Delray Beach and Boca Raton News and Insight

We've got our fingers firmly on the pulse of everything that is Delray-Boca.

And while we're not out to replace the local news media, we think you'll agree we have a very unique perspective to offer on some of the most important stories that affect current and future local residents.

Subscribe to our updates so you never miss a thing in Delray-Boca. Have a tip? Send it to us here.

On The Path

The staff at Bethesda is truly remarkable.

When I entered the hospital with a positive Covid test and double pneumonia in July, I tried to think about how I could shed light on the virus and maybe help others by raising awareness.

I hoped that by sharing the good, the bad and the ugly of my experience I could —in a small way—serve my community.
I thought by sharing my specific experience, others might find something they could connect with.
My Facebook posts and now my blog were greeted with generous displays of love and caring. I’ve heard from many of you and your comments have given me strength and boosted my spirits. But more importantly, I’ve heard from several of you that my story made you stop and think about the virus and the safety of your loved ones.  For that and more, I thank you.
That’s the good.
The bad is the virus itself.
It’s dangerous.
It’s scary.
And it’s potentially lethal.
It’s important that we know that and respect that fact. It is not a flu and it is not a hoax.
It’s also not going away the day after the election.
I wish it would. But as we experience yet another surge in America and across a good swath of the world, it’s becoming apparent that we are up against a dangerous hydra that will alter our lives for the foreseeable future.
The ugly of this virus can be put into two buckets. The political aspect and the long lasting effects that some will experience.
The politics of this pandemic can be frustrating.
  I will probably be attacked for pointing out the seriousness of the virus because some believe that Covid is an overblown hoax. That’s OK, bring it.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion but not their own facts. I just don’t share those views. I trust in science. Not that science gets everything right, especially on its first pass, but eventually our best and brightest scientific minds figure things out.
The other bucket relates to the potential long haul of this disease.
For some, even when you recover, there are lingering issues to deal with.
When I decided to write about my experience I committed to telling the truth even if that truth is well…ugly.
So let me say that while I feel much, much better I’m still struggling.
My breathing is improving but still not quite back to normal. I remain very sore, my physical strength is returning but is vastly diminished and I suffer from horrible stabbing pains in my left leg and steady pain in my right arm.  I have daily headaches and have experienced Covid related hair loss.
All of that is bearable—even the leg. And it sure beats the alternative. I know I’m very fortunate.
But there’s an emotional aspect to this virus as well.
So here’s my confession—I’m a little off these days.
I get sad a few times a day.
It comes in waves triggered by stories I hear about people who have lost their lives during the pandemic or songs that just get to me. I get restless at night, have some trouble sleeping and feel anxious for no reason.
I’m really worried about my family and friends. I’m really worried about our community and the world itself.
I think about kids missing out on a normal social life and about senior citizens who are at risk and unable to enjoy their lives —cut off from grandchildren and others who enrich their lives.
I worry about small business owners and the unemployed and I think about the families of the more than one million people who have died worldwide in the pandemic.
I also worry about our medical workers, teachers, first responders and essential workers who fear for their health every time they leave for work.
I’ve been told that the flood of emotions I’m experiencing is to be expected.
Last week, I learned about a concept called “survivors guilt.”
Readers of this blog may remember the name Skip Brown.
Skip is a friend, a retired Delray police officer and a Vietnam veteran. I had the honor of pinning the Bronze Star he earned in combat to his chest a few years back. It was one of the great thrills of my life.
Skip has taught me a lot over the years and he explained the concept of survivors guilt, the idea that you feel pressure and question why you survived while others died.
We spoke on my way to a pulmonologist appointment I had last week. When I walked into the doctor’s office I was told of other patients who died and how lucky I was to have made it considering the violence of my pneumonia and the damage the virus did to my lungs.
Hearing the stories of those who didn’t make it, leveled me. It just leveled me.
It’s important that I share that because you may know someone who gets this virus and it’s important that we be there for them not just with medical care but with spiritual and emotional support as well.
I believe I was spared for a reason. I’m not sure why, but I’m searching for answers.
I’ve been wrestling with what to do with my second chance.
I’ve been told by people I love and respect that the answers will come and I believe they will.
I’m on a path and I have to trust.
So far, several people have come to my rescue. And I believe that there may be some divine intervention involved.
The call from Skip came at just the right time.
A call from Max Weinberg, yes that Max Weinberg, which inspired me and pointed me toward a book I need to read.
Two calls with friends who recommended psalms that are relevant to my experience.
A conversation at work about grace, healing, love and faith.
At the height of my illness, so many people sent messages of love and kindness.
I was overwhelmed; grateful for each and every message of hope. Thankful for every prayer.
I vowed then that I would share my story because I wanted to let people know not only about the virus, but about doctors and nurses, family and friends, prayer and hope, love and friendship.
I experienced the power of community in the midst of a period in our history where we are angry and estranged.
I feel compelled to tell you that love and community feels a lot better than anger and division.
I honestly don’t know what I will do with my second chance.
I’m going to trust in the path laid out for me.
So when the darkness washes over me, when the waves hit, I’m going to keep fighting. I’m going to keep working. I’m going to keep breathing—for as long as I can.

