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MLK Day 2020

Today is MLK Day.
It’s a special day.
A day to reflect. A day to take stock. A day to look back and a day to think about our future.
We are challenged by this holiday and by the legacy of Dr. King to do more, be more, love more and envision a more perfect union.
We have come a long way but we also have a long way to go. We see that there are forces in our society that would take us backward. We cannot let that happen. Not as Americans and not as residents of our local communities.
I worry about race relations in our country. But I also worry about race relations in our city. I see the fissures. I see the cracks. I can sense the anger and the frustration.
We would be foolish to ignore it.
Division doesn’t just go away. It takes an effort to build bridges and to mend fences.  It takes both love and strength. One cannot exist without the other.
Below are ten of my favorite MLK quotes.
I hope you find as much inspiration in these words as I have throughout my life.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
“There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”
“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”

Scaling Leadership

BocaLead’s goal is to inspire, mentor and lead.

I’ve written about BocaLead before.

I’m going to do so again because something special is being built on the first Thursday of each month at Boca Community Church whenever Pastor Bill Mitchell stands before a sold-out crowd and provides 45 minutes of timely, relevant and sage advice. He’s offering tools to not only grow your business but also to achieve personal growth and a stronger community.

The community part is important. Because the Pastor Mitchell’s goal is simple but profound—make Boca the best place to live, work, play, worship, grow a business and raise a family.

BocaLead’s aims to inspire, mentor and lead and that’s what hundreds of people get each and every month when they attend the lunch and now a newly added dinner event.

But if you have attended the event or read this blog, you know already know all that.

What you might not know is that BocaLead is about to ‘scale’ as they say in the business world.

Recently, the BocaLead team traveled to Chicago and threw a Boc Lead event before 100 leaders from cities across America. As a result, about 20 cities have decided to jump on the opportunity and soon Pastor Mitchell’s smart and deeply moving messages will begin to spread across America.

And folks, we need this message to resonate far and wide.

We are a divided nation. But then again we have a whole lot in common and a host of reasons to figure out how we can work together again.

By Bill Mitchell’s estimate, we disagree on about 20 percent of the issues, but share common ground on 80 percent. Sadly, the disagreements are preventing us from working together on the 80 percent where we see eye to eye.

That’s where the opportunity exists and its thrilling to see BocaLead take their model and curriculum across America. There are already several South Florida chapters, but this concept is too good not to spread and 2020 is the ideal timing to roll it out.

You may be wondering why this Jewish guy from Long Island is so taken with a Pastor from Boca Raton.

And that’s a good question. First, BocaLead— while steeped in values embraced by the church— is inclusive of all religions and the audience that attends consists of a variety of faith traditions and professional associations.

A quick look around the room at table sponsors reveals FAU’s College of Science, the Boca Raton Resort and Club, 4Kids, Habitat for Humanity and County Commissioner Bob Weinroth and Boca Mayor Scott Singer who recently filmed testimonials urging other cities to get on board the BocaLead train.

Another glance around the room reveals many of my Delray Beach friends—which is cool because Delray Beach is crying out for this kind of community building exercise. So is the rest of America.

We have lost our civility and with it our dignity.

BocaLead’s message is a counterweight to the rancor. It simply asks that we make Boca a better town. How can you argue with that?

Here’s to spreading the word far and wide. Wouldn’t it be great to see Boca become known for exporting goodness, leadership and inspiration. Lord knows it’s needed across our great country.

 

The Roads Not Taken

Neal Peirce

Neal Peirce died over the holidays and we shouldn’t let his passing go without a look back at his life and his influence.

Mr. Peirce was a journalist and researcher who studied cities, regions and states—not exactly a sexy beat but an important one because communities change or stagnate on the local level far from the gaze of Cable TV pundits and national media.

As a result, if you were a policymaker in the 80s, 90s and 2000s with a burning desire to make your time in  office count, you were most likely aware of Mr. Peirce and influenced by his work.

As an elected official in Delray Beach from 2000-07, I read every word he wrote, subscribed to his column and poured over his reports seeking ideas, insights and wisdom.

