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.

Random Thoughts

Delray’s Mighty Max Weinberg shares stories and insights on Instagram and YouTube. Shows are archived.

 

Pandemic Blues
To see the numbers spike—again.
To see masks become political.
To see 13.3 percent unemployment.
To not be able to plan a summer vacation.
To worry every time you leave the house.
To worry about your loved ones getting sick.
This virus is tough stuff.
Wake up in the middle of the night tough….
Streaming and dreaming
One positive—I suppose—of life in 2020 is we are staying home more and catching up on quality content. Which is pretty much anything but 90 Day Fiancé (Diane).
A good example of quality is a documentary on the amazing Avett Brothers on Amazon Prime.
The Avett Brothers are a North Carolina based band known for their “Americana” songs featuring banjos, fiddles, stand up bass, cello and deeply personal lyrics.
The Judd Apatow documentary “May it Last” is a fabulous look at the band’s creative process and the unique relationship between band members. A must see.
We also just completed “This Much is True” a miniseries starring the incredible Mark Ruffalo.
The series covers family ties, brotherly love, mental health and the struggle to overcome family curses. Which kind of describes 90 Day Fiancé.
A tour de force for Ruffalo.
We are also addicted to E Street Band drummer, Rock Hall of Famer and Delray resident Max Weinberg’s Instagram and YouTube show “Mighty Max’s Monday Memories.”
Max has become a friend and I can listen to him tell stories for days on end.
Now he’s sharing those stories with fans every Monday at 6 pm.
Shows are archived so you can go back and hear a treasure trove of rock and roll tales.
Highly recommended. The shows are archived on YouTube and Instagram.
Speaking of documentaries
Don’t miss the ESPN documentary on Delray’s own Coco Gauff.
There’s also a great article in “The Undefeated” on Coco’s activism and passion for community.
Thanks to Coco’s wonderful grandmother Yvonne Odom for sharing.
My favorite quote from the piece from Kyla Copeland-Muse a former player:
“At 16, she’s more gutsy than Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods will ever be,” Copeland-Muse said. “I just love to see it with Coco. There’s a fearlessness with Coco and some of these younger athletes that puts out the message, ‘We’re not gonna be polite. We’re going to tell you exactly what’s happening in this world .’
Yes it is time we tell it like it is.
Coco is a generational talent but perhaps more important she’s a leader. Just like her grandmother. 😊

Father & Sons

My dad celebrates his birthday June 15 with Riley his great grand retriever.

 

My father and I have a lot in common.

We love to talk politics, like to follow current events, enjoy sports —especially tennis —and love dogs. We never run out of things to talk about, enjoy each other’s company and I feel incredibly grateful to have had a father who has been nothing short of remarkable for 55 plus years.

