Events and Things to Do in Delray Beach and Boca Raton

Boca Raton and Delray Beach are among the most vibrant communities you’ll ever find.

Both cities feature a vast array of events year-round that are sure to interest people of all ages and interests. From arts festivals and music events to a vibrant food scene and cultural landscape Boca-Delray has it all.

At YourDelrayBoca.com we strive to curate the best events and give you insider’s tips to make your experience the best it can be.

The Greening of Delray

Community Greening has a simple but important mission.

We went to a fundraiser earlier this week at the new farm to table bar Death or Glory to raise funds and awareness for Community Greening, a Delray Beach non-profit that is beginning to make its mark in Delray Beach.

 

Community Greening provides eligible groups and neighborhoods free native trees. They do it all: from delivery and site selection to permits and tools for planting. The organization also invests in the environment by creating or maintaining sustainable green spaces, supplying the project management, native plants, art, volunteers, and maintenance needed to create great public spaces. They are also committed to educating kids on trees and plants.

That last piece is extremely important in our high-tech society. Community Greening believes it’s important to connect children to the natural environment. You don’t take care of things you don’t relate too and with our planet in a fragile state we need to seed the future with people who care.

The group has planted hundreds of trees and has quickly gained a strong reputation in the community.

Co-founders Mark Cassini and Matt Shipley have recruited an all-star board that includes Vice Mayor Jim Chard and emerging leaders like Emanuel Dupree Jackson Jr., Jason McCobb, owner of Farmer Jay Pure Organics and noted landscape architect Carolyn Pendleton-Parker among others.

Board member Sgt. Daniela Quinn of the Delray Beach Police Department likes the community building aspects of the organization.

“CG is important because it brings the community together to learn about our Delray Beach ecosystem and how to take more of a proactive stance in helping sustain it. CG seeks to clean up and bring life back to neglected spaces and it gives everyone a chance to plant a tree, leaving their legacy for generations to come. In an area where new development seems to be at the forefront, CG allows us to be reminded of the history of our natural habitat and bring back some native plants to our community to keep it green and beautiful.”

That sums it up, doesn’t it?

Personally, I was moved by the humble passion of those involved in the organization that I had a chance to meet this week.

In a follow-up conversation with Mr. Cassini, I learned about an effort to “green” and plant trees at Catherine Strong Park in the southwest section of Delray. That park has a special meaning for me. The voters approved a bond issue when I was on the commission that funded the splash park, which was the first park in that neighborhood’s history. It’s also named after the first female mayor in Delray history who was known for her big heart and her desire to improve race relations.

A celebration of Community Greening’s efforts will be held from 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16 at Catherine Strong Park.

I hope you visit and most of all, we hope you get involved and support CG in its important mission.

To learn more visit http://communitygreening.org/. Next month, there will be a fundraiser at Pizza Rustica and then a Delivery Dudes fundraising effort.

Meanwhile, Death or Glory is just great. Don’t miss the fried chickpeas (and the Tommy Margarita is pretty good too!). We wish them well and salute their community involvement.

 

 

 

10 Things We Loved in August

Tequila & Tacos was a highlight of the summer craft cocktail series at Old School Square.

Editor’s note: Our hearts are heavy this morning thinking of those suffering from the impact of Hurricane Harvey.

We in South Florida and in Delray Beach and Boca Raton can relate to the disruption that hurricanes cause. Please consider donating what you can to relief organizations that are on the scene in the Houston area. And please be vigilant with your hurricane preparations. We are entering the height of the hurricane season.

 

“I can’t believe the news today..

Oh, I can’t close my eyes
And make it go away”– U2 Sunday Bloody Sunday
 
No we can’t make it go away. 
But we can inject a little positivity into our lives can’t we?
And so we will. 
Here’s 10 things we liked this month. 
1. Kudos to Old School Square for its social media tsunami and uplifting videos designed to remind one and all how special Delray’s cultural arts center is and how important it is to the life of our community. 
2. Festival Management Group, the producers of the Garlic Festival and Delray Affair among other signature everts, spent more than a year being bullied by short sighted politicians. But it didn’t dissuade the team. They re-tooled and reinvented and came up with a terrific series of summer events at The Fieldhouse at Old School Square. We attended a few and loved them all. Great events, great cocktails and robust ticket sales brightened our summer. We loved the integration with local restaurants and discovered a few new places as a result. Kudos Nancy, John and Sarah.  
3. Louie Bossi is a welcome addition to downtown Boca. Brilliant concept, big menu and wonderful food equals a great time. 
4. We had a chance to meet with Campbell Creative, a new addition to our entrepreneurial scene. We predict you will be hearing more about this innovative agency. 
5. We are thrilled to hear about the continued success of Modernizing Medicine which raised a whopping $231 million in investment and continues to hire and blaze new trails. CEO Dan Cane is a brilliant business visionary and a nice guy too. Kudos to the FAU Research Park for nurturing scores of great businesses.
6. We had a chance to hang with Boca Mayor Susan Haynie and former Councilwoman Constance Scott at a recent Palm Beach County League of Cities meeting and it was fun. Mayor Haynie recently completed a stint as president of the Florida League, a great honor. Cities are under siege in this state by some short sighted state leaders. Good to see our local officials stand up for home rule. 
7. We were thrilled to see Pame Williams receive recognition (and celebrate in her own way) her 30 years of service to the taxpayers of Delray Beach. We just adore her. 
8. Also good to see the late Lamar Shuler’s legacy celebrated at the S.D. Spady Museum. 
9. Nice to see dirt moving at the iPic Theatre four years after the CRA chose the project after an RFP process. 
10. We were thrilled to see Creative Mornings Palm Beach visit the Arts Garage.
All in all, August was a very fine month.

