Threads

“If you don’t know why something is working when it is, you won’t know how to fix it when it breaks.” – Craig Groeschel

 

There’s a lot of writing about cities that refers to something called the  “civic fabric.”

Civic fabric refers to the framework/structure/material that make up communities.

The best leaders add to the fabric—they strengthen, invest in and tend to the framework that make places special.

The opposite of leadership is tearing at the fabric.

When you start to pull threads, you risk fraying the material and risking the structure.

For five years, in my opinion, we have torn viciously at the fabric—and as a result 30 plus years of municipal progress, civic pride and the marrow that makes our community special is at risk.

It doesn’t give me or others who feel the same way I do pleasure to write those sentences. And speaking truth to power certainly hasn’t been easy. Those who do pay a price…civic projects, causes, businesses, non-profits and friends have been hurt because they have not gone along to get along.

That’s OK.

It’s important to be able to look in the mirror and say you have stood up for your beliefs.

But the temptation is there to capitulate or just throw in the towel.

After all, you might be granted approvals for your projects or initiatives, instead of seeing them litigated, delayed and ridiculed—even if you have a contract (Matchpoint), won an RFP (iPic) or played by the city’s rules (Atlantic Crossing).

My advice: don’t.

Don’t give up.

Continue to stand up, speak your piece and move forward.

If your favorite candidate won the election last night, congratulations.

Local elections can be brutal affairs.

The arguments are personal because we see the combatants around town—we live in each other’s neighborhoods, go to the same stores and restaurants and know each other’s friends and supporters.

But if you won, the work is just beginning.

Serving in local elected office—or any elected office—is a privilege and an honor. As is winning an election. But all it means is that you have a chance to serve and an opportunity to make a difference.

You’re on first base, you still have to get home. And we hope you do, because if you succeed the community succeeds. We all win.

If you lost last night, it’s hard.

I’ve backed many candidates who have lost. It happens. I’ve backed a few winners too.

If you backed someone you believe in, take pride in that. Because something as precious as your hometown should not be about picking winners, it should be about backing someone you believe in.

I believe in Ryan Boylston and was pleased to see a talented young leader with ideas and aspirations for Delray win. Our newspaper endorsed Adam Frankel and he won over an impressive debut from Eric Camacho who I hope runs again. We are also pleased to see Bill Bathurst, a lifelong Delray resident, get elected unopposed. Bill is a very nice man with a lot of ideas and a tremendous passion for Delray.

Many—myself included– were disappointed to see Jim Chard lose, but we want to see Shelly Petrolia succeed as our next mayor because cities do better when mayors succeed.

For those who are disappointed, my advice is to play the long game and stick to your beliefs, because over time it pays off.

My hope is that the new mayor and commissioners are servant leaders who engage, listen, unite, compromise and learn on the job.

Because the fabric begins to fray when favorites are played and rules are ignored, bent, spindled and mutilated to reward friends or punish enemies.

The fabric tears when a city’s volunteers and staff feel put upon, disrespected and disparaged; when City Hall becomes a place you fear rather than a trusted partner.

We are a city in need of healing. That’s my opinion and that’s why I backed who I backed.

That doesn’t change regardless of outcome.

To those who don’t feel that we are in need of healing, you ought to talk to the volunteers in this town or the employees who often can’t afford to speak out so they either remain silent or vote with their feet and leave us for other cities.

That said, I vowed after this election to take a break from some of the local sites on social media regardless of the outcome.

While I’ve never participated in most of them, I did look at one in particular run by good people. But when I found myself arguing with someone I grew up, I decided that it was a sign to cease and desist.

It’s not the folks I’ve never (or barely met) that bother me—how can they because we don’t know each other?

It’s when the people you do know start buying into a narrative that you know in your bones is false, that you need to step away because it’s no good for anyone.

I’m beginning to believe that social media is tearing at the fabric of our community.

I want to revisit this idea of civic fabric, because when you start to pull threads you don’t know which one will trigger the collapse.

Is it losing the St. Patrick’s Day Parade after 50 years? Is it telling every craft brewery to look elsewhere?
Is it calling the CEO of a publicly traded company who wants to come here that he’s an “amateur?”

Is it referring to the founder of Old School Square as “that woman?” Or is it telling your police officers and firefighters that they are replaceable?

I’m not sure. But I know those are examples of pulling threads—ripping at the fabric.

I want to see leaders who lift us up. That’s their primary job, even when (maybe especially when) we see things differently.

 

 

 

Decision Time

Well…we did it again.

We managed to go through an election season without a substantive debate on the issues or a respectful discussion of ideas.

We did however manage to lie, label, disrespect, disparage and sling vitriol at each other with great fervor. And we wonder why people won’t run for public office…

Still, there are some emerging trends we should pay attention too if our goal is to be a stronger community.  One in particular that I think we ought to pay closer attention to are the attacks on a candidate’s supporters and their motives.