Even today, at an age where I carry an AARP card and have had a fair amount of life experience, I wouldn’t make a major move without seeking his advice and counsel.
I’m lucky he’s still here to give it. And because he’s smart and caring, I’d be foolish not to seek out his counsel. And my dad and mom didn’t raise a fool. (Wink wink).
I’m writing about my dad, because this is his birthday week and we are fast approaching Father’s Day.
It’s a wonderful holiday; a chance to celebrate fatherhood and the important roles dad’s play in our lives and in our society.
My dad set an early and consistent example. He just seemed to always be doing the right things—taking care of our family, working hard and making my mother very happy.
He never sought the spotlight but just quietly provided for his family and served his community by running the local pharmacy.
He instilled in me and my sister a great love of Jewish culture, made sure we listened to the wonderful stories our grandparents told us and also gave us a deep appreciation for where we lived by taking on us on nice vacations where we mixed fun with history by visiting places like Gettysburg and Plymouth Rock.
He went to my Little League games, played tennis with me and took me to my first baseball game, Mets versus Pirates in 1973.
He never pushed me—like other dad’s did in sports. He wanted me to be a good sport and to enjoy the game.
That’s good advice for life by the way.
I may have rebelled a time or two (hundred) but I was listening. I paid attention. I tried to absorb what he was teaching me not through lectures but by living the right way.
I can’t speak for daughters but sons really want to earn their father’s attention and praise. My drive comes from wanting to get my father’s attention. It took me years to figure that out. I’ve been grateful for his inspiration.
I’ve lived my life way outside of my natural comfort zone as a result. Again, he never pushed. I just wanted him to be proud of me.
So much of what is wrong in   our world today can be traced to poor parenting and it’s my hunch that a whole lot of dysfunction can be traced to bad fathers or absentee ones.
So I was lucky. I had a great father and a great mother.
What an advantage.
But I’m very conscious that others weren’t as fortunate as I was.
Which is why as we approach Father’s Day I’d like to ask your indulgence to consider reaching out and helping three local non-profits—the Achievement Center for Children and Families, 4Kids and the EJS Project.
There are a slew of other great non-profits that focus on children and I don’t mean to slight any of them.
But I’ve been taken by the three I’ve mentioned because of their emphasis on helping children from homes that struggle financially or spiritually or emotionally. Or sometimes all three.
The Achievement Center started in a church basement in Delray more than 50 years ago. I became involved because I became spellbound by the talent, passion and skill of founder Nancy Hurd. I served on the board for many years and saw firsthand how the lives of the most vulnerable children in our community were transformed by the nurturing they received from a talented and committed staff. That legacy of excellence continued after Nancy retired and passed the baton to the equally amazing Stephanie Siebel. Visit www.achievementcentersfl.org.Take a deeper look, you’ll be amazed.
I’ve also been impressed by the passion and commitment of Emanuel “Dupree” Jackson whose EJS Project is working wonders in Delray. The organization is mentoring a generation of young leaders, something our community and our country sorely needs.
Check out the EJS project at www.ejsproject.org.
Readers of this blog know how we feel about 4 Kids, which does wonders with foster children.
This is an organization addressing a critical need in our community with compassion, competence and love.
Visit www.4kids.us for more information.
Meanwhile, we wish wish you all a Happy Father’s Day. I will be spending mine with my dad and the kids who live locally. It’s a day to treasure.

A Change Is Going to Come

 

George Floyd’s murder will spark change.

I had (a socially distant) lunch last week with a small group of special men.

We met to discuss the day’s events particularly the murder of George Floyd and America’s continuing struggle with racism.
We talked about policing reform, our fears for our children and our hopes that this time things will be different. Oh how I hope it’s true.
I sat a few feet away from Anquan Boldin, a former NFL superstar, and a founder of the Players Coalition which was formed to advocate for social justice. Mr. Boldin’s cousin, Corey Jones, was murdered on a Florida highway by a police officer.
Football seemed small after that tragedy so Boldin decided to devote the rest of his life to the cause of equal justice.
He’s a serious man on a serious mission. I admire him.
A few feet away from Anquan sat Abram Elam, another former NFL player. Mr. Elam has lost three siblings to gunfire. Think about that for a moment. Three siblings. You might say he yearns for change.
Across from me sat Corey Gauff,  tennis star’s Coco’s father and coach.
I first met Corey when he was a standout high school basketball player for Boca High.
He’s grown into a smart and serious man, someone who wants better for his kids and the next generation.
Also at the table were my
dear friend, Michael Coleman, a former Delray police captain, Jameal Stewart, who grew up on the streets of Delray, Atlantic High football  coach TJ Jackson, attorney Lee Cohen, youth mentor C. Ron Allen and a few others all with their own stories of tragedy and hope.

