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Remembering Bob….

Bob with Lori Levinson, Diane Colonna, Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Musco, Jon Levinson and Ron Hoggard during a conference out west.

On paper, Bob Costin and I shouldn’t have been friends.

He was tall. I’m short.

He loved the Red Sox, I love the Yankees.

He was a Republican, I’m a Democrat.

He wasn’t keen on Chinese food and loved lobster. I live for orange chicken and can’t even look at a lobster.

Bob Costin was 30 years older than me when we lost him last week. He lived a long and very good life, but losing him sure does hurt.

He’s family.

Diane and I love Bob and his lovely wife Sonya.

We are not alone.

Everyone who knew Bob —and there were many —loved him.

He was warm, funny, optimistic, smart, sensitive, caring, open-minded and lived one heck of a life.

Bob when he was president of FTD at the White House with Betty Ford. This image is in the Ford Presidential Library.

Bob and Sonya owned Costin’s florist in downtown Delray for decades and Bob became president of FTD, rising to the top of his profession. He travelled the world for FTD and was famously in Iran when the Shah was overthrown. He and his contingent had to run through the airport to escape when the country fell to the Ayatollah.

He told stories with gusto and wit and we hung on every word. I will miss those stories.

And I’ll miss the calls when we discussed the news of the day. We were different people from different generations but we always found common ground.

Diane grew close to Bob when he served as a CRA commissioner. He was a really good CRA commissioner and very supportive of staff and his fellow commissioners.

He would later run for and serve a term on the City Commission. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Bob on the dais. We called him the “high commissioner” in deference to his 6’5” height.

I relied on Bob. I truly did.

I valued his experience and his common sense wisdom.

He was the opposite of me in terms of temperament, and I needed his quiet mentoring.

He was calm, I was high strung. He had decades of perspective; I was still a young man in my 30s.

You can see Bob’s nameplate in this shot. He was a calming influence on the dais.

Having Bob on the commission gave us confidence and I knew he had my back. He had a sparkle in his eye when he looked at you that put you at ease even during the tensest of moments.

I knew he believed in what we were doing and that gave me comfort. He had a gentle way of framing issues and injecting humor and common sense into the conversations we were having with each other and with the community.

We were change agents. We were moving things forward, making noise, pushing ideas and driving hard and fast. But we were also having fun—largely because of Bob.

He set the tone.

And he calmed the waters too.

Bob would amble over to The Green Owl every morning where there used to be a table of civic fathers (all men, no women) who sat and held court.

I liked all the men who sat at the table—Ernie Simon, Mayor Leon Weekes, Charlie Gwynn, Ken Ellingsworth, Bob Miller, and a few others. All civic giants; all long-term players.

I think most were OK with me, but I wasn’t a peer. I wasn’t one of them. Bob was.

And if they had a beef with a decision we made, Bob explained the rationale behind the vote and smoothed the waters.

He knew how to lead with grace. Even when he disagreed with you; he was affable. He showed respect for others and he was respected by all as a result.

Bob Costin was old school.

A flip phone. No email.

When we would comment on the large volume of emails we were getting on a hot issue, Bob would smile.

“I didn’t get any,” he would say. “My modem must be down.”

And then he would laugh, that big, garrulous, wonderful and warm laugh.

I wish I had a dollar for every time he used the “modem” line which was always followed by that laugh.

I liked so much about Bob, but I loved three things the most.

First, his hunger for knowledge and his ability to keep an open mind.

Sometimes people of a certain vintage get a reputation of being closed off to change. Not Bob. He was willing to try things. Willing to take a leap.

“We have to keep up with the times,” he’d say. “People will understand.”

Bob and Diane in front of the Costin’s rock star RV.

I also loved how much he was devoted to Sonya, a teacher who ended up working alongside Bob at the florist. They were quite a pair, married for 65 years.

They did so much together. Travel, RV adventures, a dream lake house in Georgia and an occasional Red Sox game. Ugh, those Red Sox.

Bob would call me if the Sox beat the Yankees and rub it in.

I was not above giving it back to him.

When we invited Bucky Dent to get a proclamation on the 25th anniversary of his epic home run to beat the Sox at Fenway in 1978, Bob whipped out a Red Sox cap as Bucky came to the mic.

It was an epic moment. And everyone, including Bucky, laughed.

They traded some good natured barbs and a special moment was made immortal.

Bob used to joke that he lived on Federal Highway before living on Federal Highway was cool.

The Costin’s had a cottage on U.S. 1 where Putt N Around now sits. He lived there before the townhomes made the neighborhood fashionable.

His cottage was moved and is now an office in the Old School Square Historic Arts District.

I drive by it frequently and last week when I passed by, I got a lump in my throat.

I remember Bob calling from Georgia and asking about his house after a hurricane. Would I go by and check on it?

Sure, Bob.

Of course, I would tell him that it was gone, trying my best to sell that story, but all I heard was that laugh.

“You know Jeff,” he would say. “I would’ve emailed you, but my modem is down.”

Bob served two years on the commission, opening a seat for Rita Ellis to secure. Rita would follow me as mayor.

We continued to stay in touch, often going to dinner—but never Chinese.

“Next time, Jeff,” he would say.

So, we kept going to Longhorn and a few times to Il Girasole.

We talked Delray. We talked national news. We met up at a wedding in Italy. We met Bob and Sonya’s  RV friends and we avoided Chinese food and email. And we talked about my kids.

And that’s my third favorite thing about Bob. He was genuinely concerned for your kids and family. He adored Commissioner Jon Levinson and his wife and their three daughters and attended many a dinner at their home, including holidays.

When I got Covid, Bob, who finally got a smart phone, texted me encouraging words. Every single day.

Don’t give up. He wrote.

You’ll be ok. He texted.

And I didn’t. And I was. Eventually.

Lately, Bob was sick.

Diane and I went to see him. He smiled. He looked different but still had that wonderful voice. His last words to us was “I love you guys.”

We said it back.

And now that he’s gone, I realize something. Bob’s modem was never down.

A modem is a device that that is used to transmit and receive information.

That was our Bob.

He brought us information from a place of goodness, kindness and love.

Love for people, love for community, love for Delray Beach.

We will miss this man. He was the high commissioner, a wonderful man and a friend to so so many.

We love you Bob.

The Costin’s in Georgia with Chuck and Pam Halberg.

Further Adventures….

Shameless plug…available on Amazon. If you are interested in Delray you may like it.

A few years back, I wrote a book.

“Adventures in Local Politics” was an attempt to chronicle my experiences as an elected official from 2000-2007.

It was also an attempt to write the book I was looking for and could never find—a primer on local government. I wanted to share some insights about the things that I saw that worked and I wanted to share what didn’t, because I’m a firm believer that mistakes are a great teacher.

During Covid, my old publisher went belly up and I learned that my book would no longer be available on Amazon or other outlets.

Since I still get a few stray requests for books, I decided to find another publisher and refresh my work. I spent about six months adding a new introduction and working with a new editor to tighten up the manuscript.  I decided not to update the story because I felt I should preserve my original experience. In other words, I didn’t include current events. I figure that’s what this blog is for.

