and cultural scene and suddenly you have a city that is hard to compete with.

The arts create quality of life and place. The arts drive value and create and attract jobs.

Across America, states are investing in culture.

According to research by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), State Arts Appropriations increased in Fiscal Year 2017 including in Florida where the Governor and legislature have been battling over funding for tourism (Visit Florida) and economic development (Enterprise Florida).

Nationwide, legislative appropriations to state arts agencies increased by 8% in 2017, according to NASAA.

After a small decrease in state arts agency appropriations last year, FY2017 continues a trend of post-recession growth. State arts agency appropriations experienced a 20-year low of $260.2 million in FY2012. Between FY2012 and FY2017 these agencies gained $108 million. For FY2017, state legislative appropriations total $368.2 million, equating to an investment of $1.13 per capita. This is the third year in a row that state arts agency legislative appropriations have been above $1.00 per capita.

“State arts agencies address critical needs for American communities,” said NASAA CEO Pam Breaux. “They utilize the creative power of the arts to strengthen the economy, rural development and education. They help preserve American culture, heritage and traditional practices. They support our military service members and help heal our veterans. State investments in the arts help leverage an additional $11 billion in local and private support for these causes. You would be hard-pressed to find a better return on investment.”

Indeed.

Florida’s support for the arts went from $38.88 million in 2016 to $43.65 million, a 12.3 percent increase, well above the national average.

Delray Beach and Boca Raton have both used the arts to create value and drive economic development efforts.

Boca’s “Festival of the Arts” is a signature series of events featuring nationally known artists and writers.

Mizner Park garnered public support when it was first proposed by promising an arts and cultural component and both Lynn University and FAU have invested heavily in arts programming and venues.

Boca is also blessed with “The Symphonia Boca Raton”  which bills itself as “South Florida’s World Class Chamber Orchestra” and the city also has the Boca Ballet, Harid Conservatory and several impressive arts galleries and museums.  Not to mention a non-profit children’s theatre (Sol Theatre) and a vast array of film, literary and music events at the Levis Jewish Community Center.

If you want to get a fuller picture of culture in Boca visit: http://www.artsinboca.org/ 

Delray has also made a splash with its arts and cultural offerings.

The revitalization of the city was launched by the renovation of Old School Square which catalyzed downtown Delray and changed the city’s narrative from dull and blighted to vibrant and cool.

Newer offerings such as the Arts Garage, Spady Museum and a new library on West Atlantic Avenue were investments that have yielded return on investment in terms of city branding, crowds and buzz.

The city’s many festivals have also contributed to Delray’s economy and brand. Last weekend’s 55th annual Delray Affair– the city’s signature event– has in its roots a juried art show.

Across the country, many cities have chosen to invest in arts and culture in an effort to increase awareness, attract residents, tourists and businesses.

Of course, the public investment needs to be leveraged by private support, which Boca Raton has done very well and Delray still struggles with.

As for cross-border cooperation—it seems like it’s sometimes hard for organizations in the same city to collaborate, which makes the Boca Cultural Consortium all the more impressive.

Regardless, the arts are an important driver for the local economy. And evidence shows that the role of the arts may grow even larger in the future.

And that dear readers is a good thing indeed.

 

 

 

 

Lynn’s MBA in Delray: Only The Beginning

A most welcome addition

Last night was an important one for Delray Beach.

Quietly, before a few guests, the trajectory of our downtown might have changed forever.

That’s a big statement. I may be wrong, but let me try and back it up.

After months of negotiations, Lynn University will launch an MBA in Delray program focusing on entrepreneurship and marketing at the Delray Chamber. The one-year program will be offered at night and tailored to working professionals and entrepreneurs.

The move was announced a few weeks ago, but it felt real last night when a contingent of Lynn staff led by President Kevin Ross and Business School Dean Dr. RT Good told a small gathering of local leaders and entrepreneurs why they chose Delray and what the program will entail.

