An Idea That Launched A Rebirth Still Resonates

Old School Square was the catalyst.

Leave it to the wonderful Frances Bourque for coming up with a novel way to stimulate conversation among old and new friends.
She’s really good at that kind of thing and whole lot of other important stuff too.
The founder of Old School Square is a personal hero of mine and I’m not alone in that assessment.
If she didn’t end up in Delray Beach, this would have been a far different and far less interesting town.
Last week, we took a fairly large group to La Cigale restaurant as part of a national search for a new CEO for the cultural arts center that Frances created thirty plus years ago.
It was a solid group of civic, business and cultural leaders—people who truly care and have given their time, passion, energy and dollars to not only Old School Square but to a slew of positive efforts that have made Delray Beach the special place that it is.
Readers of this space know that I’m a firm believer that the fate of a community depends on who decides or is encouraged to show up and contribute.
Communities succeed when talented and generous people are given opportunities to participate. They fail when talented and generous people are told to stay away or if they feel the atmosphere in town is too negative to bother.
Nobody wants to jump into a toxic pool, everyone wants to dive in when the pool is safe and inviting.
Delray has been blessed by so many special people. It really has been.
Old School Square has been blessed by dozens of special people over the years inspired by Frances’ vision and the idea that the arts can be used to build community.
Many of those special people were at La Cigale last week and at the Cornell Museum too to help find a special leader to take Old School Square into the future.
Three decades ago, the project helped to catalyze the rebirth of downtown Delray.
Today, it hosts weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, art exhibits (don’t miss Seven Solos and the 6×6 exhibit at the Cornell Art Museum), outdoor concerts, art classes, festivals and some pretty cool performances in the Crest Theatre.
What’s at stake is the future—but I have faith it will end up in good hands because of the special people dedicated to ensuring its future.
I think the community itself also appreciates the role Old School Square plays—although those of us involved realize we have a lot more outreach to do to reach a rapidly changing population and society.
So back to the conversation starter launched by Frances. She asked those of us willing to share what our best year was. It was interesting to hear that quite a few of the answers referenced Old School Square.
Whether it was a hard charging professional in a cut throat business who found solace in the arts or someone like me who married the love of his life at Old School Square and took his children to exhibits and festivals the memories were impactful and important.
Cities are so much more than bricks and mortar. So much more than budgets, taxes or fights over issues which will soon be forgotten. They are about relationships, ideas, service and dedication to making  sure that where we live is a good place for everyone.
Frances’ idea was brilliant because Old School Square addresses our past (through historic preservation),  our present (through programming) and our future through what we decide to create on its campus.
I know these things in my bones. I think we all do. But it sure is good to be reminded and Frances’ conversation starter ignited that feeling in me again. Just like it did 30 years ago.

The Truth Matters

“Get it all on record now – get the films – get the witnesses -because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.” ― Dwight D. Eisenhower

At the risk of piling on, I just can’t let go of the story of the former Spanish River High School Principal who questioned whether the Holocaust happened.

The story made headlines all over the world and prompted quite a local outcry as well with Boca Mayor Scott Singer and County Commissioner Bob Weinroth among others weighing in with strong words on social media. Here’s what the mayor said:

“Holocaust denial is a sadly frequent effort by bigots to rewrite history. Deniers’ attempts to lie about the incomprehensible suffering of the millions who perished outrages me as a human being. The Holocaust is a fact. It is a very painful fact for all of humanity, and not merely the families of the six million Jews and millions of others who were systematically murdered because of hate. Those families happen to include my own, as my children are the great-grandchildren of a Holocaust survivor.”

Bravo, Mr. Mayor.

In case you somehow missed it, William Latson got in hot water when The Palm Beach Post reported that he wrote an email that stated  “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.”

He went on to write: “I can’t say that Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee.”

Really? That’s preposterous.

The email was sent to a parent who reached out to Mr. Latson after being concerned about Holocaust education at the school.  Since 1994, Florida law has required that the history of the Holocaust be taught in public schools.

Mr. Latson apologized for his comments, before issuing a bizarre parting email to staff that made things worse.
Regardless, he’s gone from Spanish River High as he should be.

But the stench remains and it bothers me. It bothers me to my core.

Apparently, there are some folks who don’t think we should teach the Holocaust because they don’t believe it happened.

Tell that to the six million who perished or to my late uncle who survived a Concentration Camp and bore the emotional scars for the rest of his life.
What’s annoying these days is this notion that we are entitled to our own set of facts.