Still, the experience of revisiting the Delray I once knew was powerful and potentially instructive to a growing movement of people seeking to make our hometown better. There’s lessons in the book that I firmly believe resonate today.

Still, revisiting the Delray of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s was impactful.

So much has changed.

It’s as if the town that I knew— and fell in love with—has vanished.

Now I am not talking about the physical changes, which are many and certainly important. I’m talking about the atmosphere, the feeling in town, the sense of community and the general mood.

Truth be told, Delray is not alone. The world has changed and so has America.

Some of those changes have been good and some have been…well …not so good. I’m trying to be diplomatic.

I think the fundamental change is that there is a coarseness to our society.

There’s less kindness.

Less teamwork.

Less collaboration.

Less trust.

Sadly, there’s a lot more nastiness, individualism, and suspicion of each other.

As happy as I am— and I am blessed– and as happy and fortunate as many of my friends are, I can honestly say that an overwhelming majority feel that there is something fundamentally wrong these days. Things just don’t feel right.

Diving back into the galleys of my old book I was transported back to a different time and a very different place. I miss that place. I loved that place. I long for that place and so do many of my friends.

We were a community and a country brimming with possibilities and aspirations. Each year things seemed to get better. You could feel the optimism in the air. It was electric and our confidence in the future grew alongside our vision which was exciting and seemingly within reach.

The trust in each other grew as well. When we saw our collective dreams become reality, we believed that anything was possible.

Yes, I know it’s easy to glorify the past, easy to brush past the sins and the mistakes. And mind you, there were plenty of both.

There were lots of heartbreaks and disappointments, but we seemed to absorb them better as a society back then. Some of the setbacks actually made us closer.

I’ll give you an example.

I served in the wake of 9/11. Do you remember what a shock to the system that was? The horror? The sadness? The fear?

We discovered that many of the terrorists were living among us. They were at our library; the mastermind of the plot filled a prescription at Huber’s Drugs. Those monsters lived in The Hamlet, at Laver’s Racquet Club and worked out at a gym on Atlantic and Military Trail.

It was all so surreal, but we came together.

We gathered at Old School Square for a vigil, gathered again at the Community Center for a prayer service and beamed with pride when our police department created a volunteer Homefront Security force staffed by senior citizens wearing berets and sharp uniforms.

Those beautiful souls– many were World War II veterans and members of our Greatest Generation– patrolled our public buildings. They watched over us and were proud to give back once more to a country and a city that they loved.

And we loved them back.

I remember talking to Charlie Goldberg and Bob Banquer, two of the most dedicated volunteers you can imagine. They were concerned, but they weren’t worried. We beat the Nazis, they told us. We surely won’t allow the terrorists to destroy our way of life.

And we didn’t. We didn’t allow the terrorists to win.

But I do wonder, if our divisions will do what the Nazis, the Soviets and the terrorists couldn’t do. And I’m not alone in my worry.

Right here at home, there is so much paranoia and mistrust. So much division.

Who’s behind this group? Who’s behind that candidate?

MAGA people will save our nation. MAGA people will destroy America.

We speculate on social media. We make things up. We try and hurt each other. And often, we succeed. To what end?

There wasn’t so much of that back in the day. There was some of it, but for the most part we got most of what we aimed to do over the finish line. The theme of the commission I served on was “community unity.” It was a phrase coined by Commissioner Alberta McCarthy that we happily embraced and truly believed in.

Did we achieve that lofty ideal?
Do you ever?
Maybe the best aspirations are always just out of reach. Maybe they are designed to be big enough to never quite be achievable but exciting enough so that you never stop trying.

Of course, there was no social media back in those days but that’s not really the problem. It’s a tool. You can use a hammer to build something or you can hit someone over the head. It’s how we use the tool that matters.

I like Facebook. I get to wish my friends a happy birthday, share pictures of Gracie our new golden retriever and I have an opportunity to see what old and new friends are doing. Heck, the platform even helped my little bird Bailey get rescued last week. (It’s a long story and a good one, it will be in the next book or an upcoming blog).

Nope, there’s something else in the water.

As I read through my book, I remembered anonymous emails, mailings and rumors designed to divide us, frighten us, and misrepresent some of the work being done in town.

It was there. It could be vicious, but it was an aberration not a way of life.

And when our local government pushed back with the facts, those facts were embraced and believed. Local government was trusted by residents who knew the men and women who worked at City Hall.  There was a base level of faith in institutions.

They knew their local government wasn’t perfect. They knew that mistakes would be made but they also assumed –correctly— that the people working at City Hall were trying their best. You may have been angry that Mayor Schmidt (one heck of a mayor by the way) favored moving Atlantic High School, but most people didn’t think he meant to do the city harm.

In fact, I think one of the reasons the more vehement opponents of that move failed to defeat those who favored the new school was because they assumed a corrupt rationale for the policy. There was none.

Like the idea or not, most citizens understood that the policymakers serving the city loved Delray Beach. We just had a different vision for the future.

I’m not sure if that’s true today. I’m not sure elected officials or government employees get the benefit of the doubt anymore. Check that, I’m sure that they don’t.

That’s a fundamental shift. And that’s sad.

Yes, many of the aforementioned have earned the distrust of their constituents. But what about the good ones? And what about our system?

Do we trust it, does it still serve us. Why aren’t we attracting better leaders to do the important work of building community?

So, yes, I miss the old days of trust, aspiration, partnership and yes love.

We were a place where you could feel embraced because you were. And that meant everything.

I didn’t write about Old School Square’s demise in the new/old book. But I did write about its importance as an idea and as an object of civic pride. The restoration and revitalization of those historic buildings were important to the evolution of our town and our civic culture. It was not only important it was elemental. And we just flushed it away.

Hundreds of donors and volunteers—likely thousands— feel an attachment to that campus and the non-profit that created and breathed new life into those old and once decrepit buildings.

The Delray I knew and wrote about wouldn’t have handled the issue the way it was dealt with recently.

If audits were late, there would have been an inquiry and a sit down. If performance lagged there would have been a series of meetings and a pledge to work together to fix what was wrong.

The efforts of volunteers and donors would have been acknowledged and more importantly respected.  There would have been love (tough if need be) and room for thanks as well.

We are devoid of those fundamental building blocks of community today both here and across our great land. Nobody but the corrupt fears accountability. But respect, gratitude and yes love are the table stakes behind anything of value or it won’t last.

I took a visit back to that world I wrote about. And I didn’t want to leave it. I live in the same exact place but somehow, I feel very far from home.

If you want to take a peek back at that Delray here’s a link: https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Local-Politics-Jeff-Perlman/dp/1736105167/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1RNPO1P6WQWTY&keywords=adventures+in+local+politics+jeff+perlman&qid=1655317745&sprefix=%2Caps%2C53&sr=8-1

 

Congratulations

Delray Beach Police Detective Paul Pitti retired last week after 25 years of distinguished service to our community.

