Hurricane Relief Efforts Underway

After a major hurricane, there is an overwhelming desire to do something to help those who were most impacted by the event.

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, there is a great need to help our neighbors in The Bahamas.

There are a lot of efforts being organized and it can be confusing if you want to donate.

While there are scores of reputable organizations rushing to meet the needs of The Bahamas, I can safely recommend BahamasStrong.org because I know many of its principals including Kirsten Stevens, Danny Alberttis and Sarah Crane. All three and have extensive non-profit experience, deep community ties and big hearts.

Using their long established community connections in The Bahamas, Bahamas Strong will coordinate the receipt, storage and distribution of donated supplies. Through their fiscal sponsor, Enterprise Palm Beach, a registered 501(C)(3), they are able to collect funds and distribute them directly to the agencies on the ground.

Bahamas Strong is leading an awareness campaign to drive donations of hard goods to collection points. This includes supplies of food, water, first aid, and construction materials. They are also collecting funds to be distributed to agencies who are conducting relief operations. Another focus will be organizing the Florida boating and aviation communities to coordinate safe transportation of goods collected.

Visit Bahamasstrong.org for a wish list of items and drop off locations. The Delray drop off is at the Chamber of Commerce at 140 NE First Street.

You can also donate by texting Dorian to 21000.

Again, there are many fine efforts underway, this is just one that I know will do a great job.

Stay safe and remain vigilant, there’s plenty of the hurricane season left.

 

Things We Loved In August

Things We Loved in August

Hawkers
Good to see a new restaurant coming to the long vacated space that used to house Sonoma on East Atlantic Avenue.
Hawkers, which features southeast Asian street food, looks awfully  interesting. Can’t wait to try it.
Coco Part 1
Some great photos on social media of Delray tennis sensation Coco Gauff and her family meeting Michelle Obama.
The meeting occurred after Coco competed in the Citi Open in Washington D.C. She won the doubles title with Caty McNally. Her first WTA title.  Pretty impressive. Oh and she made the cover of Teen Vogue too. Not to mention a cover story in USA Today and an appearance on Good Morning America. And a first grand slam singles win on the stadium court  at the U.S. Open.
 Not a bad month.
Mazel Tov
Congratulations to Dupree and Janay Jackson on their wedding. We wish this special couple health and happiness now and forever. They are doing great things in Delray.
Movies around town
We saw “Echo in The Canyon” at the Living Room Theater and it was in a word: wonderful.
The documentary , starring and executive produced by Jakob Dylan, is a loving look back at the amazing music produced by denizens of Laurel Canyon in Southern California in the 60s.
The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Beach Boys, Mamas and The Papas, The Association and Crosby Still Nash are among the musical giants celebrated in the film.
Interviews with Michelle Phillips, Brian Wilson, Tom Petty, Ringo Starr, Stephen Stills, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Lou Adler and Eric Clapton add color to the timeless music covered by Dylan, Fiona Apple, Jade, Norah Jones, Beck and others.
It’s truly terrific. A can’t miss if you love classic rock.
Another cant miss is David Crosby: Remember My Name also at the Living Room.
Produced by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous) Remember My Name is an unflinching look at Crosby’s life, loves, addictions and broken friendships. It’s powerful and honest but leaves you with more questions than answers.
We also saw The Art of Racing in the Rain. It was wonderful. But bring a box of tissues. You will need it. A must see for dog lovers and those who cherish a good story, well told.
Also outstanding: Blinded By The Light. The feel good movie of the summer.
Caridad
Kudos to the Caridad Center. The nonprofit’s “Back to School Bash” provided 1,000 Deserving Children with Much-Needed School Supplies.
Well done.
A Promising Debut & Other Restaurant Doings
We checked out the new Elisabetta’s on Atlantic Avenue and it was worth the wait.
Located in the former space occupied by the classic 32 East, Elisabetta’s is an Italian restaurant with a huge menu, two bars, a gorgeous terrace, great pasta and truly special pizza.
The restaurant is very beautiful, the build out is really something to see.
We continue to be impressed by the Driftwood on US 1 in Boynton Beach.
Excellent service and an innovative menu makes for a very good experience.
The short rib is as good as I’ve ever had.
Check it out. Don’t miss the yuca tots, they are delicious.
 