So if you don’t believe the Holocaust occurred, or if you don’t think slavery happened or if you don’t like what settled science says well you can just adopt your own reality.

Former Senator Daniel Moynihan used to say that you are entitled to your opinion but you are not entitled to your own set of facts. He was right of course. But these days…we’ll just turn the channel and join your own echo chamber.

For society to function, we need to agree on objective facts.

You can’t wipe out a Holocaust  because a few fringe characters didn’t think it happened. You shouldn’t be able to double down on lies when you’re exposed and then insist that your viewpoint is as legitimate as those backed by the historical record, or scientific inquiry.
Friends it just doesn’t work.

Back when I was a young reporter, “Schindler’s List” came out and director Steven Spielberg created a project called “Survivors of The Shoah.”
The purpose was to film and document the stories of Holocaust survivors so that humanity would never forget.

I volunteered, went for training and was selected to conduct interviews with local survivors.
It was a transformative experience.

We sat across from aging survivors and urged them to tell their stories so that future generations could bear witness.

I would tell those who question whether the Holocaust was real to watch the videos of the survivors and ask themselves whether they are lying.
They are most assuredly not.

The Holocaust happened. Slavery was real.
A lie is a lie.

All of us are entitled to an opinion.
None of us are entitled to deny reality. And educators who can’t tell the difference between facts and bull crap have no business teaching our kids.

A Star Is Born

Delray’s own: Coco Gauff

 

Every now and again an athlete breaks through and touches the hearts and minds of people all over the world.
The ability to capture those hearts is part of the magic of sports.

Maybe it’s the talent it takes to excel, maybe it’s the sacrifice or the personal story. Regardless, some athletes seem to rise above.

You don’t have to be a tennis fan to be caught up in the story of Cori “Coco” Gauff.

The 15-year-old from Delray Beach will play in the Round of 16 today at Wimbledon and that’s a monumental achievement.  Coco is making headlines all over the world after three scintillating victories, including a convincing first round win over her hero Venus Williams who also has extensive ties to Delray.

There are many aspects to the Coco story. Yes, she’s the youngest. Yes, she’s the “next one” and yes she has a very big game.
But she also has the “it” factor, that intangible that is hard to explain but you sure know it when you see it.

She plays without fear.

Staring down her idol Venus, beating a past semi finalist in the second round and digging deep to escape a tough third round match against a powerful and experienced opponent who was playing very very well announced to all who were watching that they were witnessing something special.

Coco has that champion’s demeanor. She know she belongs. And despite what must be enormous pressure she continues to play fearlessly, going for shots and digging deep  when she gets in a hole.
It’s amazing to watch. And she has become the story of the tournament no matter what happens from here on out.

You get the sense that you are watching history, the glorious coming out party of a special transcendent athlete.

Of course, a few wins at a high profile event does not a career make.
But…this feels different. This feels real.

For her hometown of Delray Beach, Coco’s amazing run has been a joyous occasion.
Large crowds gather at her parents restaurant, The Paradise Sports Lounge on West Atlantic Avenue and Military Trail for “watch parties” that have been covered on the national and international news.

Leading the cheers are Coco’s grandmother –the wonderful Yvonne Odom, herself an historic figure as the first African American student to attend Atlantic High School.
We’ve written about my friend Mrs. Odom on this site. She’s special too.

That her own athletic ambitions were scuttled by the racial attitudes of the times is a part of her grand daughter’s amazing story. Yvonne was not able to play sports at Atlantic despite her considerable athletic talents.
To see Coco thrive at Wimbledon must be extra special for Mrs. Odom and her family. You can see the joy the family is experiencing and it’s inspiring.
I’ll be hoping that the run continues. But even if it ends today or with Coco lifting the championship trophy, we have a strong sense that this story is just beginning.

In Pursuit Of Equal Justice

Bryan Stevenson

Sometimes you see someone so special that it literally takes your breath away.

Someone so brilliant and emotionally intelligent that their words stop you in their tracks and you are left changed by the experience.

That’s how I felt when I heard Bryan Stevenson speak recently at the annual meeting of Leadership Florida in Orlando.

Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative which is the subject of a new HBO documentary.

His work focuses on race and criminal justice reform and how we can inch our way toward a more perfect union.

We live in a society in which 1 in 3 African American males and 1 in 6 Latino men will end up incarcerated; a disturbing statistic that we somehow seem to accept. As if those lives are disposable. As if our nation can afford to throw these people away.

Stevenson wants us to chafe at these statistics.

