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.

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.

 

 

 

 

Lynn’s MBA in Delray: Only The Beginning

A most welcome addition

Last night was an important one for Delray Beach.

Quietly, before a few guests, the trajectory of our downtown might have changed forever.

That’s a big statement. I may be wrong, but let me try and back it up.

After months of negotiations, Lynn University will launch an MBA in Delray program focusing on entrepreneurship and marketing at the Delray Chamber. The one-year program will be offered at night and tailored to working professionals and entrepreneurs.

The move was announced a few weeks ago, but it felt real last night when a contingent of Lynn staff led by President Kevin Ross and Business School Dean Dr. RT Good told a small gathering of local leaders and entrepreneurs why they chose Delray and what the program will entail.

Folks, we have to make this work. Why?  Because if it does it changes the game and enhances the brand that has been fostered by a slew of Delray Beach visionaries and stakeholders since the mid-80s.

Dr. Ross and Chamber President Karen Granger see the MBA in Delray as an innovative model that chambers and universities can replicate across the country. It enables chambers to get needed revenue, enhance value for their members and grow local economies, while enabling universities to reach into communities and tailor programs to meet local needs and trends.

Dr. Good and the Lynn team have been hard at work designing a “different” kind of curriculum that promises deeper relationships with faculty, classmates and local businesses while focusing on leadership, hands-on projects and case studies.

For the chamber it enables a deeper dive into the world of entrepreneurship, a focus and passion for President Granger who has quietly but persistently nurtured relationships with a growing number of promising local entrepreneurs. Many were there for the Lynn celebration including Brian Niles of Rooster, Eric Bucher of Call Sprout and Project Runway’s Amanda Perna, who runs “House of Perna,” an emerging fashion design brand.

Delray and Boca’s emerging foodie economy was represented as well with catering by fabulous Farmer’s Table restaurant, which I think has enormous potential. (Here’s where I should plug my two food/beverage related brands Tabanero and Celsius, but that would be indulgent no? Wink)

All of this is to say, that this partnership may signal that Delray’s downtown and indeed its economy is expanding beyond food and beverage—and that’s a good thing. A diversified economy is a more resilient and sustainable model.

Many years ago, Delray made a conscious choice to lead with food, beverage, culture and festivals to jumpstart its moribund, dull and dangerous downtown corridor.

It was a smart move, brilliantly executed by many, many important contributors and risk taking entrepreneurs.

And it worked, remarkably well.

We have a vibrant, valuable, cool, and attractive and revenue generating downtown that looks and feels good.

Our restaurant “row” generates crowds, creates jobs and helped to change how people see Delray Beach.

Our cultural and intellectual amenities: Old School Square, the Delray Beach Library, Spady Museum, Sandoway House, Delray Historical Society, Arts Garage and historic districts make us a distinct destination which drives property values, tax base, quality of life and tourism which is another critically important industry.

Festivals have also played and continue to play a major role. Which is why it was incredibly disappointing to see the debate about their value so mishandled. It’s an opportunity missed because so many cities are building their economies and brands around festivals. It’s something that should be revisited and expanded beyond the myopic debate around cost and inconvenience. I’m not saying that cost and resident convenience isn’t critically important because it is, but most of those issues can be solved with creative planning and by examining the revenue side of the equation and the intrinsic value created by events.

The Delray Marriott, Residence Inn, Seagate Hotel, Hyatt, Fairfield, Crane’s Beach House, Wright by the Sea, Parliament Inn, the historic Colony Hotel, Sundy House and other properties are extremely valuable assets that drive our economy and brand. They don’t stay viable and valuable—if we don’t have a vibrant local economy with many parts working.

The Delray ATP and the many junior events as well as our golf courses and sports facilities are also important assets that can be grown, nurtured, promoted and leveraged to keep our economy sustainable and the Delray value proposition higher than most other cities—especially small cities. We compete for investment and jobs. And we’ve built a powerhouse of a charming little city.

Cities that work have many moving parts that have to work together in concert to create lasting value.

Delray—imperfect as it is, challenged as it is—has done that. Value has been created. Quality of life and place has been created. It is our job and our responsibility to keep it going and to create a city of opportunity for all.

Through my 30 years here, my community involvement and my professional life—I get to meet and work with many talented people who aspire.

Kids from Atlantic High School and Village Academy who want to come back to Delray and make a life here, City staff who went into public service to make a difference, startup founders whom I encourage, informally advise and ask for help myself on my business challenges, educators who care, non-profit leaders who perform miracles, established business owners who volunteer and invest here, retirees who mentor, artists who amaze and parents who want to see their children achieve the American Dream in a world that is increasingly complicated and fraught.

They want a Better Delray—they’ve wanted that for a long time and they’ve made and are making a difference.

So yes the Lynn MBA in Delray is very big news.

I know President Ross. He’s a friend. He’s a visionary. He and his talented team make things happen. So this is just a start.

But it’s an important beginning. A unique and innovative university is working with our Chamber of Commerce in our downtown—and the potential is enormous.

