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Things We Love: November Edition

Fifth Avenue Grill’s holiday decorations are a Delray tradition.

Things we liked/loved in November…

Thanksgiving at Fifth Avenue Grill—great food, unmatchable holiday decorations and terrific service add up to a great experience. While we prefer staying home for the holidays, with kids spread out and other family traveling, we decided to go out. We had a memorable time.

The Cornerman Bar—Have you seen the Delray Boxing Gym? It’s incredibly cool. On the other side of the glass you can sit at a great bar and watch the action and be served by the amazing Marit Fitzpatrick. You can also enjoy Copperpoint beer and other libations and dream of hoisting your own championship belt. A very unique concept. Only in Delray as they say.

Breakfast gatherings at Ellie’s 50s Diner. Bob Smela and his lovely wife were pioneers on the North Federal Highway corridor more than two decades ago. Today, they and their great team are still thriving serving great breakfasts, awesome lunches and great dinners at fair prices. When I can, I like to go on Friday mornings when I’m sure to run into some great Delray people. Topics range from politics and business to family and our aches and pains. Count me grateful to have people to share with.

Old School Bakery—Billy Himmelrich and his team bake the best bread imaginable at a terrific facility on Congress Avenue in Delray Beach. When you visit, you’ll be taken by the great aroma of bread baking. Warning: the bread can be addictive.

The new Cornell Museum—thanks to a generous gift by the Blume’s—two wonderful people—the Cornell Museum has been re-imagined and it’s truly incredible. Don’t take my word for it—visit the new museum at Old School Square. You will be impressed. We guarantee it.

 Dinner at Café Martier—We love the historic ambience of this Atlantic Avenue gem. Great signature cocktails, an interesting menu and a choice between dining in a really historic restaurant or a very hip breezeway. It adds up to a winning experience. We recommend the falafel appetizer and the hummus is out of this world.

The Walk to Cure Arthritis—Ok the event is actually in December (Dec. 2 to be exact) at John Prince Park but we wanted to alert you because there is still time to be a sponsor and support the Arthritis Foundation. It’s a great cause and a great organization. Visit www.walktocurearthritis.org/palmbeach for more information and to get involved.

The Blackberry Cider at Saltwater Brewery—Ok, so most of you don’t go to a brewery to taste the cider, but we did and we loved it.

Deli On Rye—If you are looking for a p lace that can quickly whip up a great sandwich on those days when you are on the run, look no further than Deli on Rye on U.S. 1 in Boca. The friendly staff is lightning fast and the food is always good.

Special shout out to our good friend Chuck Halberg of Stuart and Shelby Development for his crowdfunding efforts that made sure our public safety personnel had good food and cheer on Thanksgiving. We are proud to support Chuck’s efforts, which are always heart felt and generous. Also, a shout out to Kate Volman and Ryan Boylston co-hosts/creators of Delray Morning Live. The Facebook show (which has a large and growing following/buzz) recently marked its one year anniversary. It’s a great forum to showcase community events, news, non-profits and people doing good things for Delray. Check it out on Wednesday mornings at 8:30 on Facebook’s Better Delray page. The show is archived so you can watch it at your leisure.

Have a great December!

 

Rankings, Ratings & Quality of Life

Leawood, Kansas seems like a great place but…

The personal-finance website WalletHub has released its report on 2017’s Best Small Cities in America.

It’s interesting and provocative.

Boca Raton scored high on most measurements, but the analysis revealed some areas of concern. And Delray Beach—despite being the great city we know it to be—has some work to do if you believe the indicators.

First the highlights:

WalletHub’s analysts compared more than 1,200 U.S. cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 across 33 key indicators of livability. They range from housing costs to school-system quality to restaurants per capita.

 

Top 20 Small Cities in America    

  1. Princeton, NJ   11. Newton, MA
  2. Lexington, MA   12. Melrose, MA
  3. Leawood, KS   13. Brookfield, WI
  4. Milton, MA   14. Sammamish, WA
  5. Brentwood, TN   15. Kirkland, WA

6 .Los Altos, CA   16. Saratoga, CA

  1. Carmel, IN   17. Dublin, OH
  2. Needham, MA   18. Palo Alto, CA
  3. Holly Springs, NC   19. Westfield, NJ
  4. Littleton, CO   20. Fishers, IN

 

Best vs. Worst

  • The Villages, Florida, has the highest homeownership rate, 96.25 percent, which is 108.1 times higher than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the lowest at 0.89 percent.