This year it has been open season on those who endorse or contribute financially to campaigns. But what if your goal is not to corrupt, but to support someone you believe in? What if your motive is good government? Are we that cynical that we preclude those motives as a possibility. As for economic interests, are we that myopic to label donors selfish just because they may wish to invest in our community and they support candidates that they believe will be reasonable or at least follow the local rules?

That said, I want to share with you a list of some (NOT ALL) of my civic heroes. Many of whom were subject to cynical remarks on social media this  cycle by people– who for the most part–  we’ve never seen serve our community. If they weren’t attacked,  many were dismissed as being unimportant as if endorsements and support don’t matter. I disagree. Here’s why:

Frances Bourque-words can’t describe Frances’ impact on Delray Beach. The founder of Old School Square, lifetime achievement award winner, historic preservation icon. Her vision gave us a place to gather and with it a sense of community.

Tom Lynch—three term mayor, School Board Chair, founding chairman of the CRA, lifetime achievement award winner, accomplished businessman and visionary. We recovered our civic pride as a result of his leadership.  Delray won its first All America City Award and was named the “Best Run Town in Florida” on his watch.

Doak Campbell-former mayor and commissioner. The Atlantic Avenue Task Force, Visions 2000, the creation of the CRA and the establishment of the first historic districts happened during Doak’s era.

Jay Alperin-former mayor and commissioner. 10 plus years service on the city commission. Past chair of Old School Square and the Chamber.

David Schmidt—former mayor and commissioner, president of Sister Cities, long time contributor to the Morikami Museum and someone who I sat next to on the commission for three years. David was a terrific mayor with a model temperament.

Yvonne Odom—civic icon who was the first African American to attend Atlantic High. Mentor to hundreds of young people for decades.

Rita Ellis—my successor as mayor. Past Chamber Chair, past chair of the Downtown Development Authority, longtime Beach Property Owners Association leader and successful business owner.

Bill Branning-two time chair of Old School Square, one of the best CRA commissioners ever, Vice chair of the Chamber, successful businessman and dedicated volunteer. Bill is devoted to all things Delray.

Cathy Balestriere– Past chair of the chamber, CRA commissioner, driving force behind Crane’s Beach House and growing Delray as a “destination.” Active in scores of Delray non-profits.

Scott Porten—a dreaded developer, who took a drive through car wash and gave us Citywalk with places like Brule and took a troubled area of town and gave us The Estuary. Scott is a devoted volunteer serving on City boards, chairing Old School Square and the Chamber and helping to lead the Beach Property Owners for years. He loves this city and gives back constantly. You WANT developers with Scott’s level of concern and passion for the city. Because they care about what they build.

Bill Morris—another developer who chairs Old School Square, supports FAU, the Boys and Girls Club and loves this city with all his heart.

Joe Gillie—longtime president of Old School Square who helped us win all three All America City Awards. Joe is Delray. Period.

Fran Marincola—longtime proprietor of the landmark Caffe Luna Rosa, 19 years on the Parking Management Advisory Board, past chair of the DDA, past chair of the Sandoway House Nature Center and longtime BPOA leader, Fran has a heart of gold. He’s devoted to Delray.

Jestena Boughton—historic preservationist and owner of the historic Colony Hotel, Jestena is a delight who has done so much for our town.

Susan Ruby—former City Attorney, leader in Del Ida and a personal touchstone of mine.

Ann Gannon– Palm Beach County’s Tax Collector, former state legislator, devoted to Delray and good government.

Chuck Halberg– I don’t know anyone who loves Delray more or who gives more than Chuck.

Dave Henninger–gave so much to this community especially the Achievement Center, Chamber, Lake Ida neighborhood etc.

David Randolph—long time city commissioner and mentor to so many.

Zack Staghn–decades of service to the community, mentor to countless leaders and devoted civil rights champion.

The list of people and organizations involved in this year’s campaign goes on and on. Amazing young leaders: Connor Lynch, Craig Spodak, Emanuel Dupree Jackson Jr., Lee Cohen, Sgt. Gary Ferreri, Rob Long, Kate Volman, Jason Bregman, Joe Collard, Rob Posillico, Amanda Perna, Matt Shipley, Steve Mackey and more.  Neighborhood leaders from WARC, the Northwest/Southwest Alliance, Del Ida, Seacrest, etc. etc.  Unions representing Fire, Police, general employees–the people who protect and serve us.  Organizations ranging from the realtors association to the Human Rights Council and more. Stellar long time contributors such as Fred Fetzer, Jon Levinson, Gary Eliopoulos, Nancy Dockerty, Bob Currie, Bill Nix, Zack Straghn, Cathy Weil, Shirl Fields, Mark Sauer, Suzanne Spencer, Joycelyn Patrick, Rick Caster, Christina Morrison, Bruce Bastian, Ingrid Kennemer and more.
Many of these people and organizations have been labeled: special interests, good old boys, the Establishment and worse.
But they are the people and the groups that are Delray. They represent the past, the present and the  future of our city.
They are the volunteers devoted to this community. The ones who give their time, their talents and their treasure to this town.
They back Jim Chard for Mayor. Most of the above also back Ryan Boylston for commissioner. (Fire backed his opponent, Police stayed out).
Can they all be wrong?
I don’t think so.
They know Delray. They care about Delray.
They’re not special interests. They are the backbone of this City.
And like me they want change. Unity not division. Progress not indecision and infighting. Leadership not bullying.
Tomorrow we have a chance to help Delray.
It’s Election Day.
Please vote.