It’s not that he wants us to feel bad or guilty.

In fact, he wants us to heal and feels that the only path to healing is facing what ails us as Americans.

Stevenson is a founder of the only museum dedicated to the history of lynching in America. It’s located in Montgomery, Alabama.

In fact, he was in Orlando to dedicate a marker at the site of a lynching in that city right here in our state.

By putting the issues front and center, Stevenson is hoping to spark a dialogue and a process that will ultimately lead to the airing of truths and a national reconciliation.

He fears what will happen to us if we don’t discuss these painful issues—slavery, bigotry, racism, violence. He believes it is keeping us apart.

Regardless of how you feel, it’s hard to deny that we have a racial divide in this country and in our own community.
Delray has a fraught relationship with race—Swinton has been a dividing line, we wrestle with issues of equity, trust, inequality and how to communicate.
I see it every day in Delray.

I feel it too.
I know I am not alone.

But I also know that many people  don’t feel the tension or have no interest in engaging.

But those who care about making a lasting difference should care. Because the divide holds us back and we are forever at risk of volatility if we ignore or pretend that these issues aren’t real or don’t exist. We will never reach our potential until we face up to what separates us.
So what we can do?

Stevenson suggests that we put ourselves where we typically refuse to venture.

The best part of Stevenson’s powerful message was his plea for people, especially those who seek to lead to get “proximate” to the issues in their communities.

Stevenson urges all of us to get close to the issues and get to know the most troubled parts of our community.

Proximity enables us to understand, empathize and eventually help.

Distance keeps us apart and does not allow for solutions to take root. It may even be wasteful since often we will prescribe the wrong solutions to community problems because we haven’t taken the time to get close to the suffering.

It may seem easier to turn away, but it’s not says Stevenson. The price we pay is too high—estrangement, anger, violence, division and a host of other ills.

As I watched Stevenson mesmerize a large crowd of experienced leaders, I couldn’t help but think that this is the kind of leadership we are missing in our cities and  inour country.
We need leaders who share, empathize and truly care to get close enough to understand, grow and evolve.

It takes an investment of time and heart. It takes a willingness to set aside preconceptions and open ourselves to possibilities and healing.
This not us versus them politics designed to keep us angry and apart. This is true inclusiveness, idealistic and human. It summons our better angels.

We can choose to remain angry, divided and sure of our positions from the safety of our couches and echo chambers or we can be “proximate” and learn to love thy neighbor.

It’s a simple choice. And an obvious one.

Things We Liked In June

Delray’s Coco Gauff makes her Wimbledon debut today.

Things We Liked n June

 

After reading a stellar review, we checked out the Driftwood restaurant on U.S. 1 in Boynton Beach.

It’s fabulous.

 

Located in the former location of Sculley’s, the Driftwood offers craft cocktails and farm fresh food inventively prepared from local farms.

We recommend the Yuca tots, the calamari (the presentation is very different), the deviled eggs and the pita and hummus.

Great happy hour from 3-6 daily.

We skipped the lion fish, but they offer it.

 

 

We went back to La Vie, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Pompano. It did not disappoint. Great food. Entertainment and a really cool atmosphere. Highly recommend.

 

We enjoyed Maya Flavors of India in Boca and Oli’s Fashion Cuisine in Wellington. Recommend both.

 

Johnny Mango’s on North Federal Highway is a local treasure. Just a fun place to stroll through and admire the orchids, plants and eclectic decorations. These are the type of unique local businesses you hope to see last and flourish.

 

A special thank you shout out to Elise and Charles Johnson for hosting a tropical cocktail party at their beautiful home.

The goal was to bring Old School Square board members and donors together for a fun evening of bonding. Mission accomplished. The Johnson’s are a special couple who quietly do a lot for Delray.

 

Congratulations to Two Fat Cookies on their new location right next to Salt 7 in the SoFA district. The new store is larger than their previous location in Pineapple Grove. We wish them well.

 

It’s also good to see the new Aloft Hotel at 202 Southeast Fifth Avenue nearing their grand opening. The hotel held a job fair in June. We look forward to seeing the new hotel and WXYZ lounge.

 

Impact 100 For Men awarded $50,000 to the Florence Fuller Child Development Center and $4,500 each to the Milagro Center and First Serve West Palm Beach at their annual meeting in June.

I’ve been a member of this terrific group since its inception two years ago. We need more members so we can give away more money to important non-profits serving our community.

Please consider joining. Visit https://unitedwaypbc.org/impact100-men/ for more information.