Finding Hope Among Leaders

Nancy Lublin, best selling author of “Zilch” speaks at Leadership Florida.

For me, Leadership Florida is an antidote for the mundane and the banal.
For two and a half days every year, I can count on seeing good friends, hanging out with smart accomplished people and learning from the best minds around.
It’s a break from the cacophony of social media, the gossips at the gym, petty politics and the rigors of daily life.
Over the years, we’ve heard from the likes of Ken Burns, Colin Powell, Tom Brokaw and thought leaders from science, journalism, education, medicine, education and business.
It’s energizing.
But this year was different. This year, we weren’t sheltered from the outside world. There was an 800 pound gorilla in the room by the name of political dysfunction and it dominated official and unofficial discussion.
All four keynote speakers/panels that I saw referenced it: Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas woke us up with a challenging talk about immigration.
Vargas is undocumented and he challenged us to see parts of the debate that many of us avoid: the personal (he hasn’t seen his mother since he was 12), the factual (he produced staggering stats regarding the economic contributions of immigrants) and of course the politics. Always the politics and the sad fact that we can’t seem to get a coherent immigration policy in this country.
Vargas was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Knight Foundation CEO Alberto Ibarguen and featuring former Gov. Bob Graham and former Miami Herald Publisher Dave Lawrence.
The trio discussed civic engagement, their long careers full of real and lasting accomplishments and politics.
Several of the questions focused on the toxicity of the current moment and the lack of true leaders in the public square.
Gov. Graham sees civic engagement and education as the answer.
We need to train better citizens who will become servant leaders.
Watching these guys–serious people with gravitas–only pointed out how those qualities are missing today and so badly needed.
It was a good segue to Chuck Todd, the host of Meet the Press and himself a lighting rod for the right.
Todd’s message was how compromise and bipartisanship went from desirable behaviors to political death. He spoke about civility and how gridlock is preventing anything from getting done.
Nancy Lublin, a legend in the non-profit world, followed with a sobering talk on crisis trends in America as expressed via text messages to her organization which provides counseling to those crying out for help. Once again, political dysfunction seems to be driving anxiety, fear, anger and stress.
The last speaker I caught was the great Geoffrey Canada, the recently retired founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone.
He gave a roof raising talk about the importance of education and how teachers are often given short shrift in society.
It was a call to arms. A plea for seriousness and an impassioned argument to save a generation.
Our incoming chair Beth Kigel believes that if Florida and the nation were turned over to the men and women of Leadership Florida we would be able to solve a lot of problems and seize a lot of opportunities.
I agree. Because I believe in the organization.
But I also know that won’t happen and that many of my fellow alumni won’t be running for office anytime soon.
Oh sure, there are many current and past elected officials in the organization and more than a few current and future candidates. And yes, these talented men and women are making it happen in business, academia, social work, health care and the social sector but we are not in charge.
If we were there would be bipartisan compromise. There would be fact based discussions, there would be civility and policies based on a genuine passion for Florida.
Yes I am biased. But I’m also optimistic it’s possible because Leadership Florida is a mix of parties, philosophies, ages, geographies, backgrounds and ethnicities. And we get along. We care for each other.
It’s possible. We can do this. We must do this.
Happy Independence Day.

 

Innovation & Aspiration in Pompano

Pompano’s brand new cultural center makes a statement: We are serious.

Last week, we attended a meeting of the Urban Land Institute at Pompano Beach’s gleaming new cultural center.

For me, it was a case of déjà vu—because what I’m seeing in Pompano is the mindset I saw in Delray Beach in the late 80s and early 90s—a time of dreaming, aspiration, visioning and planning.

If you’re a city wonk like me, there’s nothing more inspiring than a city that sends out the message of “come on down, we are open for business and striving for greatness.”