I met Paul at the beginning of his career, and it was clear to all those who worked with him that he was going places in the department.

I happened to talk last week with one of Paul’s former supervisors and he said Detective Pitti was one the “best men I ever had a chance to supervise.” High praise indeed because we have been fortunate to have a bunch of great men and women serve and protect us.

Blessed with a great personality, a wonderful sense of humor and a ton of skill, Paul was a valuable contributor everywhere he was assigned.

Fortunately, he won’t be going too far. Paul will become a Highland Beach Police Officer going to work for Chief Craig Hartmann, also a former Delray officer.

We wish Paul the best. Highland Beach is getting a good one.

On a sad note, we learned last week that retired Delray Police Officer Mike Kosick has passed away.

Mike was one of the early downtown police officers assigned to keep an eye on things when Atlantic Avenue began to pop. He also distinguished himself during several undercover assignments.

We mourn his loss.

Speaking of our Police Department, my company CDS International Holdings was proud to be one of many sponsors of the annual Delray Citizens for Delray Police Awards Dinner recently.

Thanks to the herculean efforts of Perry Don Francisco and Chuck Halberg, the banquet has become a favorite event bringing together current officers and retirees to celebrate the best of the PD.

This year, Sgt. Andrew Arena, Capt. John-Crane Baker, Lt. Scott McGuire and Detective Pitti were honored for their long service to the department.

Administrative Assistant Stacy Tarantino was recognized at the 2021 “Patricia Taylor Employee of the Year” and Detective Anthony Sala was named 2021 Officer of the Year.

Service Award recipients were Sgt. Paul Weber, Executive Administrative Assistant Beatrice Screciu and Administrative Assistant Patricia Swain.

We are blessed to have such a wonderful police department. Our Fire Rescue department is also top-notch. It’s so important that we recognize these special people.

 

To The Class of 2022…

The Arts Garage was a nice venue for the EdVenture Class of 2022 to celebrate.

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the commencement of the EdVenture Charter School. The event was held at the Arts Garage in Delray Beach. It was a moving ceremony because each of the graduates had to overcome a lot of challenges to earn their diploma. It was a stark reminder that many of our young people face steep odds and that we are fortunate to have educators, counselors and volunteers who devote their lives to ensuring that they have a shot. I want to thank my friends Barbara Fitz, the executive director of the school, and board member Jennifer Costello-Robertson for inviting me.

I thought I’d share my commencement speech in the hopes that others may be inspired to volunteer on behalf of our children. They are the future and we need these young people to succeed maybe more now than ever.

 

To the graduates, parents, educators, staff, board and assembled guests…thank you for the honor and the privilege of being with you on this important day.

I’m deeply touched to be here.

I’m impressed by what I have learned about the EdVenture Charter School and I happen to be acquainted with your Executive Director Barbara Fitz and one of your board members Jennifer Costello-Robertson. They are both very special leaders. You are fortunate to have them in your lives.

10 years ago, a high school graduation speech went viral on the internet. A teacher named David McCollough told the graduates of Wellesley High School that they were not special.

It was an interesting message…and it was meant to advise students to put their phones down, stop taking selfies and think about others. I think that is good advice.

But I am here today, to tell you that you are special.

You are part of a unique class of graduates.

Your high school experience at EdVenture Charter School will forever be linked to a pandemic that has taken the lives of over 1 million Americans. I was almost in that category. I am lucky to be here having gotten Covid before there was an effective vaccine or even a treatment. I spent 40 days on oxygen at a hospital just up the road.

I was fortunate.

Many of the people who got sick during that Covid wave ended up passing away.

Life teaches us to count our blessings and to understand that we must make our time here count.

You have all been through a lot to earn your high school diploma.

You studied through an historic pandemic…you persevered through an experience that nobody in the past 100 years had to live through and you thrived. You are resilient, you are strong and yes you are special.

You are a special graduating class.

Your journey in life is just beginning but you’ve already learned some key lessons.

Life is unpredictable.

Life is fragile and education is the key to success in a world that is changing rapidly.

I graduated high school in 1982…40 years ago.

There were no cell phones, most families didn’t have a computer, there were no streaming services, there was no internet and there was no social media.

Apple the company was around but when most people heard the word they thought of a fruit, not a Mac computer or an iPhone.

Amazon was a river, MTV played music videos and the word “selfie” did not exist.

All of this is to say, that one day, you will look back on your high school years and be amazed at the changes you have experienced.

 

EdVenture was established in 1988 to support students who were falling through the cracks. Its mission is to help you learn grit and determination.

Those are the two skills that will guarantee you a successful life.

The third skill is a love of learning.

You don’t have to love school, but if you love learning…. you will go far in life.

And we need you to go far. We need you to make a positive difference.

 

Your generation has been handed a mixed bag….

We carry more technology in our pockets than most presidents had access too.

We are blessed to live in a world where scientists are unlocking answers to disease and sickness.

We have so much to be thankful for….and yet there are challenges too.

The world can be a hard and a dangerous place as we have seen these past two weeks with mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.….you will need grit and determination to get where you want to go.

We all have individual paths…personal journeys that we all must take. But while your grit and determination will mean so much….so will your network. Family, friends and community count for a lot.

If you have a supportive family, that’s wonderful. Some of us may not be as fortunate, please don’t let that stop you. Find, keep and cherish your friends. Build and be part of a community. Nobody succeeds alone…we all need a hand.

 

40 years ago….when I stood under a hot sun waiting for my diploma I had no idea where my life would take me. I knew I was going to college, but I ended up not liking where I started and transferring to a school far away from home.

When I left for Oswego, New York, on the banks of Lake Ontario, I didn’t know that I would never come home again. Oh, there were visits and weekends, but that was it…. I never lived at home again.

Life takes you places you don’t plan for. And that’s the magic of life…Savor it all….

My journey took me to Florida after I graduated and into a career as a newspaper reporter, a business owner and eventually the mayor of Delray Beach. I didn’t foresee any of that happening.

I thought I wanted to be a lawyer.

After leaving politics, I went back into business and worked with the team that had purchased a controlling share of an energy drink called Celsius.

I never thought I would be an executive at a beverage company….

But I have learned to say yes to adventure. I have learned to not let my fears stop me from trying new things and I have discovered that the best things in life are the things that we feel a little uncomfortable about doing….

My wish is that you will take some chances, try new things, and be prepared for the opportunities that life provides.

Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Be responsive. Be open to change.

Don’t let fear ever stop you.
Magic happens when you say yes…but good things happen when you are prepared…so please don’t stop learning….we are all students even when—especially when—we graduate.

 

You’re here because you’ve done a lot of hard work. But more than most, you’ve shown great determination to achieve what you have.

So on you go…

The world needs you.

There is important work to be done and you can make a difference.

Whatever path you choose, take it seriously, but enjoy it. Savor the moments…like this one with beloved family, friends and teachers who care about you.

I wish you all the fullest lives possible. Never lose faith. Never lose heart. We can’t wait to see you thrive. Congratulations!