He was a hero of mine. And he inspired many other mayors I go to know through the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Florida League of Cities.

In addition to a syndicated column, Mr. Peirce was a partner in a firm called Citistates.

Cities, states and regions would hire the firm to study their communities and make recommendations on how to solve problems or take advantage of opportunities, some of them hidden.

About 20 years ago, business, non-profit and civic leaders in South Florida engaged Citistates in a unique effort that also included major regional newspapers which agreed to publish Mr. Peirce’s “think” pieces so that stakeholders could be educated on some of the opportunities and challenges we faced.

When Mr. Peirce passed during the holidays, I went back and read a few of the old newspaper columns including a wonderful piece on U.S. 1 that included recommendations to turn the auto-oriented highway into more of a neighborhood.

Peirce envisioned U.S. 1 becoming a new “Main Street” linking South Florida from the Treasure Coast to South Dade. He recommended that the Florida Department of Transportation reclassify U.S. 1 as a “local access road”, not a thoroughfare for moving traffic as a rapidly as possible.

“High speed traffic is the job of I-95 and other such arterials,” he wrote.

And he was right.

Delray took that advice and I was a policymaker at the time the decision was made to narrow Federal Highway. It was not an easy or obvious decision and the opposition to the plan was formidable—as were the proponents who wanted to make the road safer (there was a high incidence of accidents) and more picturesque. They argued that it made no sense to have a high speed freeway bisecting a pedestrian oriented downtown. We studied the issue for a year, studying speeds, looking at accident history and traffic volume before ultimately deciding to proceed with the project.

In my mind, it turned U.S. 1 in Delray from a highway into a neighborhood and gave the area a host of economic and placemaking opportunities.

Reading Mr. Peirce’s column on U.S. 1 I have no doubt that his thinking had an effect.

Peirce and his partner Curtis Johnson published a series of articles in 2000 in local newspapers on topics ranging from sustainability and traffic to New Urbanism and the difficulties of getting things done in a sprawling region with a vast variety of governments and players to navigate.

If you want to check out the articles that ran in the Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald here’s a link. http://www.floridacdc.org/roundtable/index.html

If you read the pieces, you are struck by their continuing relevance and also by what wasn’t done.

Twenty years have gone by and we still haven’t addressed sprawl, environmental issues and affordable housing.

With Mr. Peirce’s passing, I can’t think of another journalist covering the urban beat that measures up. Governing Magazine had the great Otis White some years back and he did two major pieces on Delray Beach but he left the magazine and now that wonderful publication is going away too.

The newspapers that partnered with key non-profits to produce the Citistates project are a shell of their former selves. As a result, we no longer have a regional or community water cooler; a place to share ideas and create momentum for positive change.

Back in 2000, New Urbanism seemed like a logical solution to traffic, sprawl and environmental degradation and a chance to return some charm to what can be a cookie cutter landscape of bland design.

But in 2020, we see the same tired arguments against New Urban style development despite growing traffic and a lack of affordable housing and walkability. I cringe when I get vapid campaign emails from candidates decrying density in one sentence and vowing to save the environment in the next breath. Folks, sprawl like development is not good for the environment. It creates traffic, uses more water and will never create the amount of housing we need to help teachers, police officers and firefighters be able to live in our communities.

All of this may sound like the work of people like Neal Peirce doesn’t matter. That’s not what I believe.

I think crusading journalists and thinkers like Neil Peirce make a difference.

In 2000, Peirce wrote passionately about highway gridlock and the dangers of sprawl. If only we had listened and acted as a region, but I would argue Delray did listen and did act and that we need to continue with smart growth and community engagement practices.

Mr. Peirce had a prescription to address sprawl: utilize planning and community engagement to design a better future. He called for “mega charrettes” to bring the community to the table.

“Consider the 1.8-million-by-2020-population projection (I think he meant additional residents moving in not total population) and debate honestly, openly where the new growth ought to go. Even if a consensus wasn’t reached — and it might not be — the true, region wide issues would be a lot clearer.