 

  • Plainfield, Illinois, has the lowest share of the population living below poverty level, 1.90 percent, which is 27.5 times lower than in Statesboro, Georgia, the city with the highest at 52.3 percent.

 

  • Fort Hood, Texas, has the shortest average commute time, 11.2 minutes, which is 3.9 times shorter than in Lake Elsinore, California, the city with the longest at 43.6 minutes.

 

  • East Lansing, Michigan, has the fewest average hours worked per week, 28.2, which is 1.7 times fewer than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the most at 49.1.

I would suspect that many of us who live in Delray and Boca wouldn’t trade living here for anywhere else—especially now that the good weather has kicked in. I don’t think there are too many people who would look at the rankings and sell their home in Lake Ida or Woodfield Country Club for a home in number 3 ranked Leawood, Kansas either. (No offense to Leawood, we’re sure it’s wonderful).

So where do we rank?

Delray ranked in the 60th percentile—the top cities were in the 99th percentile. Boca ranked in the 98th percentile.

Delray’s overall score of 57.62, trailed Boca which scored a 66.01. Number one ranked Princeton scored a 73.36.

Delray ranked 870th on affordability—not a surprise considering the run-up in home prices and the lack of new product on the market. Boca ranked 733rd on affordability.

Delray’s economic health ranked 436th with Boca coming in at 224—hard to imagine that there are that many cities healthier than Boca which seems to rake in companies and jobs by the truckloads. On the education and health measurement Delray ranked 728 and Boca 520.

Delray scored an impressive number 51 on the all-important quality of life ranking with Boca an even more impressive number 14. Interestingly, my guess is that residents of each city wouldn’t trade places—both cities are appealing for different reasons. Sarasota ranked number one in quality of life—and if you’ve visited lately you’ll see why.

On safety, Delray scored number 924 and Boca 543.

Lots to chew on certainly.

Rankings, awards, contests etc., are fun to debate, but in the end they are just numbers and things. It’s hard to measure a community’s spirit, aspirations, closeness, friendliness or ambience.

Still, they can be used to benchmark so that cities can strive to do better. Some cities—like Santa Monica—try to measure happiness. Delray used to survey residents on a range of issues and topics and policymakers at the time found the findings interesting and helpful. Cities can be noisy places—especially with the advent of social media—and sometimes (often) the squeaky wheels don’t represent the majority opinion on a given issue.

As for the Wallet Hub findings—I think we should take another survey in January and see if Boca /Delray would score somewhat higher than Princeton, N.J. as the place to be.

 

Honoring A Local Legend

Frances Bourque: A Lifetime of Achievement.

Editor’s Note: We received a few requests for the speech honoring the Delray Chamber’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Frances Bourque. Frances was honored Friday night at the Delray Marriott. It was a memorable evening and her speech was sensational. Video coverage of the awards ceremony can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Delray Newspaper.  Here’s the transcript of the intro…

Well, what can you say about our honoree…Frances Bourque?

This tribute can be six words…I love you. We love you.

I truly believe that none of us would be sitting here in a beautiful beachfront hotel… in a vibrant downtown…if Frances Bourque had stayed in the Glades or set her sights on Boca Raton or West Palm Beach. We were forever blessed when she came to Delray.

Old School Square started it all…It was the catalyst…you were the catalyst… and because you brought your beautiful spirit, vision and brilliance to our town…we—all of us— have reaped the rewards…You are so special…and we are so grateful for all that you have given us.

Because as you taught me… it’s all about people—people who lead with love, boldness, aspiration, care and concern. People who motivate us to join the mission. Frances, your heart is so big and so generous…your vision is so compelling…there was no way we could fail. You lead with love.

That’s our Frances…she is spellbinding and irresistible.

The first time I met her, when I was 23 years old, I was struck by her spirit and her unique worldview. She just had a great way of seeing things… I’ve been enthralled ever since…

Frances and I have laughed together and we’ve shed a few tears too…she has been our rock, the champion of our city’s vision, and she has been the go-to person for so many great people….inspiring them to be involved, give back and make a difference in Delray.

For thirty years—she has taught me…and so many others…what it takes to build and sustain a great city.

Because none of this…none of what we saw in the video… happened by accident. All of the things we love and cherish about Delray Beach is a result of people working together through good times and bad.

None of this could have happened without people like Frances leading the way and teaching us that anything and everything is possible if we dare to dream and dare to try.