 

The Dish on Dishes

 

The chicken lemon picatta at Grand Luxe is awfully good.

 

It’s hard to beat the chips and salsa at Senor Burrito.

 

The Chicken and dumplings at the aforementioned Driftwood—very good.

The pasta dishes at La Villetta are outstanding.

 

Summer Movies

 

Don’t miss Rocket Man on the big screen. Elton John music, great acting and unique storytelling.

Yesterday is a feel good movie and features a slew of Beatles songs. We loved it.

Lean on Pete is streaming on Amazon. It’s a sad, but exceedingly well done movie featuring a boy and his horse.

 

Chocolate Everywhere

We finally made it to The Chocolate Factory in Delray.

Beautiful facility, friendly staff and delicious chocolate all made right here in Delray. Add it to your list of places to scope out.

 

 

Congratulations to Delray’s Gary Woodland who shot 13 under to win the U.S. Open golf tournament.

 

Yes, he lives here. In a Marc Julien home. Pretty cool.

 

 

 

 

On a sad note, Delray lost a great friend in June with the passing of Charlie Gwynn.

The long time business and civic leader was born in Delray in 1931.

He was a business owner, coach, volunteer and just a wonderful gentleman.

He was also a regular at the old Green Owl where he met daily with several other long time leaders to eat breakfast, sip coffee and hold court on all things.

That’s how I will remember Charlie. Meeting with his friends and greeting everyone with a warm smile.

 

On another sad note, Delray lost a wonderful benefactor with the loss of Sara Jo Kobacher this month. I had the pleasure of spending time with Sara Jo and her late husband Art as they worked toward their dream of establishing The Village Academy in Delray.

Opened in 2000, The Village Academy School on the Art & Sara Jo Kobacker Campus serves students from low income homes from birth (Head Start) through 12th Grade. Following Sara Jo’s wishes, the United Way of PBC will be the beneficiary of donations in her honor. Condolences may be sent to the family at http://www.schoedinger.com.

 

Recognition

Congratulations to the fabulous Crane’s Beach House on earning a place in the TripAdvisors’ Hall of Fame.

Crane’s received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for the fifth year in a row.

In order to be eligible for the Certificate of Excellence, properties must maintain an overall rating of 4 out of 5 on TripAdvisor.

Only 10 percent of properties worldwide are in the Hall of Fame so this is a special and deserved honor indeed.

GM Cathy Balestiere and her team have been great assets to Delray for a very long time. So cool to see the property recognized.

 

It’s also heartwarming to see another deserving local business win national recognition.

 

Boca’s Farmer’s Table was named one of the “100 Best Al Fresco Restaurants” in America in 2019 by Open Table.

 

Farmer’s Table—which is wonderful—was selected from the reviews of more than 30,000 restaurants submitted by Open Table diners.

 

Congrats to Delray’s Joseph Gianuzzi on this well deserved honor.

 

Congratulations also goes to the Sandoway House.

 

Sandoway Discovery Center received a two-year grant totaling $90,000 from The Jim Moran Foundation. The funds will be used to support Sandoway’s Education and Animal Care Program which allows students and visitors to learn environmental education through hands-on activities and live-animal encounters. The Jim Moran Foundation grant will also allow for the purchase of a new environmental education book to be sent home with every student participating in Sandoway’s Junior Naturalist Program from a Title I school.

 

 

This from CNN and it’s not fake news.

 

(CNN) – “American tennis prodigy Cori “Coco” Gauff just became the youngest player in the Open Era to advance through qualifying to reach Wimbledon’s main draw.”

The 15 year old Delray native has often been compared to Serena Williams. It’s not an unfair comparison. Stay tuned. She’s special.

Coco plays Venus Williams today at Wimbledon. She grew up idolizing the Williams sisters, who also trained in Delray.

No less a legend than Roger Federer calls the match-up “fascinating.”

Have a wonderful July and a safe Independence Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Simple Math

Ken Gronbach is often asked by Fortune 100 companies to predict the future. He does through the power of demography.

There’s a tsumani coming to Florida and we are not prepared for it.

Those were the startling words we heard last week from a well-known demographer at Leadership Florida’s annual meeting at the Grand Floridian in Orlando.

The “tsunami” refers to a wave of people who will be heading to the Sunshine State in the coming years to seek tax relief, better weather and quality of life, according to demographer Ken Gronbach, an expert who is often hired by Fortune 100 companies to predict trends based on population and other factors that drive sales and lifestyle decisions.