Congratulations Coco

I think everyone in Delray was glued to the TV Saturday morning to root for hometown heroine Coco Gauff as she vied for her first Grand Slam title in the finals of the French Open.

Coco put up a valiant fight before losing to world number one Iga Swiatek who has won 35 matches in a row.

I’ve been a tennis fan for almost 50 years and for what it’s worth here’s what I saw.

Coco will win her share of slams because she’s not afraid of the moment, she knows she belongs. At age 18, she’s already a force, already a role model. I think she will be one of those “important” athletes whose talent and persona transcend the game. She ran into a buzzsaw in Swiatek, who is also very special. But the great ones often need to taste what the finals feel like before they take the next step and win it all.

Look for Coco to have a big Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

 

Remembering Stan Weedon

We lost a good man recently.

Stan Weedon, a former planner for the City of Delray Beach, has passed away.

A celebration of life is planned for Mr. Weedon, Saturday, June 11 at 1 p.m. at the Indian Hammock Lodge in Okeechobee.

Stan worked in long range planning. My wife worked with him.

Often times, people like Stan Weedon are overlooked but they contribute to the success of a town and we should honor those contributions.

We send our best wishes to Stan’s wife and family.

 

 

 

 

Choosing Love

Shoponebuffalo.com is raising funds for victims of the mass shooting at Tops supermarket.

When I first started my journalism career, I worked for a small newspaper outside Binghamton N.Y called “The Country Courier.”

The paper was based in a town called Conklin. It was a little speck of a place, and I was just passing through. I hadn’t thought much about Conklin until we learned that the racist murderer who killed 10 people in Buffalo came from there.

There are so many mass shootings in America that it has become easy to grow numb. But this mass murder broke through and hit us square in the heart….until the next one. And there always seems to be a next one.

When I heard that the shooter came from Conklin, it just seemed hard to fathom.

My memories are hazy, but I remember a small bucolic town in the southern part of Broome County near the Pennsylvania border. It has been described as a “Mayberry” kind of place. The 2020 census says a little over 5,000 people live there. Conklin is about 200 miles from Buffalo. It is nearly 98 percent white and less than one percent African American.

I remember covering town meetings and being bored beyond belief. There weren’t a lot of exciting issues in Conklin to write about and I surmise that the people liked it that way. I remember driving home late at night after a council meeting through country roads back to Binghamton and encountering a cow in the middle of the road. We scared each other and I remember thinking how lucky I was to see it before it was too late. I would soon move on and forget all about Conklin until last weekend.

I checked the local coverage of the shooting, knowing that reporters would beat a path to the hometown of the shooter trying to determine if “place” somehow contributed to the hatred and depravity needed to coldly murder 10 innocent people. I had tried the town’s website, but its bandwidth was overwhelmed by people looking for answers. I couldn’t get access.

So, I turned to the local newspapers that I used to know.

The reporters went to a local diner for answers, like I used to do when I moved to Delray and got a job at the old Monday-Thursday Papers. We used to go to Ken & Hazel’s or the Green Owl for the local scoop. In Conklin, that source of local sentiment would be Jane’s, a local landmark.

From the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin:

“Who would think, at age 18, growing up in such a beautiful community, to have such hate?” said Jane Lazaros, who’s owned the restaurant on Conklin Road for 28 years. “What is all this hate?”

That’s the question many in town had on Sunday: Where did the hate come from?

A small town outside Binghamton, Conklin captures the grittiness of much of rural upstate New York. The greater Binghamton area, with about 195,000 residents, has seen better days, with major employers such as IBM long gone from the region, although Dick’s Sporting Goods and Amazon have opened massive warehouses in recent years to provide some relief.”

What is all this hate? It’s a good question, awkwardly phrased, but we know what she means when she says it.

It’s also a question that is sadly familiar for the Conklin community. It was only 13 years ago when a gunman walked into the American Civic Association immigration center in Binghamton and killed 13 people, wounding four others. I had forgotten about that and that me surprised me. Having lived in Binghamton, that shooting should have resonated with me, but there are simply too many heinous acts to remember them all. That’s sickening.

In that incident, the shooter was Vietnamese American, but investigators determined that he was motivated by racism and hatred for immigrants.

Racism and hatred….it’s an affliction we can’t seem to shake.

There’s a coarseness to our society these days that is having an impact. Words are important. They tend to leave marks when loaded with hate. And hateful messages tend to manifest into actions.

And this week I can’t shake the image of Celestine Chaney, 65. She was shopping at Tops with her sister for some shortcake to go with the strawberries she had sliced at home.

Her sister says they were giggling as they decided to make a shrimp salad and picked out rolls, lamenting the high price of food these days. Just two sisters out on a Sunday enjoying what is usually a mundane chore.

It was an impromptu visit to a neighborhood store. Little did they know that 200 miles away a hate-filled murderer, barely an adult, was plotting to kill as many Black people as he could find….

He found Celestine Chaney and 9 others.

It’s hard to find words that can heal this kind of pain.

We also know that our politicians won’t do anything to address the situation. This time, we are not even hearing a whole lot about steps we can take to stop this kind of thing. We know better now. We know our so-called “leaders” won’t do a damn thing except stoke more hatred in an endless cycle that when taken to an extreme leads to bloodshed.

Meanwhile, the hate keeps coming at us. And it’s armed.

Give us strength.

 

A Matter Of Trust

A rare gem named Pearl.

I just finished a book called “Thank You For Being Late” by Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times.

It’s a fascinating read that seeks to explain the changes happening in our world as technology accelerates and Mother Nature reacts.

But the book really takes off when Friedman returns home to St. Louis Park, Minnesota to describe an idyllic childhood in a middle-class community where people looked out for each other and trusted their leaders and their institutions.

Trust.

Now that’s a powerful word; loaded with meaning and importance.

When you think about it, trust is our most valuable commodity.

When you earn trust—and it must be earned—you can leverage that trust to do big and important things.

Friedman relates a story about the mayor of St. Louis Park backing a solar Wi-Fi program that cost the city $1.7 million. Then winter came and the technology didn’t work. It was a complete loss.

The mayor went to the Chamber of Commerce stood up at a breakfast and told a packed room that he was “the idiot” that voted for the plan. He owned the mistake. His honesty built trust.

And when he walked around the community he was greeted with empathy.

“Too bad that didn’t work,” citizens would say. “What’s the city going to try next?”

That message wasn’t delivered with cynicism or snark. There was no “gotcha” expressed, just a genuine desire to say “hey, you messed up, you owned it, we appreciate that, and we hope you’ll try new things in the future.”

Can you imagine that happening in Washington D.C.?

Can you imagine that happening in Delray Beach?

Recently, a former city water inspector filed a whistle blower lawsuit alleging that she was fired without notice for speaking out about issues relating to water.

The city denies the allegations. In fact, the city denies that she was fired at all. She was merely written out of the budget. P.S. Her son was let go as well.

A few days after the suit was filed, Rob Long, a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, was on Channel 12 saying he could relate to the plight of the whistleblower. There was an attempt to remove him from the planning board because he expressed an opinion about the water that didn’t adhere to the city’s party line.