How To Lead

An easy to read primer on leadership.

 

I saw an interview with the philanthropist David Rubenstein on Face The Nation recently.
Mr. Rubenstein just released a book on leadership that waits for me patiently on my night stand each evening.
In the book, Rubenstein talks with a variety of successful leaders and distills some of the things they’ve learned along the way.
I was sold on the book by his answer to this question by host John Dickerson.
“What do you look for in a leader?”

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: I’m looking for their ability to focus, their ability to communicate well, their ability to have some sense of priority of what’s most important to them, their ability to inspire people, their ability to rise to the occasion. And I also think humility is important. Anybody that is really a successful leader I think has failed in life. And you have to persist after your failures. But failure gives you some humility.”


Isn’t that cool? I mean, doesn’t that sum it up?
Let’s break it down.
Focus: the best leaders I’ve seen are focused on goals. They don’t get distracted by bright shiny objects and they don’t let distractions throw them off their game. In other words, they don’t major in the minor. A good local example is former Mayor Dave Schmidt.
I learned many things sitting next to David for my first three years on the commission. Mayor Dave was focused on the big picture and always exhibited calm under fire. And he faced some raging ones: protests against the move of Atlantic High School and the discovery that several of the 9/11 terrorists were living in Delray which put an international media spotlight on our town. Regardless of what was thrown at him, Mayor Schmidt kept his eyes on the prize and made sure his fellow commissioners did so as well. 
Communication: Good leaders communicate. They have an ability to explain their positions and views. And they take the time to do so.
I thought former Mayor Tom Lynch did a great job articulating the city’s goals, aspirations and potential when he served from 1990-1996. I was a young reporter back then, assigned to cover city government. I always knew where the city was headed because Tom was a consistent and reliable communicator.
A sense of what’s important: Great leaders want to accomplish something. They don’t seek power for power’s sake. For the good ones, it’s a job to do, not a job to have.
I kept that phrase in my wallet through my term in office. It means that you are willing to lose your seat if it means doing the right thing for the city. Sometimes that means taking positions that are not the most popular at the time but that you know is the right thing to do for the community long term. Great leaders are willing to plant trees knowing they won’t be the ones to enjoy the shade.
An ability to inspire: I’ve seen some good leaders who were lacking in charisma, but that’s not the same as inspiration. A solid steady leader can be quietly inspiring. Why? Because they are solid and steady.
Former Chamber President Bill Wood did have charisma. And he was also very inspiring because he was reliably optimistic, had a wonderful sense of humor and a warmth that made everyone in his presence feel good. Consequently, he made businesses feel good about being in Delray. That’s an intangible that is hard to place a value on.

Rising to the Occasion: Good leaders have a way of meeting the challenges they are presented with. So if tragedy strikes they meet the moment with compassion. If there’s some sort of disaster (man made or natural) they have a way of handling it that calms the community and helps inspire confidence in the future. My local examples for this item are former police chief Rick Overman and former fire chief Kerry Koen. 
Both leaders were battle tested and enjoyed widespread support among the troops and the broader community. So during hurricanes or difficult incidents —which are par for the course in their line of work —they always rose to the occasion and you felt that everything would be OK. Steady hands during stormy seas..invaluable. 
Leaders who rise to the occasion find ways to create wins even when the going gets tough. 
Consequently, if there’s an opportunity they can seal the deal.

Humility and Failure: The best leaders are humble, real, honest and service oriented. I also happen to think a sense of humor is enormously important. The best leaders can admit when they are wrong and are committed to personal and professional growth. They have an ability to evolve. They know they aren’t the smartest person in the room and seek to surround themselves with people they can learn from. I call it intellectual humility. Those that have it can learn from others. Those who think they know it all, really don’t. 
I also think that failure is an important life experience. Failure informs. It keeps us humble and enables us to learn critical lessons. 
A good leader knows that as long as you learn from mistakes and don’t repeat them the experience is not really a failure at all.
As we edge toward national, state and local elections in November and again in March it may be helpful to review this list of traits and see how the candidates measure up. 
 