ER Bradley’s remains a favorite. 
The West Palm Beach staple is always fun and we like that it’s dog friendly. 
The Impossible Burger is on the menu and the pretzel bread is always a treat. 
We wish Rick Jankee smooth sailing upon his retirement from Delray’s legendary Sail Inn.
Rick sold the sail after 30 years of running one of Delray’s favorite local bars.
So many memories. So many good times. Thanks Rick!
Brule is such a special restaurant. Despite the construction across the street, it was crowded when we went to enjoy a recent lunch.
The chicken parm panini, truffle fries, greens and chicken meatballs are just out of this world.
Welcome to the Ave!
The Wine Room opened this month. Haven’t been over there yet, but the photos online look great and they run a great store in Winter Park.
We had a great happy hour/ dinner with friends at the always wonderful Papas Tapas. With construction on The Ray closing off one lane of traffic it’s important we support the businesses affected on Pineapple Grove.
More Coco.
Coco Gauff is not just showing athletic prowess she’s showing class and leadership too.
The budding tennis star surprised students at The Village Academy on the first day of school with an impromptu visit.
Very cool move.
Boca Eco Dev
Boca keeps landing  new business headquarters.
FlexShoppers will expand by 200 jobs as it consolidates locations under one roof.
Jessica Del Vecchio, Boca‘s Economic development director is a rockstar.
Happy Birthday Bill
Finally, happy birthday to Bill Branning.
Bill who chairs our chamber of commerce has been an invaluable contributor to Delray chairing Old School Square, serving on city advisory boards and on the CRA while running a great local business- BSA Corp.
We were thrilled to celebrate his birthday with friends and family.
Have a great month and stay safe during Dorian.

Grateful: For ALL Of It

Today is my birthday.

I’m 55.

Eligible to move to 55 and over communities and edging closer to coveted senior discounts at movies and places like the Old Country Buffet.

I’m already eligible for 10 percent off at Banana Republic and 15 percent off at Bealls Outlet but only on Tuesdays, when I’m working and unable to get to an outlet.

But I digress.

Birthdays with 0’s and 5’s get progressively tougher.

Oh, 20 and 25 are cool.

But 30 and 40 and 50 are really rough. I enjoyed 35—thought that was kind of the perfect age, just the right amount of seasoning. But 45 induced a twinge of mortality and this birthday brings a mix of emotions.

When you hit your 50s you start to feel a little more comfortable with who you are. The little things don’t bother you as much and you learn to avoid toxic people. You learn not to feed negativity.

You also learn to appreciate the good times, the good people and the love in your life.

Good friends become more precious. Good times and laughter more valued.

Experiences take precedence over “things.”

It’s a good time of life.

By the time most people reach their 50s they have experienced a whole lot.

Love, loss, joy, sadness, parenthood, career successes, career setbacks and everything in between.

What makes the 50s so poignant is this feeling that in so many ways you are at the top of your game.

You have perspective, knowledge and hard fought experience. But you can also see the end game.

It sounds morbid and hopefully its decades away, but you realize how life is a blur and how time seems to fly.

My best buddy from childhood texted me some old photos while I was writing this. Some cannot be shared, taken when we were young and somewhat foolish as young men should be (within limits) which we managed to always observe.

Some were from high school graduation and others were from a trip we took to visit his parents in Arizona which dovetailed with my 30th birthday. I blinked and 25 years passed.

Looking at that photo of us standing in 100 degree plus heat at the Pima Air Museum with his dad Mickey brought a smile to my face and a catch to my throat. Mickey is gone and I really loved him. So is my mom and she was the world to all of us. Both were around back then—in fact they were about the age we are now.