Leadership Is The Most Important Currency

Tina Turner was right.

A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine sent me an article about one of my favorite subjects: leadership.

 

There are a lot of articles and books about leadership and to be honest a great many of them miss the mark, but this particular article was one of the best I’ve ever read on the subject and I feel the need to tell you about it especially as voters go to the polls in Delray and Boca on March 13.

 

Basically, the author argues that there are two styles of leadership: a “hero” and a “host.”

 

The hero leader takes everything on by herself; he or she assumes all responsibilities and wants to be seen as the savior; the hero per se of the story.

 

Inevitably, hero leaders fail, because nobody– regardless of talent, intellect and energy level–can do it all. No man or woman, as the saying goes is an island.

 

Once the hero slips, we are quick to abandon them as yet another in a long line of people who failed to live up to their promises.

 

So what happens? Well, invariably we look for a new and better hero and the cycle continues building cynicism every step of the way.

 

We have all seen the hero phenomenon play out in our lives, whether it’s a hot shot CEO who is going to come in and turn it all around or a candidate who is going to get under the hood and by sheer force of will fix what everybody else has been unable to mend.

 

It’s the story of American politics at every level of government.

 

Which is why so many of us are disgusted right around this time of year as we cope with a barrage of expensive and slick campaign ads telling us how (fill in the blank) is going to fight for the people and fix everything from crime and taxes to schools and  traffic.

 

But the crop of heroes will fail. It’s inevitable.

 

So are we relegated to an endless cycle of failure, frustration and phonies? Or is there a better way?

Fortunately, there is a better and much more effective leadership style—that of the host, not the hero.

 

The host is a collaborator, a motivator, a convener and an alchemist who brings people and resources together to tackle problems, meet challenges and seize opportunities.

 

He or she doesn’t try to do it alone and does not pretend to have all the answers.

 

Rather, they believe in the wisdom of the crowd and in hosting conversations and problem solving exercises that really and truly move the needle.

 

I happen to think this is the best leadership approach possible. Not only does it involve people, but it challenges them to think and work together. And when they do come up with solutions , there is automatic buy-in because they were part of the process. They were engaged, someone bothered to ask them what they thought and trusted in their abilities to figure things out.

 

Can this work on a local level?

Absolutely, Delray Beach is a prime example of a community that re-invented itself through visioning, and extensive and ongoing community engagement beginning with the Atlantic Avenue Task Force in the mid-80s, Visions 2000 in the late 80s and 90s and through the Citizen’s Downtown Master Planning Process in the 2000s. And then we stopped.

 

We get in trouble when we veer away from that formula either through failing to engage residents or having elected officials think they are heroes who can do it all, and let us know about it later.

 

Can it work on the national level?

Well, that’s a trickier beast to deal with. But perhaps it could… if presidents saw themselves (and more importantly) we viewed them as above partisanship and if somehow they could lead by “hosting” rather than dictating policies. But this only works if Congress can get over its hyper-partisanship and remember they are there to do a job and get things done for Americans; a simple concept that seems to be hopelessly lost at the moment.

 

Regardless, next time you see a mayor beating his chest, or a gubernatorial candidate promising to save Florida remember the host and hero dynamic and ask yourself when the last time someone succeeded without being a host.

Campaign Rhetoric & Truth

Two years have passed since the Task Force completed it’s report.

Ahhh campaigns.

Or should I say oy…. campaigns?
We are at the height of the silly season with 8 days left until Election Day in Delray and the insults, innuendo and flat out lies are flying.
I thought I’d delve into two whoppers but first a disclaimer: I’ve endorsed Jim Chard for mayor (not a shocker he’s got a slew of endorsements including from six other past mayors) and Ryan Boylston. So if you need to stop reading here that’s ok. We understand.

The two campaign barbs I want to explore relate to new urbanism and the Congress Avenue Task Force.
One mail piece attacked Mr. Chard for having a “new urbanist” agenda as if  that was some sort of hideous malady. So I thought I’d clarify.
Here’s the definition of new urbanism: “New Urbanism is a planning and development approach based on the principles of how cities and towns had been built for the last several centuries: walkable blocks and streets, housing and shopping in close proximity, and accessible public spaces. In other words, New Urbanism focuses on human scaled urban design. 

Have mercy…who would want that?!
Perhaps, sprawl –which promotes traffic and uses more resources (which is bad for the environment)– would be a better approach?
We think not.