Folks, we have to make this work. Why?  Because if it does it changes the game and enhances the brand that has been fostered by a slew of Delray Beach visionaries and stakeholders since the mid-80s.

Dr. Ross and Chamber President Karen Granger see the MBA in Delray as an innovative model that chambers and universities can replicate across the country. It enables chambers to get needed revenue, enhance value for their members and grow local economies, while enabling universities to reach into communities and tailor programs to meet local needs and trends.

Dr. Good and the Lynn team have been hard at work designing a “different” kind of curriculum that promises deeper relationships with faculty, classmates and local businesses while focusing on leadership, hands-on projects and case studies.

For the chamber it enables a deeper dive into the world of entrepreneurship, a focus and passion for President Granger who has quietly but persistently nurtured relationships with a growing number of promising local entrepreneurs. Many were there for the Lynn celebration including Brian Niles of Rooster, Eric Bucher of Call Sprout and Project Runway’s Amanda Perna, who runs “House of Perna,” an emerging fashion design brand.

Delray and Boca’s emerging foodie economy was represented as well with catering by fabulous Farmer’s Table restaurant, which I think has enormous potential. (Here’s where I should plug my two food/beverage related brands Tabanero and Celsius, but that would be indulgent no? Wink)

All of this is to say, that this partnership may signal that Delray’s downtown and indeed its economy is expanding beyond food and beverage—and that’s a good thing. A diversified economy is a more resilient and sustainable model.

Many years ago, Delray made a conscious choice to lead with food, beverage, culture and festivals to jumpstart its moribund, dull and dangerous downtown corridor.

It was a smart move, brilliantly executed by many, many important contributors and risk taking entrepreneurs.

And it worked, remarkably well.

We have a vibrant, valuable, cool, and attractive and revenue generating downtown that looks and feels good.

Our restaurant “row” generates crowds, creates jobs and helped to change how people see Delray Beach.

Our cultural and intellectual amenities: Old School Square, the Delray Beach Library, Spady Museum, Sandoway House, Delray Historical Society, Arts Garage and historic districts make us a distinct destination which drives property values, tax base, quality of life and tourism which is another critically important industry.

Festivals have also played and continue to play a major role. Which is why it was incredibly disappointing to see the debate about their value so mishandled. It’s an opportunity missed because so many cities are building their economies and brands around festivals. It’s something that should be revisited and expanded beyond the myopic debate around cost and inconvenience. I’m not saying that cost and resident convenience isn’t critically important because it is, but most of those issues can be solved with creative planning and by examining the revenue side of the equation and the intrinsic value created by events.

The Delray Marriott, Residence Inn, Seagate Hotel, Hyatt, Fairfield, Crane’s Beach House, Wright by the Sea, Parliament Inn, the historic Colony Hotel, Sundy House and other properties are extremely valuable assets that drive our economy and brand. They don’t stay viable and valuable—if we don’t have a vibrant local economy with many parts working.

The Delray ATP and the many junior events as well as our golf courses and sports facilities are also important assets that can be grown, nurtured, promoted and leveraged to keep our economy sustainable and the Delray value proposition higher than most other cities—especially small cities. We compete for investment and jobs. And we’ve built a powerhouse of a charming little city.

Cities that work have many moving parts that have to work together in concert to create lasting value.

Delray—imperfect as it is, challenged as it is—has done that. Value has been created. Quality of life and place has been created. It is our job and our responsibility to keep it going and to create a city of opportunity for all.

Through my 30 years here, my community involvement and my professional life—I get to meet and work with many talented people who aspire.

Kids from Atlantic High School and Village Academy who want to come back to Delray and make a life here, City staff who went into public service to make a difference, startup founders whom I encourage, informally advise and ask for help myself on my business challenges, educators who care, non-profit leaders who perform miracles, established business owners who volunteer and invest here, retirees who mentor, artists who amaze and parents who want to see their children achieve the American Dream in a world that is increasingly complicated and fraught.

They want a Better Delray—they’ve wanted that for a long time and they’ve made and are making a difference.