In 1994, I was a father to a four year old and a two year old. Now my oldest is turning 30 and is well into a teaching career and my little boy is an accountant who advises me on my taxes.

So there’s a lot of pride at this point in your life—you get to see your kids succeed and your friends do some amazing things in their lives and careers. A buddy of mine just sold his company for a mind blowing number and will be sailing the world and others are climbing the ladder of success or retiring after really making a mark.

But we’ve also lost some classmates and been touched by disease. Happy hour discussions these days range from politics, movies, sports (the usual) to prostate health and various aches and pains. Sometimes we pass mirrors and wonder who the old guy is that’s staring back at us.

But if you look closer you also see wisdom and depth. Hair lines recede but knowledge grows.

A few weeks ago, CNN’s Anderson Cooper did an interview with comedian Stephen Colbert that got quite a bit of attention.

Colbert lost his father and two brothers in an airplane crash when he was 10 years old. It was a crushing life defining loss.

“I was personally shattered,” he says. “And then you reform yourself in this quiet, grieving world that was created in [your] house.”

But as a religious man he found the strength to forge a life making other people laugh.

Cooper, who recently lost his mother, was visibly moved by Colbert’s response.

He asks Colbert, “You [once] said, ‘What punishment of God’s are not gifts?’ Do you really believe that?”

To which Colbert replies, “Yes. It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There’s no escaping that.”

Regarding his losses, Colbert says, “I don’t want it to have happened. I want it to not have happened. But if you’re grateful for your life — and I’m not always — then you have to be grateful for all of it.”

You have to be grateful for all of it. What a wonderful belief.

Loss and the prospect of an end can make you love more deeply. It can help you develop a greater understanding of other people and life itself.

So yes, 0’s and 5’s can be tough if all you think about is aging, loss and your own mortality. But if I have learned one thing in my 55 years it is to be aware of the lessons that life is trying to teach you. The universe or a higher power sends messages all the time if we care to be alert to them.

It could be a cardinal in your backyard or it could be an interview with a comedian you admire who reminds you to be grateful for all of it.

Be grateful for all of it.

And I am.

 

 

Don’t Stop Them Now, They’re Still Having A Good Time

Queen co-founder and guitarist Brian May still rocking in his 70s.

Every generation believes their music is the best that’s ever been made.

In the case of the Baby Boomers though, it’s actually true.

Of course that’s my opinion, but many of my millennial friends agree.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been seeing more than a few 20-somethings singing along to the anthems created by the slew of icons coming through South Florida recently.

Sadly, most of these generation defining stars are on farewell tours but what’s astounding is how good they still sound and how well the music stands up 40 and 50 plus years since it was released.

Queen was the latest classic rock band to come to town.

The British band– which includes two original members guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor– is now fronted by former American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert, a talented performer who somehow pulls off the unenviable task of standing in for the late Freddie Mercury who has been gone but not forgotten since 1991.

It’s not an easy task because Freddie was larger than life. A true icon whose legend only grew after the release of last year’s hit film “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

I attended the show with a group of childhood friends and some of their 20 something kids who came in from Los Angeles, New York and Pittsburgh to experience Queen live and up close.

We got our money’s worth and that’s saying a lot because the tickets weren’t cheap.

Queen followed Paul Simon, David Byrne (Talking Heads), Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel and a few other 60s and 70s legends who have toured these parts recently. Of course, the Rolling Stones are still out there playing to huge crowds and rave reviews.

The movies are also full of classic rock fare these days—”Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Rocketman”, “Echo in the Canyon”, “Remember my Name: David Crosby”, “Yesterday” and the recently released “Blinded by the Light” which celebrates my hero, the boss.

Turn on the TV and you’re sure to run into a Woodstock retrospective, a PBS pledge drive featuring classic rock or an ad for a new drug featuring a song from a bygone era.

Some of this phenomena may be the sheer size of the Baby Boomer generation and their refusal to fade away.

I just finished a book on demography and the Boomers are expected to impact society and industry for many years to come. Florida is poised to feel the impact with a “tsunami (to quote the author) of  Boomers flocking to the Sunshine State eager to flee harsh winters and high taxation in the northeast.