 

Great leaders are inspiring, they make you feel good about the mission, they lift people up and they show us the way. They make you believe that your dreams can come true—and when they do —they graciously give others the credit. That’s our Frances…

 

Frances Bourque is my hero and a hero to so many of us in Delray Beach. Where others saw a desolate and blighted downtown, Frances saw boundless potential.

Where others saw a broken down old school, Frances envisioned a cultural arts center that would transform our community by giving us a place to gather—so we could actually be a community. She gave us the biggest gift of all—community.

Old School Square is a brilliant idea… it honors our past, enhances our present and addresses our future. It’s where we gather to celebrate, it’s where we go to dream and it’s where we go to console each other during tough times….it belongs to all of us and it’s an asset—a gift— that we must treasure.

Frances made this happen.

Oh, she had help—but it was her boundless energy, passion, skill and love for Delray that drove the vision. Her optimism is contagious and once we were exposed to the Frances Bourque magic—there was no way we could ever fail.

Great leaders attract people to the cause…and they make us feel that we can move mountains and change our corner of the world.

Frances has been this city’s muse and champion for decades…Old School Square was the catalyst for our revitalization. It created an economy out of blight, breathed life, music and art into a once desolate downtown—and gave us pride of place.

We were no longer “Dullray Beach”…we were Delray Beach…an All America City, a place of possibility, achievement and innovation.

Frances is a most deserving Lifetime Achievement Award winner…she’s a brilliant star…a beautiful spirit…she has gifted us a world of possibility and she has never wavered or gone away… thank goodness.

On behalf of the Greater Delray Beach of Commerce and a grateful community: Thank you. We love you very, very much. Ladies and gentleman…your 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award winner…Frances Bourque.

 

 

Things We Liked In September

Congrats to the DBMC and Chamber!

Well, September 2017 may not be remembered fondly thanks to Irma, Harvey and Maria.

October is off to a heartbreaking start as well with a horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Still, we aim to stick to our tradition (starting last month) of pointing out some good things in our world and community.

Things we liked in September…
In no particular order…

  • Neighbors helping neighbors pre and post Irma. At times like this, we sometimes discover and often rely on neighbors to help us prepare and cope. For this we are thankful.
  • The Abe and Louie salad
  •  Cream of Mushroom soup at Madison’s. It’s a great restaurant. Try it.
  • Old School Bakery. There are no words to describe the artistry of Old School’s bread.
  • WPTV’s Steve Weagle doing stellar work pre and post Irma. We also rediscovered Bryan Norcross and send shout outs of appreciation to other local meteorologists.
  •  The yeoman’s work done by city staff and utility workers in Boca and Delray to help us get back on our feet post Irma.
  •  The book “The New Brooklyn” by Kay Hymowitz. If you love cities and want to gain some insights on gentrification look no further.
  •  Actress Kristen Bell of “Frozen” entertaining senior citizens and others while riding the storm out in Orlando.
  •  The Good Place on Netflix-starring Ms. Bell.
  •  The black and white cookies at 3Gs.
  •  The guy who plays Spanish guitar at Farmers Table in Boca.
  •  The zest for life and learning that we see from our friend Connor Lynch.
  • A photo of Dr. Craig Spodak with the great Simon Sinek on Instagram. Mr. Sinek wrote the great book “Start With Why”, which is a must read. Dr. Spodak is also an inspiration.
  •  My new grand puppy Riley. An adorable golden (are there any other kind?).
  •  The memory of Phish an adorable Chihuahua and a longtime fixture at the Delray Green Market. Hugs to Jim and Lori Nolan.
  •  Thanks to Hypower Electrical Services and John Potts of TAW Power Systems for their efforts to restore power to the Sandoway Discovery Center saving animals and sea life that were endangered by the loss of electricity. Awesome.
  •  Marisa Herman’s stellar work at the Delray and Boca Newspaper. Make sure to catch her front page article on 92 year old author Bob Levinson in this month’s Delray Newspaper.
  •  Debbie Stackhouse Smith too!
  • Happy one year anniversary to Delray Morning Live and kudos to the excellent hosts Kate Volman and Ryan Boylston. Joe and Mika have nothing on these two.
  •  The music of Steely Dan. Rest In Peace Walter Becker. Thanks for decades of unforgettable music.
  • Congratulations to Dupree Jackson Jr.

