We Need Beacons Not Demagogues

Representative John Lewis on the bridge where he was tear gassed. He never took his eyes off the prize. 

Congressman John Lewis is an American hero.

An icon of the civil rights movement who marched and bled with MLK.
Rep.  Lewis is 80 now and ailing from cancer.
But his voice, tinged with passion, experience and wisdom, remains compelling.
Amidst all of the noise and the endless punditry, John Lewis remains a beacon.
Let’s listen to what he has to say: “I see you and I hear you. I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit in. Stand up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that nonviolent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.”
America is at a crossroads.
We are being forced to confront issues that have festered for far too long.
Systemic racism, inequality, a lack of opportunity, homelessness, health care disparities, political dysfunction, division and a general coarseness that permeates our day to day existence.
This is not what we are supposed to be. This is not the promise of America. This is some dystopian version and if we don’t wake up we risk the great experiment that is America.
This is not to say that everything is broken.
Last week’s Space-X launch is a reminder of our technical and entrepreneurial prowess. That the founder of the company is a citizen of three countries  is an important reminder that we are a nation of immigrants and that most who come here do so to contribute and build the Dream that benefits us all.
I capitalize the word Dream because it deserves more attention. America means something. The Dream means something.
MLK’s Dream. The American Dream.
It’s worth fighting for. It’s worth dying for.
But the Dream is not automatic is it?
It’s not a birthright. It’s something we have to fight for and work to achieve.
I take issue with both the left and the right on this.
I don’t want to redistribute the nation’s wealth. I don’t want to punish those who succeed.
I think we ought to grow the pie. The beauty of America is the pie doesn’t have to be finite. We can grow it, we can include more people and we can root for them to succeed.
But we have the resources to provide a social safety net too. And if you succeed you should pay your fair share.
And that’s my problem with the right.
You don’t like Obamacare? Great where is your plan?
Can’t we all agree that everyone will need health care and that in a great nation that cares for its people that we ought to design a world class system and give people access to the very best care possible?
I don’t want to hear that climate change is a hoax, because it isn’t.
Sea level rise is real, super storms are menacing us and we are experiencing more severe weather events.
Isn’t it time we did something to protect the world we live in and the one we will leave our children and grandchildren?
We can go on heaping  blame on one another. We can continue to divide, bully and label.  But it’s a waste of time; blame and fault finding doesn’t get us anywhere.
The endless division doesn’t create opportunity, doesn’t solve racism and doesn’t ensure that we won’t all be consumed by rising tides.
Time and time again, this blog argues that we can think globally but act locally. Here’s how.
We can create more housing here for families and young people but we will need to stand up to the NIMBY mentality. And we can design that housing so that it enhances our community and doesn’t ruin it.
We can listen to each other instead of troll each other.
We can break down racial barriers —if we want to.
Delray is diverse but segregated. Why?
We can agree that having a strong local government can be a great advantage. We all want and need governmental services.
It has been a rocky several years marked by scandal and turnover. But there are a number of super public servants working in our city and we are blessed with outstanding police and fire departments—-and right about now we should be exceptionally grateful for that.
But so few us vote. So few of us participate. It’s important that we do.
Rep. John Lewis, who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge only to be met with violence and hatred shows us the way.
It’s not looting. It’s not apathy.
That’s the wrong way.
It’s being an active citizen. It’s using our voices.
It’s about working toward a more perfect union.
One of my friends said something changed when Americans saw that knee on George Floyd’s neck.
Something fundamental.
I agree.
It’s up to each of us as to what that change will mean.
We are at the crossroads.
Do we choose hate and division? Or love and collaboration?
Sounds like an easy choice doesn’t it ?
But too often we choose hate and division. It’s why we are at the crossroads.
Isn’t it time to try something else?