In his remarks last night Dr. Ross noted that he recently began talking to his teenage daughter about life after college (she’s still in high school). Does she want to come back to Florida? Of course, she does.

Where does she want to live?

Delray.

She’s not alone. So take pride. Something very special was built here and the best is yet to come.

Welcome to Delray, Lynn University.

We’re thrilled beyond words.

We’ve wanted you here for a very long time.

Many people have worked very hard to catch your attention and create a place you and your students will want to be.

 

 

First Day of Spring: Odds & Ends

Odds and ends.
When you work the phones for candidates, you hear some very interesting things.
Especially when you ask voters why they prefer a candidate. Here’s a sampling:
1. A certain candidate will immediately close all sober homes on day one.

Me: “How could 30 years of commissioners have missed this?”

Voter:  “Gee, I don’t know. But it’s pretty simple really. Just issue an executive order.”
2. No dogs on beach. No vote.
Me: “Well, what about some other issues?”

Voter: “What other issues?”
3. We are both from the same state.

Me: “But what about the issues and experience?”

Voter: “Who has the time to figure that out.”
4. Jim Chard wants 54 story buildings.

Me: “umm…..you mean 54 feet in height as in our height limit?

Voter:  “No. That’s Not a big deal. But he wants 54 stories and that’s too much.”
5. I like Shirley Johnson.

Me:  “So do I. She worked at IBM for”…interrupted..

Voter: “Laverne & Shirley was my favorite show when I was a child. And I’ve never met an unfriendly Shirley.”

Me: “Good point.”

As you can see from the small sampling above, voters can be interesting and unpredictable.

For instance, Seat 2 candidate Richard Alteus –who never showed up for a debate or filled out a questionnaire– received more votes than Anneze Barthelemy-506 to 488. My guess: his name was first on the ballot.

My daughter the teacher came home from Tampa last week for Spring Break. It’s fun to see the area through her eyes.
Some takeaways:
1. Habit Burger is great.
2. Compared to Tampa there’s no traffic.
3. Rents are really expensive here
4. The new apartments across from Avenue Pilates on North Federal are ideally located. Why? “It’s a cheap Uber ride to downtown and the beach.” Millennials aren’t car centric. They like the apps.
5. The east coast beaches are really amazing.

Today is the first day of spring, a relative term in South Florida. Here are 10 great spots to enjoy early spring.
1. The back deck at Che
2. Deck 84
3. Beer Trade. Now with a new Boca location.
4. The outdoor deck at Waterstone off A1A in Boca.
5. The A1A promenade in Delray. Thanks to the sea grape trim, you can see the beach. And it’s good for the dunes too.
6. The beautiful newly renovated bar and dining area at the Delray Sands, which is actually located in Highland Beach.
7. 50 South Ocean for lunch.
8. Caffe Luna Rosa for breakfast.
9. Outside at Deli on Rye. Best Black and White cookies between here and Juniors at Mizner Park. Seinfeld was right. It’s the perfect cookie. “Oh look Elaine, the black and white cookie. I love the black and white. Two races of flavor living side by side in harmony. It’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it?”
10. Lake Ida Park for nice views, big birds and really big iguanas.

Sometimes I think we take living in Florida for granted.
We have been enjoying amazing weather, there is a vast array of interesting things to do and if you can get out on the water you quickly realize how amazing this place is.
This blog is big on gratitude and so we are grateful for being in this magnificent place at this special time.
While I try not to harbor regrets–what’s the point–I do have one thing that irks me.
It seems like another Spring Training is sliding past me. Ugh. I last attended a game six years ago today–Mets vs. Marlins with my son who was heading to college at UF.
There was a time when I was part of a “guys” group that enjoyed Spring Training weekend trips. Three or four games in different locales over a three day weekend.
Those road trips gave way to single games squeezed in at the last minute thanks to crazy schedules, kids etc. As Bob Seger once sang “deadlines and commitments what to leave in, what to leave out.”
Sadly, many times what we leave out is what truly matters; such as good times with good friends.
It’s a near certainty that we won’t remember what we missed the spring training game for, but we will remember the time we spent with friends.
So as another season slips away– without me slipping away– for some meaningless games in the Florida sun, I’m promising myself more time with friends.
If this resonates with you, let’s hold each other accountable. Or better yet let’s catch a game.

We Need You To Make An Impact

We need you: To Make An Impact

We take a break from local politics  to focus on something just as important: local philanthropy.
Last week, the newly formed Impact 100 for Men Palm Beach County held its first awards night at Delray’s Arts Garage.
It was a fun and memorable evening. And hopefully, the start of a long history for the nascent group started by my friend Chuck Halberg, a local contractor (we won’t call him a developer..heaven forbid) who spearheaded the group to support non-profits serving children in southern Palm Beach County.
I am honored to be part of the founding board along with a group of truly great guys. Impact 100 was modeled after the wildly successful Impact 100 for Women’s group which I think now gives close to $600,000 a year to local charities.
The concept is brilliantly simple: write one check, attend one meeting and vote to give a big amount to a few non-profits. Repeat year after year and make an impact.
In our first year, we managed to attract 56 men who stepped up and wrote checks for $1,000 plus a fee to the Community Foundation which houses the funds eliminating the need for us to form and administer a 501c3.
While we fell short of our goal of giving away $100,000 we were pleased with our debut and hope to grow each year.