Grombach is bullish on Florida but he also cautions that the state has no idea what’s about to happen and is deficient in a number of areas including housing. We just don’t have enough to serve the needs of the people who will be seeking a new life in Florida.

Interestingly, it’s not the “millennials” who will be driving growth but the tail end of the baby boom generation —those born between the late 50s and 1964 that will be fueling the growth.

“You don’t need a crystal ball,” Gronbach told Leadership Florida, a non-profit that consists of community leaders from throughout the state. “It’s simple math. We can predict people’s behavior based on their age and by looking at the Census we can know the size of the market that’s coming.”
So what does that mean?
Well…

Florida’s will explode (with people)

Bigotry will end (future generations are free of bias)

China, Japan and Russia have big demographic problems that they cannot avoid.

China’s economy will implode (their one-child policy was a big blunder)

Europe will be forever changed (immigration will change its character)

Funerals will double (the party will end for boomers)

Marijuana will be bigger than wheat (Cheech and Chong were right)

“We can accurately forecast what’s next based on the rise and fall of populations,” he says. “But it’s often missed by smart people who don’t recognize the power of demography.”

Now this may sound a little depressing, but if you see Gronbach he’ll tell you that’s it not.

“I can’t see a single number that worries me,” he says talking about the United States. “We won’t run out of food or room…the future is bright.”
In fact, one of his most provocative statements is that he does not foresee a recession anytime within the next 20 years because of population growth and trends.

But, if you’re someone who is disturbed by growth, Florida may not be the place for you.

In fact, in our own little world we are seeing some interesting growth trends. According to the Census, Boca has reached a milestone of 100,000 people and Delray is now around 70,000 people. Both cities have experienced double digit growth since the last Census in 2010, Boca at about 18 percent and Delray at about 14 percent.

And according to Gronbach we have only just begun.

“I live in Florida half the time—and if you go in-season the elderly in Florida range from 75- to 95-years-old. Boomers right now are 54 to 73, so they aren’t even there yet.”

But they are just off shore and they are descending on Florida “like locusts.”

Let’s let Mr. Gronbach explain: “What is going to happen is you have a tsunami offshore because the people, the generation right in front of the boomers, which is called the “silent generation,” they were born 1925 to 1944 and there are just over 50 million of them that were born in the U.S., with no immigration during their start up and even during their tenure. That would further have complemented their generation. But, instead, they are tiny, the smallest generation of the last 100 years.

So people ask me, what is going to be influenced by the boomers? And, I say whatever is going to happen, whatever these people consume, whatever senior citizens consume, be it health care or elder care or death care [i.e., funeral homes, etc.], or cruises or whatever, will be dramatically enhanced by the boomer generation of 80 million people. They are right offshore. It is coming, people have been lulled into thinking that it has already hit, and it has not. The boomers will change anything and everything. It does not matter, there are so many of them it will be a case of rising tides lift all boats.”

According to Gronbach, we will be 25 million housing units short in the United States as the children of Boomers begin to move out of their parents homes.

Not part of his presentation– but certainly a factor– were the changes recently made to the tax code which limits the deduction of state and local taxes on our federal income tax. States such as New York, New Jersey, California and Connecticut are seeing an exodus of tax burdened residents to places such as Florida and Texas.

It is estimated that luxury properties in Florida cost a third less than comparable properties in New York, a stat that savvy developers are beginning to explore and exploit.

Ultimately, Gronbach’s presentation is a very positive one for the United States especially as we ramp up our competition with China, whose one child policy he describes as the single greatest demographic blunder of all time because it has created an aging society that cannot take of its young or old.

But like everything, growth has its plusses and minuses, especially if we don’t prepare.

At some point, we have to address traffic and congestion issues, infrastructure, climate change (mysteriously absent from his presentation) and a host of other concerns. We also have to address land use and have an intelligent conversation about how to limit sprawl which creates traffic and burdens our fragile environment.

Still, Gronbach’s “math” makes for intriguing discussion. We ignore the numbers at our own peril. It’s simple math.

 

 

 

But For Leadership Florida…

Leadership Florida builds statewide community.