So yes the Lynn MBA in Delray is very big news.

I know President Ross. He’s a friend. He’s a visionary. He and his talented team make things happen. So this is just a start.

But it’s an important beginning. A unique and innovative university is working with our Chamber of Commerce in our downtown—and the potential is enormous.

In his remarks last night Dr. Ross noted that he recently began talking to his teenage daughter about life after college (she’s still in high school). Does she want to come back to Florida? Of course, she does.

Where does she want to live?

Delray.

She’s not alone. So take pride. Something very special was built here and the best is yet to come.

Welcome to Delray, Lynn University.

We’re thrilled beyond words.

We’ve wanted you here for a very long time.

Many people have worked very hard to catch your attention and create a place you and your students will want to be.

 

 

First Day of Spring: Odds & Ends

Odds and ends.
When you work the phones for candidates, you hear some very interesting things.
Especially when you ask voters why they prefer a candidate. Here’s a sampling:
1. A certain candidate will immediately close all sober homes on day one.

Me: “How could 30 years of commissioners have missed this?”

Voter:  “Gee, I don’t know. But it’s pretty simple really. Just issue an executive order.”
2. No dogs on beach. No vote.
Me: “Well, what about some other issues?”

Voter: “What other issues?”
3. We are both from the same state.

Me: “But what about the issues and experience?”

Voter: “Who has the time to figure that out.”
4. Jim Chard wants 54 story buildings.

Me: “umm…..you mean 54 feet in height as in our height limit?

Voter:  “No. That’s Not a big deal. But he wants 54 stories and that’s too much.”
5. I like Shirley Johnson.

Me:  “So do I. She worked at IBM for”…interrupted..

Voter: “Laverne & Shirley was my favorite show when I was a child. And I’ve never met an unfriendly Shirley.”

Me: “Good point.”

As you can see from the small sampling above, voters can be interesting and unpredictable.

For instance, Seat 2 candidate Richard Alteus –who never showed up for a debate or filled out a questionnaire– received more votes than Anneze Barthelemy-506 to 488. My guess: his name was first on the ballot.

My daughter the teacher came home from Tampa last week for Spring Break. It’s fun to see the area through her eyes.
Some takeaways:
1. Habit Burger is great.
2. Compared to Tampa there’s no traffic.
3. Rents are really expensive here
4. The new apartments across from Avenue Pilates on North Federal are ideally located. Why? “It’s a cheap Uber ride to downtown and the beach.” Millennials aren’t car centric. They like the apps.
5. The east coast beaches are really amazing.

Today is the first day of spring, a relative term in South Florida. Here are 10 great spots to enjoy early spring.
1. The back deck at Che
2. Deck 84
3. Beer Trade. Now with a new Boca location.
4. The outdoor deck at Waterstone off A1A in Boca.
5. The A1A promenade in Delray. Thanks to the sea grape trim, you can see the beach. And it’s good for the dunes too.
6. The beautiful newly renovated bar and dining area at the Delray Sands, which is actually located in Highland Beach.
7. 50 South Ocean for lunch.
8. Caffe Luna Rosa for breakfast.
9. Outside at Deli on Rye. Best Black and White cookies between here and Juniors at Mizner Park. Seinfeld was right. It’s the perfect cookie. “Oh look Elaine, the black and white cookie. I love the black and white. Two races of flavor living side by side in harmony. It’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it?”
10. Lake Ida Park for nice views, big birds and really big iguanas.