 

 

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

A culture is strong when people work with each other, for each other. A culture is weak when people work against each other, for themselves. –Simon Sinek

Word came last week that a Delray Beach city employee was cleared of wrongdoing after more than a year of innuendo and uncertainty.

Former Assistant Community Improvement Director Jamael Stewart was given an all clear by the Palm Beach County Ethics Commission. His boss, Michael Coleman, who got caught up in the situation, resigned when this whole thing went down. To date, he’s  never been charged with anything. He’s got a lawsuit pending against the city he served and loved.
But the damage has been done.
Two careers were ended. Two people who have served our city admirably were badly hurt.
And if you care about your town, what happened to Michael and Jamael ought to piss you off. (Excuse my language).
And they are not the only ones who have been hurt in recent years as a wide range of city employees saw their careers and lives upended— in many cases —for no good reason. When I asked a few of them what they were charged with their answer was consistent: they have no idea.
Even today, in the wake of the Ethics Commission ruling, there remains a cloud. What about other agencies some ask? Aren’t they looking too?
Nobody seems to be sure. In fact, there’s a theory that all of this is some bizarre political payback scheme.
And that’s a problem, because this is supposed to be America after all. People should have the right to face their accusers and they should know what their being accused of, especially after more than a year. All of this starts at home, at City Hall with either a demand to resign or a termination order. That’s the good news, because if the problem is local it can be solved with leadership. The buck stops with the commission. Either it tolerates this kind of behavior/culture or it doesn’t. It’s really that simple.
I guess the fate of wrongly accused employees is not as acute an issue as to whether or not the water is safe to drink or whether our infrastructure can handle sea level rise but it’s still a problem.
If you pay taxes and rely on municipal services the quality of city staff is important.

And if you have a culture that eats people up and spits them out it doesn’t take a management degree to understand that it’s going to be hard to attract and keep a talented staff.

I spent seven years on the city commission and have been following local government here and elsewhere for almost 35 years. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that a good staff makes a world of difference and a poor staff can cost you dearly.

Michael and Jamael are good men. They care about this community and they have touched a lot of lives in our city. Many of the people they impacted were young people. A few were heading in the wrong direction before they were mentored by these gentlemen and taught that there was another way.
What’s happened to them—forced out of their positions, maligned and thrown out with the trash—has sent a chilling message to these young people I’ve been told. Here’s what they’re thinking.
If it can happen to department heads, a decorated cop (Mr. Coleman was a police captain before becoming director) what chance do we have?
As a result, I know a few promising young people who have taken their talents elsewhere unwilling to put up with the toxic culture that has taken root at City Hall and permeated every corner of our city. That toxicity has convinced more than a few people to start their lives and careers elsewhere.
Who can blame them? But isn’t that tragic?
And while Michael and Jamael have been the subject of a lot of discussion and publicity because of their high profiles in town, there are others who have suffered by affiliation that we never talk about.
Donna Quinlan, a wonderful person,  worked for the city for 39 years. She was shown the door for no good reason. In fact, for no reason at all.
I guess she was guilty of being Michael’s assistant.
Jennifer Costello, a 31 year employee and another wonderful person, was also forced out for no good reason.
I worked with both Donna and Jen. They were invaluable.
Donna’s husband Tom, served for 30 years in our Police Department. He was a great officer. That family gave 70 years to this city.
Is this the way we should treat people? What message does that send to the other 900 employees?
I’ve seen the pain this kind of treatment causes families. It’s severe. Losing your livelihood, —in many ways your identity— suddenly, publicly and unfairly is a shock to the soul.
Sadly, it’s become fashionable to belittle public servants. We shouldn’t.
We seem to have forgotten that they are people with families, career aspirations, pride in their city and a strong desire to serve.
It’s wrong to hurt them.
We can’t be a good community if we treat people this way.
These kind of situations ought to trigger some deep soul searching.
This cannot be allowed to happen again and the people who have been hurt need to be made whole.
This is a teachable moment but only if we choose to learn and do better.
We should not tolerate a culture that ruins people for no good reason.
Why did this happen?
What kind of culture allows this?
What has changed? Because it wasn’t always like this.
If we just look the other way and carry on as we often do, we won’t figure out a better way.
And there has to be a better way.
A toxic culture is expensive.
Both in terms of legal fees (which we pay as taxpayers) but more importantly in terms of the toll it takes on victims and all who know and love them.
Throwing people away is just not right.
It leaves wounds that never heal and like a virus it affects every pore of our city.

200,000 lives: A Grim Milestone

This park in Detroit honors those lost to Covid-19.

 

“Breath is life. When the stakes are high and the challenge is hard, I come to my foundation for answers — breath.” Circus Performer LadyBeast. 
 