We spent the weekend at the annual meeting of Leadership Florida in Orlando.
We’ve attended every annual meeting since I graduated from the program 15 years ago.
Its a mental boost that comes at a time of the year when I’m looking for a reboot.
Leadership Florida is a statewide program that gathers, trains, educates and then nurtures leaders from all walks of life. There are programs for emerging leaders ages 25-40, educators, executives, elected officials and a general class program that always includes a wide mix of people from all parts of our state.
It’s extremely competitive to get in the program and members tend to become very invested and loyal to the organization.
Why?
Because Leadership Florida is transformational and the annual meetings are fun and educational.
We’ve hosted some amazing minds through the years: Tom Brokaw, Colin Powell, Ken Burns, Geoffrey Canada, Jon Meacham and more.
This year we heard from conservative icon Arthur C. Brooks, former U. S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, early childhood advocate and retired journalist Dave Lawrence Jr., “Homeless to Harvard” author Liz Murray, best-selling author Brad Meltzer, social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson, Chief Disney Veterinarian Mark Penning and provocative demographer Ken Gronbach.
As usual, the takeaways were powerful.
Secretary Duncan outlined five national goals for education to consider: the U.S should lead the world in access to Pre-K (currently we hover between 28th and 30th), raise the high school graduation rate to 90 percent; commit that 100 percent of our high school graduates are ready for university classes. We currently spend $9 billion a year on remedial education; raise college completion rates and commit to retrain every worker whose job becomes obsolete.

Mr. Stevenson, whose life is soon to become a movie (and who has an HBO documentary debuting this week)  urged us to get “proximate” to the people in our communities who need us most. Proximity allows us to better understand the issues, strengths and challenges in our communities. Who can argue with that?

Mr. Meltzer talked about heroes and urged us to thank the heroes in our lives, sharing special stories about President George H. W. Bush and his 9th grade teacher Mrs. Spicer who said three words to Brad that changed his life: “you can write. “
And Ms. Murray, whose life was a Lifetime movie, told us how her experiences on the streets forged her character and made her strong.
Powerful stuff.
These kinds of weekends inspire and fuel us as citizens, volunteers and leaders in our communities.
These special people push us to think, read, study and ultimately act.
If you are a leader, I urge you to apply to one of Leadership Florida’s programs. The experience is a game changer and it’s a gift that keeps giving. Because each year, we get to gather with now more than 1,000 leaders from all over this great state and learn from each other and from our guest speakers.
We come back restored, energized and committed to make our part of Florida a better place.
Visit http://www.leadershipflorida.org for more information.

Mayoral Trends

Mayors wrestle with everything from scooters to cannabis.

Every year, many— if not most— mayors give a “State of the City” address.

And each year, the National League of Cities studies what they’re saying and compiles the results into what they call a “State of The Cities” report (very creative).

The report ranks and discusses ten main topic areas that mayors are excited or worried about. It’s an interesting list and while economic development and infrastructure continue to be top priorities for cities, mayors are increasingly exhibiting leadership on newer issues—such as scooters, social media and marijuana.

Below is a list of the top 10 “movers” this year and some comments from a has-been who has been out of the game for 12 plus years.

Economic Development: Opportunity Zones

In 2019, 74 percent of  state of the city speeches gave significant coverage to economic development — meaning a mayor or city manager provided concrete details on a plan, impact or goal related to growing the local economy. Of the 74 percent, 17 percent talked about opportunity zones. While some mayors are discussing what opportunity zones are and how to take advantage of them, others are moving ahead with opportunity zone policies.

Comment: Economic development has always been a hot topic, but opportunity zones are new. I think the zones are great public policy, but the powers that be missed some obvious zones (Congress Avenue, downtown Lake Worth) while blessing some areas that are already blessed.

Infrastructure: Ridesharing

Cities are becoming “smarter”, with new mobility services such as “dockless” bikes, ride sharing and scooters emerging in communities across the country. Mayors are recognizing that if you want to ditch your car in favor of a bike to get to work, you should, and now you can in many cities, towns and villages across the nation.

Comment: We never heard or ridesharing, Uber or Lyft in my day. We did know about carpooling. And bike lanes were a huge topic back in the day.

Health & Human Services: Recreational Marijuana

Communities are approving marijuana use at bars and cafes (really) and are expecting to accrue large financial benefits. From tax receipts to the diminishment of unsafe underground economies, cities are prepared to capitalize on this newly-regulated industry. Coverage of the recreational marijuana subtopic increased from two speeches in 2018 to seven speeches in 2019, an increase of 250 percent. In 2019, 46 percent of speeches significantly covered health and human services, and 10 percent of those provided concrete details regarding recreational marijuana, ranging from changing zoning codes to filing lawsuits against cannabis regulation.

Comment: Not sure we saw the legalization movement coming in the early to mid -2000s. And we thought CBD stood for Central Business District.