Sometimes I think we take living in Florida for granted.
We have been enjoying amazing weather, there is a vast array of interesting things to do and if you can get out on the water you quickly realize how amazing this place is.
This blog is big on gratitude and so we are grateful for being in this magnificent place at this special time.
While I try not to harbor regrets–what’s the point–I do have one thing that irks me.
It seems like another Spring Training is sliding past me. Ugh. I last attended a game six years ago today–Mets vs. Marlins with my son who was heading to college at UF.
There was a time when I was part of a “guys” group that enjoyed Spring Training weekend trips. Three or four games in different locales over a three day weekend.
Those road trips gave way to single games squeezed in at the last minute thanks to crazy schedules, kids etc. As Bob Seger once sang “deadlines and commitments what to leave in, what to leave out.”
Sadly, many times what we leave out is what truly matters; such as good times with good friends.
It’s a near certainty that we won’t remember what we missed the spring training game for, but we will remember the time we spent with friends.
So as another season slips away– without me slipping away– for some meaningless games in the Florida sun, I’m promising myself more time with friends.
If this resonates with you, let’s hold each other accountable. Or better yet let’s catch a game.

We Need You To Make An Impact

We need you: To Make An Impact

We take a break from local politics  to focus on something just as important: local philanthropy.
Last week, the newly formed Impact 100 for Men Palm Beach County held its first awards night at Delray’s Arts Garage.
It was a fun and memorable evening. And hopefully, the start of a long history for the nascent group started by my friend Chuck Halberg, a local contractor (we won’t call him a developer..heaven forbid) who spearheaded the group to support non-profits serving children in southern Palm Beach County.
I am honored to be part of the founding board along with a group of truly great guys. Impact 100 was modeled after the wildly successful Impact 100 for Women’s group which I think now gives close to $600,000 a year to local charities.
The concept is brilliantly simple: write one check, attend one meeting and vote to give a big amount to a few non-profits. Repeat year after year and make an impact.
In our first year, we managed to attract 56 men who stepped up and wrote checks for $1,000 plus a fee to the Community Foundation which houses the funds eliminating the need for us to form and administer a 501c3.
While we fell short of our goal of giving away $100,000 we were pleased with our debut and hope to grow each year.

The big winner in our first year was The Miracle League  founded and run by our friends and neighbors Julia and Jeff Kadel.
We’ve written about the Miracle League in this space before. The program allows children with special needs to play the great game of baseball.
It’s an amazing and beautiful endeavor. I was fortunate to be on the City Commission when the Kadel’s approached the City of Delray with the idea of opening the first accessible baseball diamond in Palm Beach County. We provided some seed money along with the county and the league formed at Delray’s Miller Field. It has grown and thrived ever since attracting private philanthropy, grants and scores of volunteers.
The dream now includes creating a boundless playground for children at Miller Park.
The Impact for Men group voted last week to award the Miracle League $50,000 toward the dream after hearing a compelling presentation from Julia.
We were also proud to donate $3,000 each to the amazing Milagro Center in Delray and to Junior Achievement which teaches kids the importance of entrepreneurship.
We are hoping that those dollar amounts increase in subsequent years and that we can make as large an impact as the Women’s group has been able to achieve.
While we live in a community that features great wealth, we are also a community that has overwhelming needs.
Less than a mile from million dollar homes and a rocking downtown there are many people living in crushing poverty.
There is hunger and deprivation in our communities and children and families  who go without.
We are fortunate to have many great non-profits that work hard to address the needs from Family Promise of South Palm Beach County which provides emergency housing to families and the Milagro Center which has a remarkable track record of impacting our most vulnerable children to Delray Students First which mentors and cares for kids looking to break out of the cycle of poverty to the stellar Achievement Center for Children and Families we are blessed with organizations that care and do a great job.
But despite the talent and dedication to making lives better there are unmet needs. And each of the organizations mentioned and many others struggle to raise funds for their critical missions.
I have long felt that while Delray has done a remarkable job revitalizing our city we have fallen somewhat short in our potential to develop a deeper pool of local philanthropists.
Yes, we have many generous people and a few foundations that have been invaluable. But from my vantage point, too many people are sitting on the sidelines, giving “back home” or simply unaware of the needs we have here at home. And this is our home.
While I’m sure there are unmet needs in Boca, from across the border I’ve long admired that community’s ability to raise funds for education, health care and the arts.
I have had the good fortune to sit on many non-profit boards over the years and it’s been a struggle to expand the pool of those who give back.  And so I see many of the same people going to the well time and time again. I’m so thankful for them. But we need more people to give what they can.
Many of the charities in our community are designed to break the cycle of poverty or inspire people to do more and be more.
Whether it’s teaching a child to consider business as a career (Junior Achievement) providing children with an arts experience that may spur a career choice or inspire beauty and understanding (Old School Square, Milagro) or spurring an interest in education (The Delray Public Library, Delray Students First) etc., we have vehicles to transform people. We just need some more fuel.
I’ve enjoyed the first year of Impact 100 for Men. The camaraderie of guys getting together to do good and the emotion of awards night.
I continue to marvel at the leadership and energy of people who step up, like my friend Chuck and many others.
As Uncle Sam might say, we need you to get involved. It really does take a village.