The big winner in our first year was The Miracle League  founded and run by our friends and neighbors Julia and Jeff Kadel.
We’ve written about the Miracle League in this space before. The program allows children with special needs to play the great game of baseball.
It’s an amazing and beautiful endeavor. I was fortunate to be on the City Commission when the Kadel’s approached the City of Delray with the idea of opening the first accessible baseball diamond in Palm Beach County. We provided some seed money along with the county and the league formed at Delray’s Miller Field. It has grown and thrived ever since attracting private philanthropy, grants and scores of volunteers.
The dream now includes creating a boundless playground for children at Miller Park.
The Impact for Men group voted last week to award the Miracle League $50,000 toward the dream after hearing a compelling presentation from Julia.
We were also proud to donate $3,000 each to the amazing Milagro Center in Delray and to Junior Achievement which teaches kids the importance of entrepreneurship.
We are hoping that those dollar amounts increase in subsequent years and that we can make as large an impact as the Women’s group has been able to achieve.
While we live in a community that features great wealth, we are also a community that has overwhelming needs.
Less than a mile from million dollar homes and a rocking downtown there are many people living in crushing poverty.
There is hunger and deprivation in our communities and children and families  who go without.
We are fortunate to have many great non-profits that work hard to address the needs from Family Promise of South Palm Beach County which provides emergency housing to families and the Milagro Center which has a remarkable track record of impacting our most vulnerable children to Delray Students First which mentors and cares for kids looking to break out of the cycle of poverty to the stellar Achievement Center for Children and Families we are blessed with organizations that care and do a great job.
But despite the talent and dedication to making lives better there are unmet needs. And each of the organizations mentioned and many others struggle to raise funds for their critical missions.
I have long felt that while Delray has done a remarkable job revitalizing our city we have fallen somewhat short in our potential to develop a deeper pool of local philanthropists.
Yes, we have many generous people and a few foundations that have been invaluable. But from my vantage point, too many people are sitting on the sidelines, giving “back home” or simply unaware of the needs we have here at home. And this is our home.
While I’m sure there are unmet needs in Boca, from across the border I’ve long admired that community’s ability to raise funds for education, health care and the arts.
I have had the good fortune to sit on many non-profit boards over the years and it’s been a struggle to expand the pool of those who give back.  And so I see many of the same people going to the well time and time again. I’m so thankful for them. But we need more people to give what they can.
Many of the charities in our community are designed to break the cycle of poverty or inspire people to do more and be more.
Whether it’s teaching a child to consider business as a career (Junior Achievement) providing children with an arts experience that may spur a career choice or inspire beauty and understanding (Old School Square, Milagro) or spurring an interest in education (The Delray Public Library, Delray Students First) etc., we have vehicles to transform people. We just need some more fuel.
I’ve enjoyed the first year of Impact 100 for Men. The camaraderie of guys getting together to do good and the emotion of awards night.
I continue to marvel at the leadership and energy of people who step up, like my friend Chuck and many others.
As Uncle Sam might say, we need you to get involved. It really does take a village.

Better Boulder Comes To Delray

On Tuesday night, four community leaders from Boulder, Colorado will be in Delray Beach to share their story.
At 6:30 pm at Old School Square’s Crest Theatre,  representatives from Better Boulder (www.betterboulder.com) will give a free presentation on their efforts to build a sustainable city based on respect for the environment, sensible growth and housing policies that are inclusive. We hope to see you there. It’s important that you attend.
Better Boulder’s work has helped to both spark and further a growing movement of people who are proudly calling themselves YIMBY’s for Yes in My Backyard, a counter to NIMBYism which has often stopped smart growth projects that provide jobs, expand the tax base, add vibrancy and provide needed housing in communities.
Across the nation, there is a growing backlash to NIMBYs led by people who want cities and regions to make room for them too.
In the super expensive Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seattle and elsewhere YIMBY movements consisting of environmentalists, urban planners, young people and employers are banding together to push back against those who consistently say no to even reasonable development.
Particularly galling to many in the YIMBY camp is that NIMBYs often claim the moral high ground citing their desire to protect neighborhoods and cities. Others view their opposition in a vastly different light; more of a  “I’m in the boat pull up the ladder” mentality that shuts off opportunities for others.
Many times  it’s not that black and white.
Traffic, noise, parking and design are important considerations in any city.
But they must be balanced against property rights, the need to provide jobs and housing and the very real need to grow your tax base or risk losing services or raising taxes for existing residents.
Saying yes to reasonable, planned and intelligent growth does not mean anything goes.
Indeed, it should mean the opposite.
Cities should plan–and those plans should be based on a vision of the future . And visions should come from a wide variety of stakeholders in a community, not just those with the loudest voices and the time to protest.
A premium amount of attention should be spent on design, compatibility, desirable uses and how projects function in terms of parking and circulation.
Community input throughout the process is critical but it’s also important that elected officials and key city staff engage with development teams early to discuss local goals, sensitivities and sensibilities.
Some cities employ “town” architects who work with developers and designers to ensure good projects. If you seek to work with developers and they don’t listen, give them the boot. But if you don’t engage with them, you are forcing them to guess and setting all sides up for failure, stress, strife and suits of the legal kind. It doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s so much better when our civic discourse makes us smarter not angrier. 