It was a powerful afternoon: a group of men sharing ideas, experiences and strategies.
I felt privileged to be there as a former mayor whose community was visited by violence; the shooting death of Jerrod Miller by an off-duty police officer who was working a security detail at a school dance.
Truth be told, while I learned a lot from the experience, I felt humbled by my company.
Their experiences, their losses, their time spent on the streets and with youth far, far, far exceed what I’ve seen.
So I listened.
And what I saw was a group of men, most of them fathers, determined  that the future will be better than the present and the past.
They want and will demand police reforms: from getting rid of qualified immunity to ensuring that standards for becoming police officers are raised and made uniform nationwide.
It was a far ranging discussion. I mostly listened and was deeply impressed.
It’s one of those afternoons you don’t recover from. You listen to these men and you change—for the better.
I think this is the moment. The moment those of us who desperately want a more perfect union have been longing for.
I think we will see needed reforms. I think we will see positive change.
And I think it will happen because of leaders like Anquan Boldin and the others I was privileged to meet.
I’m going to see them again today. We are going to talk and more importantly act.
It’s time.
In fact, it’s long overdue.

We Need Beacons Not Demagogues

Representative John Lewis on the bridge where he was tear gassed. He never took his eyes off the prize. 

Congressman John Lewis is an American hero.

An icon of the civil rights movement who marched and bled with MLK.
Rep.  Lewis is 80 now and ailing from cancer.
But his voice, tinged with passion, experience and wisdom, remains compelling.
Amidst all of the noise and the endless punditry, John Lewis remains a beacon.
Let’s listen to what he has to say: “I see you and I hear you. I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit in. Stand up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that nonviolent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.”
America is at a crossroads.
We are being forced to confront issues that have festered for far too long.
Systemic racism, inequality, a lack of opportunity, homelessness, health care disparities, political dysfunction, division and a general coarseness that permeates our day to day existence.
This is not what we are supposed to be. This is not the promise of America. This is some dystopian version and if we don’t wake up we risk the great experiment that is America.
This is not to say that everything is broken.
Last week’s Space-X launch is a reminder of our technical and entrepreneurial prowess. That the founder of the company is a citizen of three countries  is an important reminder that we are a nation of immigrants and that most who come here do so to contribute and build the Dream that benefits us all.
I capitalize the word Dream because it deserves more attention. America means something. The Dream means something.
MLK’s Dream. The American Dream.
It’s worth fighting for. It’s worth dying for.
But the Dream is not automatic is it?
It’s not a birthright. It’s something we have to fight for and work to achieve.
I take issue with both the left and the right on this.
I don’t want to redistribute the nation’s wealth. I don’t want to punish those who succeed.
I think we ought to grow the pie. The beauty of America is the pie doesn’t have to be finite. We can grow it, we can include more people and we can root for them to succeed.
But we have the resources to provide a social safety net too. And if you succeed you should pay your fair share.
And that’s my problem with the right.
You don’t like Obamacare? Great where is your plan?
Can’t we all agree that everyone will need health care and that in a great nation that cares for its people that we ought to design a world class system and give people access to the very best care possible?
I don’t want to hear that climate change is a hoax, because it isn’t.
Sea level rise is real, super storms are menacing us and we are experiencing more severe weather events.
Isn’t it time we did something to protect the world we live in and the one we will leave our children and grandchildren?
We can go on heaping  blame on one another. We can continue to divide, bully and label.  But it’s a waste of time; blame and fault finding doesn’t get us anywhere.
The endless division doesn’t create opportunity, doesn’t solve racism and doesn’t ensure that we won’t all be consumed by rising tides.
Time and time again, this blog argues that we can think globally but act locally. Here’s how.
We can create more housing here for families and young people but we will need to stand up to the NIMBY mentality. And we can design that housing so that it enhances our community and doesn’t ruin it.
We can listen to each other instead of troll each other.
We can break down racial barriers —if we want to.
Delray is diverse but segregated. Why?
We can agree that having a strong local government can be a great advantage. We all want and need governmental services.
It has been a rocky several years marked by scandal and turnover. But there are a number of super public servants working in our city and we are blessed with outstanding police and fire departments—-and right about now we should be exceptionally grateful for that.
But so few us vote. So few of us participate. It’s important that we do.
Rep. John Lewis, who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge only to be met with violence and hatred shows us the way.
It’s not looting. It’s not apathy.
That’s the wrong way.
It’s being an active citizen. It’s using our voices.
It’s about working toward a more perfect union.
One of my friends said something changed when Americans saw that knee on George Floyd’s neck.
Something fundamental.
I agree.
It’s up to each of us as to what that change will mean.
We are at the crossroads.
Do we choose hate and division? Or love and collaboration?
Sounds like an easy choice doesn’t it ?
But too often we choose hate and division. It’s why we are at the crossroads.
Isn’t it time to try something else?