Better Boulder Comes To Delray

On Tuesday night, four community leaders from Boulder, Colorado will be in Delray Beach to share their story.
At 6:30 pm at Old School Square’s Crest Theatre,  representatives from Better Boulder (www.betterboulder.com) will give a free presentation on their efforts to build a sustainable city based on respect for the environment, sensible growth and housing policies that are inclusive. We hope to see you there. It’s important that you attend.
Better Boulder’s work has helped to both spark and further a growing movement of people who are proudly calling themselves YIMBY’s for Yes in My Backyard, a counter to NIMBYism which has often stopped smart growth projects that provide jobs, expand the tax base, add vibrancy and provide needed housing in communities.
Across the nation, there is a growing backlash to NIMBYs led by people who want cities and regions to make room for them too.
In the super expensive Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seattle and elsewhere YIMBY movements consisting of environmentalists, urban planners, young people and employers are banding together to push back against those who consistently say no to even reasonable development.
Particularly galling to many in the YIMBY camp is that NIMBYs often claim the moral high ground citing their desire to protect neighborhoods and cities. Others view their opposition in a vastly different light; more of a  “I’m in the boat pull up the ladder” mentality that shuts off opportunities for others.
Many times  it’s not that black and white.
Traffic, noise, parking and design are important considerations in any city.
But they must be balanced against property rights, the need to provide jobs and housing and the very real need to grow your tax base or risk losing services or raising taxes for existing residents.
Saying yes to reasonable, planned and intelligent growth does not mean anything goes.
Indeed, it should mean the opposite.
Cities should plan–and those plans should be based on a vision of the future . And visions should come from a wide variety of stakeholders in a community, not just those with the loudest voices and the time to protest.
A premium amount of attention should be spent on design, compatibility, desirable uses and how projects function in terms of parking and circulation.
Community input throughout the process is critical but it’s also important that elected officials and key city staff engage with development teams early to discuss local goals, sensitivities and sensibilities.
Some cities employ “town” architects who work with developers and designers to ensure good projects. If you seek to work with developers and they don’t listen, give them the boot. But if you don’t engage with them, you are forcing them to guess and setting all sides up for failure, stress, strife and suits of the legal kind. It doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s so much better when our civic discourse makes us smarter not angrier. 