And consequently no more depressing experience than to see a city that says “go home and get lost, we are done.”

Of course, no city comes out and says it quite that way. They all talk about jobs, investment, smart growth, sustainability and every other buzzword you can trot out, but the cities that are sincere actually seek it out and if investment comes to them they work hard to land the deal.

The most compelling incentives are never financial—they are always emotional. Investors bringing jobs and projects don’t expect you to compromise the rules or aesthetics—but they do expect you to have some flexibility and predictability and a sense of urgency to get things done.

One of the speakers at the ULI Pompano event warned those in the audience to avoid two labels:

  1. Don’t be the city where someone has to spend $500,000 beating their heads against the wall before leaving for friendlier towns. Capital goes where it is welcome.
  2. Don’t be the city that is perpetually the next “it” town, but never quite gets there.  I think that’s good advice.

Let’s explore warning number one—the city that develops a reputation for being impossible to work with will begin to attract bottom feeder developers—not the best in class that cities should be looking to lure.

The best developers and business owners aren’t averse to high standards or tough criteria; many of the best welcome a high bar. But they are wary of unpredictability, dysfunction and frankly stupidity. They don’t like corruption either.

They also don’t like an environment in which the rules are fungible—so that even if you follow them you aren’t assured of a fair hearing.

As for the second warning…we all know the label and can name a few cities that fit the moniker. After a while you become like the talented draft pick who never quite reaches his potential. We all know the term that’s used for those types: bust.

What’s also bad is to be known as the city that climbs all the way up the mountain and then before reaching the summit, gives it all away. They call that being “meshuga”: Google it.

Anyway, Pompano is pushing an innovation district just east of I-95 and spanning over 170 acres. They envision jobs, manufacturing, start-ups, restaurants, apartments and open space.

They built a magnificent cultural arts center, redid their beach front, landed the 26 Degree brewery on Atlantic Boulevard, and approved the mixed use Pompano Fishing Village, the sharply designed Koi Residences and a few more signature projects in their eastern core. Even the long troubled Hammondville Road corridor is seeing investment.

Several Delray Beach investor/development companies including Grover Corlew (invaluable contributors to the Congress Avenue Task Force) and New Urban Communities (Atlantic Grove among other projects) are investing in Pompano. Both see parallels between where Delray Beach was and where Pompano is today—solid leadership, a great CRA, talented staff and an aspirational “get it done” mindset.

ULI and Pompano brought Mitchell Weiss from Harvard Business School to the event. Weiss was chief of staff to the late Boston Mayor Tom Menino when that mayor envisioned an innovation district along Boston Harbor that became a national model for job creation and placemaking.

Weiss said cities should stick to their vision—insist on doing something special, invest in education, partner with universities, market their city and take extra care to make sure things happen so that traction and momentum can take root.

Words to live by or ignore.

Live by it and see things happen. Ignore it, and watch other cities eat your breakfast, lunch, dinner and sadly your future.

 

An Evening @ Bourbon Sprawl

Note: Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a wonderful group of urban planners, activists, bloggers, architects and redevelopment advocates at an event known as Bourbon Sprawl on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. It’s a great group and I thought I’d share some of my presentation from that evening. It was followed by great conversation.

Like Tip O’Neill— I’m a firm believer that all politics are local…and like many Americans —both Democrats and Republicans—I believe that Washington D.C. is broken…unable to solve problems, unwilling to collaborate, unable to compromise and challenged to seize opportunities.

So if we are going to solve problems—whether inequality, climate change or race relations—we are going to have to do so on the local level.

If we are going to have successful communities we have to get our cities right…and in order to get our cities right we need to attract the best and brightest to public service—both on a staff level, a volunteer level and as elected officials.

If we can do this—there is no doubt in my mind that our cities, towns and villages will succeed. But if we don’t—there is simply no way our communities will thrive.

I’m sure of this…because I have experienced it in Delray Beach where I have lived for 30 years and I have seen what switched on leadership can do in cities large and small in a variety of geographies…unfortunately, I have also seen what corrosive “leadership” can undo or prevent and it’s not pretty.

The challenges and opportunities facing our communities today are complex….they require serious thinking by serious people. And I often wonder if our “system” is designed to attract the polar opposite personalities…

I have seen what wins local, state and national elections—and it’s a combination of fear and blame. We are told what to be afraid of and we blame our opponents for causing the problems. But we never seem to get around to solutions…we never talk about collaboration, compromise or the need to marshal our resources to either make things happen or to begin to solve problems that threaten our future…

We are here the day after the most expensive House election in American history….$50 million spent—mostly on negative advertising—to elect a single representative— who regardless of who won—would most likely have a negligible effect on the issues facing our nation….the content of that spending will be forgotten in a few days and then the fundraising begins again….an endless cycle. Can you imagine what $50 million could do in your community…if it was invested in start-ups, non-profits, placemaking, research, science and education? Do you think the impact would be greater than $50 million spent on attack ads?