When The Reservoir Runs Dry

“Generations of pain are manifesting itself in front of the world.” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

Like the rest of America, I watched with horror as George Floyd died beneath the knee of a police officer last week as three other now former officers looked on ignoring Mr. Floyd’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe.
It saddened me. But sadly, the tragedy didn’t shock me because we have seen this scene play out time and time again across our country.
I watched, like the rest of the country, the scenes of violence and unrest that the murder of George Floyd sparked, in cities ranging from Minneapolis and Detroit to New York, Denver and Atlanta.
We watched as incendiary devices were hurled at police officers guarding the CNN headquarters and we were saddened by the scenes of looting and destruction.
It’s no small thing when the National Guard deploys in a major American city. And it’s no small thing when a man’s life is snuffed out under the knee of another man sworn to serve and protect.
The footage made me sick. Physically sick.
America is struggling right now.
Struggling with a virus. Struggling with racism. Struggling with anti-semitism and struggling with deep economic wounds caused by the pandemic.
But as daunting as those issues are—our biggest challenge is division.
It seems like half this country doesn’t like the other half very much.
We are seeing and experiencing hatred between Americans. One side sees the other as an existential threat to their way of life and a danger to the country and the world.
It’s hard to remember a time of such deep seated division.
It’s hard to remember a time when we’ve written each other off and when there doesn’t even seem to be an attempt to bring us together.  In fact, our so-called leaders seem to enjoy throwing gas on the fire.
We  each  seem to have our own set of facts and beliefs. You have your experts and I have mine.
We can’t seem to tolerate each other, so working together and compromise  seems impossible.
At the core of this division is race—America’s original sin.
We seem to make strides only to fall back again and again.
While racism manifests itself in so many ways the biggest flash points seem to happen when officers take the lives of black men.
Whenever this happens,—all to frequently I’m afraid—I’m reminded of what happened right here in Delray when Jerrod Miller lost his life outside the Delray Full Service Center.
If you weren’t around  15 years ago , Jerrod, 15, was shot by an off-duty officer outside a school dance. You can google the details.
I was mayor of Delray back then and Jerrod’s death tested this community in ways I’ve not seen before or since and I’ve lived here since 1987.

So what did we learn?
We learned that when violence occurs leaders need to de-escalate tensions not throw gas on the fire.
We learned that you have to amplify communications, admit mistakes and share your humanity.
We learned that you have to show up—in church halls, living rooms, community meetings etc.
We learned that you can’t begin to care after the fact, you have to build a reservoir of goodwill before bad things happen. You have to do the hard work of community building, you have to invest in relationships and you have to be in it for the right reasons and for the long haul not just to make friends before an election only to disappear until the next one.
You have to want it and you have to mean it.
If you’re a leader you can’t introduce yourself to the community after tragedy strikes. They better know who you are before hand and that relationship better be a good one.

America’s issues will not be solved by the feds or the tweeter in chief. If problems are to be solved and opportunity to be seized it will happen on the local level with neighborhood leaders working with their local elected officials to build better towns and cities.
It starts at the neighborhood level. You have to be on the ground every day.  You have to share your heart and your soul and you have to listen before you can help. You have to listen and learn before you can lead.