Folks, Delray has long embraced the concepts of new urbanism. It’s been the strategy and game plan and it’s achieved some pretty impressive results.
Someone either wasn’t paying attention to the past 30 years or they really think sprawl and large seas of asphalt parking lots are charming.
Which is a nice segue to Congress Avenue.

I was asked to chair the Congress Avenue Task Force a few years back and we assembled three dozen volunteers who worked for the better part of a year to produce a plan for the important corridor.
We were proud of our work and thought we produced a viable and exciting plan to create jobs, housing and tax base on what has been an underperforming corridor.
We wanted to create ‘Delray’s next great street.’
The commission “accepted” the report (whatever that means) praised it publicly and then let it gather dust on a shelf.
It’s not wise to waste the efforts of volunteers especially when one of our top recommendations was to get moving right away.

Sigh…
Anyway, one of the campaign mailers attacked Mr. Chard for the plan, unfair on many levels because while Jim was a major contributor, he was part of a larger team.

I find it poor form to attack the work of volunteers especially when you don’t bother to attend a single meeting and especially when you are misrepresenting the work of the task force for political gain.
At no point did the task force recommend narrowing Congress Avenue. We did talk about making the road safer, more efficient and more aesthetically pleasing. There was also discussion on creating a job creating destination instead of a speedway to jobs in Boca and Boynton Beach.

A member of the task force called me expressing disgust at the mailer.
It’s just politics I said.
But I was quickly corrected: “well it’s unacceptable to throw volunteers under the bus by lying about what we recommended.”
Yes it is.
But that’s where we are these days.
And it’s why citizens tune out and why they don’t trust politicians.
Vote accordingly.
But please vote. It’s important.

And the Oscar Goes To…

As we look toward the Academy Awards this weekend, I thought we’d take a break from our regular programming to talk movies. My friend Fran Marincola, founder of Caffe Luna Rosa in Delray Beach, is a movie expert. I am– admittedly– a wannabe; I love the movies but struggle to find the time to see as many as I’d  like. Fran sees them all.  Our friendship started with an argument 18 years ago over parking in which we talked (loudly) until both of our phones died. We charged up and resumed a 20 year debate on a whole range of topics. We even argue when we agree. It’s weird and also good natured. We argue via the phone, in person and via text message. My favorite quote from Fran is: “Don’t interrupt me, when I’m interrupting you.”

I’ve learned a lot and he has terrific stories. In that spirit, I reblog a piece that we just published in The Delray and Boca Newspaper. Here’s a look at our picks from the upcoming Academy Awards. in a future edition we will list our top 100 movies of all time, which we have been working on for several years with a lot of loud discussion.

 

Here is the list of 2018 Oscar nominations and our picks:

 

Best Picture:

“Call Me by Your Name”

“Darkest Hour”

“Dunkirk”

“Get Out”

“Lady Bird”

“Phantom Thread”

“The Post”

“The Shape of Water”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Jeff’s pick: My friend Fran is enamored of Three Billboards. I liked it too. But…I think the Academy is going to go for something more inspiring and so I’m going with the Darkest Hour.

Fran: The Shape of Water will win, how Jeff can’t see that is astounding to me.

 

Lead Actor:

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”

Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”

Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”

Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Jeff’s pick: Gary Oldman became Churchill. I don’t think Fran will disagree. But will the Academy reward the retiring Daniel Day-Lewis and why is he retiring anyway?

Fran’s pick: Finally, we agree. Oldman will win. We haven’t agreed on anything since 2002. Mark this down.

Lead Actress:

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”

Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”

Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Jeff’s pick: Fran will like Frances because they have same first name. I thought she was good, but one note grumpy. Give me nuance and give me romance and so the envelope will go to Sally Hawkins.

Fran’s pick: Frances McDormand is a lock. And not because we share a name. She was the best period.

 

Supporting Actor:

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”

Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”

Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Jeff’s pick: Again, Fran’s love for Three Billboards will lead him to pick either Woody Harrelson or Sam Rockwell. Will they split the vote and tip it to Christopher Plummer who saved his film by stepping in for Kevin Spacey? Willem Dafoe should win. Sam Rockwell will win.

Fran’s pick: Sam Rockwell will win. Jeff needs a Plummer to unclog his taste.

Supporting Actress:

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”

Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Jeff’s pick: I loved Lady Bird, Mudbound was great but hard to watch, but Allison Janney stole I, Tonya which was hard to do because Margot Robbie was sublime. Fran will be on thin ice here if he doesn’t agree (pun intended). There’s just no skating around that Janney is the best pick.

Fran pick: Allison Janney will win. We agree on two things–I’m stunned.

 

Director:

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan

“Get Out,” Jordan Peele

“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig

“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson

“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro

Jeff’s pick: Please give it to Jordan Peele. Although Greta Gerwig is also deserving. Still, it’s a rare film indeed that wins best picture but not director. Since my pick for best pic is not even nominated, I will go out on a limb and go with Mr. Peele.