So if that prognosis is correct, we can expect that our neck of the woods will continue to be a great place for classic rockers to perform—at least those who choose not to retire.

Which brings me back to Queen.

I went to the show after receiving a series of texts from my long time buddy Howard Cohn and his sister Linda. You may know Linda as a long time anchor on ESPN’s Sports Center. She’s an icon for female broadcasters, a true pioneer and legend in her field.

I know her as the “cool” slightly older sister who was able to drive me, her brother and our friends Scott and Dave to concerts and amusement parks. If I remember correctly, we made her laugh.

Five years ago, when we turned 50, she arranged for a sports weekend celebration in NYC. We went to the U.S. Open, a Mets game and roamed the sidelines at a Giants vs. Patriots pre-season game thanks to her connections in the world of sports. We created lifelong memories. We just made another.

This weekend, we recalled seeing a bunch of other shows together—Billy Joel, The Doobie Brothers, Styx, Foreigner and Beatlemania on Broadway.

It was nice to continue the old tradition and to add some family members—another sister and Linda’s kids who love the classics.

I was also thrilled that my friend Marisa Herman and her husband Lyle found a way to get last minute tickets. Marisa runs the Delray Newspaper and Boca Newspaper and while still very young she is what I would consider an old soul. We saw Paul Simon and Elton John together and she has also attended Jimmy Buffett, Billy Joel and Eagles concerts. I know she loves the Bee Gees and Beatles too.

One could say she has odd tastes for a 20-something. But I just think she gets great music.

And that makes this old guy happy, because it means the music will live on and on. As it should.

 

 

 

The Art & Importance Of Stories

Stories are leadership tools and build community.

“Everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”–Patrick Rothfuss, author

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” — Sue Monk Kidd, author

“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.”–Dr. Howard Gardner, professor Harvard University.

 

I really like those three quotes about storytelling.

I think there is a lot of truth in all three.

The story inside our heads does have a lot to do with our identity. I think the same goes for cities. The stories cities tell about themselves create an identity and paint a portrait of that community in our minds.

For example:

Dayton Strong and Boston Strong.

Hershey, PA the “sweetest place on earth.”

And maybe my favorite: Cleveland Rocks which is sure better than ‘the mistake by the lake.’

What stories do we tell about our communities?

Do we tell good stories about Delray Beach and Boca Raton?

It’s important to know those stories because they define us and we do “build ourselves” out of the stories we tell.

As for Sue Monk Kidd’s quote—well it’s very true. And it’s one of the reasons I write this blog which is a small (very small) effort to keep some of the old stories alive. I figure if you live here and really care, you ought to know about some of the special people and events that brought us to the present day.

Newspapers used to fulfill this important mission and our newspaper (Delray Newspaper and Boca Newspaper)  does yeoman’s work with limited resources. But the community water cooler is long gone or maybe it has moved to social media; which can be a very challenging place to try and find the truth. It can however, be a great source of misinformation, half-truths, conspiracy theories and vitriol.

But I use it anyway—to stay in touch with old friends and distant relatives. Oh and to post innumerable photos of my pets and view others pets. I think that’s what Facebook is best for.

But I digress.

This post is about storytelling and the importance of storytelling if you are leader. (See the third quote by Howard Gardner).

There’s a new book out by Paul Smith, a former Procter & Gamble executive, about the 10 types of stories leaders tell and how important they are.

While Smith focuses on business, his list translates to community work.

For reference, here they are:

ONE: Where we came from (our founding story) – Nobody ever quit their job and started a company for a boring reason. Find that reason for your company’s founder and tell that story. It will infect everyone with the same sense of purpose and passion. Same goes for our communities and the key initiatives and projects that make our cities different and distinct. Knowing where you come from is critical.

 

TWO: Why we can’t stay here (a case-for-change story) – Human beings are creatures of habit. Change is an unwelcome visitor. This story provides the rationale for why change is needed and a real human reason to care. Good civic leaders frame the important issues facing their cities and make the case for change.