We’ll end with this post with quote from Jane Jacobs, perhaps the most influential thinker and writer on what makes cities work.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created, by everybody.”
It’s hard to argue with Ms. Jacobs. But I’d add that cities work for everybody only when they consider everybody. And sometimes that means making room for others. 
See you tomorrow night at the Crest.
Wishing my Daughter a Happy Birthday
My little girl turned 27 yesterday.
It’s hard to believe because it seems like only yesterday when we were dropping her off at Little Friends in Delray and later at Poinciana Elementary School.
Now she’s teaching school. In Tampa. And I miss her.
I’m also very proud of her.
I have great respect for teachers and especially ESE (exceptional student education) teachers who make such a difference in the lives of children. That’s the path my daughter has chosen.
Samantha has what it takes to succeed as a teacher: passion for kids, boundless patience, a sense of humor and a heart as big as Florida.
When Sam was a little girl she had a series of ear infections. It seemed like we were always battling one painful episode after another.
It finally passed, but the battles left her with something called auditory processing disorder. As a result, she had a hard time learning how to read.
When we finally discovered the cause she was able to address the issue through an arduous series of exercises. Hours and hours of wearing headphones while completing computer programs designed to rewire how her brain heard and processed sounds.
It was hard work. Done after she had already put in a full day of school.
It was a lot for a little girl.
She never ever complained.
I remember telling her that she was special and that people like her succeeded because they had to work hard for their success. And the perseverance and resilience she learned would serve her well in life.
It did.
Nothing came easy for her. But she had a deep appreciation for every milestone achieved.
She graduated Atlantic High School went to Palm Beach State College and then to the University of South Florida where she excelled academically and with extra curricular activities.
To say we’re proud of her would be an understatement. There are just no words to adequately express how we feel about the young woman she has become.
My only beef– and it’s a small one– is somehow she and her younger brother became Patriots fans when their dad bleeds Giants blue.
I have several friends whose kids are having grandkids and I can’t wait for that to happen to us as well.
All I know is that it goes so fast.
The days of taking her to Old School Square as a small child to see an art exhibit, the ice cream cones at Doc’s and Kilwins, soccer at Miller Field, softball with her coach Dr. Grubb (his daughter whose Sam’s age is now Dr. Molly a veterinarian like her dad in Delrat), Girl Scouts, K-9 exhibitions to earn Brownie points, Safety Patrol, summer camp at Trinity, story hours at the old Delray Library. Arts and Jazz on the Avenue, high school, dates, driving and nights you slept with one eye open until your heard her come in the door.
And then they are grown.
Oh she still needs her dad. I know that. I hope that never ends but it’s a fast ride. Savor every moment.
Happy birthday Sam.  

On Events: Hit Pause & Create a Win

Garlic Fest has become a Delray tradition providing much needed funds to local non-profits and schools. Photo by VMA Studios courtesy from Garlic Festival website.

Garlic Fest has become a Delray tradition providing much needed funds to local non-profits and schools. Photo by VMA Studios courtesy from Garlic Festival website.

Sometimes you have to slow down to get it right.

The challenge and the beauty of local government is that you often know the people impacted by a particular vote. You can’t say that about other levels of government.

If you are a state legislator or a member of congress you vote far away from home and usually with your team–be it Republican or Democrat.

Most people in your district probably don’t even know what you’re doing. But on a local level, your neighbors know. And that’s a good thing.

You can’t hide in local government. Ideally it keeps you grounded and accountable. People know when you show up and when you don’t. They see how you treat people. They can see when you read a prepared statement, answer a text, roll your eyes at a speaker or fail to read the backup material.

If your kind, they notice that too. If you’re rude they see that as well. Chances are you are lecturing someone’s friend, a neighbor, or someone you see around town. So tone matters. A lot.

I don’t like what’s happening to special events in our town. I’m not alone.

I think the process has turned into a game of bait and switch and I think the opposition to events has been overstated. I think the costs have been too.

I’m not sure if it started out this way and I’m not sure there has been any sort of diabolical intent, but somewhere along the way this attempt to make the special event process better went off the rails or was co-opted by an agenda.

I think event producers and the organizations that host festivals volunteered in a good-faith effort to make things better; I don’t think they would’ve shown up to plan their demise.

I’ve seen polling numbers of registered voters in this city for over 20 years and events have always scored very high. I can’t imagine that two decades of polling by firms relied on by elected officials past and present would be that far off.