Energy & Environment: Solar Power

Advancing solar power is one of the many steps that cities are taking to fight climate change. Local governments are fostering solar energy growth by supplying government buildings and traffic systems with solar energy, embracing community solar power initiatives and reducing the energy burden for low-income households.

Comment: LED lights were just emerging as an option and LEED was gaining popularity. But sea level rise wasn’t on the radar screen.

Budgets & Management: Intergovernmental Relations

Cities are continuing to voice their concerns about the relationship between local and upper levels of government, particularly state overreach and fiscal constraints.

Comment: Mayors have always feared Tallahassee and Washington too. Home rule has always been a hot topic and while we would have welcomed help, we were happy if we weren’t bulldozed by mandates and wacky policy.

 

Housing: Blight and Elimination

In recent years, cities have implemented blight elimination measures, which include rehabilitating or demolishing vacant and abandoned properties to revitalize and strengthen neighborhoods.

Comment: Always a popular topic and focus. We did fear the elimination of Community Development Block Grants which pay for neighborhood rehab projects etc.

Public Safety: Education and Initiatives

Across the United States, more local police and fire departments are engaging with residents to increase education and awareness on public safety issues, ultimately building community trust.

Comment: A perennial. We called it community oriented policing and civic engagement.

Demographics: Civic Engagement

Mayors have consistently encouraged residents to engage in civic activities and provided their constituents with important opportunities that can impact their city’s future. In 2019, some mayors also specifically discussed plans regarding the political participation process and municipal election reform.

Comment: We were there for the hanging chads and the 2000 election so….election integrity and voting were always important concerns. We also were big on visions, charrettes, neighborhood dinners, advisory board recognition, town halls and forming neighborhood associations.

Education: School Outcomes

Both in 2018 and 2019, mayors discussed plans to achieve higher high school graduation rates. In 2019, mayors also announced school programs designed to address issues affecting student performance, such as chronic absenteeism and childhood trauma.

Comment: Education was a huge concern and focus.

Government Data & Technology: Social Media

More local governments are using social media to address pertinent issues within their communities and increase communication with their residents.

Comment: Social media didn’t exist, we didn’t even have a consolidated website when I was first elected in 2000. Technology was on our minds, we wanted online bill pay etc., and added streaming coverage of meetings but it was a simpler time. If someone said 3G to us, we assumed they meant the deli on West Atlantic. P.S. 3G’s has great pastrami.

 

Western Stars

The songs tell the stories of loved lost, failure, hard living and longing. But somehow they are tinged with hope.

Bruce Springsteen released a new album last week and for me that’s always a reason to celebrate.

But this album, his 19th studio album, is something extra special for a few reasons.

First, it’s just really good.

The songs are beautifully crafted, the lyrics are packed with meaning and the album includes oboes, bassoons, French horns and other instruments rarely used on a Springsteen album. He’s evolving and I find that not only interesting but inspirational as well.

The reason this album has extra resonance is that it is being released three months before Bruce’s 70th birthday. That’s an age where most musicians are long past their prime and decades beyond their creative peak.

But there he is, still exploring, still pushing boundaries, still growing. And I find that awe-inspiring.

The best artists are those whose work seem to run parallel to our lives—as if they are somehow writing with us in mind. Of course, that’s not true, but the magic comes because their words and music remain relevant to where we are in life.

I’ve grown up with Bruce and now I’m growing old with him.

As a young rock fan growing up on Long Island in the 70s and 80s, you couldn’t avoid Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. They were on the radio, the posters were on the windows of the record shops (remember those) and the music was played loud at every party we went too.

I was bitten hard by the Bruce bug in 1978. I was 14 when “Darkness on The Edge of Town” was released and I was smitten by hard driving songs about life, love and work, the open but often lonely road and America itself.

Once I discovered “Darkness” I backfilled my collection with his first three albums—all of them brilliant and meaningful—at least to me— a teenager trying to figure it all out.

But unlike most teenage obsessions, rock music and Springsteen would continue to be meaningful as I went off to college, started my career, had a family, suffered the loss of loved ones, went through a divorce, found new love, changed careers, got involved in civic life and then re-invented myself again.

Now as I grow older, the music continues to resonate, inform, entertain, move me and make me think.

The old songs still strike something deep inside and take on new meaning as I listen to them 40 years down the road as Bruce would say.

And the new music is a gift; a beautiful gift.

I’m excited that my favorite artist is still out there creating as he nears his 70th birthday, long past the sell-by date we are force fed by a youth-oriented society.

