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Random Thoughts

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

 

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

Planning Is Great; Action Is Better

Don’t let your plans gather dust. If you do, you burn public trust which is the most valuable currency.

 

It happened a long time ago, so I guess it’s safe to tell the story.

It was the early 2000s and Delray Beach was still reeling from a bruising battle over Worthing Place—the apartment building that also houses Park Tavern and Salt 7.
The city commission agreed to a Downtown Master Plan process and we got some funding from the MacArthur Foundation to hire a slew of planning and design consultants.
A large cross section of the community turned out for meetings that surfaced a bunch of cool ideas.
It was a true community building experience.
We felt  a lot of civic pride, it was exciting and we felt as if we could do anything we set our minds too. It was a special time.
Then the plan was sent to the commission for adoption with a list of priority projects.
But despite the enthusiasm and effort, the commission never adopted the plan. They ignored years of advocacy from residents pleading for the plan to be adopted. And nothing happened.

The gateway wasn’t built. None of the downtown garages were ever built, and we never got Old School Square Park.
All of the innovative policy ideas that enabled restaurants to thrive, the grid system to flow and events to take root vanished along with our hopes.
Northwest/Southwest Fifth Avenue which we had hoped would include public art, small businesses and interesting streetscapes never happened.
Downtown housing, which we had wanted so that we could add vibrancy and support for local businesses didn’t happen either. The plan was placed on a shelf where it gathered dust.
And all of the participants who gave their time and energy to our town went back home disappointed. Some moved away. Many never participated in anything “civic” related ever again.
Instead, we watched neighboring towns flower and attract investment and entrepreneurial energy.

Eventually, our talented staff began to send their resumes out hoping to catch on in a place where they could make something happen and feel that their careers were meaningful.

Property values stagnated. The momentum we started to feel in the late 80s and 90s faded away like so many other things we hoped to do.

At this point in the story, I can share that all of this is bunk.
The plan was not only adopted it was largely implemented in a blizzard of civic projects and investment that helped our town blossom.
Oh some people didn’t like what happened. One guy referred to our vibrant downtown as a “concrete jungle.”  I’m not sure what he was referring to, it is a downtown of course. We have concrete. We also have open space, art, culture, sports,
music.  restaurants and nightlife that cities all over the country envy.

But hey, you can’t please them all.
The downtown master plan was the first to expand the boundaries of our downtown from the ocean to I-95, an important symbolic step.
But it wasn’t just symbolism.
We added an attractive “gateway” feature just East of 95 because the citizens who participated in the process felt it was important to send the world a message. When you exited the Interstate at Atlantic Avenue you were entering a special place. We wanted people to know it.
Some criticized the art work and lighting that decorated our gateway. It was too expensive they said. They always say that by the way. And they are always wrong.
My friends cities work when you invest in them.
You get a return on that investment in the form of increased property values and civic pride. If you fail to invest, you fail your citizens in ways that you can measure and in ways that you cannot.
Atlantic Grove got built—“they” said it couldn’t be done. Nobody would build market rate housing in “that neighborhood.”
Once again, they were wrong. The market rate and the affordable housing sold.
So did the commercial portion of the project and for the first time in a long time—maybe ever—we saw people from all parts of Delray mingling at places like Ziree, a wonderful Thai restaurant.
The streetscape that made East Atlantic so trendy was extended all the way out to 95, a new library was built where it was needed —again despite some people coming up to the microphone and saying you can’t put the library “out there” because people will be afraid to go. Once again they were wrong. Lots of people use the library.

There were other plans that were implemented too.
The southwest plan called for infrastructure  upgrades that were funded and done. The plan called for an expansion of The Village Academy and that was done too.

The parks plan added a splash park named after our first female mayor Catherine Strong, becoming the first park in the long neglected Southwest neighborhood.

A community land trust was formed, I think it was the first in the county, and they built some adorable homes for first time buyers.
We had an independent CRA back then, and by the way it was independent in name only because it worked collaboratively with the City Commission. The agency won a ton of awards and was recognized as one of the very best in the state before a mayor came along a few years back and used it as a punching bag.
That was shameful. Truly was.

How smart is it to take your best economic development tool and put cheese in the engine? Answer: not very.
Oh well, thankfully so much got done before the dysfunction set in.
Which is a good segue I suppose.
Last week, after four years of trying, a neighborhood calling itself “The Set” finally got their plan on the Commission agenda thanks to Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston. The neighborhood, which used to be called the southwest and northwest sections of the city, came together to work on  “The Set Transformation Plan.”