Sure, there are those who despise events. I heard from a few during my seven years in office. A few in particular have been impossible to please despite efforts to soothe their bruised sensibilities. At some point, you have to apologize and move on even if they won’t. As much as you may wish to, you simply can’t scratch every itch and you certainly can’t run a city based solely on the wishes of those who complain. There are others to consider too.

At some point you have to wonder why a business can’t make a crowded street full of pedestrians work for them. At some point you have to wonder why some people can’t just take one for the team because maybe the particular event works for someone else, benefits a non-profit or is a city tradition enjoyed by many. I think the point is when life gives you lemons make lemonade and if you can’t make lemonade, there’s always another day.

Tonight, the city commission may or may not decide the fate of the Garlic Festival. Nobody is quite sure, including the fest’s producers, because she and her team have been unable to get a clear answer on process from anybody.

Somehow that doesn’t feel right. We are supposed to be a village right? Why are we acting like we live inside of a Kafka novel?

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m friends with Garlic Festival founder/producer Nancy Stewart-Franczak and her husband John. I like them. I think they are good people who mean to do well by the community. Nancy’s partner, Bern Ryan, is a good guy and Nancy’s small team consists of really nice people. They are a part of our community. A valuable part.

Nancy has lived in Delray for 25 years. She has been active as long I’ve known her which has been a long time. She has volunteered for many community causes, works very hard and gives back in many ways. She loves this city. She should be treated with respect. She hasn’t been. That’s my opinion based on what Nancy and others who support her have told me.

She’s been told that what she has brought to Delray is dispensable. I don’t think it is.  Neither do the non-profits who have benefitted from her event, even though some question the business model. See, the Garlic Festival has raised close to $600,000 for non-profits in its 18 year history here. People volunteer their time and their causes benefit. If the Boy Scouts or Police Explorers or any number of groups who volunteer don’t like the model, they can opt out. But apparently, they do. And it’s their choice to participate or not. They have told city commissioners that the event is meaningful to them and their causes and activities.

That said, no festival is beyond being asked to improve.

Nancy volunteered to be part of a process designed to mitigate some of the concerns raised about special events. She did not know she was donating hundreds of hours over nearly a year to destroy her livelihood and two decades of hard work.

Think I’m exaggerating? I wish I was.

But she and other event producers came to the table in good faith and they compromised by agreeing to shrink the footprint of their events, avoid road closures and in Nancy’s case get rid of rides which seem to upset the delicate sensibilities of some. Tell that to the kids and their parents who might have enjoyed the rides, I’m sure they’ll understand the need to make sure that our city doesn’t resemble a carnival.

If you think my friendship with Nancy and Bern might color my views so be it. Dismiss this opinion as biased. But know that while I have attended scores of events over 30 years living in Delray I haven’t gone to any lately and if I never go to another festival I’ll be ok.

Still, I don’t begrudge those who do. When my kids were little we went to Garlic Fest and other events and I looked for activities that they would enjoy. To take a family to a nice downtown event is a blessing. The kids are grown now, but there are other young moms and dads out there looking for something fun to do. Maybe it’s Garlic Festival, maybe it’s a dunk tank at a Wine and Seafood event or maybe it’s a St. Patrick’s Day parade with fire trucks and music. (That event is in trouble too).

These events mean something to this town; they mean something to our resident and to those who own businesses here and those who visit us. I think events are part of our brand. I think they bring value as economic development tools and yes I think they ring cash registers.

Sometimes the sales are made on the day of the event and sometimes they come after because when people come to Delray and experience our city I’m pretty sure that at least a few decide to come back to shop, dine and maybe even shop for a home or a nice hotel near the beach or downtown.

They may even tell some of their friends and relatives.

So while Bacon and Bourbon may not be my thing (and it’s not because I’m kosher and prefer Grey Goose) I have an appreciation for events and their meaning in terms of building community and supporting non-profits.

Downtowns– if they are worth their salt– are places to gather. We are so lucky have a downtown. Many cities don’t.

Others have downtowns that are dead or blighted—as ours used to be.

But we are blessed with a downtown that is vibrant, fun and has fueled a huge increase in property values and quality of life. If that goes away, I will care. And so will you. Because the downtown is our community’s heart and economic engine.

It’s where we go with friends and it’s where we gather when we celebrate and when we mourn like we did after 9/11 or when we needed to raise money when a beloved officer died on his way to work. If you think our downtown is bulletproof or immune to competition I think you’re wrong.

In season, you may have some trouble parking. I get it. In season, it may take you a long time 7-10 minutes in my experience to go from Swinton to A1A (I kept a diary this winter). Heck, sometimes the bridge goes up and sometimes an art fair closes a street. I suppose it can be annoying and I sympathize –to a point.

The opposite of traffic is no traffic. And trust me you don’t want that. We had that and it was awful. Dead, boring, dull, depressing…We used to have nothing but a sea of parking and it wasn’t that great–a sea of asphalt.

if you want to avoid any parking issues build a place that nobody wants to visit. That’ll solve your parking problem and create other issues.