When The Reservoir Runs Dry

“Generations of pain are manifesting itself in front of the world.” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

Like the rest of America, I watched with horror as George Floyd died beneath the knee of a police officer last week as three other now former officers looked on ignoring Mr. Floyd’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe.
It saddened me. But sadly, the tragedy didn’t shock me because we have seen this scene play out time and time again across our country.
I watched, like the rest of the country, the scenes of violence and unrest that the murder of George Floyd sparked, in cities ranging from Minneapolis and Detroit to New York, Denver and Atlanta.
We watched as incendiary devices were hurled at police officers guarding the CNN headquarters and we were saddened by the scenes of looting and destruction.
It’s no small thing when the National Guard deploys in a major American city. And it’s no small thing when a man’s life is snuffed out under the knee of another man sworn to serve and protect.
The footage made me sick. Physically sick.
America is struggling right now.
Struggling with a virus. Struggling with racism. Struggling with anti-semitism and struggling with deep economic wounds caused by the pandemic.
But as daunting as those issues are—our biggest challenge is division.
It seems like half this country doesn’t like the other half very much.
We are seeing and experiencing hatred between Americans. One side sees the other as an existential threat to their way of life and a danger to the country and the world.
It’s hard to remember a time of such deep seated division.
It’s hard to remember a time when we’ve written each other off and when there doesn’t even seem to be an attempt to bring us together.  In fact, our so-called leaders seem to enjoy throwing gas on the fire.
We  each  seem to have our own set of facts and beliefs. You have your experts and I have mine.
We can’t seem to tolerate each other, so working together and compromise  seems impossible.
At the core of this division is race—America’s original sin.
We seem to make strides only to fall back again and again.
While racism manifests itself in so many ways the biggest flash points seem to happen when officers take the lives of black men.
Whenever this happens,—all to frequently I’m afraid—I’m reminded of what happened right here in Delray when Jerrod Miller lost his life outside the Delray Full Service Center.
If you weren’t around  15 years ago , Jerrod, 15, was shot by an off-duty officer outside a school dance. You can google the details.
I was mayor of Delray back then and Jerrod’s death tested this community in ways I’ve not seen before or since and I’ve lived here since 1987.

So what did we learn?
We learned that when violence occurs leaders need to de-escalate tensions not throw gas on the fire.
We learned that you have to amplify communications, admit mistakes and share your humanity.
We learned that you have to show up—in church halls, living rooms, community meetings etc.
We learned that you can’t begin to care after the fact, you have to build a reservoir of goodwill before bad things happen. You have to do the hard work of community building, you have to invest in relationships and you have to be in it for the right reasons and for the long haul not just to make friends before an election only to disappear until the next one.
You have to want it and you have to mean it.
If you’re a leader you can’t introduce yourself to the community after tragedy strikes. They better know who you are before hand and that relationship better be a good one.

America’s issues will not be solved by the feds or the tweeter in chief. If problems are to be solved and opportunity to be seized it will happen on the local level with neighborhood leaders working with their local elected officials to build better towns and cities.
It starts at the neighborhood level. You have to be on the ground every day.  You have to share your heart and your soul and you have to listen before you can help. You have to listen and learn before you can lead.

I have to say, we used to do that kind of stuff pretty well here in Delray. Oh we were never perfect and we never quite got there but here’s the secret: you never do. You have to keep at it.
In my opinion, based on 33 years of observation from inside and outside, I think we’ve stopped.
Sure there are some great initiatives and programs, but at one point our whole local government was built around engagement and community building. Somewhere along the way we got off track. One step up, two steps back……

Alongside George Floyd, social media was in the news last week.
And while I love sharing pictures of pets, movie and restaurant reviews on Facebook, I think the platform has driven wedges in our community.
For years now, I’ve seen fights break out between neighbors over development, community driven transformation plans, other important stuff and some nonsense too.
And I wonder where it all leads. I worry about a spark. I worry about the anger I see and sense.
People don’t react well when they feel marginalized and when they feel they aren’t heard.
You can only poke at people so long before you risk an eruption.
That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything or that elected officials have to compromise their values. It does mean that we have to find a way to disagree respectfully.
I’ve seen people marginalized, organizations bullied or ignored, long time employees thrown out with the trash and denied benefits they’ve earned. I’ve seen people and groups targeted too.
This kind of culture erodes community. It drains the reservoir of goodwill.
We saw last week what can happen when people feel that our societal contract doesn’t work for them.
It seems to me we have two choices: ignore it or address it.
Ignorance is dangerous; addressing it is hard work but it’s the only way forward. Failure to do so means we all fail.
And we can’t afford that can we?