I stumbled on this quote while reading a blog about Creative Mornings and it hit me. 
Breath is our foundation.  We stop breathing and we cease to exist. 
I’ve been conscious of breathing for most of my life because I have asthma. So sometimes  breathing can be difficult. 
Every now and then, especially when I’m nervous, I have found myself short of breath. But I have never felt endangered. My asthma was mild. I knew I would feel better quickly. 
But my recent bout with Coronavirus changed my relationship with breathing.

At the height of my illness, I struggled with every breath. My lungs hurt and they weren’t working very well. 
Laying on my back, attached to leads to monitor my heart, a port in my arm and a mask strapped tight over my face I felt like I was drowning. 
I was working hard to get air and it felt as if the virus was suffocating me. Every breath was accompanied  by a painful sharpness. It’s hard to explain but when I inhaled I felt a cutting type pain. 
While I was frightened and afraid to sleep because I didn’t think I’d wake up, I was also keenly aware that I had to fight. 
I couldn’t really speak, but I wanted to yell out and say “no, I’m not letting go.”  
My mind raced from thought to thought. 
“No, I won’t let this be the end” and then “I can’t believe this is the end. I’m only 55. I have a wife and kids and a career and friends. I never said goodbye and I have so much more I want to do.”
I thought of my late mother and my beloved grandparents. I asked them for help. I prayed for G-d’s mercy and I wondered if I was in some sort of dream. 
My mind kept coming back to my mother. She passed at age 59 and missed so much. Now here I was four years younger. I would miss seeing my kids get married, I would miss having grandkids and I would lose all the things I wanted to do once I retired. While tempted to give in and let go, I just refused. 
Breathe. Just breathe. Keep breathing. 
And I did. 
 
 

I’m a little over two months into my Covid odyssey and here’s where I stand (or mostly sit).

 I am still on three liters of oxygen. I can go off for short periods of time, but when I dip below 92 on my pulse oximeter (always by my side) I have to go back to the O2 hose—you don’t want to starve your brain of oxygen.
For the most part my breathing is ok. But sometimes I feel like there’s something stuck deep in my chest. And  I still lack my wind.
My body is sore from what I guess is the therapy I’m doing after 39 days in a hospital bed.
But I also have a stabbing pain in my left thigh. I’ve been applying heat to the leg which also feels numb at times.
The stabbing wakes me some nights.
My neck is also stiff and my tailbone is sore which means that I need to sit on a lot of cushions. My friend Scott bought me a “donut” and I literally can’t live without it.
Best. Gift. Ever.
I’m not really sure if some of my soreness is the residual impact of the virus or the result of being in that hospital bed.
My sleep has been inconsistent, but I am not fatigued like so many Covid patients report.
I am, however, experiencing a fair amount of anxiety. There are some mornings when I feel very jittery. It fades as the day moves forward but I also experience pangs of fear and just overall dread that seems to come at me in waves.
When I get hit with the wave, I try to shift my mind to a positive thought. I’m so lucky that I can call friends or read messages and cards to lift my spirits.
I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and love I have received from family and friends. I jokingly told my wife that I feel that I attended my funeral without having to pass.
But boy did I come close and that experience is both real and surreal.
To be honest, I’m still kind of processing the whole experience.
As a news junkie, I’ve always paid attention to what’s happening in the world. But these days, stories about Covid truly affect me on a different level.
The 200,000 plus deaths in America is not just a grim statistic to me; it’s a shockingly real kick in the teeth because I’ve now seen the enormous toll this virus has enacted on our country and on the families left to grieve.
I was one of the lucky ones.
So I wonder: why I was spared?  And I  wonder what I should be doing now that I’ve been given a a second chance. I realize how fragile life is; how easy it could have been to simply stop breathing.
The last few months feels like a dream to me.
I went to get a test at Bethesda Hospital and came home 39 days later.
In between, I wore masks to breathe, had morphine to dull the pain (it barely took the edge off) and struggled to even sit up. I had odd dreams, painful spasms and felt dizzy and disoriented at times. For a few weeks, my eyes burned and there were times when I woke up and wasn’t quite sure where I was. Sometimes things seemed to move in the room. I would see the TV on the ceiling but then realized it hadn’t moved. I was just confused.
I heard screams from a nearby room and thought to myself someone has it worse than me and I prayed they would find relief.
Since coming home I’ve had extensive therapy and it’s helping.
I am slowly getting my strength and stamina back. I came home with a walker and a hospital bed.  Both are gone.
I can climb a flight of stairs but I lose my breath and need a few minutes to recover. But it’s progress.
I am so grateful.
When I wake up I am reminded how fortunate I am to be alive.
I’m more appreciative of my friends, love my wife even more (she’s been my rock), cherish my kids and family and can’t wait to get back to what life has to offer.
I write these words to raise awareness and to urge people to be vigilant and safe.
Last week, we attended a virtual fundraiser to raise money for Bethesda Hospital’s Covid efforts. I was happy to see a brief video of my departure from the hospital as part of the event. The health care heroes that were highlighted that night saved my life and the life of many others. When I left Bethesda, I promised them I would try and spread the word.
And that’s what I plan to do.
I am grateful I have the opportunity to do so.
I’m here because of prayers and the talents of amazing medical professionals. We are blessed to have these people in our community.
Thanks for reading.