That’s chilling.

And wrong.

The politics of retribution doesn’t breed a culture of trust—in fact the opposite occurs. A toxic culture creates a climate of fear where maybe the next inspector will think twice about expressing an opinion that could affect public health.

Confident and competent leaders at all levels welcome debate. They see it as healthy and serving the larger purpose of getting to a better place.

In the Friedman book, he finds that the culture of St. Louis Park has remained intact to this day despite decades of change including dramatically altered demographics.

That’s a testament to the community and their strong desire to hold onto important values.

Yes, we live in an era of rapid change, but some things need to stand the test of time. Some values need to be preserved.

One of the things that resonated for me in the Friedman book was the ethos of dialogue and compromise that’s apparently prevalent in Minnesota politics.

I cherish both of those things. And I think they’re missing in our society today.

Dialogue allows citizens to engage, share ideas and build relationships. Dialogue enables trust. It is hard to demonize someone that you know.

Today, the “sides” talk past each other and exist to score points not to serve the nation or the community but to get back at their opponents.

One side exists to “own” the other in an endless back and forth that produces exactly nothing.

As for compromise, well has anybody seen compromise recently? It seems to have vanished without a trace.

Instead, we are seeing the powerful say: ‘why should I compromise I’ve got the power to do what I want? And those out of power saying, ‘how can I compromise? we’re getting bulldozed so I need to stick to my guns’.

This kind of thinking leads to very bad outcomes. It leads to Old School Square being terminated without a conversation or a plan at a cost of millions to the taxpayer. It leads to confusion versus solutions when it comes to water issues.

A twin word to trust is decency.

We don’t hear much of that word these days.

It’s not quite missing like compromise seems to be, but it is rare —like finding a good parking spot on Atlantic Avenue or seeing an albino alligator (see photo above, her name is Pearl, and she made her home at the Gatorland preserve in Orlando).

How do you show decency?

You start by being empathetic, courteous, and benevolent. It doesn’t cost you anything and it buys you everything.

According to Friedman, there really is something to the term “Minnesota Nice.”

Sure, there are problems. Lots of problems. There’s racism, education gaps and affordability issues. George Floyd was killed by police in Minnesota. So it is far from perfect.

But that’s not the point—every place has its problems. It is how you address those challenges that distinguish the winning communities from those that languish.

In Minnesota, they have something called the Itasca Project.

Itasca is a business led civic alliance focused on expanding prosperity and tackling big issues.

It has no staff, is project based, but has produced a ton of results. The organization is data driven and its values center on igniting cross-sector collaboration to take near term actions to solve long term challenges.

Check it out: https://itascaproject.org/

We need one of these organizations in Boca-Delray.

There’s Something Happening Here….

 

I don’t mean to brag, but just like The Beach Boys sing: I get around.

Mind you, not as much as I used to—my tank is half full these days, but I compensate by reading, surfing the web and listening to podcasts. We live in a wonderful world of content that resides at our fingertips.

If I see a movie or read a book I like, chances are I can find a podcast featuring the writer or a website that includes links to their work so I can go deeper.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about Florida real estate, especially South Florida real estate and what’s happening to our market.

If you’ve lived in Florida long enough, you’ve seen the booms and you’ve seen the busts. You’ve marveled at the prices paid for homes and buildings only to see those jaw dropping deals look like bargains a few years later. But this time it feels different. This time it feels like the very nature of our region is changing.

As I write this, our market is red hot. We are seeing prices that defy description. Land in downtown Delray is trading at $6 million an acre. Homes that a few years ago were selling in the high $200s are selling for four times that price today.

It all seems…well… it all seems  unreal.

And yet….

A whole lot of value has been built in Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

Yes, there’s traffic.

Yes, there are bad drivers and rude people.

Yes, we tend to complain about those things and a host of other maladies real or imagined.

But…

By just about any measure, this is a great place to live.

As a result, people are willing to pay a premium to live here.

After all, we check a lot of boxes.

Good weather + quality of life+ no income taxes = a robust real estate market.

Add in years of low interest rates, easy credit, and lots of money sloshing into the system and you get inflated values.

Yes, real estate is rising just about everywhere, but something different is happening here.

So, what do I mean?

Ok, a few random thoughts based on “getting around” talking to real estate people, reading articles etc.

  • Big finance is all in on South Florida. West Palm Beach is reeling in the firms, Goldman Sachs etc. So is Boca. And Palm Beach Gardens. Wall Street, anxious to have a post -Covid hedge against being locked down in NYC, sees our area with all its wealth and proximity to Palm Beach as a very attractive option compared to NY, New Jersey and Connecticut.
  • West Palm Beach, under the able leadership of Mayor Keith James, is having a “moment.” I’ve always felt West Palm had potential beyond the ups and downs of Clematis Street or the various iterations of Rosemary Square or whatever it’s called this week. For a while, I thought the condos were going to crowd out the ability to land businesses, but there seems to be room left over for economic development and job creation. No less an authority than the Wall Street Journal is singing the praises of West Palm, noting that it has been “discovered” by many Palm Beach types who once never thought of crossing the bridge to own real estate or open businesses.
    One of the more exciting developments is the vision taking shape at Palm Beach Atlantic University. I had an opportunity to look at a scale model of the campus vision in the beautiful board room of the university. The plans include a major investment in health care on campus, a lifelong learning residential component and a center that will train future leaders while celebrating free enterprise. If it comes to fruition, it will be a big leap for downtown West Palm Beach.
  • The University of Florida is also flexing its muscles in Palm Beach County with plans to partner with some of the life science institutes that have sprouted here. I’m a little wary of how this encroachment affects FAU, but the UF brand and political muscle can’t help but make a difference in our region.
  • Speaking of FAU, I’ve had recent meetings with board members, President Kelly and professors. FAU’s ambitions are impressive. The best is yet to come at FAU. Keep a close eye on their medical school–what they are building there is beyond exciting it’s potentially transformational.
  • Lynn University (Disclosure: I serve on the board of Trustees) also has a grand vision that I am immensely proud of. Covid was a wild ride for educational institutions, and I’m endlessly impressed by the team at Lynn which consistently pivots to ride the waves of change. That’s good news for Boca and the surrounding area because Lynn radiates a whole lot of positives for our community.
  • We are also seeing health care take a major leap. The Baptist network—which runs Bethesda and Boca Community—has taken medicine to a new level. I also remain a strong booster of Delray Medical (Disclosure: I spent seven years on the board) and its sister hospitals owned by Tenet.

Health care has become a major economic driver and is essential in a world impacted by pandemic (s). In order for an area to maintain and grow its value, a good health care system is not an option, it’s table stakes.