    Keep your eye on him. He’s a powerful and committed leader with a big heart. And boy do we ever need heart in our world and communities.

  • We are also immensely impressed with WiseTribe and its leader Jacqueline Botting.
  • Congratulations to the Delray Marketing Cooperative and Delray Chamber of Commerce for winning international recognition. The International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA), which recognizes the world’s best event producers, recently announced the winners of its annual Pinnacle Awards during its 62nd annual convention  in Tucson, Arizona. The Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative (DBMC) and the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce each received a Gold Award, the IFEA’s highest honor, proving once again that when it comes to showing the public an awesome time no one can compete with Delray Beach events, even on an international level.The DBMC won for Best Newspaper Insert for the Famous 100 Foot Christmas Tree and the Chamber won for Best Promotional Video for its Seek in the City Scavenger Hunt.

    We know we missed some good news–so this is only a partial list. But also a reminder that even in difficult times, we have much to be thankful for.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

Build A Great City

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Nobles.com

The adventure took me to Lake Worth last week.

Thanks to the wonderful Danika Dahl (www.I-Love-Delray-Beach.com) and my friend Greg Rice, I had the opportunity to bring some books and some thoughts to Lake Worth last week.

We had a great discussion about cities, downtowns, economic development and local politics with an emphasis on Lake Worth’s enormous potential. I began by emphasizing that they not me were the experts when it came to Lake Worth. While I have visited the city innumerable times and enjoy the downtown, its restaurants, festivals and beachfront casino and pier, I don’t live and breathe the community like people who live and work there do. But I do think there are some universal truths and principles for community building that can work anywhere if they are tailored to local sensibilities. But when it comes down to it, citizens are responsible for creating the identity, look and feel of their city. And each city should strive to have its own personality and style.

Below are the notes I took with me which framed the conversation. I thought I would share. It was a great night, with lots of intelligent discussion, some super ideas and a lot of inspiration. In an age of social media and technology it’s reassuring to see how powerful it is for people to gather and talk as neighbors with a shared passion for creating a great city. Thanks Danika and Greg for the opportunity. Local blogger Wes Blackman–a  really terrific urbanist himself– did a three part series on the evening that I am very appreciative of. You can find Wes’ blog at http://wesblackman.blogspot.com/.

Forge a Vision–

  • Involve as many stakeholders as possible.
  • Elected officials and property owners must be bought in
  • Begin to Implement immediately; prioritize and get going. If you fail to act, the vision fades and you lose the trust of those who volunteer and care.
  • Celebrate and market the small victories; build momentum because success breeds success.
  • City Budgets should reflect the citizens vision.
  • Stick to the vision: it takes time. Stare down the inevitable resistance and have patience and faith.
  • Remember that visions are living and breathing documents, principles should be stuck to, but good visions grow and are flexible to meet changing times.

Visioning tips:

Each city is different. Build on your strengths and assets. Inspiration can come from local history, local art, local architecture and design, but also embrace new ideas and changing times.

Be mindful of your strengths weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Guard against complacency. Don’t let failures or missteps bog you down, learn and move on. Similarly don’t let success make you smug or lazy.

When elections come, pin down candidates on their views of the adopted vision. Do they see themselves as being responsible to making it happen or are they running to upend the vision?

Require participants to put your city first, ahead of personal agendas, petty feuds and egos. Look for servant leaders and avoid those who think they are the smartest people in the room, regardless of the room they are in.

Remind people immediately when they stray…ignoring problems allows them to fester and grow. Insist that the citizen’s vision be honored. Be willing to fight for it—and count on having to do so.

 

Brand your street/downtown/city

What is your city’s style, what’s its promise, what’s its vibe? Once you identify your brand identity: market, promote and relentlessly work to bring people downtown.

Embrace change, but make sure change respects your city and its history. You can’t stop change, but you can shape it. The best visions and brands embrace the past, the present and the future.

Establish a culture of “how may I help you” versus “watch me stop you”. This does not mean compromising standards but it does mean being business friendly and making an effort to land deals and make things happen. Developers and investors don’t mind tough standards but they do require a fair, predictable and timely process.

A vision begins getting old the moment it’s adopted. Every day it lingers its damaged, every day you don’t talk about it people will fail to understand it. A vision is a flame. It needs to be tended to and you need to constantly educate the community of its importance and rationale. A vision is your best economic development tool, it’s what you sell.

Events are important. They bring people to your city. They allow for people to meet, talk and gather.