 

How can the emerging technologies, starting with neighborhood planning programs, be made available to ordinary citizens, businesses, people interested in new development possibilities and futures? One solution: walk-in urban design centers in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, designed to marry the worlds of professional design and grassroots activism.

 

Ideally, architecture or planning departments from local universities would run these centers. Information on the whole gamut of planning challenges — from single transit stops or suburban neighborhood centers to growth corridors, waterfronts and affordable housing — would be available.

 

Such centers are already open and operating in such varied places as Chattanooga, Birmingham, Little Rock and Portland, Ore., with very favorable reports on their performance. For democratized development in South Florida, they might represent a dramatic breakthrough.”

Alas, it didn’t happen. But it’s not too late. Or is it?

 

 

Things We Loved in December–Year End Edition

Community Greening, a Delray non-profit, was one of the year’s bright spots. Among the many projects completed by volunteers was an effort to plant 100 trees in a two-acre retention area in the Lake Ida neighborhood.

Things we loved in December 

Congratulations to Sgt. Steve Hynes who retired in  December to take a senior position with the Federal Emergency Management Agency based in Atlanta.
Steve was a fine officer and a good guy.
He contributed a lot to emergency management policy in Delray before returning to the road a few years back.
We’ve been friends for years and I always enjoyed our conversations about local government, organizational leadership and how things work (or often don’t) and why.
I wish him well at FEMA. It’s a good move. And much deserved.
Kudos to Delray based Community Greening, a wonderful non-profit that has planted over 3,300 trees at schools, parks and neighborhoods since 2016.
Recent highlights include planting more than 150 trees on the campus of Village Academy and creating a “food forest” in West Palm Beach with 53 fruit trees. How cool is that?
Good to see this wonderful organization grow bigger and better every year.
Congratulations also to former Boca police chief Dan Alexander. Chief Alexander started his new job as director of school district police.
He will do a great job.
Boca Lead continues to impress us.
Pastor Bill Mitchell delivers timely and useful messages the first Thursday of every month at Boca Community Church. There’s also a new dinner series the first Thursday as well if you can’t make the lunch meeting.
The event is a secular affair and attracts a wide range of business, civic, non-profit and educational leaders.
Check out Pastor Mitchell’s free e-books, they are terrific and think about getting tickets to Boca Lead. But hurry they go fast.
Also congratulations to Bill and his lovely wife Elizabeth  on his 10 years as pastor at Boca Community.  To access the e-books visit www.heisherebooks.com.
Random Thoughts
Happiness is Shake Shack on a beautiful December day. Nothing beats sitting outside and savoring a great burger.
I love the Corner Bakery…there I said it.
We bid a fond farewell to Coastal Tire and Auto Service which closed up shop in Boca after 52 years of loyal service.
Coastal Tire was a favorite of locals and they were successful in forging lifelong friendships with generations of valued customers. That’s a rarity these days.
The land was sold and that prompted the closing. We thank Coastal Tire for their half century of service. The moms and pops are local treasures and they are precious parts of the community that we should savor, support and celebrate.
Congratulations to the City of Boca on the Brightline deal. 
Visionary thinking + Strong leadership = a bright future.

Eliot Winokur has a lot to be happy about these days

The 75-year-old Delray Beach man won five swimming events in his 75 to 79 age group and placed third in the other in the annual Florida Senior Games. Oh and he set a slew of age group records along the way. Amazing.

When a container storing holiday gifts sprung a leak and ruined a slew of toys collected by the Delray Beach Police Department it could have been a disaster.

But thanks to big hearts and generosity, the community stepped up to replace the toys ensuring that hundreds of needy children would have gifts for Christmas. Bravo!

Congratulations to Roby & Suze on their return to Channel 12. 

The dynamic duo will bring their Rise+Live show to CBS 12 on January 3 at 9:30. That will be the regular time so make sure to tune in every Friday.

If you prefer to see these great personalities live and in person check them out every Friday at 8:30 at The Heart of Delray Gallery. 