We’ll end with this post with quote from Jane Jacobs, perhaps the most influential thinker and writer on what makes cities work.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created, by everybody.”
It’s hard to argue with Ms. Jacobs. But I’d add that cities work for everybody only when they consider everybody. And sometimes that means making room for others. 
See you tomorrow night at the Crest.
Wishing my Daughter a Happy Birthday
My little girl turned 27 yesterday.
It’s hard to believe because it seems like only yesterday when we were dropping her off at Little Friends in Delray and later at Poinciana Elementary School.
Now she’s teaching school. In Tampa. And I miss her.
I’m also very proud of her.
I have great respect for teachers and especially ESE (exceptional student education) teachers who make such a difference in the lives of children. That’s the path my daughter has chosen.
Samantha has what it takes to succeed as a teacher: passion for kids, boundless patience, a sense of humor and a heart as big as Florida.
When Sam was a little girl she had a series of ear infections. It seemed like we were always battling one painful episode after another.
It finally passed, but the battles left her with something called auditory processing disorder. As a result, she had a hard time learning how to read.
When we finally discovered the cause she was able to address the issue through an arduous series of exercises. Hours and hours of wearing headphones while completing computer programs designed to rewire how her brain heard and processed sounds.
It was hard work. Done after she had already put in a full day of school.
It was a lot for a little girl.
She never ever complained.
I remember telling her that she was special and that people like her succeeded because they had to work hard for their success. And the perseverance and resilience she learned would serve her well in life.
It did.
Nothing came easy for her. But she had a deep appreciation for every milestone achieved.
She graduated Atlantic High School went to Palm Beach State College and then to the University of South Florida where she excelled academically and with extra curricular activities.
To say we’re proud of her would be an understatement. There are just no words to adequately express how we feel about the young woman she has become.
My only beef– and it’s a small one– is somehow she and her younger brother became Patriots fans when their dad bleeds Giants blue.
I have several friends whose kids are having grandkids and I can’t wait for that to happen to us as well.
All I know is that it goes so fast.
The days of taking her to Old School Square as a small child to see an art exhibit, the ice cream cones at Doc’s and Kilwins, soccer at Miller Field, softball with her coach Dr. Grubb (his daughter whose Sam’s age is now Dr. Molly a veterinarian like her dad in Delrat), Girl Scouts, K-9 exhibitions to earn Brownie points, Safety Patrol, summer camp at Trinity, story hours at the old Delray Library. Arts and Jazz on the Avenue, high school, dates, driving and nights you slept with one eye open until your heard her come in the door.
And then they are grown.
Oh she still needs her dad. I know that. I hope that never ends but it’s a fast ride. Savor every moment.
Happy birthday Sam.  

On Events: Hit Pause & Create a Win

Garlic Fest has become a Delray tradition providing much needed funds to local non-profits and schools. Photo by VMA Studios courtesy from Garlic Festival website.

Garlic Fest has become a Delray tradition providing much needed funds to local non-profits and schools. Photo by VMA Studios courtesy from Garlic Festival website.

Sometimes you have to slow down to get it right.

The challenge and the beauty of local government is that you often know the people impacted by a particular vote. You can’t say that about other levels of government.

If you are a state legislator or a member of congress you vote far away from home and usually with your team–be it Republican or Democrat.

Most people in your district probably don’t even know what you’re doing. But on a local level, your neighbors know. And that’s a good thing.

You can’t hide in local government. Ideally it keeps you grounded and accountable. People know when you show up and when you don’t. They see how you treat people. They can see when you read a prepared statement, answer a text, roll your eyes at a speaker or fail to read the backup material.

If your kind, they notice that too. If you’re rude they see that as well. Chances are you are lecturing someone’s friend, a neighbor, or someone you see around town. So tone matters. A lot.

I don’t like what’s happening to special events in our town. I’m not alone.

I think the process has turned into a game of bait and switch and I think the opposition to events has been overstated. I think the costs have been too.

I’m not sure if it started out this way and I’m not sure there has been any sort of diabolical intent, but somewhere along the way this attempt to make the special event process better went off the rails or was co-opted by an agenda.

I think event producers and the organizations that host festivals volunteered in a good-faith effort to make things better; I don’t think they would’ve shown up to plan their demise.

I’ve seen polling numbers of registered voters in this city for over 20 years and events have always scored very high. I can’t imagine that two decades of polling by firms relied on by elected officials past and present would be that far off.

Sure, there are those who despise events. I heard from a few during my seven years in office. A few in particular have been impossible to please despite efforts to soothe their bruised sensibilities. At some point, you have to apologize and move on even if they won’t. As much as you may wish to, you simply can’t scratch every itch and you certainly can’t run a city based solely on the wishes of those who complain. There are others to consider too.