We seem to be caught in an endless spiral toward the bottom…and we have created an atmosphere in which serious people avoid the public square, walk away from public service and in many cases fail to exercise the basic pillar of our Democracy…the right to vote.

There was a time when small towns might have been somewhat immune to this disease… I’ll tell you about my own story in Delray Beach…the basis for my book, Adventures in Local Politics… I saw what good leadership can do…

I moved to Delray Beach in 1987….and the physical gifts our city has, have not changed in those 30 years.

There’s a grid system, good ‘bones’ as planners like to say, a glorious beach and good geography since we have proximity to several regional powerhouses—West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and our next door neighbor Boca Raton.

But Delray was a very different place in the 80s than it is today…I can describe to you the blight, the vacant storefronts, the crime, the drugs and the disinvestment…but instead I will quote one of my best friends a restaurateur who was an early pioneer in Delray….”this town was circling the bowl, before it was saved.”

A colorful quote…vivid, descriptive and accurate. Three words: circling the bowl.. says it all.

So when you do a SWOT analysis of Delray and examine its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats you’ll find that alongside some incredible strengths and opportunities are some daunting weaknesses and threats….schools that struggle, deep generational poverty, racial division, a lack of high paying jobs, a lack of a diverse housing stock, a proliferation of sober homes –many run by irresponsible and exploitive operators, poor citizen participation as measured by a lack of civic engagement and poor voter turnout…

And yet….tremendous value was created….we have a dynamic and vibrant downtown, our tax base is growing faster than most of our neighbors, blighted neighborhoods have seen improvements, crime rates —while still troublesome— were improved, culture and art have taken root and we have seen an improvement in race relations since the 80s, particularly between the Police Department and our minority communities.

This did not happen by accident…or by policies pushed by our county government, our friends in Tallahassee or our representatives in Washington.

It happened through visioning, collaboration, solid execution of citizen driven plans, the adoption of new urbanist principles, and a business friendly government that was focused more on outcomes than process. It happened because of leadership: among staff, elected officials, business leaders and volunteers….

And so I suspect that the rest of our nation’s cities have this opportunity to transform…or to be left behind….it all hinges on leadership….all of it….People matter, more than anything…and we better do what we can to attract the right people to the Public Square and frankly keep the wrong people from the levers of power…

People matter….leaders who empower rather than stifle a community—make progress possible.

Because the word impossible loses all meaning if the right people show up and agree to work together….but the word impossible becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy if the wrong people show up and talented citizens sit on the sidelines or decide that the level of toxicity is too high for them to participate….

Again, my city is a case study….

Because as far as we have come….a CRA district that went from $250mm in value to over $2bn in 30 years, recognition as an All America City, the first city to win the John Nolen award recognizing our implementation of smart growth policies, Florida Trend naming us the best run town in Florida and hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment—we are far from done. And far from being bullet proof….

Every ounce of progress cities make is vulnerable to being rolled back. Every dollar spent can yield a return on investment or a loss….and the headwinds we faced 30 years ago remain headwinds today….schools that struggle, the devastation of heroin, neighborhoods on the brink as a result of bad sober home operators….crime, violence and now profound and embarrassing political dysfunction.

None of these problems are intractable—if you attract the right people to the public square.

But all of them are intractable, if you have a mindset predisposed to failure or lack of collaboration—as we see in Washington and in cities that struggle with toxic politics.

Benjamin Barber—who works at the City University of New York–wrote a book called “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities”.

It’s a manifesto…passionately written and convincingly argued—that local governments are uniquely positioned to save the planet and themselves. I agree with him.

Mr. Barber builds a strong case for an informal parliament of cities, perhaps several hundred strong, which would in effect ratify a shift in power and political reality that, he argues, has already taken place. He sees modern cities as incubators for problem-solving while national governments are doomed to failure.

 

“Because they are inclined naturally to collaboration and interdependence, cities harbor hope,” Barber writes. “If mayors ruled the world,” he says, “the more than 3.5 billion people (over half the world’s population) who are urban dwellers and the many more in the exurban neighborhoods could participate locally and cooperate globally at the same time — a miracle of civic ‘glocality’ promising pragmatism instead of politics, innovation rather than ideology and solutions in place of sovereignty.”

I like the ideals espoused by Dr. Barber…but I am a realist as well.

And so the key to success is not just home rule and collaboration among cities…the key is making sure the right leaders are in the right positions to build cities that are sustainable…and that the right leaders feel supported and nurtured by caring citizens.