Fran’s pick: Guillermo Del Toro, the film got 14 nominations! Jeff ignores this because his knowledge of film is limited to Caddyshack and Stripes. And he thought Lady Bird was about Lady Bird Johnson.

 

Enjoy the weekend and see you on the red carpet.

 

 

 

Things We Loved In February…

The brand new (and gorgeous Arts Warehouse).

Mighty Max Delivers for the Arts Garage

E Street Band Drummer, Rock N’ Roll Hall of Famer and proud Delray resident Max Weinberg sold out two shows at the Arts Garage in February to raise money for the organization.

Max Weinberg’s Jukebox is an ingenious idea. Drawing from over 300 songs from the 60s and 70s, Max and his incredible band (three quarters of New Jersey’s Weeklings) play music that the crowd wants to hear from monitors scrolling song titles throughout the venue.

The performance was amazing with songs ranging from The Beatles and Rolling Stones to Steppenwolf and of course Bruce Springsteen. It was a party—with people dancing, singing and just having a great time.

After years behind the kit, Max proves to be a great band leader engaging the crowd, talking about his love for Delray, the Arts Garage and Haagen Daz chocolate ice cream. He even sprinkled in some yiddishisms (always a treat).

After an energetic two shows, he eagerly greeted fans backstage.

We’ve gotten to know Max over the past year and have shown him the sights of his new hometown. What impressed us the most was that he dived into all of the city’s websites reading master plans and visioning documents in an effort to understand the city. He’s a big fan of Delray Beach, especially our community’s support for the arts and culture.

He also happens to be a truly nice guy who has lived an amazing life and is generous with his time and stories.

Max is a powerful drummer with a great feel for the classic songs of the rock era. If you have a chance, run don’t walk to see the Jukebox on their tour.

P.S. we were treated to two songs by Max’s daughter, Ali Rogin, a journalist for ABC News. She did a great version of “Somebody to Love” and “Different Drum”, sounding every bit as good as Grace Slick and Linda Ronstadt.

Kudos to Arts Garage Board Chair Chuck Halberg and President Marjorie Waldo for pulling this special fundraiser off and for doing incredible work at an important local arts venue.

Happy 70th Rotary

Bexley Trail Community Park is now 106 trees richer thanks to some pretty awesome members of our community.

Community Greening teamed up with the Delray Beach Rotary Club and added 70 cypress trees and 36 slash pines to the landscape. The Rotary Club generously donated all of the cypress trees for the event, and volunteers from The Young Professionals Association of Delray Beach came out to help plant the trees.

“The Rotary Club of Delray Beach is proud to have been invited by Community Greening to improve Delray Beach’s ecosystem with the planting of 70 trees,” said Rotary Club President John Fischer.

The Delray Rotary is also celebrating its 70th birthday this year.

I was unable to attend their birthday event, which featured some past mayors but bought a few seats and I hope others had a chance to celebrate this outstanding group which has done so much for Delray Beach.

 

 

Negroni’s Trio

Speaking of the Arts Garage, we enjoyed a great show by Grammy nominated Negroni’s Trio this month.

The jazz band features a father and son duo from Puerto Rico, a bassist from Venezuela and two talented singers from Miami.

It was a joyous evening of stellar playing and singing.

The group mentioned three times during the show that the Arts Garage was their favorite venue in the world. Yep, the world.

They have good taste, catch them when they return to Delray.

Losing a community legend

A few weeks back we wrote about Vince Canning, who received a well-deserved proclamation from the City Commission recognizing a lifetime of service to the people of Delray.

Sadly, Mr. Canning passed in February, shortly after receiving the honor.

We send our condolences to Mr. Canning’s friends and family.

As someone wrote on social media, Vince Canning was part of the fabric of this community. Indeed, he was.

A very strong thread who touched a lot of lives; mine included.

 

Delray Beach Open

Congratulations to the Delray Beach Open.

The tennis event crowned a new star—20 year-old American Francis Tiafoe won his first ATP event—and set a new attendance record.

We enjoyed a few sessions and it was really great to see so many top 20 players and past legends including John McEnroe entertain local fans.

Estimated local economic impact: $17 million.

Arts Warehouse Debut

Congratulations to the Delray CRA for its successful launch of the Arts Warehouse near Third and Third.

The space is absolutely amazing and worth a visit. It will be a community asset for years to come (if the legislature and local politico’s leave the CRA alone) while also providing low cost studio space for local artists—many of whom get pushed out by gentrification.

Manager Jill Brown and her team have done a terrific job and we heard lots of oohs and ahs…as people toured the facility.

It was also nice to see Old School Square staff and board members in attendance evidence of Delray’s collaborative spirit. A rising arts scene lifts all cultural boats.

 

 

Personal Note

A lovely and astute reader called and asked why I didn’t include Old School Square in last month’s things we love feature.

Well, that’s a good question. So let me first say that I will always love Old School Square.