 

THREE: Where we’re going (a vision story) – A vision is a picture of the future so compelling, people want to go there with you. And the best way to paint that picture is with a story about what that future will look like when you achieve it.

 

FOUR: How we’re going to get there (a strategy story) – Strategy is how you’ll get from where you are now to where you want to be. In other words, strategy is a journey. And what better way to describe a journey than a story? Think about our local journey, how we went from Dull Ray to the most fun city in America is an interesting strategy story.

 

FIVE: What we believe (a corporate-values story) – Values are only words on a piece of paper until they’re tested. This is a story of one of those awkward or uncomfortable moments when one of your company values was put to the test. Cities have values too. What do we stand for? What do we want to be? What do we value?

 

SIX: Who we serve (a customer story) – There’s no substitute for getting out of the office and meeting your customer face-to-face. A great mantra for those in public service. Citizens, businesses and other stakeholders are a city’s customers. City officials need to be visible, accessible and transparent.

 

SEVEN: What we do for our customers (a sales story) – A story about what you did for one of your customers that’s so impressive other people will want to buy what you’re selling as well.

What;s our unique value proposition as a community? If you move here, how will you feel? What will happen? What will you experience?

 

EIGHT: How we’re different from our competitors (a marketing story) – You probably have a list of reasons why your product or service is better than your competition. Well, guess what? Nobody remembers your list. But they will remember the story you tell them that shows them those differences as they play out in a story. A great economic development philosophy. What makes Boca and Delray different than West Palm, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano and Lake Worth Beach?

 

 

NINE: Why I lead the way I do (a leadership-philosophy story) – No series of buzzwords on a piece of paper could ever articulate the subtle, human, and complex nature of your personal leadership philosophy. If you want people to understand how to expect you to lead, you need to tell them a story about what shaped the leader you’ve become.

 

TEN: Why you should want to work here (a recruiting story) – Every company claims they offer competitive pay and benefits, challenging work, and great advancement opportunities. If you really want to attract the best talent, you need real stories about why it’s so awesome to work there.

Good advice for Delray’s next City Manager.

 

 

Many Soulful Miles

Yulia at Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park.

“Never underestimate your dreams. If there is a will, there is a way to get anything you want in life.” –Yulia

 

Did you ever want to chuck it all?
Start fresh.

Pick up and go.

Are you intrigued by adventure?

Do you admire the risk takers, the ‘go for it’ segment of our society who just seem to know how to live, really live?

I think it’s a feeling many if not most of us have experienced and while we may fantasize or even dip our toes into something different, the ties that bind tend to keep us in our place.

Not so for my friend Yulia Konovnitsyna.

She’s on a grand adventure as I write this. Or maybe that’s not the right word. Because an adventure implies a beginning, a middle and an end. My friend Yulia has changed her life and has adopted a new way of living.  I’m living vicariously through her travels with her dog Milo across our great country.

I’m having a great time doing so. Even if sometimes her posts stir a longing deep in my soul for change and transformation.

The Grand Tetons, Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, Arches National Park and many, many stops along the way.

Yulia shares her photos and thoughts on social media—and they are sensational. She is a digital marketing entrepreneur and somehow she is managing to grow her business, serve her clients and live a life of adventure.

She’s sharing under the name “Many Soulful Miles” and I find that moniker fitting. Yulia is a soulful person and very much an old soul.

While she’s young in age, she positively oozes wisdom.

I started to hear about her a few years back through my friend Karen Granger, then the president of the Delray Chamber of Commerce.
“You’ve got to meet Yulia,” Karen would gush. “She’s amazing.”
Knowing Karen’s keen sense of people and her ability to spot talent I was intrigued.

So Yulia and I met at The Coffee District and I was very impressed.

My three passions are community, entrepreneurship and leadership—and Yulia ticked all three boxes. She was building a community through Creative Mornings Palm Beach,  she was clearly a leader of that movement and she was an entrepreneur with an inspiring immigration story.