So we must invest in leadership, which we are not doing…we must encourage people who are courageous…and we must invest in not only the appearance of the public realm but the attractiveness of the public square..because if the public square is toxic and resembles a sewer—good people will find other ways to spend their time.

That does not mean we shun or discourage debate…but it does mean that we confront the civic bullies that all of us working in public policy are all too aware of but are reluctant to talk about….we have to make it safer—not safe—safer and more attractive for promising leaders to succeed. We have to confront the bullies that rob us of aspiration, inspiration, progress and productivity.

If we don’t….the cities that do— will thrive. And the other cities will wither and die…and there is too much at stake for us to allow that to happen…we have a responsibility to the past, the present and the future.

We should strive to preserve the best of our history, serve our stakeholders today and plan to give future generations a better future…it can be done.

It must be done….

So I will leave you with two ideas….and then I want to talk to you guys…because you are the type of leaders we need to fan out across our region to build great places…

Idea #1: Some university in our county…Lynn or FAU needs to step up and build a Public Leadership Institute…we train doctors, we train lawyers, we train puppies…we need to train public sector leaders…don’t you think that will yield ROI?

Idea #2: New Urbanism, Smart Growth, sustainable development—whatever you want to call it, needs a marketing makeover because it is just too damn easy for NIMBY’s and naysayers to derail progress. We need a political strategy that matches the intellectual underpinnings of what we know to be solid public policy. We are starting to see this with the beginning of a YIMBY movement, but we have a long way to go. If we don’t…we will lose any and all opportunities to create a sustainable future for our kids.

 

 

 

Leadership Heals

When tragedies strike communities, I think first of the victims and then their families and friends.
But soon after I think of the mayors.
They are often the elected officials tasked with putting the pieces together and trying to make sense of the events in the face of sadness, grief and anger.
So I sympathized with Sadiq Khan in the wake of the recent terror attacks in London and I thought of Mayor Buddy Dyer of Orlando as I read the spate of anniversary stories this week one year after the Pulse nightclub shooting. The largest mass shooting in US history.
I’ve met Mayor Dyer a few times, even had lunch with him once many years ago at a League of Cities convention. He’s been a great mayor transforming downtown Orlando into a dynamic place and expanding Orlando’s brand beyond Disney, time shares and Medieval Times like attractions.
But in the public’s mind he may be remembered more for his handling of the Pulse shooting.
He’s done a yeoman’s job and this week he talked about the unity of Orlando and the resilience of the community in the wake of unspeakable violence.

When you’re a mayor you get to experience the thrill of civic achievement. There are parades, ribbon cuttings, proclamations, awards and photo ops.
You get to experience civic pride and you get to recognize the special people in your community. The couple celebrating a landmark anniversary, the person turning 100, the Eagle Scout, the Little League champs.
It’s a joy.

An honor.

A privilege.

But you also sign on for the tough stuff. The fires that displace families, the crimes that turn your stomach, the natural disasters which endanger lives– the overdoses.
That’s not easy.
Leadership asks a lot of people.
It asks us to be boosters one day and healers the next.
Tragedies shouldn’t define a city. That was the message Mayor Dyer said at an event marking the anniversary.
Achievements are a far better way to think of a place.
But tragedies do mark and mar a place. And they should. Because we must never forget. We must heal–but remember. We must mourn but allow ourselves to love.
It’s easy to succumb to hate. But it’s much better to love one another.
Much better.

Inspiration…

We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to acknowledge graduation season.

As students in Delray Beach and Boca Raton graduate high school and college we wish them well and offer a sampling of our favorite commencement quotes. The first few quotes are from graduations held this year. We also include some of our all-time favorites. We hope they inspire you to do great things. Remember commencement means to begin. So while you may graduate, you are really beginning the journey. Enjoy.

“Summon your compassion, your curiosity, your empathy towards others and your commitment to service. Give more than you receive and I promise you, it will come back to you in ways you can’t possibly imagine.” Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO at Arizona State University.

“Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strikes, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything.” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO at Virginia Tech.

“No matter what other work you do, every day, if you find the issues that matter to you and you get in the fight, you will build a life with more heart flutters and fewer don’t-make-me-move moments.” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren at UMass-Amherst.

“Create. Don’t wait around for people to give you things to do. If you’re a writer, write; artist, paint; builder, build! Opportunities will come to you if you create them.” Comedian Maz Jobrani, UC-Berkeley

“No matter how cliché it may sound, you will never truly be successful until you learn to give beyond yourself. Empathy and kindness are the true signs of emotional intelligence.” Actor Will Ferrell at USC.

The Classics…

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” Henry David Thoreau.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

 Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It is not the size of the arena in which you find yourself that counts; it is what you do with it.” Dr. Irene C. Kassorla.