Going To Be A Long Walk Home

Our beach is a prized asset. Protecting it must be based on science not politics.

“ Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

There’s a lot happening in Delray Beach these days.

Water quality issues, controversy over sea grapes, budget shortfalls, lawsuits and an ill timed raise for city commissioners.
As mom used to say: Oy!
When you sit alone in a hospital room for six weeks fighting Covid, you have a lot of time to think. You wrestle with issues large and small as the hours and days tick away.
Weighed against issues such as life and death, the dysfunction at Delray City Hall doesn’t mean a whole lot. This too shall pass as they say, although, to be honest, the nonsense has lasted a very long time and has done untold damage to our beloved city.
So while “sea grape gate” and “raise gate” doesn’t rise to the level of dealing with a pandemic, an economic crisis or racial strife, if you love your town —as I do —the state of affairs should alarm you.
We have strayed far, far away from the days when Florida Trend magazine put Delray on its cover with the headline: Florida’s Best Run Town.
There was a time when Delray Beach was not only well run but it was well led too.
We were aspirational and visionary. There was a sense of possibility, we knew if we put our minds to it, we could do anything.
You could feel the civic pride and the confidence that goes with it. It was palpable and that confidence was a key to our success.
Pick your issue and there was a plan and more important action being taken to make things better.
Crime problems fueled by drug sales were met by groundbreaking efforts in community policing. Community leaders, foundation executives and academics came from far and wide to study Delray’s police department and its efforts to connect to the community.
When city leaders decided to tackle educational issues they adopted an ambitious plan that called for new facilities, magnet programs, summer enrichment activities and partnerships to try and raise the quality of education in our community.
And guess what? It got done.
S.D. Spady Elementary was rebuilt and added an award winning Montessori magnet, Village Academy was built, a brand new high school with career academies was also built and partnerships with stellar non-profits such as the Achievement Center for Children and Families were created to launch initiatives to help the most vulnerable children in our community.
The CRA, ridiculously maligned by people who either don’t know or should know better, revitalized a once moribund downtown and also invested tens of millions of dollars into distressed neighborhoods.
And the list goes on.
Old School Square, Pineapple Grove, the Arts Garage, signature events, world class tennis, successful beach renourishment efforts, innovative housing initiatives such as the Community Land Trust and more.
Now this is not to say that everything was perfect.
Our schools still have a long way to go, our neighborhoods still need investment, reclaimed water was a great idea but there’s obvious managerial and operational issues that need to be addressed  and like the rest of America we struggle and always have struggled with inequality and racial division.

But the difference I see is that back in the day there was a recognition of our deficiencies and a resolve to get after it.
There was a hunger to solve problems, involve the community and innovate. There was a willingness to experiment and yes a willingness to fail.
Delray’s culture was one of “civic entrepreneurship” which is the opposite of a “gotcha” culture in which fear reigns and everyone is afraid to proffer an idea lest they get ripped by trolls on social media or drummed out of town by toxic politics.

So while I spent 98 percent of my recent Covid experience trying to stay alive and pondering how much I loved my family and friends I spent two percent of my time thinking about the town where I live.
Why?
Because I love my city.
I love it enough to criticize it because I want to see it do better.
I cringe when I see story after story of turnover and dysfunction. Others do too. I hear from many of you who can’t believe what they are seeing.
They don’t relish or take joy in the nonsense. They worry because they too love their town.
They want to see an effective and efficient city government that uses their tax dollars wisely.
They want to see a thriving local economy and opportunities created for those who live here or may want to live here.
They want a safe town and to see their elected officials work collaboratively.
It’s OK to debate passionately but once the vote is called they want to see their leaders move on and not hold grudges. Washington take note. People can’t stand Congress because the Dems and Republicans can’t work together.
Therefore, problems never get solved and opportunities are hard to seize.
Same thing right here in little old Delray.
So yes, I spent some time thinking about Delray. When you live in a place, own a home, have a business, raised a family here and dedicated years of your life to a town  you can’t help but care. A lot.
It’s going to be a long walk home as the song says. Because we’ve strayed far from the ideals that created a wonderful little city.