We Need To Be Counted


I know we’ve been been distracted.

I know we’ve got a few things on our minds.

But… and I say this with all due respect… we have to take ten minutes out of our lives and complete the Census.

As of two weeks ago, our numbers have been miserable.

Here’s the snapshot I was given.

(as of 5-13-20)

percentages for:

National                       59%

Florida                  56.6%

PBC                     57.4%

Delray Beach       48.1%

Tract 65.02          37%

Tract 74.10          37.7%

Those are pretty abysmal stats.

The national, state and county numbers are poor considering how important the census is and how easy it is to fill out.

Delray’s completion rate is less than 50 percent and if you live in the tracts listed..well let’s just say you have some catching up to do.

The Census is extremely important and if we don’t get it right we have to wait 10 years until we get another bite at the federal apple so to speak.

Census numbers not only determine our representation in Washington but it also affects how many dollars will flow our way in areas ranging from social services to health care.

The Census Bureau has gone out of its way to make responding easy.  For the first time, you can choose to respond online, by phone, or by mail.

So there’s really no excuse.

Over the next decade, lawmakers, business owners, and many others will use 2020 Census data to make critical decisions. The results will show where communities need new schools, new clinics, new roads, and more services for families, older adults, and children.

The results will also inform how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

So this is important stuff my friends

Visit www.census.gov Or call 844-330-2020 and please spread the word.

Your neighbors are counting on you.  No pun intended.

The Last Dance & Leadership

Editor’s Note: In honor of Memorial Day.

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” – President Harry S. Truman

Did you see ESPN’s “The Last Dance?”

The 10-hour documentary chronicles the story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls who won six NBA championships during a magical run in the 90s.
It’s must see TV and the 10 hours fly by. I could have watched at least ten more hours; the story was that compelling.
Much has been written about the documentary especially the leadership skills and personality of Jordan whose basketball skills were other worldly but whose personality was… how shall I say it…challenging.
In short, Jordan led through a combination of hard work, dedication and bullying that at least on two occasions led to actual violence. He punched two teammates during practice sessions that got so intense that they …well …led to fisticuffs.

Jordan had impossibly high standards. Winning was the only thing that mattered.
If he sensed you weren’t dedicated, or you were weak, he pounced and wouldn’t let up until he was satisfied you were not going to get in the way of winning.
There’s no arguing that he got results. Six rings. And I was reminded through the documentary that he was the best player I’ve ever seen.
But when asked about their teammate, many of the Bulls who played alongside MJ hedged their feelings. Yes he was great and he made others better. Yes we won. But boy could he be a jerk and yes he crossed the line many times.
At times it was painful too watch. You could see how his teammates are still struggling with Jordan’s style.

There are other examples of great individual talents whose personalities left a lot to be desired.
Steve Jobs led Apple to great heights but was said to be brutal to team members.
In the HBO film “LBJ-All The Way” Bryan Cranston portrays Lyndon Johnson as an expert politician but a man lacking in tact and manners. A theme throughout the film is LBJ’s reluctance to choose Hubert Humphrey as his running mate in 1964 because he openly worries that Humphrey is too nice.
You have to be mean to succeed in a blood sport such as politics, he tells Humphrey.
Which begs the question: do you?
Do you have to be mean and a bully to succeed?
I’m not so sure.
Although it’s hard to argue with the success of Jobs, Jordan and LBJ —who sure passed a lot of landmark legislation before getting swallowed by Vietnam—I’d like to believe that kind, empathetic, servant leadership is a more reliable and sustainable model.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be tough at times. There are instances that call for leaders to be brutally honest and there are times when leaders are called upon to take on bullies. And sometimes  the best way to take on a bully is to give him or her a taste of their own medicine.
Sometimes it’s the only thing a bully understands.
But when it comes to day to day effective leadership I think those who lead with love  get more done.
Maya Angelou said it best: people may forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel.
In Michael Jordan’s case they won’t forget the six titles or the soaring dunks but they also won’t forget that they didn’t feel all that great at times ducking his punches and his insults.
Of course, it’s  hard to argue with results, but few of us are Michael Jordan.
For those with modest talents who wish to change the world,  I think the best way to lead is with love and affection.
Now some may feel that love is a strong word. It is.
But it’s essential for success.
Mayors should love their cities. CEOs should love their company’s mission, their employees and their customers.
Love is the killer app.
It enables you to find hidden reserves when trouble comes; and trouble always comes.
Passion for your cause will ensure you succeed. Jordan, Jobs and others had it. But they wouldn’t have been any less dominant if they mixed their passion with an old fashioned dose of kindness.