I have to say, we used to do that kind of stuff pretty well here in Delray. Oh we were never perfect and we never quite got there but here’s the secret: you never do. You have to keep at it.
In my opinion, based on 33 years of observation from inside and outside, I think we’ve stopped.
Sure there are some great initiatives and programs, but at one point our whole local government was built around engagement and community building. Somewhere along the way we got off track. One step up, two steps back……

Alongside George Floyd, social media was in the news last week.
And while I love sharing pictures of pets, movie and restaurant reviews on Facebook, I think the platform has driven wedges in our community.
For years now, I’ve seen fights break out between neighbors over development, community driven transformation plans, other important stuff and some nonsense too.
And I wonder where it all leads. I worry about a spark. I worry about the anger I see and sense.
People don’t react well when they feel marginalized and when they feel they aren’t heard.
You can only poke at people so long before you risk an eruption.
That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything or that elected officials have to compromise their values. It does mean that we have to find a way to disagree respectfully.
I’ve seen people marginalized, organizations bullied or ignored, long time employees thrown out with the trash and denied benefits they’ve earned. I’ve seen people and groups targeted too.
This kind of culture erodes community. It drains the reservoir of goodwill.
We saw last week what can happen when people feel that our societal contract doesn’t work for them.
It seems to me we have two choices: ignore it or address it.
Ignorance is dangerous; addressing it is hard work but it’s the only way forward. Failure to do so means we all fail.
And we can’t afford that can we?

The Last Dance & Leadership

Editor’s Note: In honor of Memorial Day.

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” – President Harry S. Truman

Did you see ESPN’s “The Last Dance?”

The 10-hour documentary chronicles the story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls who won six NBA championships during a magical run in the 90s.
It’s must see TV and the 10 hours fly by. I could have watched at least ten more hours; the story was that compelling.
Much has been written about the documentary especially the leadership skills and personality of Jordan whose basketball skills were other worldly but whose personality was… how shall I say it…challenging.
In short, Jordan led through a combination of hard work, dedication and bullying that at least on two occasions led to actual violence. He punched two teammates during practice sessions that got so intense that they …well …led to fisticuffs.

Jordan had impossibly high standards. Winning was the only thing that mattered.
If he sensed you weren’t dedicated, or you were weak, he pounced and wouldn’t let up until he was satisfied you were not going to get in the way of winning.
There’s no arguing that he got results. Six rings. And I was reminded through the documentary that he was the best player I’ve ever seen.
But when asked about their teammate, many of the Bulls who played alongside MJ hedged their feelings. Yes he was great and he made others better. Yes we won. But boy could he be a jerk and yes he crossed the line many times.
At times it was painful too watch. You could see how his teammates are still struggling with Jordan’s style.

There are other examples of great individual talents whose personalities left a lot to be desired.
Steve Jobs led Apple to great heights but was said to be brutal to team members.
In the HBO film “LBJ-All The Way” Bryan Cranston portrays Lyndon Johnson as an expert politician but a man lacking in tact and manners. A theme throughout the film is LBJ’s reluctance to choose Hubert Humphrey as his running mate in 1964 because he openly worries that Humphrey is too nice.
You have to be mean to succeed in a blood sport such as politics, he tells Humphrey.
Which begs the question: do you?
Do you have to be mean and a bully to succeed?
I’m not so sure.
Although it’s hard to argue with the success of Jobs, Jordan and LBJ —who sure passed a lot of landmark legislation before getting swallowed by Vietnam—I’d like to believe that kind, empathetic, servant leadership is a more reliable and sustainable model.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be tough at times. There are instances that call for leaders to be brutally honest and there are times when leaders are called upon to take on bullies. And sometimes  the best way to take on a bully is to give him or her a taste of their own medicine.
Sometimes it’s the only thing a bully understands.
But when it comes to day to day effective leadership I think those who lead with love  get more done.
Maya Angelou said it best: people may forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel.
In Michael Jordan’s case they won’t forget the six titles or the soaring dunks but they also won’t forget that they didn’t feel all that great at times ducking his punches and his insults.
Of course, it’s  hard to argue with results, but few of us are Michael Jordan.
For those with modest talents who wish to change the world,  I think the best way to lead is with love and affection.
Now some may feel that love is a strong word. It is.
But it’s essential for success.
Mayors should love their cities. CEOs should love their company’s mission, their employees and their customers.
Love is the killer app.
It enables you to find hidden reserves when trouble comes; and trouble always comes.
Passion for your cause will ensure you succeed. Jordan, Jobs and others had it. But they wouldn’t have been any less dominant if they mixed their passion with an old fashioned dose of kindness.