In two months, I will turn 55 an age when you start to understand that the sands are running through the hour glass very fast and that more sand is on the bottom of the glass than remains on top. Many of my friends are my age or older and I am starting to see them wrestle with health issues and thoughts of hanging them up.

 I get it and can relate.

But I still aspire.

Last week, I was in a meeting with a younger man–a friend— and the talked strayed briefly from business to life. He looked at me and said “you have about 20 years left to be productive.”

Lord, I hope so.

He meant what he said as a compliment. But as you age you realize that 20 years passes in the blink of an eye.

I can still remember being that young boy listening to that Springsteen record with the volume turned up in my room in Stony Brook, N.Y. playing air guitar and dreaming of “The Promised Land.”

And in a blink, you see your 50s flash by, your kids grow up and your friends grow old.

But Bruce Springsteen is still singing at 70, with no plans to quit and so he gives me hope that we all can keep going for years to come.

 

 

 

An Opportunity Awaits

Stability doesn’t have to mean boredom or a lack of imagination. It can mean that teams can dig in and succeed.

There’s been another rash of resignations at Delray Beach City Hall.

That’s not good news, despite the perfume put on the issue by some.

Turnover and instability in an organization is never a good thing. Of course, in a large organization people are always leaving and sometimes you have to get rid of a bad apple or two. It’s called addition by subtraction. But this feels different.

As of now Delray is searching for a city manager, an economic development director, a utilities director, a finance director, a public works director and a CRA Director. I might have missed a few positions. But that’s a pretty robust list. And that doesn’t include the resignations of the  two top senior officials in the Community Improvement who resigned last week in the wake of an investigation into alleged misappropriation of grant monies.
Folks, this isn’t normal. And it’s not good.

Still, like most problems/issues there’s a silver lining and an opportunity.
But only if we recognize the situation and make this a teachable moment. That’s going to require self awareness and that can be a challenge.
Delray has had a stability problem for a few years now. Before 2013 or s0, City Hall was known as a very stable place.

Not a perfect place. But a stable place. A place where lots of good things got done on behalf of taxpayers and stakeholders. It was also a prideful place, where people seemed to collaborate and work effectively across departments. Again, mistakes were made and things weren’t always a well-oiled machine but for the most part City Hall was a happy and productive workplace, the kind that attracted talent and retained it as well.

It doesn’t feel that way anymore.

And it hasn’t for a while now.

This isn’t a criticism of anyone or anything. For the record, I like the interim City Manager and respect a lot of people who work at City Hall. I wrote a whole book about what I felt worked and what didn’t during my seven years as a commissioner and mayor.

I learned that for a city to create and sustain success, you need solid leadership and talented, stable management that work well together. That’s not rocket science. but I don’t know of a workaround. You need both.

Instability breeds inefficiency.

It’s expensive on many levels and the loss of institutional memory is an added concern because when experience walks out the door so does a whole lot of intangible value.

Few would argue that stability is a bad thing.

It’s hard to build a team, organization, business or any other complex endeavor when your human capital is constantly in flight.

That doesn’t mean you allow bad actors to stay or that you don’t have a culture of accountability. But it does mean that if people are leaving in droves, that you might want to pay attention, especially if many who are leaving have had success here or elsewhere.
Did they suddenly become incompetent and ineffectual or is there something wrong that we can fix?

Without pointing fingers, I don’t think what we are seeing is an aberration or the normal course of business. Something fundamental is wrong.

And this should not be news to those of us who pay attention. Our leaders have been told by executive recruiters that the city has a challenging reputation in the marketplace.
Therein lies the opportunity.

Now is the time to ask some hard questions, make some changes and find out why what’s happening is happening. It’s also a chance to transform the culture and make this city the very best place to work.

Working —and just as important staying —in a city as unique and special as Delray ought to be a compelling proposition.

These days and for a few years now,  the evidence says something is up.
Perhaps it’s time to figure out what’s going on.

Because like any other business, cities are only as a good as their people.

If you attract good people and create conditions that enables that talent to thrive, you’ll have a smooth running machine and solve a lot of problems; but if you lose that talent or can’t even attract it. you’ll be spinning your wheels which is expensive and exhausting. You’ll end up in a costly spiral.

Human capital is everything. It just is.  It’s not technology–that’s a tool. And it’s not always wages and benefits, which are important but aren’t the only factors in a stable workplace.

A revolving door of senior level managers is not a recipe for lasting success; it’s a sunk cost.