My Generation

As this pandemic goes on and on, I’ve been struck with a recurring thought: I’m so glad I grew up when I did.

I’m a child of the 70s and 80s which means a few things.
I grew up with great music.
I experienced drive ins.
I saw ET, Rocky, Jaws and Animal House in the theater.
I remember watching the Watergate hearings on TV and saw elected leaders put their country over their party. Can you imagine that?
We watched Walter Cronkite every night, read an actual newspaper every day and believed what we heard and read. Why? Because it was true.
My friends and I played outside until it got dark. My parents didn’t feel a need to hover, they knew my sister and I were safe in our neighborhood.
We knew our neighbors, every single family on the block, and we looked out for one another.

I remember when a neighbor’s house caught on fire and we stood on the lawn watching the blaze and were scared that the house may burn to the ground and that our friends would be forced to move away. We cared for each other genuinely.
As pre-teens we roamed the mall, soon to be a relic of the past, visited bookstores (remember those) and saved our money to buy record albums (vinyl!) and baseball cards.
We didn’t keep the cards in pristine condition or look at them like investments.  We flipped them, traded them, put them in the spokes of our bicycles and memorized the stats on the back. We even chewed the bubble gum inside the packs even though it tasted like cardboard—dusty cardboard.

We took the Long Island Railroad to the city and wandered Manhattan and saw some things that… well …helped us grow up.
We bought old cars for little money. Rusty Mustangs and Cougars and we even managed to appreciate the unique design of the AMC Pacer—which in our optimistic eyes looked like a short squat Porsche.
We went to dances, proms, comedy clubs and Broadway shows which were affordable back then.
We went to Shea and Yankee Stadium and truly believed that the “Magic was Back.”  (It wasn’t).
Our friend’s mom worked as a store nurse for Macy’s (do they have those anymore—store nurses that is, Macy’s seems on the way out too) and she made sure to reserve us concert tickets which were $8 back then.

We saw Billy Joel, The Doobie Brothers, Styx, Aerosmith and a slew of other classic bands. We once slept outside to get tickets to see The Police at Shea Stadium only to get seats just below heaven. We didn’t care, we were there and that’s what mattered.
We had fake ID’s and we snuck into bars and it felt exciting. We could get caught. But we never did. And every time we got past the burly bouncer we saw another kid that we knew wasn’t quite of age.
We spent hours shooting hoops, throwing around a baseball or a football and trying to hit a spaldeen ball with a stickball bat over the roof of the neighbor’s house.
We listened to music, shared pizza and talked about what we were going to do with our lives.
There were no texts, no social media, no Tik Tok videos but we did have MTV when the station actually played music.
Can you imagine?
Last night, I shared 90 minutes of Zoom laughs with five guys who were there for it all.

Dave, who biked to my house to trade baseball cards when he was five and I was six. We’ve been friends ever since.

Joe, whose dad owned the pizza place with the best thin slices. New York style.
Greg, who drove a Dodge Dart Swinger and was our designated driver.
Scott, the Mets and Giants fan, who could hit the ball over the roof.
And Howie, whose mother was the store nurse and who had an older sister who would drive us around and talk sports with us. She would later become a famous pioneering sports journalist at ESPN. But to us she was the cool older sister with the driver’s license who thought we were funny.
When we speak via Zoom these days we gather from Southern California, Northern Virginia, New Jersey, Raleigh, N. C., South Florida and Stony Brook, N.Y.
Our conversation these days is focused on current events and we argue—politely. But those arguments always end with “hey, I still love you guys” which could be a lesson for all of us.
And we do.
There’s too much history and too much in front of us to ever walk away from each other over how we differ in our views of a virus.
I see the men these guys have become—all successful in their own ways every time we talk.
But I still see the boys we were too and that connection to the past is critical.