At some point you have to wonder why a business can’t make a crowded street full of pedestrians work for them. At some point you have to wonder why some people can’t just take one for the team because maybe the particular event works for someone else, benefits a non-profit or is a city tradition enjoyed by many. I think the point is when life gives you lemons make lemonade and if you can’t make lemonade, there’s always another day.

Tonight, the city commission may or may not decide the fate of the Garlic Festival. Nobody is quite sure, including the fest’s producers, because she and her team have been unable to get a clear answer on process from anybody.

Somehow that doesn’t feel right. We are supposed to be a village right? Why are we acting like we live inside of a Kafka novel?

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m friends with Garlic Festival founder/producer Nancy Stewart-Franczak and her husband John. I like them. I think they are good people who mean to do well by the community. Nancy’s partner, Bern Ryan, is a good guy and Nancy’s small team consists of really nice people. They are a part of our community. A valuable part.

Nancy has lived in Delray for 25 years. She has been active as long I’ve known her which has been a long time. She has volunteered for many community causes, works very hard and gives back in many ways. She loves this city. She should be treated with respect. She hasn’t been. That’s my opinion based on what Nancy and others who support her have told me.

She’s been told that what she has brought to Delray is dispensable. I don’t think it is.  Neither do the non-profits who have benefitted from her event, even though some question the business model. See, the Garlic Festival has raised close to $600,000 for non-profits in its 18 year history here. People volunteer their time and their causes benefit. If the Boy Scouts or Police Explorers or any number of groups who volunteer don’t like the model, they can opt out. But apparently, they do. And it’s their choice to participate or not. They have told city commissioners that the event is meaningful to them and their causes and activities.

That said, no festival is beyond being asked to improve.

Nancy volunteered to be part of a process designed to mitigate some of the concerns raised about special events. She did not know she was donating hundreds of hours over nearly a year to destroy her livelihood and two decades of hard work.

Think I’m exaggerating? I wish I was.

But she and other event producers came to the table in good faith and they compromised by agreeing to shrink the footprint of their events, avoid road closures and in Nancy’s case get rid of rides which seem to upset the delicate sensibilities of some. Tell that to the kids and their parents who might have enjoyed the rides, I’m sure they’ll understand the need to make sure that our city doesn’t resemble a carnival.

If you think my friendship with Nancy and Bern might color my views so be it. Dismiss this opinion as biased. But know that while I have attended scores of events over 30 years living in Delray I haven’t gone to any lately and if I never go to another festival I’ll be ok.

Still, I don’t begrudge those who do. When my kids were little we went to Garlic Fest and other events and I looked for activities that they would enjoy. To take a family to a nice downtown event is a blessing. The kids are grown now, but there are other young moms and dads out there looking for something fun to do. Maybe it’s Garlic Festival, maybe it’s a dunk tank at a Wine and Seafood event or maybe it’s a St. Patrick’s Day parade with fire trucks and music. (That event is in trouble too).

These events mean something to this town; they mean something to our resident and to those who own businesses here and those who visit us. I think events are part of our brand. I think they bring value as economic development tools and yes I think they ring cash registers.

Sometimes the sales are made on the day of the event and sometimes they come after because when people come to Delray and experience our city I’m pretty sure that at least a few decide to come back to shop, dine and maybe even shop for a home or a nice hotel near the beach or downtown.

They may even tell some of their friends and relatives.

So while Bacon and Bourbon may not be my thing (and it’s not because I’m kosher and prefer Grey Goose) I have an appreciation for events and their meaning in terms of building community and supporting non-profits.

Downtowns– if they are worth their salt– are places to gather. We are so lucky have a downtown. Many cities don’t.

Others have downtowns that are dead or blighted—as ours used to be.

But we are blessed with a downtown that is vibrant, fun and has fueled a huge increase in property values and quality of life. If that goes away, I will care. And so will you. Because the downtown is our community’s heart and economic engine.

It’s where we go with friends and it’s where we gather when we celebrate and when we mourn like we did after 9/11 or when we needed to raise money when a beloved officer died on his way to work. If you think our downtown is bulletproof or immune to competition I think you’re wrong.