Monday Thoughts

Random thoughts….
Question: how are we going to get a vaccine by the end of the year if we haven’t yet figured out a way to stock toilet paper in our stores?
A friend texted me the other day and said he hated the term “new normal.”
I agree.
We can’t think that we will be living in a pandemic forever. We just can’t. We will get back to living life which includes socializing with other humans.
What do I miss most?
Hugs. Giving them and getting them.
There is no acceptable excuse to avoid a Zoom call or Zoom Happy Hour. What are you going to say, ‘I’m busy’—it doesn’t fly.
The press is not the enemy of the people. It’s the guarantor of our Democracy.
I hate inaccurate reporting as much as the next person and have been on the receiving end of bad reporting. But our First Amendment sets us apart and we must get back to a place where we can agree on objective facts.  PS There is some remarkable journalism being practiced today. Look no further than the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and right  here at home I’ve been impressed recently by the work of C. Ron Allen in the Boca Tribune.
It’s alarming that Palm Beach County is one of three counties nationally considered high risk thanks to increasing infections.
We took a ride downtown over the weekend and didn’t see a lot of social distancing. Complacency in these times can get you and others in trouble. It can kill you.
One of the saving graces of staying at home in 2020: streaming services.
Can you call imagine how long the nights would be without Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime?
Here’s a few recommendations: “Never Have I Ever” on Netflix, “Upload” on Amazon and “I Know This Much is True” on HBO.
Also don’t miss “The Last Dance” on ESPN.
There is some talk about moving the start of hurricane season to May from June.
Between coronavirus, murder hornets, locusts and toilet paper shortages I would argue that we can do without hurricanes this year.
We’ve got enough on the plate for a while.
On a personal note, I wanted to thank everyone for the overwhelming support after we posted about the loss of our beloved golden retriever Teddy last week.
We received flowers, cards, comforting messages and even a poster featuring Teddy.
He was the best dog imaginable.
I believe he’s in a better place, free of pain and that we will see each other again.
Thank you for all the love and concern. You are the very best.  And again of you can rescue a pet please do so. You will find that they rescue you.

A Different Kind of Mother’s Day

I’ve been thinking a lot about moms these days.

My mom would have turned 81 this week but we lost her in 1998 and ever since, Mother’s Day has been a bittersweet holiday for me.
I miss my mom terribly, so the day is tinged with a trace of sadness although I must say that my gratitude for having had a wonderful mother far outweighs any melancholy I may feel.

It’s also a happy day because my two children and my two stepchildren have been absolutely blessed with amazing mothers.
Kathy and Diane are exceptional mothers. Both are kind, nurturing, warm, encouraging and 100 percent dedicated to the happiness and well being of their/our children.
It’s flat out inspiring.
My mother was like that too;
always there for me and Sharon.
For that and a million other reasons I am forever grateful.
And so as we approach a Mother’s Day unlike any other I have a few thoughts.
If you are lucky enough to still have a mom, try and take a moment to savor how fortunate you are. In many cases, you may not be able to see or hug her given the situation but if she’s still here count your blessings.