This list is a short list of things we love this month not a definitive list of all we love. We like to think we have a big heart and there’s simply not enough time to list everything we love every month.

But rest assured, Old School Square will always be first in our hearts and minds.

 

 

 

 

 

13 Years

Jerrod Miller

Thirteen years ago today, Jerrod Miller, 16, was shot and killed outside of the Delray Full Service Center by a rookie Delray Beach police officer.

Jerrod was killed exactly 7 years to the day before Trayvon Martin, 17, was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida sparking a national conversation that still boils.

In the ensuing years, we’ve read about Freddie Gray, Ferguson, Missouri and a whole slew of incidents that have engulfed young men of color, police departments, communities, schools and our nation’s soul.

I’m not sure how many people are thinking of Jerrod Miller today in Delray Beach where we seem to be focused on gutter politics and whether this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a 50 year tradition will be the last because of a few myopic elected officials who don’t understand what it means to be a steward.

All of those things are important—who serves in office and whether community traditions continue or are shooed way.

But they also pale when viewed through the prism of a basic question; whether we are a good place for children and families to live.

Jerrod was my daughter’s age in 2005. I think of that often, every time I see my first born and marvel at the young woman she has become. She’s a teacher now, but back then she was a student at Atlantic High School and the kids were shaken about what happened the night Jerrod was shot. Samantha was given the opportunity to grow up, go to college and launch a career. Jerrod didn’t have that opportunity. And I think about him all the time.

For 13 years, I have had recurring dreams about a young man I never knew in life. I saw him only once—in a casket, at his funeral—at an 7th Day Adventist Church in our northwest neighborhood. I met and admired his pastor. I knew his father—not the biological opportunist who showed up after the shooting, but the man who Jerrod knew as his dad.  And I met his grandmother who sat quietly with us in a  room at Old School Square during our race relations workshops.

Ironically, I was at Mar-a-Lago, at a charity fundraiser the night of the shooting. I had no clue that life would change for so many with a middle of the night phone call that informed me of the news.

When police shootings occur, a dynamic occurs—a vortex of media, lawyers, union reps, police investigators, prosecutors, media, activists, hate mail, threats, anger, anxiety and crushing sadness.

Absolutely crushing sadness.

As a mayor, you become isolated—from your colleagues on the commission and from everyone really. It’s a lonely place and there is no playbook to reference.

I think of that lonely place when I see things happen—in places like Ferguson, Baltimore and yes Parkland because I know there’s hurting families, anxious policymakers and sad police officers.

In my case, I was walled off from the officer because of the investigation but I felt for him and his family. I tried not to pass judgment, I tried to think of him as a 23 year-old man. And when my son hit that age, I realized just how young that is. Jerrod was shot while allegedly driving erratically near a school dance. It all happened in a matter of seconds.

I’ve always been a fan of the Delray Beach Police Department and public safety professionals in general. I rode with them as a young reporter, got to know them as people and marveled at the complexity of their jobs and how well they performed. There is no Delray Beach as we know it, without their stellar work. They made it safe to live, work and play here but that challenge is ongoing and we must strive to be the kind of city that protects those who protect and serve us. So when the narrative emerged after the shooting of a rogue police department, I knew from personal experience that it wasn’t true. Of course, there was a fraught history–and that matters. Like America itself, Delray has struggled with race. But we were hard at work on the issue. We may have been imperfect, slow at times, blind to things but there were sincere efforts in our city to bridge the divide–to talk, engage and work together. Bridges had been built, relationships had formed and they were real and we would rely on them in the tough days ahead.

I also felt deeply for the family, friends and teachers who were shocked by the shooting.

We were isolated from the family as a result of the investigation, the inevitable litigation and other factors including an inquest, a rare event that was ordered in the case. I did spend time with several of Jerrod’s teachers who came to see me racked with emotion. We also spent a lot of time in the community answering questions, listening and praying.

But all during this time I was also thinking about another young man—Sherrod, Jerrod’s twin brother.

I asked  officers and community members for any information on him. I was told he was devastated and angry. Who could fault him. I’m sure there was confusion too.

I never did get to connect with Sherrod at the time. But I never stopped thinking about him.

I was saddened to read newspaper headlines a few years later detailing trouble that he had found.

He ended up doing time.

But a few years ago, he re-emerged. I got a call from an officer/friend who said Sherrod wanted to meet me and a few other  police officers including the chief. He wanted to see us. He had something to say.

And so we met, quietly in an office at City Hall. I was nervous about the meeting but anxious to see him too.

I’ve never written about this part of the story before but it’s important to share.

When Sherrod walked in the first thing you noticed was his size—6’5” and strong.

He was heavily tattooed and clearly someone who had seen a lot in his short life.  And yet there was something about him too that I just can’t describe–maybe the word is vulnerable.

When he saw us, the emotions were raw. He shook hands with all of us but it quickly fell into an embrace and a few tears.

It was very powerful.

For all of us.