  • There’s a lot of money moving into Boca/Delray. Take a drive through Lake Ida or Tropic Isle or La Hacienda (off of North Federal) and you almost can’t believe your eyes. So, here’s what’s happening—no judgment just observation. Older homes are being purchased for big money only to be leveled and replaced by even more expensive homes. In many cases, the new residents are replacing people who have lived here for decades and have decided to cash out and either move out of the area and or downsize. The new residents may only live here a few months a year. They are here to have fun at the beach and on Atlantic Avenue. They may never get involved in the community and they may never vote here. They are here for the amenities (again no judgment, we plan to do this in Maine in years to come so I get it.) Regardless, this changes the flavor of neighborhoods and the community. If I were still a policymaker, I would be keeping a close eye on this dynamic.
  • The wealthy and seasonal demographic moving to our community is also impacting schools. Enrollment in Delray Beach public schools is plummeting. This is a sea change from an earlier era when the School District had to add portables to keep up.
  • All these dynamics puts the squeeze on middle class families and those striving to get to the middle class. I often wonder where people who serve as essential workers will live. It is a huge challenge to create attainable housing when land and construction costs are soaring. Usually, the best way to lower costs is to add supply to meet demand. But long and uncertain entitlement processes and an aversion to density makes it hard to add supply—especially in areas near employment centers. Regardless, it will take a huge effort to provide the housing we need to accommodate those currently frozen out of the market. It isn’t fair to put it all on the development community who simply can’t make the numbers work without significant help from government.

Every study I’ve read lately is calling on government to step up with financing tools to bridge the gap but that will require political will, a willingness to take some risks to ensure housing opportunities and some policy innovation that frankly, to date. we haven’t had.

There’s more but that’s enough to chew on for now.

It will take a village to re-imagine our future. It’s coming whether we prepare for it or not, but it will be better if we prep.

Let’s just say that Florida seems to be the new “golden state”—as the bloom fades on “California Dreaming” “Here comes the Sun(shine)” state.

 

 

 

Living The 4 S’s

For more information visit www.4kids.us

We just went to a great event celebrating the important work of 4 Kids, a non-profit whose mission is to help children in crisis find a safe place to live.

I’ve been impressed with the leadership of the organization for quite some time and I owe my friend Karen Granger a debt of gratitude for introducing me to the world of 4Kids. We have a lot of children in our community who desperately need our help.

Karen, who used to serve as the president of the Delray Chamber, works for 4 Kids. She’s been a wonderful ambassador for the organization and has convinced several of my friends to get involved.

My company, CDS International Holdings, helped 4 Kids find office space in Delray and we are so proud of the work they are doing which has made it easier for families in southern Palm Beach County to access critical services.

I’ve been especially impressed by 4Kids President Kevin Enders, who has run the non-profit for the past five years.

Kevin comes from the private sector and he brings a business like focus to the mission while also exhibiting a great passion for children. It’s a great combination of heart and business rigor.

At the event–held at the magnificent Waterstone Hotel in Boca Raton—Mr. Enders talked about what makes an organization work well.

Borrowing from the work of Dr. Curt Thompson, author of “Anatomy of the Soul,” Kevin reminded us that people need four things to feel whole; the 4 S’s.

They need to be “seen”, they need to feel “safe”, they need to be “secure” and they need to be “soothed”.

I was touched by that formula and it’s been on my mind ever since.

And while it applies to non-profits, I think it also works for businesses, families and communities too.

So let’s spend a moment unpacking the formula.

People need to be seen.

We have a need to feel valued, respected, loved and understood. It’s important that we take the time to do so.

But while awards and official recognition are great, it’s the daily care that matters the most. In our busy world, it’s easy to glide through the day and neglect those we love and value. We need to be conscious about “seeing” these special people and letting them know how important they are. This is a simple concept, but so often we fail. Just this morning, a friend reached out to let me know they hadn’t heard from me lately. I felt terrible about it, but I was grateful to be made aware. We need to tend to our relationships.

Likewise, we all suffer setbacks and it’s important that we are soothed by our community or organization or family when the inevitable trials occur. I can personally testify to the power of soothing to heal the body and the mind. When I was seriously ill with Covid, the messages of support I received helped me through the ordeal. Love heals.

In addition, we need to feel safe and secure in our homes, communities and careers.

The trait I most value in a teammate or a co-worker is the ability to feel that I can make a mistake or  that I can be vulnerable and say I need help.

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a team that allows me to learn and doesn’t make me feel bad or in danger when I turn to them and say “I can’t figure this out, can you help?”

Organizations get in trouble when people feel that they can’t make a mistake and that they have to pretend they know it all or risk their role. In reality, there’s a lot of wisdom in saying you don’t know what you don’t know. Smart people ask for help, not so smart people pretend they know it all.

I think the 4 S’s are a good prism to assess where we are in the various parts of our lives.

What are we getting and what are we missing in our jobs, communities, volunteer efforts etc.

I think a major issue in our nation is our inability to see others, especially those who are different or hold opposing views.

Similarly, it seems like the other S’s are related. It’s hard to feel safe, secure or soothed if you are not seen. The four go together.

I’m sure there are many other things we can think of as must haves. But the four S’s seem like a solid start.

I hope you have them all—-in abundance. And if you don’t, I hope you work hard to bring these traits into the lives of others.

 

 

 

Heroes & Villains

Dropout is the mesmerizing story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

We’ve been watching two fascinating series about wayward entrepreneurs on Showtime and Hulu.

“Super Pumped” is the story of Uber and its “tech bro” founder Travis Kalanick. “TK”, as he was known,  broke a lot of dishes while disrupting the taxi business before being dumped for creating a culture more toxic than sucking on the tailpipe of a Checker cab.

“Dropout” is the fascinating story of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes who modeled herself on Apple’s Steve Jobs— except for the fraud part. She will be sentenced this fall for essentially lying her way to the top before taking a fall. Her black turtleneck didn’t save her from the fact that her company was built on…well…nothing but hype.

Yes, it seems that Hollywood is taking a dim view of entrepreneurs lately. The trend goes back a decade or so to the “Social Network” which portrayed Mark Zuckerberg as an egomaniacal, socially awkward techie who climbed over a lot of people to build Facebook into a global behemoth. In other words, the movie was spot on.

Also, a fit for the evil entrepreneur narrative: “WeCrashed”, the story of WeWork founder Adam Neumann, who ran his $47 billion company off the rails before being given his walking papers.  We can also look forward to  “Billion Dollar Whale” a soon to be released movie about Jho Low who looted the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund before disappearing somewhere in China. He remains at large. But he did take down a government and ensnared Goldman Sachs during his memorable run. In a quirk of fate, I got to know one of the major players in that scheme, but I’m saving that story for my next book. It’s a good one.

Yep, there sure are some cautionary tales about gifted grifters whose magnetism, vision, and ability to tap into greed makes for great books and movies and in most cases bad businesses. The jury is still out on Facebook while Uber and WeWork seek to move past the dubious behavior of their founders.

But the evil entrepreneur narrative doesn’t tell the whole story.

Yes, there are villains in the world of entrepreneurship, but there are lots of heroes too. I wish Hollywood would publicize their work as well—in many ways they are more interesting if not as salacious.