Still, I think we need to see the other side and work together. The organizations and event producers seem willing.

Truth is, we should reinvent our events. We should talk about which ones work and which ones no longer fit. We should talk about what kind of demographics we hope to attract and who we hope to serve.

We should talk about timing, cost, and public safety. We should understand the needs of residents and the importance of tourism to our economy.

But somewhere along the line, this process has gone astray.

Instead of a collaborative effort to improve events–even reinvent them– the process morphed into an effort that will drive them out of business.

From small little walks for charity to events that support our Chamber of Commerce and Old School Square, we are at risk of losing a lot.

If you don’t think our Chamber is worth something you haven’t been there in a while. It’s helping businesses and connecting people all day every day. If you don’t think Old school Square is important I can’t help you because then you don’t understand how incredibly blessed we are to have the arts smack dab in the middle of our downtown. The center was conceived as a place for the community to gather. Events, inside and out, are at the very core of its mission. Do the grounds take a beating? Yep. Should we be discussing how to minimize and pay for that beating? Absolutely. But we should never put velvet ropes around Old School Square and turn it into a static museum. Yes, there are costs that have to be considered, but a cost structure that effectively ends events, may provide some relief to the city, but will also hurt the city in other ways.

Charitably you can call this process a bait and switch exercise—event producers volunteered to help mitigate concerns but did not sign up for a process that would drive them out of town.

But there is a chance to hit the pause button. There is a chance for the commission to exert leadership and get the process back on track. The event producers have acted in good faith and have stepped up to the plate by agreeing to meaningful reforms. It’s the city that has dropped the ball. It takes two sides to collaborate. A one sided process can be called a form of bullying. ‘I’m going to take your lunch money because I can’ is not a good way to run a place.

The city has the power–for now.

They can not only call the shots they can insist on anything they want–in the short term anyway but with lasting scars.

If you want reinvention, challenge the event producers and charities that rely on events. But don’t give vague directions and disappear, sit down and join the process. Spell out what a new vision for events might look like. Work with the producers and festival organizers not on them.

These are people we know. These are important civic institutions. They should not be driven out of town or to their knees financially in the name of reform or because some perceive that events are no longer needed or popular with residents and business owners. I have seen polling data and public records requests of emails that indicate otherwise. I have not seen data or analysis to show widespread dissatisfaction. Nor has anyone else– including the organizations that sponsor and produce the events.

As for costs, let’s talk. Share with the community what they cost, but show your work. I find it hard to fathom that a contained special event can approach the costs of an NFL game.

When we look at costs (and I’m sure that producers would pay more but not triple or quadruple) it’s only fair to consider benefits as well.

If you live close to the downtown you have seen your property values soar at a rate that far exceeds other cities.

It’s not all because of events. Some of it is because of Old School Square and some of it is because of our great shops and restaurants. But events play a role. They distinguish us. They have value not just costs and impacts.

Hit the reset button, invite the innovators to the table and every one should agree to show up with an open mind.

Again, events can always be better and they can always pay more to offset city costs. But they have value too and so do the individuals and organizations that produce, host, create and rely on them.

If a “solution” is imposed it won’t be sustainable. If it’s negotiated with a win-win outcome in mind it will make our village a better place in more ways than we can imagine.

Tonight is an opportunity to save the Garlic Festival and rethink the events policy.

 

Success: A formula

I agree.

I agree. Do you?

When communities can’t see past the next week they suffer.

When communities scratch every itch, react to every complaint and ignore what’s positive they degrade the spirit of the most important people in a city, the people who volunteer, serve, work hard, invest, dream and aspire. The people who build community.

When I speak to groups I am often asked what it takes for an elected official to succeed.

I hear how difficult the job is, how brutal  the politics can be and how complex today’s issues seem. It’s all true.

It’s a hard job.

Time consuming and at times very stressful.  And if you care about your neighbors it can be very hard to disagree with them or to say no.

But it’s not all vinegar and heartburn either.

 Public service can be a joy and immensely rewarding. And there’s nothing like local government. If you have a good idea on a Tuesday night and two colleagues agree well then… change can be made Wednesday morning. That’s the beauty of local government.

There’s also an opportunity to engage, connect and help people. And that’s powerful and very meaningful–unless of course you choose not to do any of those things.

And make no mistake, it’s a choice.

So I deeply respect and appreciate those who choose correctly and to be honest I have no use for those who don’t.

So while the job is complex and the issues difficult, the job can be made simple.

If you serve you can be certain that you won’t please everybody. That’s a guarantee. Even the “no brainer” issues will manage to set somebody off.

So the choice is clear: who do you choose to please?

Those who are engaged in activities that move your city forward or those who sit back and complain (usually about the doers)?

The choice should be easy. But you might be surprised how many politicos blow it and choose to kowtow to the squeaky wheels and disappoint, disparage and dismay those who get up every day and seek to make the community a better place.