 I remember conversations from 1979 when a few us pledged to stop being so shy around the young women we liked.
That conversation prompted me to finally ask for a date with someone I had a crush on for years.
I was so nervous that I did not remember what she said when I asked. I walked away from her so nervous that I literally had no idea what she said.
Apparently, it was a yes because a day later she said she couldn’t go out because she was going fishing with her uncle or something. I never had the courage to ask again.
My supportive and sensitive friends responded by printing T-shirts of people fishing with a cutting remark underneath the graphic. Hey, this stuff makes you resilient. So thanks guys.

Anyway, we talked last night about how we feel so sorry for kids today. Cut off from their friends and girlfriends, denied proms and graduation ceremonies and unsure if they will be going off to school in the fall or if they will be cracking open their iPads.
One of my buddies kids is in limbo about college and another just had two boys graduate college and grad school only to enter a scary job market.
Sigh.
You wonder and you worry how this will impact a generation.
As I said, I’m grateful to have grown up when I did. We didn’t have much in the way of technology but we had each other. Still do.

Monday Thoughts

Random thoughts….
Question: how are we going to get a vaccine by the end of the year if we haven’t yet figured out a way to stock toilet paper in our stores?
A friend texted me the other day and said he hated the term “new normal.”
I agree.
We can’t think that we will be living in a pandemic forever. We just can’t. We will get back to living life which includes socializing with other humans.
What do I miss most?
Hugs. Giving them and getting them.
There is no acceptable excuse to avoid a Zoom call or Zoom Happy Hour. What are you going to say, ‘I’m busy’—it doesn’t fly.
The press is not the enemy of the people. It’s the guarantor of our Democracy.
I hate inaccurate reporting as much as the next person and have been on the receiving end of bad reporting. But our First Amendment sets us apart and we must get back to a place where we can agree on objective facts.  PS There is some remarkable journalism being practiced today. Look no further than the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and right  here at home I’ve been impressed recently by the work of C. Ron Allen in the Boca Tribune.
It’s alarming that Palm Beach County is one of three counties nationally considered high risk thanks to increasing infections.
We took a ride downtown over the weekend and didn’t see a lot of social distancing. Complacency in these times can get you and others in trouble. It can kill you.
One of the saving graces of staying at home in 2020: streaming services.
Can you call imagine how long the nights would be without Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime?
Here’s a few recommendations: “Never Have I Ever” on Netflix, “Upload” on Amazon and “I Know This Much is True” on HBO.
Also don’t miss “The Last Dance” on ESPN.
There is some talk about moving the start of hurricane season to May from June.
Between coronavirus, murder hornets, locusts and toilet paper shortages I would argue that we can do without hurricanes this year.
We’ve got enough on the plate for a while.
On a personal note, I wanted to thank everyone for the overwhelming support after we posted about the loss of our beloved golden retriever Teddy last week.
We received flowers, cards, comforting messages and even a poster featuring Teddy.
He was the best dog imaginable.
I believe he’s in a better place, free of pain and that we will see each other again.
Thank you for all the love and concern. You are the very best.  And again of you can rescue a pet please do so. You will find that they rescue you.

Love & Loss

Our golden Teddy will live in our hearts forever .

I lost my best buddy yesterday and the sadness in my heart actually hurts.