Of course, you might not know that because when it hit the agenda the word “Set” was removed. Kind of like when the Egyptians removed the name Moses from their history books when they discovered he was Jewish.
It struck me as odd, petty, political, small and disrespectful.
It struck others that way too.
Anyway, it’s a good plan. I’ve read a bunch over the years and this is solid. But it needs to be adopted, funded and implemented. Otherwise, it’s just platitudes on paper.
Unfortunately last week, after four years and after many a campaign promise to get moving, the adoption of the plan was postponed so it can be workshopped.
Interesting.
The decision or lack thereof, smells.
It just does. And it smells worse considering where we are as a nation right now wrestling with issues of equity and racism.
There are some players tied to the plan who are controversial.
So what?
One of the guys spews a lot on social media as is his right. He gets some things right and he is way way way off on other things. For example, he’s wrong when he says nothing has ever been accomplished by the city or CRA in or for his community. A whole lot has been done. And nobody has ever said that things were finished.

But it’s really not about him or his friends. Or at least it shouldn’t be.
Is the plan worthy? Is it supported by the neighborhood it aspires to help? Is it good for Delray?
If the answer is yes, it ought to be adopted and put into action not put on a shelf.
If the answer is no, well then we need another plan and leadership ought to make that happen. But they better be able to explain why the plan falls short. And the answer can’t be because a few people who run their mouths on Facebook are behind it.
We are at an inflection point in this City and this country.
I don’t watch city meetings but my phone sure blew up when the plan’s adoption was postponed.
I’m not a bellwether. I’m just a middle aged white guy sitting at home watching Netflix riding out the pandemic.
But I’m feeling something and it ain’t COVID. People want change. They want progress. They want to be heard and respected. Those are not unreasonable demands.
Many are not feeling like they are being heard.
That’s not healthy.
It’s time for the plan to be adopted, funded and implemented.
It’s past time really.
As Sam Cooke sang, “a change is gonna come.”
Even in sleepy ole Delray.

Father & Sons

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

 

My father and I have a lot in common.

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

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

The Dream Is Local

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Local government can play a big role in improving race relations. It’s a choice.

Local government can play a big role in race relations. It’s a choice.

We got a nice email from the Delray Beach Historical Society last week.

The Historical Society is planning to take a deep dive into the history of race relations in Delray Beach. Working with the Spady Museum, the Historical Society plans to review a study they did with FAU in 2004.
At that time, more  than 100 people gave oral histories on their experiences in our town.
The effort was part of a race relations effort that the City of Delray Beach was doing at the time.
I was Mayor back then and along with Conmissioner Alberta McCarthy, we spearheaded an effort to explore race relations with a goal of building community unity and talking about some thorny issues that have impacted our city for decades.

Delray Beach is a diverse city but we are also a segregated one, with a line —Swinton Avenue—separating East from West, black from white.
As a native New Yorker, it was the first thing I noticed when I discovered Delray in 1987.
I rarely saw African American people “downtown” or at the beach. And I rarely saw people who looked like me on West Atlantic Avenue. I always found that odd. And while people mostly got along, there would be periodic flashpoints that would remind everyone that race was very much an issue in Delray Beach as it is throughout America.

As a young journalist assigned to cover Delray, I caught the eye of C. Spencer Pompey and his wife H. Ruth Pompey.
They were community giants; civil rights leaders, educators and held in immense esteem by everyone in town.
They invited me into their home adjacent to Pompey Park, a place named in their honor.
I felt at home with the Pompey’s and visited on many occasions. We would sit in the living room of their comfy home and they would tell me stories about Delray for hours.
I couldn’t get enough.
The Pompey’s generosity helped my reporting at the time and later would inform my tenure on the City Commission.
Soon after, I met Elizabeth Wesley, another community icon who founded the Roots Cultural Festival. There is a plaza named in Libby’s honor on West Atlantic. She would go on to play a big role in my life as she did for countless others. Around this time, I also got to know and cover the career of Commissioner David Randolph, who to this day as known as “the commissioner”.
In later years, I would be invited to breakfasts hosted by community elders where I would listen to people like Yvonne Odom, who integrated Atlantic High School, neighborhood leader Ernestine Holliday and Alfred “Zack” Straghn, a civil rights, civic and business leader. And there were more special people that I would come to know and cherish.
Every relationship was a learning experience. Every interaction helped me to understand Delray Beach.
I mention these experiences because I think it’s important for aspiring leaders to spend time learning from people who have given back to the community.
There’s just no substitute for listening to the stories and experiences of those who came before us.
It also important to spend time with people who bring a different perspective as a result of their unique experiences.
I’m not sure this is happening as much anymore.
Perhaps I’m wrong, but I still talk to a wide range of people in our community and one of their complaints is that they don’t feel as connected to leadership as they once did.
That’s a mistake but also an opportunity because the answers to many complicated issues can be found by reaching out to the community.
Back in 2001,  when we announced our intent to make improved race relations
a central piece of our goals and aspirations as a city government we got mostly positive feedback.
Many people appreciated the effort. Because we had relationships the effort was viewed by most—as sincere and needed. Others thought we were rocking the boat.
“Why bring up these sensitive issues” they would ask?
Because we need too. If we aspire to being a close knit community we need to be able to talk about everything—especially the uncomfortable subjects.
And we did. For awhile at least, we moved the needle. Not enough but we moved it. But times change. Commissioners and mayors come and go and so did our race relations effort.