That’s it in a nutshell.

If you want to succeed in local politics–I can’t speak for state or federal office–determine who is busy making a positive impact and do what you can to help them.

Those people are not hard to find. They serve on boards, mentor children, seek to heal those who are hurting, raise funds for good causes, work hard to advance ideas and create jobs. They aspire. Oh, how I love that word. It makes all the good in this world possible.  

Please those folks. Work hard to help them succeed. Praise and support their efforts.

As for the rest, well don’t go out of your way to anger them. (You wont have to, they wake up mad).

Listen to your critics, sometimes they have something to teach you and other times they are simply full of it.

But they do serve a purpose–they are usually wrong. Their batting average is terrible when measured against the doers in your city. Their predictions of doom and gloom rarely come true and their negativity usually doesn’t amount to much.  The worse thing you can do is empower them; that will deflate the contributors and you can kiss progress goodbye.

On the other hand, if you listen to those who aspire, who seek to do the impossible you’ll find that the word doesn’t exist.

Oh, you’ll trip a time or two, you may even get some stuff wrong but you’ll be someone whose service mattered. It’s guaranteed. Or you can squander the opportunity and fail.

It really is that simple.

 

Festivals Have Their Place

 

Garlic Fest has become a Delray tradition providing much needed funds to local non-profits and schools. Photo by VMA Studios courtesy from Garlic Festival website.

Garlic Fest has become a Delray tradition providing much needed funds to local non-profits and schools. Photo by VMA Studios courtesy from Garlic Festival website.

We know people who love the Delray Affair.

We know others who wait with baited breath for the Garlic Festival (pun intended). And we know people who love craft beer and spend extra to buy VIP tickets to support Old School Square and enjoy the latest suds from small purveyors— many of them local.

We also know others who avoid the Delray Affair, don’t get the whole garlic thing and have no interest in tasting anything named Swamp Ape.

Different strokes for different folks as they say.

But whether you like or loathe events—and a recent poll of Delray voters show that 83 percent of them support and/or attend downtown special events–there’s no doubt that festivals have played a large role in building Delray’s brand.

There’s also no argument that they can be disruptive and costly. But a smart look at the issue would not just focus on impacts but benefits as well. In the coming weeks, Delray Beach commissioners are expected to consider a new event policy and cost structure. While many (not all)  of the policy recommendations we’ve heard about seem to make sense, the cost structure attached to the policy threatens to kill the events. This would be a big mistake. In many cases, the cost of events would nearly triple, which would most likely drive them out of business. That would be tragic.

Special events are a form of economic development. They bring people to your urban core and they help to ring cash registers and fill restaurants—and not just on the day of the event. Many people will come back to Delray after having been exposed to the downtown at a festival.

They also attract tourists and day visitors and some of those tourists and visitors have ended up investing here. We know many residents who decided to live here in part because they enjoyed the events and the overall vibrancy of the city. Events are placemaking and creating a sense of place is critically important.

Festivals also serve as important fundraisers for key community non-profits and they help to build community too.

Delray Beach is very fortunate to have a downtown, a place to gather. Cities without downtowns feel different and many seek to create urban cores to generate that community feeling.

Old School Square was a brilliant civic idea because instead of bulldozing history past visionaries like Frances Bourque recognized the strategic importance of having a cultural center at the heart of our city’s redevelopment efforts. And make no mistake Old School Square was the catalyst. The outdoor space is ideal for events and the new park– approved by voters in 2005 to replace an ugly surface parking lot– should be designed to host events and every day activities.

The energy created by the restoration gave life to efforts to create a vibrant downtown which is at the heart of our success and our economic well-being. Other cities have a beach; very few have a downtown like Delray Beach.

If you are fortunate enough to live anywhere near the downtown you have seen your property values soar–usually viewed as a good thing. There’s a correlation between our downtown’s success and property values. It’s doubtful we would’ve seen any appreciation if downtown remain vacant, blighted and dangerous. But when you are a short golf cart ride away from over 100 great restaurants, shops and yes events you can bet that translates into value. It also translates into qualify of life.

So yes there is a strong need to preach quality over quantity. Some events are tired and need to go or at the very least need upgrading. But that’s a very different conversation than a wholesale “cull”.  Where possible disruption should be mitigated and costs are always a factor but chasing away events from our central gathering place would be a big mistake especially if many of those events are contained, don’t close roads and are enjoyed by many. We should also consider that many of the events raise needed funds for worthy community non-profits.

A few emails and complaints is not a reason to jettison a formula that has worked. Event producers have stepped up and agreed to compromise on items such as their footprint, vendor quality and road closures. Our city leaders should declare victory, perhaps gently raise some fees and move on. Events belong downtown.