Our magnificent, handsome, loving and sweet golden retriever Teddy passed after an 18 month battle with bone cancer.
While we knew the end was inevitable—the cancer had returned after surgery, chemo and radiation—I never dreamt it would happen so suddenly.
While Teddy had visibly slowed down, he was still full of life; playing  with other dogs, climbing stairs, taking car rides and eating like a champ right up until the end.
But Monday evening, he got up from his perch in front of the TV made a strange face and walked to the corner where he refused to move.
It was like a switch went off and he went from healthy and happy to sick and very weak.
The next morning he couldn’t stand, refused to eat and it was over. Our beautiful boy was gone…
We were assured by Dr. Jim Grubb that it was time. And I could see in Teddy’s soulful brown eyes that he was ready.  I think that was Teddy’s final gift to us, he let us know.
We love Dr. Grubb and his staff. They love our pets and that love is genuine. We knew it was the right decision.
But that doesn’t mean saying goodbye is easy. It’s not. It’s really hard. I held Teddy’s sweet face for the last time, caressed his ears And looked into his big brown eyes and thanked him for being such a good dog. I said it was OK and that I would see him again. And I believe I will.
Diane, his mom and my wife, petted his hair and comforted him. He was at peace. We were heartbroken.
But I don’t want this to be just about Teddy’s death. I want to celebrate his life.
And I want to encourage you to adopt or rescue a pet because they save us, we don’t save them.
We adopted Teddy from Golden Retrievals, a terrific non-profit in Boca run by Linda Ripps.
Linda has become a great friend. She has a heart as big as a Great Dane and has stayed in our lives since the adoption. We are so thankful for her.
The first time I saw Teddy I fell in love. And I fell hard. I’ve had two other pure bred Golden’s and a golden mix so I was already enamored with the breed’s traits which can be summed up in one word: goodness.
Golden’s are just good through and through.
Teddy was a handsome young boy of 5. He smiled, was a complete gentleman and instantly warmed up to Diane, the kids, our birds (who would land on his head) and our other rescue Randy, a high strung but super cool Chihuahua mix that we adopted 16 years ago at the Delray Affair. Randy is still going strong (sort of) at the ripe old age of 17. He’s blind, hard of hearing but still an alpha.
Our friend Rebecca, who has always helped with our dogs, was touched by Randy and Teddy’s relationship. She saw how Teddy tried to help Randy and thought he was so sweet for doing so. But that was Teddy, gentle, caring, courteous.
Yes, dogs can be courteous.
Teddy loved kids especially the Paterson children next door who showered him with bones and hugs.
He loved car rides and would drape his head across the back seat, close his eyes and enjoy the wind in his hair. I’ve never seen that. It was so endearing and a reminder for us to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures.
We would tool around Delray, cruise Atlantic Avenue, tour A1A and sometimes make a pit stop for a treat or a shopping trip to a pet store.
But he would get very interested when we’d get back home to Delray Lakes. He knew and loved his neighborhood and would stick his big head out the window to watch our neighbors as we drove by.
He watched TV, would react to animals he saw on the screen and seemed to understand English.
He never begged for food, but was happy to sample any handouts.
He had several “looks”—worry, a smile, even a snake eye if he stood by the door and you told him to wait until the next commercial.
He loved going to local parks, enjoyed shredding paper and stuffed animals and was devoted to our kids often stealing looks at their phones and laptops as if to say “what can be more interesting than looking at or petting me?”
Teddy loved to watch Diane exercise “helping” her by getting in the way, politely but doggedly demanding toys and rooting her on by rolling around on his back kicking his big feet in the air.
It was a daily show.
He was adorable. He was so good.
He was more than a dog, he was a beloved member of the family.
He stole my heart. I happily let him have it.
And now that he’s gone, he took a big part of it with him.
It’s a bond that I don’t have the words to explain. I’ve felt it before with Rusty, Snowball, Tina, Casey, Sophie, Sunny, Magnum and Randy. So this feeling and this heartbreak is familiar to me.
In time, the good memories will crowd out the crushing sadness of yesterday. It’s not fun to see your big, perfect, strong and loving friend at the end of his time on this Earth. But I know in time, I will remember all the good and there was so much. All the love and there was so much. All the laughs and all the comfort of having a great dog in your life.
“Pet people” will get that. We are heartbroken today and will be for a while. But in time, because of good boys like Teddy and his wingman Randy, we will dare to love again.
I believe, firmly, that dogs know when they are loved. And if you allow them in your heart, as we do, they will love you unconditionally in a way that will enrich your life immeasurably.
Thank you Teddy. No more cancer. No more pain. But I will tell you my buddy …the love will remain.