A Hero Comes Home

This week’s Bronze Star ceremony honoring retired Delray Beach Police Officer Skip Brown was a wonderful and very moving experience. The outpouring of positive sentiment has been overwhelming. Skip and his wife Cheryl and their friends are very pleased. The ‘only in Delray’ reception is why Skip took the rare step of bypassing a ceremony in Washington D.C. to accept the medal–45 years after his service in Vietnam- in Delray Beach. I was honored beyond words to pin the medal on his chest and we send heartfelt thanks to all those who have served and sacrificed for our great nation. Many of you who were unable to make it have sent messages asking for the transcripts of the remarks from the event. I will ask Skip to share his when he settles in back in Alabama. Meantime, there was a great piece on Channel 5 and in the Palm Beach Post on the event. Here’s a link to the WPTV piece: http://www.wptv.com/news/region-s-palm-beach-county/delray-beach/retired-delray-policeman-awarded-bronze-star-45-years-after-vietnam?utm_content=bufferc5c4b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 I hope the above link works…I’m not much very good with technology. If all else fails,  go to WPTV’s website or facebook page to see the story.

My remarks are below. Special thanks to Old School Square, Rob Steele, Melissa Carter, Peggy Murphy, the Honor Guard at Atlantic High, Sarah Crane and Maria Bollan for your invaluable assistance.

 

This is a very special occasion. And I’m glad we can share it here in Delray Beach at Old School Square.

I’d like to offer a special welcome to Skip’s wife Cheryl, city officials, police officers, firefighters and retirees, our wonderful Honor Guard from Atlantic High School and the veterans in the audience. If you are serving– or have served– in our armed forces can you please raise your hand…let’s give them a round of applause… Thank you for your service to our great nation.

Heroism is an overused word.

We talk about heroic athletes and heroic efforts in everyday life—and while acts of kindness and bravery are magnificent and should be recognized—I’m afraid we throw around the word hero so often that it’s meaning can get lost.

I want us to focus on that word this afternoon as we honor a very special man.

A true hero is somebody who exhibits remarkable bravery and shows great courage and strength of character. It’s somebody who is willing to put it all on the line for a cause, a country, a person or something they believe in.

So when I think of the word hero, I think of my friend Skip Brown.

 

Being a hero is his DNA.

It’s who he is.

And so while I’m in awe of Skip’s achievements— I’m not surprised by them.

Sacrifice…service….bravery…selflessness…are the traits of heroes. It’s the stuff that people like Skip are made of.

He is a rare breed. And I wish there were more like him….

 

 

Friendships come in many forms and Skip and I have an interesting relationship. On paper we don’t match up.

Skip is older than me.  Much older…

He’s from the Midwest . I’m from New York.

We have different faiths, different political beliefs and different personalities.

But somehow it all works.  Always has. We are friends in the truest sense of that word.

He’s the big brother I never had, the man I would call –and have called –when I found myself in trouble.

We have been to some very dark places together and he has helped me and many others surface more than once when we thought we might drown. Skip is always there for his friends and the members of his team—which is why he is a Bronze Star winner.

We have also experienced great triumphs and there is no better person to celebrate with than my brother Skip Brown.

When I needed a confidence boost he was there to provide it and if I strayed from my path he was there to return me to the straight and narrow–just like a big brother would. I mention this, because he has performed this very important service for many of us in this community. And we are blessed as a result….this is a man with a very big heart.

The Bronze Star is awarded for acts of valor—but I think there’s also a Bronze Star set of values that enable people like Skip Brown to do what they do in combat and in civilian life. So what are those values?

Skip values leadership.

He values honor and respect.

He values service and he is passionate about community; especially this community.

Skip and I have had many talks over the years–usually in the wee hours of the morning–usually in my driveway. Usually with a dog nearby.

Our conversations have covered the waterfront. And over time we grew close.

But while we talked about a lot of things…. I never pushed him, nor did he volunteer much, on the subject of Vietnam.

Until recently.

He shared his thoughts on the phone and in long emails. He wrote about his experiences and told me that what he saw in Vietnam impacted every facet of his life.

And I realized he was coming to terms with a war he never quite finished either fighting or thinking about.

So I know the stories. Not all of them….but a few important ones. I have heard about the pain and so have others who are close to Skip.

But while the information was always hard to hear and to comprehend——it was important that I know…it’s important that we all know about service, honor…sacrifice and commitment.

Skip has always been a big gruff guy…but he has always had a big huge heart.

And as he has gotten older…I’ve noticed that his conversations are now full of love and affection.

No more holding back.

No more guessing where you stood.

He told many of us that he loved us– and why.

He was giving himself a gift—because it’s important to tell the people you love how you feel–but he was also giving us a gift.

The biggest gift of all.

Because when a hero opens up his heart and soul to you…you listen and you learn…and you become better because of it.