On this Mother’s Day, I’m going to remember my wonderful mom and do my best to honor the mom I’m quarantined with—my beautiful wife.
I also want to offer a shout out to a few special ladies in Delray that I’ve noticed are amazing moms. This list is not by any means definitive. I will surely leave out so many wonderful moms. Please forgive me.
 But I do want to say Happy Mother’s Day to Rita Ellis, Frances Bourque, Susan Ruby, Lula Butler, Janet Meeks, Vera Farmington, Cynthia Ridley, Michelle Hoyland, Jen Costello, Diane Franco, Lori Nolan, Marjorie Waldo, Evelyn Dobson, Barbara Fitz and Donna Quinlan—mothers who balanced public service with busy personal lives. We know that isn’t easy.
Happy Mother’s Day Melissa Porten, Kim Thomas, Linda Greenberg, Amanda Perna, Ryan Lynch, Pam Halberg, Teresa Paterson, Maria Poliacek, Maritza Benitez, Karen Vermilyea, Sharon Sperling, Karen Zolnierek, Hilary Lynch, Diane Alperin, Connie Barcinski, Lucy Carney, Billie Christ, Karen Granger, Elizabeth Mitchell, Debbie Smith, Sharon Wood, Cassidee Boylston, Debbie Bathurst, Fran Finch, Elaine Morris, Suzanne Carter,  Fran Fisher, Sharon Sperling and the Miracle mom herself Julia Kadel.
Thanks for all you do.
So if we miss our mother’s hugs these days be it because they have passed, live far away or because we are practicing social distancing please remember: a mother’s hug lasts long after she lets go.

Preparing For Recovery

I moved to Delray Beach just when efforts to revitalize the city were beginning to kick into gear.

The year was 1987, so I had just missed Mayor Doak Campbell’s Atlantic Avenue Task Force, an effort that served as an important precursor to the massive efforts that were about to be launched.

But I was there for Visions 2000, the Decade of Excellence, Visions 2005, Sharing for Excellence (which focused on the city’s schools) the Downtown Master Plan and a host of other efforts that created modern day Delray Beach, a three time All America City, that has earned national acclaim for its redevelopment efforts, successful downtown, events, culture and food scene.

It’s been quite a ride—turbulent at times, but joyous too.
Now in the midst of a pandemic I am reminded every time I drive down Atlantic Avenue about those early years when downtown was dead and buried in a lot of people’s hearts and minds.

Delray came back as a result of careful planning, massive public investment, risky private investment and a playbook that included everything from a downtown tennis stadium and festivals to a focus on culture and a big bet on food and beverage as a driver of commerce and branding. A strong commitment to Community Policing was another indispensable tool. If people don’t feel safe, they simply won’t spend time or money in your city.

In a pandemic, most of those tools are largely off the table—- for now at least. So I wonder how we will fare in the short and long term.
Long term I think we will find a vaccine and effective treatments that will give us the confidence to venture out again and be among people.
That’s what downtowns do best if they are healthy. They bring us together.

But short term it may be a while before we see restaurants packed and feel comfortable enough to attend festivals with thousands of people.

Thanks to societal changes, retail doesn’t appear to be viable option especially in a high rent environment.
Pineapple Grove has done well as center of personal services and hopefully salons, gyms and the like can safely re-open soon.

We never quite had a huge office component downtown and one wonders where that sector will be in the wake of the coronavirus. Many companies are realizing they can effectively operate remotely and may not require the large offices they now occupy.

Still, there are opportunities at Atlantic Crossing and the IPic building to bring workers downtown.
In time, it will also be important to get anchors such as Old School Square and the Arts Garage up and running again.
The arts are a morale booster and an economic development engine.

I also think  there is  a great opportunity to introduce educational uses downtown and perhaps someday (post vaccine) that will be possible too.

Tourism is a huge part of our economy and we finally have a critical mass of hotel rooms after years of lacking capacity.
In time, if the hotels can stay alive, that sector will bounce back and be a critical piece of our economic recovery.
My belief is we need a short term survival plan because long term we can bounce back because the fundamentals are there. But it will be harder to bounce back if we lose too much of what we had prior to the pandemic.
What’s probably needed is a local city specific Marshall Plan.
Is that an overreaction? Maybe, but what we seem to be facing is an economic event unlike any we’ve experienced since the Great Depression.
So in my estimate, it will take big and bold thinking to restore a sustainable local economy that has the potential—if done right—to be better than pre-Coronavirus.
Tall order?
Perhaps.
But we are starting with a decent foundation this time.
Back then, all we had were good bones and a lot of dreams.
A slew of visionaries made it happen then, we can do it again.