We became friends. She asked me to speak to Creative Mornings (which was an honor and a thrill) and I was happy when she announced that she was hitting the road with her adorable dog Milo.

I look forward to her posts—the photos and videos are magnificent. But it’s the occasional long form posts that I relish. Her thoughts on travel, on work, solitude, narcissism, friendship, self-reliance and the beauty of the places she visits are just wonderful. Soulful too…and we all need a little more soul these days.

As I stare down my 55th birthday in a few weeks, chances are I will never quite replicate what Yulia is doing but who knows? Maybe, just maybe Diane and I will steal away with our rescue dogs for an adventure. But right now, it’s August and I’m still trying to plan a vacation.

I have a strong hunch that this is more than an adventure for Yulia. She may have found a way to live her best life, yet another reason to admire her.

Who knows where the road will lead? Nobody really does. But if you make them soulful miles, well then maybe, just maybe you’ll discover the answers to a lot of life’s mysteries.

 

 

Unsung But Never Forgotten

Delray PD “Tactical Team” circa 1990. Sgt. Don West, future Chief Jeff Goldman, Officer Phil Dorfman, Sgt. Toby Rubin and Lt. Allan Thompson.

It’s hard to believe that’s been almost 18 years since 9/11.

Children have been born and have reached adulthood since that tragic day.

So much of our daily lives have changed that I have a feeling we don’t even realize just how much life is different as a result.

I saw a stat the other day that struck me.

Deaths from 9/11 related illnesses will soon pass those lost on the day of the attack.

They are dying of cancer and other 9/11 related disorders as we were reminded during recent Congressional testimony that finally led to more funding for victims and first responders.

That reminder was made personal recently when I dropped by a Delray Beach family reunion of a retired firefighter who lost a sister in law on 9/11 and has watched his brother fight cancer as a result of being near the site of the attack in lower Manhattan.

Families are continuing to suffer emotionally and physically. Some nightmares never quite end and that’s sobering. Those who devote their lives to public safety know that in their bones, but they sign up for that life anyway.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for public safety professionals—police officers, firefighters, paramedics and those who serve on our beach patrol. It seems that a lot of people gripe about pensions and benefits and there is no doubt that public safety is an expensive proposition. I would suspect that it will get more so as our society deals with challenges ranging from active shooters and opioid addicts to mental illness and extreme weather events.

But for those who complain about the cost, imagine how expensive it would be without it.

In Delray Beach, police and fire are half of your city budget—at least that’s what it used to be and I suspect that’s still true.

But I have always believed that the unsung heroes of Delray have been the men and women who have served on police and fire rescue departments.

There would be no downtown without them because we would not have been able to attract investment had we remained an unsafe city, which we were for a period of time back in the day before two generations of police officers and firefighters came to work every day and turned things around.

How bad was it?

Well in the 80s, they were pelted with rocks and bottles after responding to fights outside of bars on West Atlantic Avenue, the gateway to our city. Some neighborhoods were so hostile to police officers that I once saw the severed heads of pigs impaled on street signs as a warning for law enforcement to stay away. They didn’t—they just persisted. Thank goodness these officers did. Because they saved Delray Beach.

 

I was privileged at the time to do frequent “ride alongs” and saw some amazing officers do their best to disrupt street level drug sales. Entire parts of Delray Beach were open air drug markets with cars coming in off the Interstate to buy crack cocaine from dealers who used  little children as look-outs at all hours of the night.

I remember, as a young reporter, interviewing then Chief Rick Overman who promised to chase the dealers off the avenue. He predicted that the drug sales would first migrate into the neighborhoods where it would be more difficult to track but he asked for more resources and for the community to be both patient and to play a role in helping make their neighborhoods safer.

MAD DADS was formed and groups of men— most from the neighborhood but a few volunteers from other parts of the city—would confront dealers on the street corners and ask them to stop selling the drugs that hurt so many people and kept residents inside their homes quaking with fear.