 

So here we are.

Many of you here today are the ones nearest and dearest to Skip.  A few of you are new faces and it’s good that you are here to witness something very special and very rare.

It’s special…because this is a good man, who has given much to his country, his city, his wife Cheryl, his family and his friends…

It was important to Skip that he return home to receive his Bronze Star– and Delray is home.

It was here that Skip distinguished himself as a police officer. First on the road –in a very different and far more dangerous Delray—a place where guns, knives, and rocks were on display night after night.

Then as a K-9 officer with two amazing dogs– Rambo and Olk —who ran down bad guys while on duty and toured schools and community events on their days off.

And finally as the department’s volunteer coordinator under the leadership of Chief Overman and Chief Schroeder—both of whom are here today and are very special men.

Skip built a colossus of a program.

1,300 volunteers at its height. Many members of the greatest generation—the men and women who served our nation in World War II.

They would run through walls for Skip and this city. And he would do the same for them and they knew it.

Skip and the volunteers were here for us after 9/11 when we discovered many of the terrorists had been living among us and we were scared. They eased our minds and provided comfort and security.

Skip reached into every nook and cranny of this city forming bonds and patrols everywhere you could imagine.

When his troops took ill– and when they passed –he was there for them and their families. Always a rock. Always a hero.

It did not go unnoticed.

And so I am glad that his valor in Vietman did not go unnoticed either.—even if it took 45 years and the efforts of a commanding officer who would not rest until this oversight was addressed.

The Bronze Star is special indeed.

Rare too.

It is awarded to soldiers who distinguish themselves with acts of heroism in combat.

Skip came as close to death as you can possibly can– and he survived to live a life of service.

He provides an example for all of us. Every day that we wake up can be a good day. It can be a day of service, a day of giving back and a day of helping others.

Delray Beach is fortunate that Skip Brown survived that ambush all those years ago.

Because without him and his lovely wife Cheryl— Delray would have been a far different place.

It’s often said that nobody is irreplaceable. I suppose that’s true in a narrow sense. Life does go on —with or without us.

But I choose to look at life another way. Life wouldn’t be as good or as meaningful without people like Skip Brown. You can’t replace people like him. They broke the mold when they made him.

Great people are game changers. They literally bend and shape their corner of the world during the time we have them…into  something  better….

 

And we are thankful for them.

The best warriors are those who are willing to risk it all for a cause.

Skip’s cause was God, country, Delray and the people and animals he has taken care of his whole life. If there’s another life I’d like to come back as one of Skip and Cheryl’s pets. Seriously.  Yesterday he called me from a dog friendly restaurant on the Intracoastal where he was treating his pups to lunch…it’s a good life.

And if there’s a heaven—and I believe there is…I hope it includes tequila under the stars in my driveway  talking to Skip about making our corner of the universe a better place, with a golden retriever and a K-9 at our side—just like the good old days we had in Delray Beach.

Skip Brown…on behalf of your colonel, a grateful nation, your squad –many of whom did not make it– active duty soldiers, veterans and their families, the more than 58,000 names on the wall …. a grateful city and from me…no longer that young man in the driveway—but still very much your brother … congratulations on your bronze star. Well done..my friend. We love you. Very much.

Ladies and gentlemen…bronze star winner Skip Brown.

 

Magic Awaits When You Connect & Commit

When you connect you progress–it’s just that simple.

It’s the little things that make you fall in love.
Saturday we headed downtown for the CRA’s annual Easter Bonnet Pet Parade which never fails to deliver.
It’s a small event: simple, fun, charming and benefits a great cause–Dezzy’s Second Chance Rescue.
Norman Rockwell would have loved it.
It’s these types of gatherings that build community and make you fall for a place. And it’s these types of opportunities that we must seize, savor and support.
Peter Kageyama wrote a book about the intangibles called “For the Love of Cities.” I’ve seen Peter speak a few times and he never fails to deliver.
He talks about the importance of creating events, experiences and places that foster affection for your city.
In my book, “Adventures in Local Politics” I write that love is an important component of community building and leadership.
When people fall in love they commit. And when they commit they invest–their time, money, talent, creativity and passion.
And the rest takes care of itself.
Once people commit to a community, problems can be solved, challenges can be met and tragedies become easier to deal with.
Consequently, the good news is sweeter because there is a community of people to celebrate with.
These are not difficult or complex concepts but building community isn’t easy.
In case you haven’t noticed (and I bet you have) our society is divided these days. And Delray is not immune from those fault lines.
All the more reason why it’s important to come together when we can.
Recently, we’ve had a few opportunities. The Delray Affair, The Pet Parade, Impact 100, the upcoming Police Banquet sponsored by Delray Citizens for Delray Police and more.
There are many ways to connect. But only if we look. And I hope you do. Because it makes all the difference.
You’re needed and you’ll benefit by getting involved too.
Not a bad deal.
The best leaders connect. The best citizens too.
Here’s a free event that I hope you’ll think about coming to see.
On April 25 at 4 pm Old School Square’s Crest Theatre will host the awarding of a Bronze Star to retired Delray Beach Police Officer Skip Brown.
Skip spent 20 years as an officer in Delray and a great deal of that time was spent building community. He managed the Police Department’s volunteer program and specialized in reaching hard to reach segments of our city.
He was all about making a connection.
If you want a dose come to the Crest a week from Tuesday. The event is free–bring the kids. It’s a teachable moment and a chance to honor valor and bravery.
Meanwhile, find ways to get connected. It makes all the difference.