The show also streams on YouTube, Facebook and their website.

Good to hear Coco Gauff will play an exhibition before a hometown crowd at the Delray Open. 

Also good to see the frivolous lawsuit against the event settled.

On a sad note, Joseph Segel, the founder of the QVC shopping network and a resident of Delray passed in December. He was a true pioneer of TV and retailing. There was a wonderful tribute to Mr. Segel in the Wall Street Journal. He also founded the Franklin Mint.

Some restaurant notes.

The bison burger at Harvest is terrific.

Caffe Luna Rosa makes the very best chicken sandwich.

We discovered Mana, a Greek restaurant in Boynton and it’s terrific.

Rose’s Daughter continues to impress.

The new renovations at Prime Catch in Boynton Beach are something to see.

Please support your local businesses especially those in Pineapple Grove impacted by the construction of The Ray Hotel. Can’t recommend Papas Tapas, Brule, Joseph’s Wine Bar and Christina’s enough. They are standouts.

Have a happy and safe New Year!

Rex Baron: The New Era of Experiential Dining

Rex Baron opened in Boca last week and it’s an experience.

Last week, we had a chance to attend the opening of “Rex Baron”, a new restaurant concept at the Town Center Mall.

Aside from getting to hang out with former Giants running back Rashad Jennings (he’s terrific and an investor in the business) which was cool, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a place quite like Rex Baron.

It’s an experiential restaurant with great food (and many healthy options) and a vast array of virtual reality experiences that allow you to experience everything from Jurassic Park and NASCAR to a post-apocalyptic Boca Raton. I think I’m decent with words, but I can’t quite describe the place. You have to see for yourself and you really must. It’s amazing.

Spread out over 8,200 square feet including beautiful outdoor space, a private room with a golf simulator and a magnificent bar/dining area Rex Baron is an exciting new concept.

We asked Mr. Jennings what attracted him to Rex Baron because we figured a former football star and “Dancing with the Stars” champ must be offered a slew of investment opportunities. While he was impressed with the VR component and the uniqueness of the design, he was really taken with the quality food options as someone who eats healthy but also fancies himself a chicken wing connoisseur.

“They are the best wings I’ve ever had,” said the LA based Jennings. “The best.”

By the time my friend Marisa Herman and I were done with Rashad, we had him considering a move to Boca and a job at the newspaper we run. He is after all a New York Times best-selling author who says he loves to write.

But I digress.

Let’s just say Rex Baron is a welcome and extremely unique addition to the Boca landscape.

The new restaurant is located near Nordstrom’s and Sachs adjacent to California Pizza Kitchen.

The opening of Rex Baron got me thinking about the marvel that is Town Center.

In a world where malls are closing or distressed, Town Center continues to thrive.

Why?
Because it evolves with the times. The mall still looks fresh and modern and feels vibrant and alive. It’s hard to imagine the mall will turn 40 in 2020.

They have added some great food options—including a soon to open French Bakery that is said to be out of this world.

It manages to stay busy year-round and seems to combine the perfect blend of shopping and dining.

Town Center’s tenants are also community focused hosting special events that benefit local charities.

I remember coming to Florida for a job interview in the 80s and visiting the mall. I was blown away way back then. Town Center was so much different than the drab northeast malls I was used too. It had palm trees, natural light, a strong retail mix and was the place to people watch.

Thirty years later it is still evolving and still relevant.

Rex Baron is the latest example.

Check it out…it’s spectacular.

 

My Santa Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The whole experience stressed me out.

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

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

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

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

Maybe.

Anyway, let’s just say I was nervous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Dangers of Ego & The Value of Good Stewards

You can still move the big rocks without breaking everything.

I’m fascinated by the strange tale of WeWork.

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

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

Merry Christmas.

Bah humbug.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When egomaniacs fail, they fail fast.

There are other examples too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes I wonder whether that concept is lost on politicians.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mingling With Some Mayors

Lots of stories inside this building.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how the Boca Rotary describes the event.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Things We Loved in November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Arts Garage: Fulfilling Its Vast Promise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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