Public spaces and placemaking are critical. But they must be safe and active while also allowing for quiet enjoyment.

Culture is important too.–the arts are critical. Residents seek them out and so do visitors and companies.

Make sure elected officials are champions of the vision. They need to see themselves as stewards with a responsibility to make the vision a reality and to protect the vision.

If there is no vision or if the vision is shoved off to the sidelines personal agendas will take over, the vacuum will be filled with politics.

You need a team. The right people on the bus in the right seats. And those people need to be able to work together well. That doesn’t mean they will always agree but it means that they are able to overcome differences, trust each other and feel passionate about the vision and mission. Once a decision is made move on; there will be times you agree and times when you disagree.

Positioning is critical. Where does your city fit in the local and regional landscape? Delray did not want to become Boca—as successful as Boca is. Boynton should not be Delray. But city’s also have to know what is possible. Boynton is pursuing an identity as a city friendly to millennials—with workforce housing, breweries, an arts scene and inexpensive space for new companies. It’s a solid strategy/position because it counters Delray which has become expensive and a place where it is difficult to win approvals.

A good place to start

SWOT Analysis-

  • An old fashioned tool, but a good place to begin.
  • Strengths—What are the best things about Lake Worth?
  • My take: Outsiders view…
  1. A whole lot of amenities for a small city. A waterfront park, a real downtown, great history, two main streets, human scale, charming cottages, relatively affordable, a waterfront golf course, a beautiful ocean front casino, a great pier, some great restaurants, walkable. Engaged community, abundance of creatives. Central location in county, near airport and other cities. Diverse and tolerant.
  • Weaknesses

 

  • My take:
  • Crime, vagrancy, lack of residential density to support local businesses and restaurants, lack of industry, derelict properties, sense that Lake Worth has been on the brink for a long time but never quite gets there, vacancies downtown. Financial struggles, aging infrastructure.
  • Opportunities

 

  • My take:
  • Great wealth east of the bridge that could be attracted to shop and dine downtown, a great “old Florida, laid back unpretentious downtown” that has tremendous appeal, historic buildings ripe for adaptive re-use, add downtown housing and small office, co-working, incubation, emphasis on artists, ability to attract people to close-in neighborhoods through some bold program that would clean up and stabilize neighborhoods and grow tax base.
  • Threats

 

  • My Take
  • Politics that might resist change or risk taking, infrastructure issues.

All in all, a terrific night…next week my trip to Naples 5th Avenue and the power of collaboration.

 

 

 

Moments…Define Leaders

Leaders not only seize the day, they seize the moments.

Leaders not only seize the day, they seize the important moments.

There are so many nuances to leadership that I’m not sure if it’s possible to fully grasp even a fraction of what there is to know about the subject.

But one thing effective leaders seem to grasp is the power of moments.

The best leaders seem to know when to act.

The best leaders seem to know when to compromise.

The best leaders seem to know when it’s the  best time to seize opportunity.

And the best leaders seem to know the precise moment to frame an issue and make a lasting impression.

We have seen it on a national level during moments of crisis when our country seems ready to learn and ready to move.

Today, is just such a moment and I’m hopeful that Washington can overcome partisanship and politics and do something positive in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando. A moment was missed after Newtown, Connecticut and many moments since then. Each time a moment is missed, people lose faith in their leaders.

On a local level, mayors and city council members also are given moments to seize on issues of far less gravity than what occurred in Orlando a few weeks back. But they are moments nonetheless and they aren’t leaders if they don’t recognize them and do something positive with them.

Often they come in the wake of pitched battles, which can be very personal when waged on a local level because we are often debating our neighbors and friends on sensitive issues.

In Delray, the recent iPic showdown provided a moment and so does the immediate battle over special events in Delray and the hiring of a city attorney.

The iPic moment was missed. There was an opportunity  to acknowledge and address the angst over change and development but also to embrace the opportunity to welcome a new company, jobs, investment and the cleaning up of a derelict property. Sadly, it was missed but there’s still a chance to grab an opportunity.

While certain approvals have been granted, it has been reported that a developer agreement that would actually enable the project to proceed remains elusive. Who is helping to make that happen? That’s a moment to be seized and a chance to make a project better by working together. Because once a legislative decision is made, it’s incumbent to make the most of it. Even if you– especially if you– as an individual elected official voted against something. Because unless it’s immoral, dangerous, illegal, discriminatory or unethical– once a decision is made  you are duty bound to accept it if we are to be a society that respects the decisions made by governing bodies. And if we don’t, then those decisions will never be accepted and we will never be able to rely on a governmental action.