In season, you may have some trouble parking. I get it. In season, it may take you a long time 7-10 minutes in my experience to go from Swinton to A1A (I kept a diary this winter). Heck, sometimes the bridge goes up and sometimes an art fair closes a street. I suppose it can be annoying and I sympathize –to a point.

The opposite of traffic is no traffic. And trust me you don’t want that. We had that and it was awful. Dead, boring, dull, depressing…We used to have nothing but a sea of parking and it wasn’t that great–a sea of asphalt.

if you want to avoid any parking issues build a place that nobody wants to visit. That’ll solve your parking problem and create other issues.

Still, I think we need to see the other side and work together. The organizations and event producers seem willing.

Truth is, we should reinvent our events. We should talk about which ones work and which ones no longer fit. We should talk about what kind of demographics we hope to attract and who we hope to serve.

We should talk about timing, cost, and public safety. We should understand the needs of residents and the importance of tourism to our economy.

But somewhere along the line, this process has gone astray.

Instead of a collaborative effort to improve events–even reinvent them– the process morphed into an effort that will drive them out of business.

From small little walks for charity to events that support our Chamber of Commerce and Old School Square, we are at risk of losing a lot.

If you don’t think our Chamber is worth something you haven’t been there in a while. It’s helping businesses and connecting people all day every day. If you don’t think Old school Square is important I can’t help you because then you don’t understand how incredibly blessed we are to have the arts smack dab in the middle of our downtown. The center was conceived as a place for the community to gather. Events, inside and out, are at the very core of its mission. Do the grounds take a beating? Yep. Should we be discussing how to minimize and pay for that beating? Absolutely. But we should never put velvet ropes around Old School Square and turn it into a static museum. Yes, there are costs that have to be considered, but a cost structure that effectively ends events, may provide some relief to the city, but will also hurt the city in other ways.

Charitably you can call this process a bait and switch exercise—event producers volunteered to help mitigate concerns but did not sign up for a process that would drive them out of town.

But there is a chance to hit the pause button. There is a chance for the commission to exert leadership and get the process back on track. The event producers have acted in good faith and have stepped up to the plate by agreeing to meaningful reforms. It’s the city that has dropped the ball. It takes two sides to collaborate. A one sided process can be called a form of bullying. ‘I’m going to take your lunch money because I can’ is not a good way to run a place.

The city has the power–for now.

They can not only call the shots they can insist on anything they want–in the short term anyway but with lasting scars.

If you want reinvention, challenge the event producers and charities that rely on events. But don’t give vague directions and disappear, sit down and join the process. Spell out what a new vision for events might look like. Work with the producers and festival organizers not on them.

These are people we know. These are important civic institutions. They should not be driven out of town or to their knees financially in the name of reform or because some perceive that events are no longer needed or popular with residents and business owners. I have seen polling data and public records requests of emails that indicate otherwise. I have not seen data or analysis to show widespread dissatisfaction. Nor has anyone else– including the organizations that sponsor and produce the events.

As for costs, let’s talk. Share with the community what they cost, but show your work. I find it hard to fathom that a contained special event can approach the costs of an NFL game.

When we look at costs (and I’m sure that producers would pay more but not triple or quadruple) it’s only fair to consider benefits as well.

If you live close to the downtown you have seen your property values soar at a rate that far exceeds other cities.

It’s not all because of events. Some of it is because of Old School Square and some of it is because of our great shops and restaurants. But events play a role. They distinguish us. They have value not just costs and impacts.

Hit the reset button, invite the innovators to the table and every one should agree to show up with an open mind.

Again, events can always be better and they can always pay more to offset city costs. But they have value too and so do the individuals and organizations that produce, host, create and rely on them.

If a “solution” is imposed it won’t be sustainable. If it’s negotiated with a win-win outcome in mind it will make our village a better place in more ways than we can imagine.

Tonight is an opportunity to save the Garlic Festival and rethink the events policy.