We have to learn to work together again.
We have to stop labeling, dividing and sowing fear.
We have to want to do better and to be better.
Not every elected official is on the take. Not every developer is here to pillage the village. Not every business is a special interest with only profits in mind.
There’s talent at city hall, but I’m not sure there’s a culture here that encourages staff to be creative or to even do their jobs effectively. For goodness sakes, let them loose to create value.

Last week, I saw the Beach Property Owners unfairly maligned for wanting to protect the dunes at the beach.
Friends, the  Beach Property Owners Association has been a force for good in this town for a long, long time.
If they differ with others on the height of sea grapes we ought to listen and ask why instead of assuming that they selfishly want a better view and that they are willing to risk the beach to get it.
I know the leaders of that association. They love Delray, they are not selfish.
The ‘Delray way’ as we once called it,  would be to listen, seek understanding and find a way to protect our dune system based on a full understanding of the science.

Yes, it’s going to be a long walk home.
But we need to take the first steps toward restoring civility, vision, collaboration and stability.
The first rule when you are in a hole is to stop digging.
Our town deserves better.
And all of us have a role to play and a stake in the outcome. We have to speak out. We have to get involved.
As John Lewis wrote in his posthumously-published essay, “When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”
Amen.
The same goes for cities.

Life Lessons

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that good and bad can co-exist. When something’s bad, it’s not all bad, and vice versa.

Take for example my recent battle with Covid-19; I don’t have much good to say about the virus but the experience taught me several important lessons. Among them:
 
Nurses are remarkable people. Just remarkable. 
Doctors are incredible too. 
We are blessed to have a hospital as good as Bethesda serving our community. 
I have lots and lots of wonderful friends. 
My family is amazing. 
My wife is next level great. And I love her more than I can ever express. 
Prayer is powerful. Very powerful. 
Those are all good lessons to learn or —in my case— relearn. 
 By now, most of us have written off 2020 as a terrible year. 
The virus has robbed us of so much. We are a dangerously divided nation—angry and distrustful of one another. 
It’s sad and depressing. 
And yet..
Some have used the pandemic to reconnect and reinvent. We are talking about important issues and while painful, it’s good that we are having these conversations. 
We have managed to reorder our lives and in some cases our businesses and careers. 
Yes, small businesses are hurting. And it’s tragic and painful to see people’s dreams disintegrate. Yet, amidst the mess, we are reminded  of the importance of small business; not only to our economy but the very character of our communities…we will deeply mourn those who close their doors. And I hope we will appreciate and support local businesses forevermore.

Yes,  we have lost a staggering amount of people to this virulent virus. It pains me to see their loss minimized as we argue over statistics. Death should not be partisan. We need to figure out how to be a more empathetic nation. It starts on the local level.
Kindness matters.
As a recipient of a huge outpouring of love and prayers, I can personally attest to how important love can be. It saved me. And I often thought of people who suffer alone—without family and friends or community. How lonely that must be…
Yes, our children’s education and social lives have been disrupted but we have also seen many families grow closer. I’m hopeful our children will learn from this experience. They will overcome. 
So yes, life is a mixed bag. 
Good and bad can and do co-exist. 
And yes, it’s true that it is always darkest before the dawn which is why I’m confident better days are on the way. 
 
Update: After 39 days at Bethesda Hospital battling Covid-19, I’m extremely happy to be home. It has been almost three weeks since my homecoming and I’m spending my time in physical and occupational therapy. I have five sessions a week learning to breathe, walk, climb stairs while rebuilding my strength which was completely zapped by the disease and a violent case of double pneumonia. 
I’m still on oxygen but I’ve graduated from a walker and can now walk unassisted around the house. 
My breathing feels labored at times, as if there’s an obstruction somewhere deep. 
I’ve been reading a lot about COVID and the experiences of people who develop conditions such as glaucoma, depression or  lupus after battling the virus. 
To be honest, it’s scary. 
It turns out Covid is a vascular disease and one has to wonder what it does to your system. 
I’m doing my best to focus on the positive and taking it a day at a time. I’m drawing strength and resolve from the many kind people who are in my corner. I remain in awe of them and am deeply grateful for the abundance of love in my life. I’m a lucky man. 

Hello Again…

The virus millions are wrestling with.

Hello dear readers.