A New Landscape

Empty downtown streets in the middle of season are a stark reminder of the toll of Covid-19

 

A few months ago, we attended the opening of Rex Baron, a new restaurant in the Town Center Mall.

The restaurant’s theme was a post apocalyptic Boca Raton. Little did I know that a few months later we would be living the theme as a reality.
Yes, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but perhaps only a bit.
Things are mighty strange out there. What a difference a few weeks can make.
Malls are closed. Restaurants are closed. Roads are empty. There are no sports, no events and no shows —only an endless river of bad news.
The world has shifted and  it doesn’t feel very good.
My friends are edgy. We are watching our businesses and investments get crushed, we can’t go out and we are worried about our health.
Is that sniffle the coronavirus?
Will we survive this?
Will our friends and family?
Will life ever return to normal?
How long will this last? What if we get a hurricane on top of this mess?
Sometimes I can’t stop my mind and I get overcome with worry. At other times, I briefly forget and lose myself in a project, a conversation or a book and life seems normal. But something always snaps you back to reality.
Usually it’s the news. Or the fact that everything we know and love about our lives is in jeopardy, disrupted or already gone.
To quote John Lennon: you don’t know what you got until you lose it.
How true.
What this crisis brings home to me is how vulnerable we all are.
A rip roaring economy (for some, not all) gets washed away in a matter of days.
Once healthy people get sick and some may never recover.
But within every crisis there lies a lesson and even some good news which I am resolved to focus on and I hope you do too.
I’m seeing resilience in the community.
I’m seeing ingenuity too.
I’m also seeing generosity and creativity, kindness and concern.
There are so many examples: The Social Distancing Supper Club formed by my friends and neighbors John Brewer and Ian Paterson which picks a local restaurant, takes orders on Facebook and creates a mob of business for those businesses that are surely hurting. This week’s beneficiary: the excellent J&J Raw Bar on Atlantic Avenue.
I have another neighbor who owns Prime in Delray and Baciami in Boynton Beach. He is feeding his 100 employees every night taking away at least some of the burden for his stressed out workers.
I was proud to see our firefighters union step up and offer to help local restaurant to the time of over $5,000 a week. That’s the buying power of firefighters and paramedics spread out over six fire stations in our city. Pretty cool indeed.
Over the weekend, we took out from Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza which has always been here for the community. We also ordered from Grangers, an incredible restaurant, with a deeply loyal following.
The management is doing its best to adjust its ordering to prevent waste while also meeting the needs of customers who have fallen hard for their ribs and delicious soups.
In the coming weeks, we plan to support many of our local favorites including LaCigale, Caffe Luna Rosa and a few other places owned and operated by friends some of whom have become like family to us.
As a former mayor who experienced several hurricanes that challenged our resolve and patience, I’ve become a student of how public officials react and lead in these situations.
Yes, we live in cities that are governed by a council manager form of government. But mayors and commissioners have roles too, important ones in hard times. They are counted on to be visible, accessible, factual, empathetic, strong and direct with key information. They are also advocates for resources and counted on to provide hope. Not false hope but hope because we will get beyond this.
It will surely change us. It already has and life will never quite be the same. But there will be life.
Crises focus us on what’s most important. And so we relearn what truly matters. Our health. Our families. Our friends. The local businesses that serve and sustain us. Our health care system. Our first responders, health care workers and public servants. Our schools and teachers. The arts and events that give us joy and keep our communities vibrant and alive.
Let’s think of them all as we navigate the unforeseen.
Let’s think of each other too.
Kindness. Patience. Love. Empathy. Community.
Be well and stay safe.