 

 

State of the Arts

Arts Advocacy Day was a few weeks ago.

If you missed it, don’t worry most of us did.

But the day gives us a chance to assess the state of the arts and the important role culture plays in our community.

While there is some question about federal support for the arts in Congress, it appears states and cities are doubling down on their investments because they see—rightly—that the arts serve as an important economic development tool. In fact, one could argue that both Boca and Delray’s “edge” comes from a burgeoning arts scene.

While food and beverage have played a significant role in Delray’s renaissance, the arts made it possible for restaurants and other businesses to succeed. Old School Square was the catalyst for Atlantic Avenue and the many festivals and special events helped to create Delray’s vibrant and valuable brand.

In Boca, technology, education and medicine (MeduTech) are big factors in the city’s success, but layer in a robust arts and cultural scene and suddenly you have a city that is hard to compete with.

The arts create quality of life and place. The arts drive value and create and attract jobs.

Across America, states are investing in culture.

According to research by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), State Arts Appropriations increased in Fiscal Year 2017 including in Florida where the Governor and legislature have been battling over funding for tourism (Visit Florida) and economic development (Enterprise Florida).

Nationwide, legislative appropriations to state arts agencies increased by 8% in 2017, according to NASAA.

After a small decrease in state arts agency appropriations last year, FY2017 continues a trend of post-recession growth. State arts agency appropriations experienced a 20-year low of $260.2 million in FY2012. Between FY2012 and FY2017 these agencies gained $108 million. For FY2017, state legislative appropriations total $368.2 million, equating to an investment of $1.13 per capita. This is the third year in a row that state arts agency legislative appropriations have been above $1.00 per capita.

“State arts agencies address critical needs for American communities,” said NASAA CEO Pam Breaux. “They utilize the creative power of the arts to strengthen the economy, rural development and education. They help preserve American culture, heritage and traditional practices. They support our military service members and help heal our veterans. State investments in the arts help leverage an additional $11 billion in local and private support for these causes. You would be hard-pressed to find a better return on investment.”

Indeed.

Florida’s support for the arts went from $38.88 million in 2016 to $43.65 million, a 12.3 percent increase, well above the national average.

Delray Beach and Boca Raton have both used the arts to create value and drive economic development efforts.

Boca’s “Festival of the Arts” is a signature series of events featuring nationally known artists and writers.

Mizner Park garnered public support when it was first proposed by promising an arts and cultural component and both Lynn University and FAU have invested heavily in arts programming and venues.

Boca is also blessed with “The Symphonia Boca Raton”  which bills itself as “South Florida’s World Class Chamber Orchestra” and the city also has the Boca Ballet, Harid Conservatory and several impressive arts galleries and museums.  Not to mention a non-profit children’s theatre (Sol Theatre) and a vast array of film, literary and music events at the Levis Jewish Community Center.

If you want to get a fuller picture of culture in Boca visit: http://www.artsinboca.org/ 

Delray has also made a splash with its arts and cultural offerings.

The revitalization of the city was launched by the renovation of Old School Square which catalyzed downtown Delray and changed the city’s narrative from dull and blighted to vibrant and cool.

Newer offerings such as the Arts Garage, Spady Museum and a new library on West Atlantic Avenue were investments that have yielded return on investment in terms of city branding, crowds and buzz.

The city’s many festivals have also contributed to Delray’s economy and brand. Last weekend’s 55th annual Delray Affair– the city’s signature event– has in its roots a juried art show.

Across the country, many cities have chosen to invest in arts and culture in an effort to increase awareness, attract residents, tourists and businesses.

Of course, the public investment needs to be leveraged by private support, which Boca Raton has done very well and Delray still struggles with.

As for cross-border cooperation—it seems like it’s sometimes hard for organizations in the same city to collaborate, which makes the Boca Cultural Consortium all the more impressive.

Regardless, the arts are an important driver for the local economy. And evidence shows that the role of the arts may grow even larger in the future.

And that dear readers is a good thing indeed.