It’s good to be back. Or almost back. I’ve got a ways to go.
This blog was interrupted by Covid-19 and after 39 days in the hospital (mostly in ICU) I’m happy to be writing again.
It may take me awhile to get back to my two times a week pace but I’m working on it alongside my recovery.
During my hospital stay, I did my best to keep people posted on my condition via Facebook.
The outpouring of love, prayer and kindness was overwhelming. Not only did it help keep my spirits up during a brutal battle with a virus that can only be described as a beast, but it also gave me an opportunity to try and educate people on what it’s like to have a serious case of coronavirus.
My goal was to raise awareness and hopefully inspire people to take the virus seriously.
Many asked me to write a book about the experience and honestly I’m a little ambivalent about that prospect. I’m just not sure I want to relive the episode.
For me Covid, was a horrifying experience.
I came to the brink of losing my life. It was a lonely experience; painful, scary and scarring.
My lungs were battered by violent pneumonia, I lost my ability to walk and all of the strength was drained from my body.
Staring at the ceiling, alone, with a mask on my face to help me breathe, I thought of all I had left behind.
My wife, a few miles away but not allowed to visit. My children, just getting started in their lives and careers. My beloved father worried sick about me. My sister unable to choke back tears when she called. And my wonderful friends who I would miss terribly.
I have a good life and I didn’t want it to end.
I also thought about what  I still wanted to do. Before getting sick, I thought if I was fortunate, I might have 30 plus years left.
Now I wondered if I could last the night.
I felt like I was suffocating. Every breath was labored, my heart was working hard to keep up and I was overcome with sadness.
I had two episodes where I thought I might not survive.
The first happened as if it was a dream and it landed me in the ICU.
It was a surreal experience, I can’t quite describe it, but I felt that I was being urged by something to let go. It felt as if I was being given a choice but the emphasis was on letting go. It was palpable. I declined. And I decided to fight.
The second experience happened in the ICU.
I just felt like I was drowning. I also felt that somehow what was happening was all wrong. This was not supposed to be the end of my story. I was only 55. I never said goodbye to anyone. It seemed wrong, discordant.
I was determined to fight. I was determined to survive….
It’s a hard experience to revisit.
Still, there’s so much I can tell you about: what it’s like to be isolated for 39 days. The amazing health care workers who saved me. What it feels like physically to lose your ability to walk or even sit up. All that time spent alone left to think.
Maybe I’ll share more at some later date.
What I do want you to know is how important it is to stay safe.
Sadly, this pandemic has become politicized like so much else is these days at all levels of our life from Washington to our own little city hall.
So I’ve learned not to preach. Because once things become political it seems we become unable to change our beliefs. Regardless of the facts or the evidence.
But from the depths of my soul, I just want you to be safe, to take this virus seriously, to mind your health for symptoms and to protect your loved ones.
Not everyone will die from this hideous virus. But so many have. For me, they are not just a statistic—or number that increases day after mind numbing day. They are people. They have families and loved ones. I pray we have empathy as a society because we will need a whole lot of healing before this storm passes.
Not everyone will get as sick as I did. But the point is you can, it’s a possibility —so be safe.
This is all I can say right now as I am still processing my experience.
I have always been a grateful guy. I know I have been blessed in so many ways.  But this experience has made everything a little sweeter for me.
Driving west on Lake Ida Road after departing Bethesda Hospital the grass never seemed greener, the sky was never bluer and the entrance to my community never seemed so inviting.
I love my wife even more. My children too. I cherish my family and friends even more.
That part of this experience has been a gift.
The greatest I’ve ever been given.

Ya Gotta Believe

I was young in ‘93. We all were.

I stumbled across a memory last week and it stayed with me.

I have this app called Time Hop and each day it reminds you of events and photos from your past.
It’s pretty cool.
Well last week, an old column I had written for the Delray Beach Times resurfaced. It was from 1993 and it was in the immediate aftermath of Delray winning its first All America City Award in Tampa.
I wrote about how the city planned to capitalize on the win with a marketing blitz that would hopefully capture the eyes of investors looking to build in Delray and companies that may want to move to Delray.

What followed were All America city buttons, bumper stickers, license plates, key chains etc.
The effort may have seemed hokey but it was effective and the results produced positive press and civic pride.
Let’s spend a minute on those two things: positive press and civic pride. They are often linked together—and it makes sense. Positive press creates civic pride.
So in 1993, when residents saw their city make the cover of Florida Trend, they felt good about their city. The headline on the magazine: Florida’s Best Run City.
It doesn’t get better than that.
Only it did—for awhile at least.
Delray in the 90s and early 2000s seemed to to be a magical place.  Every year seemed to be better than the last.
There was a confidence about the town, a sense that by working together the community could accomplish anything it set its mind too.
Want to lower the crime rate?
Ok, let’s commit to community policing.
Want to create a vibrant downtown?
Let’s invest in a streetscape (Decade of Excellence) and innovative policy (Downtown Master Plan) and events and  sure enough—with a ton of hard work— we have the “it” downtown in the region and beyond.