Today, the protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd has got many of us thinking anew about all of these issues.
Racism. Social justice. Policing. Inequality. And for me anti-semitism which is also on the rise.
I’ll end this piece with a short story.
It was 2000 and I was campaigning for a seat on the City Commission, my first bid for public office.
I held a candidate ‘meet and greet’ at the Marriott on A1A.
It was a nice event, your typical have a drink and a bite while you mingle.
I remember saying hello to a pleasant looking elderly woman I had never seen before.
We talked for a few seconds while she ate chicken wings and drank wine.
When I said that I hoped I could count on her vote, she smiled and said.
“Oh, I won’t be voting for you,” she said. “We already have one of you on the commission.”
She smiled and walked away.
It took me a minute, but then I got it. I was Jewish and so was Commissioner Bill Schwartz who was serving at the time.
And so it goes…I suppose.
As a realist, if I let myself go there I can get pretty down on our flawed human condition. There’s so much hatred in our world.
But as an idealistic optimist, I remain hopeful that the pain we are experiencing will lead us to a better outcome for all…someday.
A world of love, compassion and understanding.
That world can start right here at home. But it won’t happen magically. We need to want it and we need to work for it.
It begins with getting to know and love thy neighbors. All of them.

The Future of Policing: Relationships


Our national dialogue is fraught.

It’s like a game of gotcha.
And it leads absolutely nowhere.
Endless circular arguments that leave us angry and frustrated.
The latest example is the so-called debate over the term “Defund The Police.”
We don’t need too. Nor should we.
But we do need to invest in neglected communities. It’s not a zero sum game. We can have good police departments and we can set aside money for communities that need our help. This is not an either or choice. We can do both. And we can help our police departments by re-imagining their role in society.
 Perhaps, we are asking our police departments to do too much.
A few years ago, the Dallas Police Chief touched on this notion in a now famous video in which he lamented that every single societal issue ended up at his doorstep.
If you have a stray dog problem, ask the cops to deal with it.
Homelessness, opioid addiction, mental health issues ,domestic violence—-just put the cops on it.
Well, perhaps that’s not the best approach.
First, we never do get at the root cause of these problems and secondly when things escalate it can get end badly for everyone.

Instead, we can invest in mental health professionals, case workers, counselors and others who can assist the police in keeping our communities from descending into places of hopelessness and despair.

A few years back, the Delray Beach Police Department hired a social worker to help with a raging opioid crisis among other issues. I would argue we need more of that.
We don’t have to look far to see an example of how a department can reform and make a lasting difference. We can look to our very own police department.

Thirty years ago, the biggest issue in town was the poor relationship between citizens of neglected neighborhoods and their police department.
Things began to turn around with the introduction of community policing first introduced by interim Police Chief Rick Lincoln and taken to an amazing level by Chief Rick Overman who was hired in 1991 and given the mandate to turn things around.
Chief Overman came from Orlando and he was a change agent.
He was also a charismatic visionary who talked a good game, but played a better one.
He rolled out a blizzard of programs: Citizen Police Academies, outreach to the large Haitian community, problem oriented policing projects to get at the root of issues and a volunteer program that at its zenith numbered over 1,000 residents who acted as the departments eyes and ears.