As for special events, the city commission made a point. Actually, several: quality is better than quantity, where possible events should be contained and events come with a cost. The event producers get it and they should be credited with stepping up and redesigning and rethinking many long time events. This is the moment where you declare victory, thank people for compromising, credit them for proposing solutions and move on. There are bigger problems to deal with than Garlic Fest, which many would argue does not even constitute a problem.

Like heroin.

I attended a drug task force meeting last week led by the impressive Suzanne Spencer.

It was an extraordinary experience. In the room, were all the major front line players–treatment providers, business leaders, cops, firefighters, code enforcement personnel, hospital officials and legislative aides.

Folks, we are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. People are dying and it’s not just kids it’s middle age people too. Opioid and heroin Abuse is rampant and scary. And it’s here in our community–and elsewhere too as evidenced by the presence of top-level officials from Boynton Beach and Pompano Beach.

While the stats are depressing and terrifying and the stories of exploitation and death horrifying it was heartening to see grassroots leaders working together.

Information and advice is being shared, people on the front lines seem to be cooperating and they appear to be working on the problem on all ends–prevention, treatment and everything in between. They are leaders seizing a moment.

They deserve our prayers, support, hearts, minds and resources. There are opportunities in crisis and the very best leaders recognize the moment and heed the call.

Delray’s Next Great Street

Delray's Saltwater Brewery is the type of anchor that creates a sense of place.

Delray’s Saltwater Brewery is the type of anchor that creates a sense of place.

Tomorrow night, the Delray Beach City Commission will hear a presentation from a 30 plus member Task Force that spent the last year studying ways to rejuvenate the 4.1 mile Congress Avenue corridor.

I was privileged to serve as the Task Force chairman. It was a gratifying experience to see a large group come together and forge a vision.

The issue is personal to me and many others. It’s a continuation of an effort to get something going on Congress Avenue that dates back a decade to when a commission I served on rezoned and re-imagined the corridor in the wake of an announcement by Office Depot that they were abandoning their Delray Beach headquarters for new digs in Boca Raton.

As I told Lois Solomon of the Sun Sentinel last week http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/delray-beach/fl-delray-congress-avenue-20160303-story.html that’s a call a mayor never wants to get.

But we decided back then to make lemonade out of lemons and worked with the Florida Public Officials Design Institute at FAU to craft a plan for a large portion of the corridor. We moved forward and created a zoning district called MROC, which allowed for a mix of uses, greater densities, the maintaining of light industry and the addition of food, beverage, retail, office and a trolley system to connect workers on the Congress corridor to our downtown.

We were termed out, the Great recession hit and before you knew it a decade passed. This effort is aimed to kick start, update, refine and improve on the vision and subsequent efforts. And thanks to a talented, hardworking and devoted task force with a vast array of skill and experience we think we have something special.

The big ideas are “complete streets”, placemaking, millennial housing, entrepreneurial hubs, connectivity to the downtown, transit oriented development (to take advantage of a nearby Tri Rail station), open space, public art, expedited permitting and brand building to re-position Congress as “Delray’s next great street.”

Delray has a rich history of making key strategic investments in streetscapes that then transform neighborhoods and create value while attracting significant private investment that ends up far outweighing the public’s initial stake. We believe, once the city commits and sends a message that they are serious about attracting investment that the private sector will respond.

Local examples include:

East Atlantic Avenue—a beautification project in the 90s funded by the Decade of Excellence bond spurred the initial revitalization of the central business district. This investment, followed by the 2001 Downtown Master Plan, created one of the finest downtowns in Florida, if not America.

West Atlantic Avenue-The Downtown Master Plan and the CRA’s colossal and ongoing investment and long term focus on the gateway is beginning to bear fruit with projects such as Atlantic Grove, Uptown, the new Fairfield Inn and small business growth on NW/SW 5th Avenue.

US 1—Another result of the Downtown Master Plan which only recently was completed. The beautification and narrowing of US 1 has converted a tired, high speed, unsafe highway into a neighborhood that is aesthetically pleasing with high property values and intriguing business and residential opportunities.

Pineapple Grove—An early 2000s beautification project that was jointly funded by the city, CRA and property owners, Second Avenue has become a beautiful street alive with restaurants, a growing services industry, an emerging fashion industry, food, art and residential uses. The highlight of the street prior was an old tire store and a self-serve car wash.