Police and fire were partners in that effort and other efforts to make Delray Beach a safer community, one where it would be possible to build something of value.

Over the years I became close with many of the men and women who served. I looked up to them. I admired their dedication, commitment and bravery. They taught me so much.

It’s important to mention them because cities have these unsung heroes and heroines that often get lost. But if they didn’t exist, places such as Delray would be a whole lot different.

My list is a long one and this is by no means complete but let’s just say Delray would have been vastly different and I believe worse off if people such as Adam Rosenthal, Vinnie Mintus, Jim Tabeek, Rich Murphy, Chief Overman, Chief Kerry Koen, Johnny Pun, Fred Glass, Robert Stevens, Toby Rubin, Mike Swigert, Brian Bollan, Dwayne Fernandes, Craig Hartmann, John Battiloro, Mike Wise,  John Palermo, Wayne Yoder, Russ Accardi, Mike Wigderson, John Tomaszewski, Eddie Robinson, Tom Whatley, Paul Shersty, Tom Quinlan, Chuck Jeroloman, John Evans and many others went to work elsewhere or if we failed to remain competitive and let them go elsewhere.

I wish there was a way to formally honor these unsung heroes—people who went the extra mile, accomplished the nearly impossible and made a true and lasting difference.

If you want a special village—you need to create an environment in which people can flourish and reach their potential.

Like everything, it begins and ends with leadership that empowers, encourages and builds trust and relationships. From those essential elements you get accountability and performance. Innovation occurs and excellence flourishes in an environment where people feel safe to grow and are motivated to achieve.

It’s magical when it happens.

We were lucky to see it, but even if we came later, we are here because of the work of these unsung men and women. I hope and trust we will never forget that.

 

 

 

Assessing iPic

The story of iPic in Delray is a long and complicated one.

So let’s sit for a spell and unpack a little of it because it’s important to try and understand.

The CRA board chose iPic over three other proposals in August 2013. That was six years ago.

Ipic’s winning bid promised a theater and office space on land that once housed the library and the Chamber of Commerce.

But the history of that RFP goes back even further than 2013.

I was on the commission in the early 2000s when we moved forward with a complicated transaction to move the chamber and library and free up the land for redevelopment. The goal was to give the chamber and library new and better facilities replacing what had become dilapidated buildings.

Both of those goals were achieved—with the chamber occupying beautiful space under the Old School Square Parking Garage and the library occupying larger space on West Atlantic Avenue. The library’s board believed that the library would better serve the needs of the community on West Atlantic.

We agreed.

It was not an easy decision and it was not without controversy either.

I remember hearing from residents who didn’t want the library to move to the West Atlantic corridor. One citizen put it bluntly: “why would you put the library out there with those people?”

Yep, that was said.

It just made us want to move it more.

Still, the transaction was a complicated one since the Chamber had a lot of years left on a very sweet lease and there were a lot of moving parts and entities involved.

But it got done, because that was an era where people were able to work together. I sure miss those days.

Once the deal was struck,  an RFP was issued and awarded to a group that envisioned a mixed use project and a hotel. But the Great Recession hit and the deal never got off the ground. Eventually, the CRA issued a new RFP and that led to the iPic deal.

It should be noted that CRA staff liked the iPic bid, but did not rank it first. There was another theater concept—an European style theater if I remember correctly—that they ranked ahead of iPic.

But once the Boca-based iPic was chosen, the CRA staff embraced the concept and worked to make it happen.

The proposal sparked controversy—as so many projects do—over concerns about traffic, design and parking. Those are the usual bugaboos—all understandable.

Mix in personalities, ancient feuds, politics, misinformation and the difficulty of getting things done and it took nearly six years from awarding the RFP to opening night. When iPic won the deal the expected opening date was 2016—it took twice that long.

It seems like the entire town showed up for the grand opening party which may have been the best party Delray has ever seen.

The reviews were mostly glowing—the building was next level beautiful, with living walls of plants, striking art work and plush seating.