Admittedly, I am biased, but I work alongside a very kind entrepreneur named Carl DeSantis. He built Rexall Sundown from scratch into a huge vitamin manufacturer right here in Boca Raton before selling it for $1.8 billion in 2000. Rexall Sundown employees shared in the wealth they created—which is Carl’s way. While most people would have retired after such a huge exit, Carl went back to work, creating a family office and investing in companies and people. His latest hit is Celsius, a wildly popular healthy energy drink that trades on NASDAQ. Celsius started in Delray Beach before moving to larger headquarters in Boca Raton. But when Celsius rang the bell on Wall Street, Carl was onto the next thing—Tabanero Hot Sauce, which we are working hard to make a hit. Make sure to try it at Caffe Luna Rosa and Christina’s among many other restaurants.

Another good guy entrepreneur is Delray’s very own Randy Smith, who runs Heritage Flooring. Randy is a serial entrepreneur with a curious mind that I deeply admire.  I’m lucky to call him a friend because having lunch with Randy is like going to business school with salad dressing (always on the side).

Randy and his wife Lennie, have a passion for sailing (and life itself) and I’ve been taken by their devotion to an organization called Warrior Sailing (www.warriorsailing.org) which provides maritime education and outreach for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. Warrior Sailing reconnects veterans to the camaraderie and teamwork they previously found in military service.

While Randy and Lennie certainly know how to have fun, the Wolf of Wall Street has nothing to worry about from these two.  They run a much cleaner ship.

We understand it is fashionable around these parts to bash developers. But like we’ve been saying, there are good developers and there are bad ones. We need the good ones because their entrepreneurship creates the vibrancy we rely on to make our cities work.

Along the way, I’ve known a few good ones (and a few bad ones too) and my company has dabbled a little bit in this world— as investors anyway. I can say that the development business is not for the faint of heart. Yes, there are great rewards if you do a good job, your timing is right and there’s a market for your work. But there is great risk as well—and mistakes can wipe you out, so can interest rate hikes, pandemics, hurricanes, bad politics, changing tastes and construction costs.

You must be a great entrepreneur to swim—and not sink— in those waters. Still, I know several developers who are very philanthropic, community minded and work hard to serve their communities.

Meanwhile, some of the best entrepreneurs I’ve met are in the restaurant biz.

Talk about a tough road.

The competition is fierce, the margins are small, it’s hard to build and keep a staff but somehow, they figure it out.

Fran Marincola and his father started with a small gelato shop on A1A in Delray and built it into Caffe Luna Rosa, a Delray landmark. CLR— as some of us call it— offers health insurance to its employees and the restaurant has given back a lot to Delray Beach over the years.

Same goes for former Boston’s on the Beach proprietor Perry Don Francisco, co-founder of Delray Citizens for Delray Police. For 30 plus years, Perry has quietly been there for so many people while being a steadfast supporter of police, fire, and local schools. He’s one of a kind; a gifted, hardworking entrepreneur.

I can think of dozens of examples of talented entrepreneurs who are role models as well.

So, as much as we are enjoying the drama behind the creation of Uber and Theranos, we are heartened by the good guys. They are everywhere. You just have to look.

And when they cast the part of Randy Smith in the Netflix version of his story (the series should be called “Floor It”)  I hope they consider Brad Pitt for the role.

 

Facts about entrepreneurship:

America just witnessed the biggest business startup boom of our lifetimes.

  •    5.4 million people applied for small-business licenses last year — a 53% jump from 2019, pre-pandemic.
  •  Global investment in startups shattered records in 2021, hitting $643 billion — 10x what it was 10 years ago.

 

 

 

Here’s To The Game Changers

Akira Back is the newest addition to Pineapple Grove’s Ray Hotel. It’s special.

I’m intrigued by my friends at Menin Development.

I’m not alone.

Led by founder Craig Menin and President Jordana Jarjura, Menin Development is doing some truly extraordinary things in our village by the sea.

I’m interested and curious about all of it.

But I’m especially fascinated with some of their more unique projects.

  • The Ray Hotel in Pineapple Grove is a next level boutique property with a gorgeous 22,000 square foot rooftop amenity featuring an incredible pool,  three cutting edge restaurants and a design aesthetic that has reshaped the look and feel of the block.
  • The Delray Beach Market is the largest food hall in Florida, a whopping 150,000 square feet featuring 27 chefs and operators.
  • Lionfish restaurant brings a west coast sensibility to Atlantic Avenue. It just feels very different from what we’ve seen before.

So what’s next?

We went to the soft opening of Menin Development’s latest creation, Akira Back last week. It’s special. Located in The Ray Hotel, Akira Back is the namesake of a Michelin starred chef who was gracious enough to greet his guests last week as the staff served dish after dish of creative cuisine.

The food was in a word: magnificent.

Mr. Back brings a interesting back story to Delray Beach.

Born in Seoul, Korea and raised in Aspen, Colorado, Akira moved to the Rocky Mountain state at the age of 15.  He picked up snowboarding as a hobby and eventually turned pro. He was so good, he appeared in a handful of extreme sports movies. During this time, Back began working at a local Japanese restaurant to supplement his income. After seven years on the pro-snowboarding circuit, Back realized that he felt the same thrill in the kitchen as he did on his board, shaping his decision to pursue a full-time culinary career.

Back attended the International Culinary School at The Art Institute based in Colorado, where he established the framework of his technique and amplified his knowledge of Asian cooking, allowing him to incorporate his artistic vision and Korean heritage.

The rest is the stuff of culinary history—award winning restaurants inside the Bellagio in Vegas and locations in Dubai, London, Paris, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Riyadh and now Delray Beach.

Sitting inside Akira Back, we couldn’t help but marvel at what’s happening to Delray.

We were at the event with former City Commissioner Jon Levinson and his wife Lori. We moved here in ’87, I think the Levinson’s arrived in 79-80. We’ve seen a lot of change.

And while a generation of civic leaders, planned for, worked toward and hoped for sustainable vibrancy and economic success—it’s still hard to fathom what has happened here.

Delray is a rare story.

It really is and I sometimes feel like we take it for granted.

Now I get that not everyone is thrilled with the changes or change itself, but I like a lot of it. So do others, as witnessed by the year- round crowds, rising property values and now national reputation of Delray.

We told our server— a nice young man, from Salt Lake City—that the street we were sitting on was once anchored by a McCrory’s department store and a Piggly Wiggly. We pointed to Citywalk across the street and told him parts of that project used to be a coin operated car wash. He said that was hard to imagine.

When we cut the ribbon on Pineapple Grove Village 20 years ago, the photos showed that there was nothing to the north of us.

Those of us who were around  in the 80s remember Norm Radin (who coined the term Pineapple Grove), Tom Fleming (who led the Mainstreet approach to revitalizing the street) and architect Bob Currie talking about transforming four blocks of Second Avenue from Atlantic to Lake Ida Road. Some thought they were nuts. Nice people, but nutty. After all, at that time the city was struggling to get Atlantic Avenue going.

But you know what? Ya gotta believe (as Mets fans know). First you must see, and then you have to believe, and more importantly you have to act on those beliefs.

This blog is a paradox of sorts because I am a believer and a champion of change. I think it’s inevitable.