We believe a similar effort/investment along Congress will yield results in terms of vibrancy, private sector investment, quality of life, tax base, jobs and a sense of place.

In order for cities to be truly successful and to generate the tax base and economic activity needed to

be sustainable, they need multiple districts to perform well.

Delray Beach has been highly successful transforming its downtown into a nationally renowned

destination. The city has also done tremendous work in several neighborhoods and commercial

districts.

But in many ways, Congress Avenue remains the key piece to long term success.

Congress Avenue’s potential for job creation, increased tax base, business incubation, workforce and affordable housing, transit-oriented development and place making should make the 4.1 mile corridor a top priority for public and private sector investment and attention.

The Task Force believes the corridor is a natural complement to the city’s celebrated downtown and in many ways we see a synergistic relationship between our urban core and what we hope will be a dynamic and successful corridor.

Delray Beach has proven time and again, that place making investments yield tangible and intangible returns.

Here’s hoping Congress Avenue becomes the next success story. Our next great street.

A Woman Of Grace

Julia Kadel

Julia Kadel

I believe in serendipity.

So I was having a sad Tuesday—nothing fatal or even particularly meaningful—just the blah’s when I got a Facebook notification from my friend and neighbor Julia Kadel.

Julia and Jeff live around the block from us and their oldest son is best friends with one of our boys. They grew up together. He’s family and we love him.

So just as I was taking a break and reading more bad news about the Middle East over a boring sandwich, I clicked on the Facebook link and saw a link to a video that you can see in this post.

Take a few minutes and watch. I promise you it’s worth it.

Ok, pretty moving wasn’t it? And impressive too.

Julia and Jeff are the founders of The Miracle League, which last year celebrated a decade of ensuring that all children can play baseball regardless of their ability. For over 10 years, the Miracle League Association has made it possible for children all over the country with physical and mental disabilities to achieve the same dream as their healthy peers – to play ball.

The kids play on a cushioned synthetic turf to help prevent injuries, and the league has wheelchair accessible dugouts and a completely flat surface to eliminate any barriers to the wheelchair bound or visually impaired. Thanks to the Kadel family, all kids in our community can play the great game of baseball.

A decade ago, the Kadel’s approached the City Commission with a heartfelt and passionate plea to help them create a Miracle League field in Delray Beach. I was mayor at the time and all of us had tears in our eyes when Julia got done speaking. We gave them some seed money and told them we would love to see the Miracle League build a field at Miller Park. Within months I was throwing out the first pitch. The league has been going strong ever since.

With help from private donors, scores of volunteers and assistance from the county and other groups Julia, Jeff, their kids and others have made it happen and brought joy to children and families that simply cannot be measured.

At the heart of the effort is Julia…always Julia.

She’s filled with passion, boundless energy and goodness. She’s just a beautiful person.

A woman of grace.

I stole that term from the Bethesda Hospital Foundation which recently awarded Julia that coveted honor. How fitting– because she epitomizes the word.

Whenever the chips are down or there is need in this community or beyond, the Kadel’s are there to volunteer. When Tropical Storm Sandy devastated Julia’s native New Jersey, she and her family packed the SUV and drove off to help for weeks at a time. Her giving isn’t passive and it’s not for show. It’s from the heart and she’s an example for all of us.

We talk a lot about being a “village” in Delray but frankly sometimes I open my Facebook app with apprehension because parts of the social media landscape can be a sewer full of lies, garbage, petty complaints, threats and various forms of adult bullying. I ignore it. You should too. But social media more to offer;  it’s filled with good stuff too.

I can connect with my cousin in California, my sister in law in Pittsburgh, my high school friends, my favorite elementary school teacher and people that I have worked with throughout my career and it’s a joy to have even a tenuous connection—to see their kids, their dogs, their vacations etc.

And sometimes on a blah Tuesday, a beautiful soul such as Julia can “tag” you and share a video that will make your heart swell because there are people like her in the world doing really good things for other people. Lord knows there’s enough people doing harm in the world.

Watch the video. Give to the Miracle League. Brighten someone else’s day. It’s easy to make it rain in someone else’s life, but it’s also easy to make others smile and much more meaningful to roll up your sleeves and help those who need you.

Thanks, Julia. You are goodness personified and a community treasure.

Visit http://miracleleaguepalmbeachcounty.com/ for more information or to get involved.