Riding The Roller Coaster

I’m officially sick of Zoom.
Yes, it’s better than nothing and better than a phone call or text chain, but I miss my family and I miss my friends.
I miss making plans to get together. I miss real happy hours. I miss restaurants.  I miss bars. I miss being able to walk into a store without looking like I’m going to rob the place.

I even miss business meetings where you sit in an office and talk to someone about opportunities and possibilities.

I miss life.

I suspect I am not alone.

Last week, I touched base with a slew of friends and every single interaction made me feel good or at least better.

And truth be told, a little sad too.

Sad, because I have to come realize how much I miss being able to see them in person.

We had a Zoom happy hour last week with some of my favorite people in all of the world. People who have made a huge difference in our community.

When we get together, we always laugh and hug and joke and talk and share. We did the same thing—minus the hugs and it was great. But I do miss the hugs.

We are social beings.
And so every time I read about the “new normal” I want to debate the topic.

I just don’t see us social distancing forever.
For now—yes. We need to, it’s important.
Forever—no. People are meant to be together.

We will get past this thing and anything else that follows it.

There will be a vaccine. There will be effective treatments.

In the meantime, it is important to be there for each other.
I have a dear friend who calls me once a week. He told me he calls five people a day just to check in. It might a co-worker, a friend from church, a neighbor or a relative—he just makes sure to check in.

I so appreciate being on his list.

“It’s so important to call,” he told me. “Just to see how you’re doing.”

Amen. It’s so important to check in with each other.

I think most of us are doing—meh or worse.

We all have our moments.

Children are missing school and their friends. Seniors are missing proms and graduations.

People are losing jobs. Many can’t pay their bills. Families are lined up to get food from Food Banks.
Our nest eggs are smaller. Our future’s are uncertain.
We worry about getting sick. We know people who are sick. We know people who have died. Alone.
All alone.

We know businesses that have closed or are struggling. Each one is a dream in trouble or dashed.

We mourn it all.

My daughter is a teacher. She works with special education students and last week she sounded so tired. Remote learning is a slog.
She misses her kids.

Trips have been cancelled.
Holidays come and go.
Weddings are threatened by a virus.
Celebrations of all kinds put on hold.

It is a sad sad time.

And I’ve come to learn that it’s OK to be a little sad; to let myself feel all of it at times.

But I will not give up on a brighter future.
Neither will you.

We will be each other’s rock.

And we will see each other on the other side and it will be a happy, happy, happy day.

A Different Kind of Mother’s Day

I’ve been thinking a lot about moms these days.

My mom would have turned 81 this week but we lost her in 1998 and ever since, Mother’s Day has been a bittersweet holiday for me.
I miss my mom terribly, so the day is tinged with a trace of sadness although I must say that my gratitude for having had a wonderful mother far outweighs any melancholy I may feel.

It’s also a happy day because my two children and my two stepchildren have been absolutely blessed with amazing mothers.
Kathy and Diane are exceptional mothers. Both are kind, nurturing, warm, encouraging and 100 percent dedicated to the happiness and well being of their/our children.
It’s flat out inspiring.
My mother was like that too;
always there for me and Sharon.
For that and a million other reasons I am forever grateful.
And so as we approach a Mother’s Day unlike any other I have a few thoughts.
If you are lucky enough to still have a mom, try and take a moment to savor how fortunate you are. In many cases, you may not be able to see or hug her given the situation but if she’s still here count your blessings.