Our responsibility is to shape that change, but I don’t believe we can arrest it. At the same time, I cling to some things from the past that I feel are vital to our future. There are projects and buildings and values that define who we are—they identify our civic soul. Lose those things and we lose that soul and once lost….well you know the rest.

So yeah, there’s a paradox and a dance that goes on. Let’s celebrate the good changes but let’s also hold on to the tried, the true and the important pieces of our community’s fabric.

Which is why Craig Menin intrigues me. He’s showing us a new future, he’s shaking it up and making it happen. And I deeply admire that kind of drive.

I think Mr. Menin is a visionary. I know he’s an entrepreneur and I have a soft spot for both.

So, I’m rooting for him.

He sees something here and he’s willing to take big time risks to test that vision.

It’s the visionaries and the risk-taking entrepreneurs who change our world and our cities too.

They create opportunities for others; jobs, a broader tax base, a brand, a vibe and an ethos.

Those are extremely valuable assets for a city.

Mr. Menin has always been complimentary of the civic work that attracted him to Delray.

I really appreciate that about him, because I feel a lot of that work and a lot of those people have been demonized for ushering in an era of change and for failing to get out of the way.

But as the late Madeleine Albright once said, it takes a long time to discover your voice and once you find it you don’t want to give it up. Same with your community. When you find your home, you want to do all you can to make it better and sometimes that means speaking your mind.

That’s why I write these weekly messages. Thank you for reading them.

Personally, I never envisioned quite what Craig Menin and company are doing…but I did envision and hope that the work so many engaged in over the years would attract people like Craig. And Akira Back too.

Beginning in the 80s our city committed to citizen driven visioning.

It worked.

We didn’t have to offer incentives like so many other cities. We didn’t have to build or finance a major project that would “save” us.

We just asked stakeholders to come to the table to dream and we encouraged them to aspire then we got busy getting it done. That sent a message to the entrepreneurs: this is the best place to be. The best place to invest.

It’s not a perfect process.

Some stuff works better than you could have imagined and some stuff fails miserably. But you keep going. You keep working together, you keep promoting, you keep inviting people to participate and you hope that the entrepreneurs show up and take you places you could never imagine.

By the way, those entrepreneurs come in all kinds of styles. Some, like Mr. Menin, invest tens of millions of dollars and do things that make you say “wow”, others like Mark Sauer– who visited our table during the opening—start non-profits to help kids find a future. Some like Jeff and Julia Kadel make it possible for children to play baseball (see the Miracle League) and others like C. Ron Allen and Emmanuel “Dupree” Jackson devote their lives to creating the next generation of game changers.

In Delray, we also had entrepreneurs working at City Hall designing innovative programs and policies. Some of our best civic entrepreneurs wear uniforms and serve as police officers and firefighters figuring out ways to protect and serve us while making it safe for investment.

Thank goodness for all of them.

One might ask, where’s it all going?
Who knows.

I attended a webinar by a futurist last week and he said the 2020s would be the most consequential decade in human history. That’s quite a statement. We are off to an interesting start with a pandemic and war raging in Europe.

Here at home, I hope we remain safe and stay healthy. One thing we can bank on is more change. Let’s shape it, let’s embrace it but let’s not forget the values that created the opportunities we enjoy and remember to do what we can for those who need our help the most.

 

 

It’s Only Rock N’ Roll (But I Like It)

Graham Nash still rocking at 80.

“Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die.” — Paul Simon.

We went to see Graham Nash in Coral Springs recently and it felt…well…it felt magical.

We bought the tickets more than two years ago only to have Covid wash everything away for a while. So, it felt extra gratifying to walk into the theater and see a live show.

I’m on a personal mission to see the legends while they’re still here. Graham Nash certainly qualifies.

At 80, he retains his distinctive tenor. He is a charming and dynamic performer.

We were swept away by the music and for two hours it might as well have been the 60s and 70s when Nash was playing arenas not small theaters in Coral Springs (which he mistakenly referred to as Coral Gables).

Most people think their generation’s music was the “best ever” made; only in our case we’re right.

Nothing beats classic rock.

Two nights before the Graham Nash show, we went with my dad and his girlfriend to see “The Liverpool Legends” a Beatles tribute band at Spanish River Church in Boca Raton. They were accompanied by the Spanish River Orchestra, and they covered the Fab Four’s catalog from “A Hard Day’s Night” to “Let it Be” with aplomb. And for just a moment, we were transformed to a better place.

Outside the beautiful church, our world is a mess.  Missiles are being fired at innocent Ukrainians an ocean away, gas prices are skyrocketing and Covid—that damn virus– was still claiming victims and threatening yet another surge. Even though we are done with the virus, I’m not sure the virus is done with us.

Yes, it’s quite a world.

It’s during these times that we seek solace, answers, and sustenance. We get it from music.

Are there words profound enough to describe the brilliance of The Beatles?
Not likely.

What it is about their music that 60 years down the road we are still dancing in the aisles and singing along?

Same with Graham Nash.

My high school friends and I saw Crosby, Stills & Nash, 40 years ago at the Nassau Coliseum. CSN were sort of an oldies act even then—a 60s era band but still making music that resonated.

The song “Wasted on the Way”  broke through for me. The song was released in 1982. It was senior year and despite being 17 years old, I was already experiencing regret for not taking more chances. Why was I so scared of talking to that brilliant brunette in my English class? What’s the worst that could have happened if I asked her to grab a pizza at Mario’s in East Setauket?

The lyrics to “Wasted on the Way” challenged me to think differently.

“Look around me

I can see my life before me

Running rings around the way

It used to be

I am older now

I have more than what I wanted

But I wish that I had started

Long before I did

And there’s so much time to make up

Everywhere you turn

Time we have wasted on the way

So much water moving

Underneath the bridge

Let the water come and carry us away

Oh when you were young

Did you question all the answers

Did you envy all the dancers

Who had all the nerve

Look around you now

You must go for what you wanted

Look at all my friends who did and got what they deserved.”

 

Yes, I envied all the “dancers” who had all the nerve but this song—in 2 minutes and 52 seconds—gave me hope. It told me that life could be different. That we can “go” for what we wanted, question all the answers and find a better world that would run rings around the way things used to be.

That song—among so many—provides hope, inspiration, and joy.

There is something about music that makes us feel fully alive.

The other day I left work dragging. I sat in a chair for 8 hours, answered endless emails and was all “zoomed” out.

But when I got to the car bracing myself for the rush hour traffic, I turned on Sirius and “Jumping Jack Flash” came through the speakers— the distinctive riff instantly lifted my mood. I turned it up—way up— and the worries of the day melted away. When that song ended, the opening notes of “A Hard Days Night” so ingrained that they feel a part of my DNA blasted through the speakers.

I was no longer tired. I was no longer beleaguered. I was renewed.

That’s what good music does to you.

Whether its Bieber or The Beatles.

Beyonce or the The Band.

We’ll let Bob Marley have the last word:

“One good thing about music,” he said. “When it hits you, you feel no pain.”