There were some amazing civic projects too: Old School Square, the Sandoway House, the Cason Cottage and the Spady Museum.
There were true collaborations with the Achievement Center for Children and Families, the Beach Property Owners Association, the formation of the West Settlers Historic District, the opening of the Youth Enrichment Vocational Center, successful bids for the Davis and Fed Cups, model beach renourishment projects, the founding of the county’s first land trust, the introduction of public art, dozens of citizen engagement initiatives and landmark programs designed to help Delray Beach schools.
Looking back, civic pride and confidence may be the key factor in success.
As Tug McGraw, the great reliever for the Mets once said: “Ya gotta believe.”
And we did.
We believed.
We acted.
We experimented.
We were entrepreneurial and we took calculated risks. We didn’t fear precedents; we wanted to set them.
I recently watched an ESPN documentary that examined last year’s Wimbledon match up between Delray’s Coco Gauff and Venus Williams, who also played a lot of tennis over the years in Delray.
Two things struck me.
One was Coco’s confidence that she could play with Venus. She believed that she belonged.
You don’t win without that belief.
Second, as ESPN’s Chris Fowler interviewed Coco at our downtown tennis center, I recalled the decision made to keep the center downtown and add a stadium court. That took confidence. It was a prescient decision.
And because of it, a young champion was able to walk to the courts and dream. A generation later, she’s talking from the veranda of the pro shop with ESPN about what it was like to beat a legend on centre court at Wimbledon. Very cool.
Anyway, this is a riff on confidence, civic pride, dreams, aspiration and accomplishment.
Wouldn’t it be nice to do/have all of those things again?
As we sit home enduring this awful pandemic, we ought to spend some of our time dreaming about a better future and taking some steps to make those dreams come true.
We are going to need bold new ideas to survive the post coronavirus world, which will surely be different.
The first order of business is to survive. The second is to recover and thrive. The cities that dream and act will be the ones that thrive.
The ones that wallow in despair and enable dysfunction will sink.
Let’s be the former.
Ya gotta believe.

Culture is Everything

Something is wrong in Delray Beach.

I’ve been saying this for awhile now. Sometimes I’ve been vilified by the usual suspects for pointing out the obvious but we’ve had eight city managers in eight years and that’s not good. We’ve also had a slew of department heads and City Attorney’s come and go too.
It’s not a sign of health. It’s a sign of sickness.
And if you don’t think this affects you—well with all due respect, you’re mistaken because it does.
Turnover costs money. Tax money.
Lawsuits cost money too.
It’s hard to deliver efficient services with an ever changing cast of characters.
It’s also hard if you work for the city or are trying to do business in town.

Dysfunction chases away investment and when you are known as a hard place to work it’s no surprise when you can’t attract or retain talent.
I’m writing this in the wake of the firing of George Gretsas, the latest in a long line of City Managers who have come here with high hopes only to leave beaten and battered. Every time that happens, we drive the price up for the next contestant brave or crazy enough to apply for the job.
So far, none of the previous eight contestants have left here with their reputations entirely intact.
We seem to have factions not only on the City Commission but also on the staff level with a few bad actors sowing division. That’s a relatively new and troubling development.

The next round of head hunting ought to be fascinating. The commission has already been told that Delray has a toxic reputation. Before they go out to the market again there needs to be some serious soul searching or we will pay another premium price for a CM who also won’t last.
One glaring deficiency is a lack of vision. Successful Mayors and commission’s strive to create a unified vision and shared goals. This way if there is division at least you have your common goals to fall back on.  This helps City Manager’s and staff because they have a North Star to guide them. The most recent Comp Plan exercise was lacking because it largely cut out the  public. Plus, Comp Plan updates typically happen after a visioning process not in lieu of one.
From the outside, I don’t see any goals or vision. So I asked a few prominent citizens  to tell me if they knew the city’s goals. Nobody could name one goal. Now they may exist, but if nobody knows what they are or can see progress on those goals you’ve got a problem.
The absence of common goals leads to ala Carte policymaking and a whole lot of 3-2 votes.
That leads to hard feelings and a lack of progress.
Cities (and nations) go off the rails when it starts to become about personalities and factions rather than community driven goals and plans.
 That’s where we are my friends.
Does this get fixed?
Only if we demand it does and to date we haven’t. Major institutions in town have been silent. Where are the associations? Where is the business community?
Granted, we are in a pandemic and preoccupied. But dysfunction in City Hall in a pandemic, during hurricane season with a projected budget shortfall of $10 million won’t make it easier to recover. We need to be paying attention and we need to demand better results and offer our help.
We stand for what we tolerate.
And right now we are standing for a whole lot of dysfunction.