On this Mother’s Day, I’m going to remember my wonderful mom and do my best to honor the mom I’m quarantined with—my beautiful wife.
I also want to offer a shout out to a few special ladies in Delray that I’ve noticed are amazing moms. This list is not by any means definitive. I will surely leave out so many wonderful moms. Please forgive me.
 But I do want to say Happy Mother’s Day to Rita Ellis, Frances Bourque, Susan Ruby, Lula Butler, Janet Meeks, Vera Farmington, Cynthia Ridley, Michelle Hoyland, Jen Costello, Diane Franco, Lori Nolan, Marjorie Waldo, Evelyn Dobson, Barbara Fitz and Donna Quinlan—mothers who balanced public service with busy personal lives. We know that isn’t easy.
Happy Mother’s Day Melissa Porten, Kim Thomas, Linda Greenberg, Amanda Perna, Ryan Lynch, Pam Halberg, Teresa Paterson, Maria Poliacek, Maritza Benitez, Karen Vermilyea, Sharon Sperling, Karen Zolnierek, Hilary Lynch, Diane Alperin, Connie Barcinski, Lucy Carney, Billie Christ, Karen Granger, Elizabeth Mitchell, Debbie Smith, Sharon Wood, Cassidee Boylston, Debbie Bathurst, Fran Finch, Elaine Morris, Suzanne Carter,  Fran Fisher, Sharon Sperling and the Miracle mom herself Julia Kadel.
Thanks for all you do.
So if we miss our mother’s hugs these days be it because they have passed, live far away or because we are practicing social distancing please remember: a mother’s hug lasts long after she lets go.

Preparing For Recovery

I moved to Delray Beach just when efforts to revitalize the city were beginning to kick into gear.

The year was 1987, so I had just missed Mayor Doak Campbell’s Atlantic Avenue Task Force, an effort that served as an important precursor to the massive efforts that were about to be launched.

But I was there for Visions 2000, the Decade of Excellence, Visions 2005, Sharing for Excellence (which focused on the city’s schools) the Downtown Master Plan and a host of other efforts that created modern day Delray Beach, a three time All America City, that has earned national acclaim for its redevelopment efforts, successful downtown, events, culture and food scene.

It’s been quite a ride—turbulent at times, but joyous too.
Now in the midst of a pandemic I am reminded every time I drive down Atlantic Avenue about those early years when downtown was dead and buried in a lot of people’s hearts and minds.

Delray came back as a result of careful planning, massive public investment, risky private investment and a playbook that included everything from a downtown tennis stadium and festivals to a focus on culture and a big bet on food and beverage as a driver of commerce and branding. A strong commitment to Community Policing was another indispensable tool. If people don’t feel safe, they simply won’t spend time or money in your city.

In a pandemic, most of those tools are largely off the table—- for now at least. So I wonder how we will fare in the short and long term.
Long term I think we will find a vaccine and effective treatments that will give us the confidence to venture out again and be among people.
That’s what downtowns do best if they are healthy. They bring us together.

But short term it may be a while before we see restaurants packed and feel comfortable enough to attend festivals with thousands of people.

Thanks to societal changes, retail doesn’t appear to be viable option especially in a high rent environment.
Pineapple Grove has done well as center of personal services and hopefully salons, gyms and the like can safely re-open soon.

We never quite had a huge office component downtown and one wonders where that sector will be in the wake of the coronavirus. Many companies are realizing they can effectively operate remotely and may not require the large offices they now occupy.

Still, there are opportunities at Atlantic Crossing and the IPic building to bring workers downtown.
In time, it will also be important to get anchors such as Old School Square and the Arts Garage up and running again.
The arts are a morale booster and an economic development engine.

I also think  there is  a great opportunity to introduce educational uses downtown and perhaps someday (post vaccine) that will be possible too.

Tourism is a huge part of our economy and we finally have a critical mass of hotel rooms after years of lacking capacity.
In time, if the hotels can stay alive, that sector will bounce back and be a critical piece of our economic recovery.
My belief is we need a short term survival plan because long term we can bounce back because the fundamentals are there. But it will be harder to bounce back if we lose too much of what we had prior to the pandemic.
What’s probably needed is a local city specific Marshall Plan.
Is that an overreaction? Maybe, but what we seem to be facing is an economic event unlike any we’ve experienced since the Great Depression.
So in my estimate, it will take big and bold thinking to restore a sustainable local economy that has the potential—if done right—to be better than pre-Coronavirus.
Tall order?
Perhaps.
But we are starting with a decent foundation this time.
Back then, all we had were good bones and a lot of dreams.
A slew of visionaries made it happen then, we can do it again.