 

 

Random Thoughts…

Dare 2 Be Great Scholars Believe in 'paying it forward'

Dare 2 Be Great Scholars Believe in ‘paying it forward’

This is the time of year that the Dare 2 Be Great board pours over applications for scholarships.
It’s a humbling experience to read through the resumes and essays of these incredible young men and women.
Many of the essays are inspirational and more than a few are heartbreaking.
The common thread seems to be resilience. It just seems that some people are built by adversity. They succeed regardless of life’s circumstances and overcome hurdles. It’s almost as if they succeed because they are determined to live better lives.
These kids inspire me. I wish we could help them all. It breaks my heart that we can’t. We’ll keep you posted on the Class of ’16.

It’s a Miracle
Congratulations to the Miracle League of Palm Beach County which pulled off its first successful dinner on the diamond last week.
Julia and Jeff Kadel and their team of volunteers have done a remarkable job bringing the great game of baseball to kids who might not otherwise have an ability to play.
So good to see this wonderful non-profit grow and thrive. And I’m pleased to see Celsius, a company I’m involved with, step up and sponsor.

An Affair to Remember

We hope you’ll visit the Delray Affair this weekend.
The 54th annual event is a great chance to see friends and to adopt a rescue pet.
That’s right.
We’ve adopted two pets at the Affair over the years: Randy and Sophie.
Both little dogs enriched our families beyond words. We also hope the city doesn’t “fee” this event to death.

It’s Delray’s signature event, a tradition and helps our Chamber of Commerce stay healthy and more than ever this city needs a healthy chamber.

Hello Rhys, Goodbye Kim
We wish Tech Runway’s founding director Kim Gramm well on her new job in Texas.
Kim did a lot to put FAU’s ambitious project on the map.
She will be missed.

We are excited to see our Leadership Florida friend Rhys Williams step into the role of leading Tech Runway.

Thanks, Alyona

We’ll also miss Alyona Ushe well as she departs Delray’s innovative Arts Garage.
Alyona won’t be far away as she will continue to work her magic in Pompano Beach.
It’s not easy to start something and make it relevant. Alyona put the Arts Garage on the cultural map in South Florida creating buzz and staging lots of memorable shows and performances.
She made an impact.

Down To The River

river

We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to devote a column to Bruce Springsteen who played the BB&T Center in Sunrise Tuesday night.

As you might know, Bruce and his wife Patti are part-time residents of Wellington and he has some ties to our neck of the woods through his band and some old friends.

The late great saxophonist Clarence Clemons had condo’s in Boynton Beach and Singer Island, pianist Roy Bittan has close friends in Jupiter and visits frequently and Bruce himself played a small, but pivotal role in the life of Fran Marincola, owner of two-time restaurant of the year Caffe Luna Rosa.

In Fran’s past life he was a nightclub owner on the Jersey Shore and Bruce played his club. You can read the story in a newspaper clipping posted proudly on the wall of Luna Rosa. Next time you visit CLR, ask Fran to share some stories about Bruce and the band and check out the pictures on the wall they’re great.

So it was great to see the show with Fran this week and hear the stories.

It was also transformative to spend 3.5 hours listening to what I consider the best rock/bar band on the planet. At age 66, after 50 plus years playing together, Bruce and the E Street Band remain forces of nature. If you’re sad, he’ll lift you up. If you need energy, he’s a rocket like boost. If you want to reflect on life, simply sit back  and listen.

E Street Nation—as his legion of fans worldwide are known–is a tight knit community of people who come together to celebrate music that transcends time and place.

The latest tour celebrates “The River”, a 1980 masterpiece that was an elegy to growing up, moving out, gaining distance from your parents, leaving your hometown, falling in love and coming to some understanding of life compromise’s and your own mortality.

I bought the album when I was 16 years old, way back when vinyl was king.

For me, “The River” spoke to life’s mysteries—love, the open road, independence and dreams—those that are compromised or lost. But what’s amazing about Bruce’s music-and the music of other greats—is that the material still resonates well into the audience’s AARP years. From teenage angst to middle age—the songs take on new and deeper meaning.

We went with a group—and the prevailing wisdom beyond the sheer entertainment value of the show and the marveling at the performer’s stamina– was the fact that the songs take you back and still have meaning today. That’s a rare and very unique experience.

The other takeaway is what we knew we were witnessing rare artistry and we openly wondered who if anybody would still be relevant to audience’s 40 years from today.

The Springsteen concert took place one day after The Grammy’s, so today’s hottest acts were fresh on our minds. But will any of them endure and transcend the moment? Bieber? Lady Gaga?

Our small sample thinks Ed Sheeran and Chris Stapleton may have legs, but the rest—we’re not so sure.

2016 has been a sad year for those who like the legendary artists. We lost Glenn Frey, Bowie, Paul Kantner, Natalie Cole, Lemmy and the great Maurice White and it’s only February.

We are here for a moment in time. Bruce told the audience that The River is about mortality, doing our jobs, raising our families and doing some good in the world.

Yes indeed.

From the song “Stolen Car”

“And I’m driving a stolen car.  On a pitch black night.  And I’m telling myself I’m gonna be alright.  But I ride by night and I travel in fear.  That in this darkness I will disappear.”

Hopefully not for a very long time and not without having made a difference to those we love.