Seasoned police officers who have seen it all and then some. Officers who had been called to the scene 13 years ago and were  very moved by what they saw.

We talked and talked some more. A lot poured out. Prison. Anger. Anger at Delray police. The searing pain of losing a brother. A twin; someone who feels a part of you. And a realization that the cycle has to stop. If at all possible, the anger had to be let go. Sherrod wanted to apologize to us, for things he had said and done. We told him it was OK and not necessary. We just wanted him to live a decent life. We were sorry that we didn’t help him and he needed a lot of help.

We vowed to help Sherrod get started again.  And we did. A job. Support. Advice.

I’d like to say that we all grew close. For awhile we texted, his preferred method of communication– with me anyway. Then the texts bounced back. His number must have changed.

And we lost touch.

He got arrested again. You can look up the details.

I keep tabs via the Internet.

On this, a sad anniversary, I pray he finds peace. I pray we all do.

I share these stories on the anniversary because I believe that it’s important that others know what happened on Feb. 26, 2005 in the village by the sea.

At the time, many felt Delray would never be the same. That’s how big this was. But I find we move on, maybe not the families, maybe not the direct participants, but society moves on.

There have been other violent deaths in Delray since. There have been young people gunned down by other young people right here in our community. And life goes on, as I suppose it should and must.

But my hope is that with every loss we would learn something that makes us better people and a better, closer community.

Until that happens, we will continue to fray–inch by inch– until  eventually we break.

 

 

Parkland

Editor’s note: The sadness in South Florida is palpable. We watched coverage of funeral services in Boca Raton and Parkland filled with the tears of parents, students, teachers and friends left grief stricken. We are all touched and connected in more ways than we know. On our social media feeds we saw people we knew whose children were friends with those lost in the mass shooting. A man I used to coach in Little League many, many years ago, shared his grief over losing a friend of his son that he once coached. The circle. Connections. Humanity. We hope we find ways to act and to connect. I hope this is the tipping point. The students left behind at Douglas High are resolved to make lasting and positive change. I wouldn’t bet against them.

When my daughter told us she wanted to be a teacher we were proud and delighted.

We are a family that cherishes education—especially public education.

Our daughter Sam went to public elementary schools, a private middle school in Delray that we felt would help her with a learning disability and graduated from Atlantic High School. She went to Palm Beach State College and earned an associate’s degree before heading off to the University of South Florida to study Exceptional Student Education.

USF has a great program because Sam spent a whole lot of time in the classroom working with ESE students before she was hired to teach in Hillsborough County. She started her career with a fair amount of experience and exposure as a result of internships and student teaching. She knew what she was signing up for. And as a student who overcame a learning disability, she had the heart for students who are exceptional.

I’m not sure that our family knew as much as she did despite our long term involvement in education as volunteers and parents.

I never thought that teaching was a dangerous profession. I knew it was a difficult and stressful job, but I never felt that my daughter would be in danger working in a public school.

How naïve, I was.

Although it shouldn’t be considered dangerous and I don’t think she’s unsafe, we are now well aware that there are dangers.

School shootings—mass shootings—massacres have been a part of our national conversation since Columbine in 1999.

“How Many Times”, blared the headline in the New York Post just above a picture of a crying mother and her daughter outside of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in picturesque and upscale Parkland where 17 people were murdered by a deranged former student carrying an AR-15 assault rifle.

Since Sandy Hook in December 2012 (still the worse mass school shooting in U.S. history with 20 dead) there have been 273 school shootings in America. Twelve of those shootings are considered “mass” events. Overall, 473 people have been shot and 112 people have been killed.

According to the New York Times there are 7 school shooting incidents on average every month in America.

So yes, I now think my daughter has a dangerous job as well as a difficult job.

When I was a kid, we used to drill for a nuclear war by hiding under our desks. We didn’t really know what we were doing and I don’t remember a lot of worries about being bombed. Maybe my teachers were scared but I didn’t pick up on it.

A few years back, teachers would prep for tornados in areas prone to those, but that has morphed into active shooter drills all over the country.

By all accounts, the students and teachers at Douglas High were aware of and prepared for a shooting. They had drilled. They had talked about being vigilant and paying attention to students making threats. But it’s hard to prepare for someone coming at you with a lot of ammunition and a weapon that is lethal.

 

Jim Cavanaugh — a former ATF agent who is an MSNBC law-enforcement expert — points out that if someone can walk across your parking lot with a long gun and enter your school or business, “You don’t have security.” I get that. But how many places in America are prepared for that scenario and what would we be giving up if somehow we were?

Being a parent these days is a nerve wracking endeavor.

I remember talking to my daughter about roofies (date rape drugs), drinking and driving, peer pressure, inappropriate behavior and a whole host of other things awaiting her out there.

For years, we slept with one eye open, waiting for our children to come home at curfew.

But I thought she would be safe teaching young children in a cute little elementary school in Tampa.

When you talk to teachers—you hear stories. Stories about community and family dysfunction—violence, abuse, drugs, alcohol, financial stress, neglect.