He broke the city into zones and tasked officers to get out of their cars and into the neighborhoods where they could develop relationships and trust.
The department worked with MAD DADS, a grassroots organization that walked the streets to reclaim neighborhoods from drug dealers.
Chief Overman initiated bike patrols, opened police substations and invited citizens into the department to see how it worked.
There were efforts to have officers mentor local kids, there were midnight basketball leagues, barbecues, self defense classes, toy drives, DARE classes in local schools to keep kids away from drugs and much more.
Some of it lasted. Some of it went away.
But all of it was good.
Because the focus was relationship and community building.
The emphasis was on communication and building trust.
Chief Overman knew that in his line of work it wasn’t a matter of if something would go wrong during one of the thousands of police/community interactions that occur every year in a complex city such as Delray ,it was a matter of when.
He wanted his city and his department to be ready. He built capital. He built relationships.
He built a reservoir of good will.
He also raised standards for hiring officers insisting on a college degree, controversial at the time. But he believed that the more education an officer had, the less likely he or she was to make mistakes—especially violent ones. It was a position backed by research.
Within a relatively short amount of time, the police department went from being perceived as a huge liability to being arguably the city’s biggest strength.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. The Delray Beach Police Department made it possible for our city to have a renaissance.
People won’t invest—their time or their money—unless they feel safe.
The example set by the police flowed to every department in the city.
The whole city became oriented toward community building. That meant town hall meetings, visioning exercises, resident academies, youth councils, community dinners, summer programs, after school “Beacon” programs, partnerships with non-profits and much more.
And guess what? It worked.
It’s expensive and time consuming. But…failing to engage your community is a lot more expensive.

A few years back, it became fashionable to trash the past history of this town.
It was a foolish decision driven by petty personal feuds and ego.
But that ruinous mindset  has sure done a lot of damage. It has led to the dysfunction and turnover at City Hall, which ought to alarm and concern us all because it leaves this community weaker and vulnerable.
We stopped doing many of the things mentioned above. We abandoned strategies that built a city and could have done a lot more had that ethos continued.
We even had senior city staff question the investment in some of the programs mentioned above. That’s their right.
But their conclusions were so wrong.
Those investments were not wasted, they enriched lives, created opportunities and built something of value—a community.
I am grateful that our Police Department has maintained good relations with our community.
Chief Javaro Sims has led admirably during this difficult time. We have some  very special officers.
Personally, I’d like to see a recommitment to community policing complete with a plan and a budget. It’s money well spent.
Officers need to know the people they protect and serve. Our city’s children need to know and trust officers.
I’d also like to see efforts made to grow the capacity of local leaders and organizations. We need more leaders and we need to support those we have.
Local government can play an important role in these efforts.
Bring back visioning. Bring back Charettes. Bring back community dinners. Bring back the effort to improve race relations.
Get serious about economic development and capacity building so when development occurs—locals benefit.
We had the playbook. Then we tossed it. For what?
But my friends that play book—well it still works. Dust it off, freshen it up and you’ll see magic happen.

A Change Is Going to Come

 

George Floyd’s murder will spark change.

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

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

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

We Need Beacons Not Demagogues

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

Congressman John Lewis is an American hero.

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

When The Reservoir Runs Dry

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Need To Be Counted


I know we’ve been been distracted.

I know we’ve got a few things on our minds.

But… and I say this with all due respect… we have to take ten minutes out of our lives and complete the Census.

As of two weeks ago, our numbers have been miserable.

Here’s the snapshot I was given.

(as of 5-13-20)

percentages for:

National                       59%

Florida                  56.6%

PBC                     57.4%

Delray Beach       48.1%

Tract 65.02          37%

Tract 74.10          37.7%

Those are pretty abysmal stats.

The national, state and county numbers are poor considering how important the census is and how easy it is to fill out.

Delray’s completion rate is less than 50 percent and if you live in the tracts listed..well let’s just say you have some catching up to do.

The Census is extremely important and if we don’t get it right we have to wait 10 years until we get another bite at the federal apple so to speak.

Census numbers not only determine our representation in Washington but it also affects how many dollars will flow our way in areas ranging from social services to health care.

The Census Bureau has gone out of its way to make responding easy.  For the first time, you can choose to respond online, by phone, or by mail.

So there’s really no excuse.

Over the next decade, lawmakers, business owners, and many others will use 2020 Census data to make critical decisions. The results will show where communities need new schools, new clinics, new roads, and more services for families, older adults, and children.

The results will also inform how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

So this is important stuff my friends

Visit www.census.gov Or call 844-330-2020 and please spread the word.

Your neighbors are counting on you.  No pun intended.

Monday Thoughts

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