When I was involved with Dare 2 Be Great, a charitable organization that gave scholarships to Delray children we heard a litany of stories during our interviews. We kept tissues close by because what our children go through breaks your heart. Right down the street from $30 hamburgers and expensive real estate are countless stories of neglect and violence.

And we know that society doesn’t stop at the doors of our schools. We also know that teachers and support staff provide love, attention, social services, an ear, nutrition and even clothing to the children they work with every day.

I don’t see answers coming from Washington. Forget gun control. It has been made an all or nothing argument. If you favor restrictions on assault weapons and background checks on sales you are against the Second Amendment.

I tell some of my friends who lean more conservative than I ever will, that I support the right to bear arms, I just don’t think there is any need to have military grade weapons with more firepower than our Police Department possesses or that people with histories of mental illness or violence should have them.

Most of my conservative friends get that. Most of them agree, but Congress can’t act.

Did they address “bump stocks” after Las Vegas? Did anything meaningful happen nationally after Sandy Hook?

Congress is a joke. The Founding Fathers would be ashamed. They can’t solve a problem or seize an opportunity and that’s on us. We stand for what we tolerate. And we tolerate a ridiculously partisan system awash in special interest cash. I think partisanship that values victories over the opposition is unpatriotic. It’s a disgusting disgrace.

I think most people agree since Congress has approval ratings in the single digits. I’d like to know who the 9 percent of Americans that think they are doing a good job are.

I know a few members of Congress and they don’t think the House or Senate works.

But we stand for it.

So I think the answers can be found locally. On the city and county level.

We can prepare and we can drill and we should. We can add metal detectors and security guards and we should. We can take a look at our mental health services and rush to bring more social services to those who need it. And we should.

But there’s something fundamental happening here.

In our society.

In our homes.

In our neighborhoods.

On social media. On cable TV and on the Internet.

There’s something that our humanity has to address.

Until then, our sons and daughters, our teachers, administrators, support staff and everyone in between—including concert goers at a Country Music Festival are at risk.

We are not safe.

And dammit, we should be.

A Delray Valentine

We are less than a month out from the Delray Beach Municipal Election and the mud is flying. (Mostly, in one direction but I digress).

If you didn’t know better and you lived exclusively on Facebook, you’d think we were living in war torn Somalia. But you read this blog so you do know better.

That said, we think Delray deserves a little love this Valentine’s Day.

So here’s a list of things to appreciate about Delray Beach.

The Arts Garage—where else in South Florida can you count on seeing world class live music on a regular basis in an intimate venue in a convenient location? This gem of a place regularly features amazing musicians and you can even bring your own wine. We saw Grammy nominated Negroni’s Trio last week and left there smiling from ear to ear. This weekend, we will check out Max Weinberg’s Jukebox and revel in the company of a rock and roll hall of famer, E Street Band mainstay and a guy who might have the best backbeat in the business. Only in Delray.

 

The Arts Warehouse—is opening and she’s a beauty, with affordable studios, community space and local artists milling about. A great vision—courtesy of our beleaguered but invaluable CRA. P.S. You can’t spell Delray Beach without the C, the R and the A.

 

Seagate Hotel—on a Thursday night. Check it out. It’s a scene. Music, drinks, dancing and some really interesting outfits. And to think, this was controversial when it was first proposed.

 

Beer Trade Company—if you like craft beers and ciders, you have to check out Beer Trade on Fourth Avenue. A great locals scene, friendly staff, a serve yourself system which is simple and risotto balls that probably ought to be illegal because they are that good.

 

Harvest Restaurant—we’ve lived here so long we can remember when there was no place to dine, even on Atlantic Avenue. Now we are seeing the foodie scene migrate to other parts of the city and that is good news. Harvest serves healthy food, is beautifully designed, has a great indoor /outdoor bar and even has a fireplace for when the temperatures dip into the 70s. While you are off the beaten path make sure to check out Sushi Thai Fusion, the new Sardinia in the same South Federal Plaza and in a shameless plug 5th Avenue Grill and La Cigale. Also don’t forget wine dinners at Caffe Luna Rosa—a Delray staple. (See if you can find my picture on the wall and if you do, try not to laugh).

But the point is you don’t have to be on the avenue anymore to enjoy good food.

 

The Delray Open—we love going to the Delray Open, where you can see some of the best tennis players on the planet under the stars and around the block from where you live. What small city can make that claim? The event starts this week with a senior event featuring Hall of Famer John McEnroe who seems to love Delray too.

 

Lake Ida Park—winter afternoons in Lake Ida Park provides a perfect setting for a long walk with your dog or just a lawn chair and a good book.

 

The Downtowner—they are just fun to watch and to see the creativity of the local advertisers.

DDA Videos—simply amazing. Check them out and see how good the town looks.

 

Delray Historical Society—we plan to check out the new exhibit this week. It’s nice to see the Cason Cottage come to life.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!