The office space—still in the process of being leased—is also beautiful and much needed in our downtown to complement and diversify our abundance of food and beverage options.

Since then, I’ve been to iPic twice. Most of my friends have gone as well— a time or two.

We tend to agree—it’s a good experience but very expensive and not something we see ourselves doing regularly and many of us are movie fans who go frequently.

That said, I supported iPic and hoped the concept would succeed creating a new use downtown and adding jobs to our city since there were promises—albeit sometimes vague ones– to move their corporate headquarters here. It’s important for cities to be business friendly and to have good economies. That doesn’t mean compromising your ethics, selling your soul or offering back breaking incentives. But it does mean hanging an “open for business” sign at your City Hall and being reasonable. It also means welcoming debate.

That said,  I and many others were disappointed in the tone of the debate surrounding iPic.

And while I sympathized with the views and concerns of opponents, I thought more than a few crossed the line with personal attacks on those who supported the project. I also thought some elected officials pushed it by supporting the use but adding costly conditions (outside the scope of the RFP) making it more difficult to succeed.

I felt so bad about the treatment, that I invited iPic CEO Hamid Hashemi to lunch to tell him that despite the vitriol Delray was a nice place and many people wished him and his company success.

So when the news broke last week that iPic missed an interest payment on over $200 million in debt and may have to consider bankruptcy it stirred a lot of emotions. This week, bankruptcy became the path and iPic will operate as usual until it either restructures or is sold.

There was the usual chorus of “I told you so’s” and a slew of people wishing the company ill will which I think is wrong.

Do we really want to see a company fail? Do we want to see an empty building in the heart of our downtown? Do we want to see iPic staff lose their jobs because management loaded the company up with debt?

I don’t think so.

You know who should be mad?
iPic shareholders who have seen their stock plummet.

The retired teachers who depend on their Alabama pension fund also have a right to be angry and concerned since they funded a large chunk of that debt.

And yes, citizens of Delray are justified in feeling disappointed. Our downtown’s real estate is precious. It’s not a good feeling to see a high profile project threatened.

The initial financial blogs quoted iPic as saying sales dipped as a result of the government shut down earlier this year. That really doesn’t pass the smell test.

Round two explanations made more sense: iPic was a trendsetter but other chains are loading up on the luxury too—often at lower ticket prices. So there’s competition in an industry being disrupted by streaming services. Add crushing debt to that equation and all the innovation in the world or the biggest rooftop bar won’t save you.

Still, many people in this community supported the downtown iPic. I did.

While pricey, we liked the idea of another use in the downtown and we liked the idea of Class A office space and a corporate headquarters too.

We liked that iPic offered corporate event space, special events and unique programming through partnerships with entities such as Netflix. We trusted their projections and studies that showed that this market could support an iPic so close to the Mizner Park location.

We liked that business publications were featuring the company and that it was able to go public and was considered an innovator in its space.

So seeing it fall into bankruptcy is no reason to celebrate.

This is where strong communities come together and make lemonade out of lemons. I hope and trust we will do just that.

So what can we learn from this?

iPic Delray has not struggled because of parking or traffic woes.

The local theater was not challenged because downtown Delray isn’t strong enough to support the use.

Clearly, the business model is deeply flawed.

But other chains are managing to figure it out.

Living Room Theater at FAU regularly sells out offering offbeat, independent and foreign fare.

Alamo Drafthouse and other innovative chains seem to be doing well and drawing crowds.

I hope iPic finds a good strong buyer with solid vision and a healthy balance sheet. I also hope the Alabama teachers don’t get crushed in the process. That one might be tough…

It would be great if the Class A office space that was built gets leased and brings much needed jobs to our city.

Regardless, whatever happens we should find ways to work together to pick up the pieces and make this a success somehow, someway. That’s what strong towns do.

What a concept, huh?

 

 

 

The Dayton Chant: “Do Something”

Mourners gather for a vigil at the scene of a mass shooting, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio.

Two mass shootings in 13 terrifying hours only days after another mass shooting at a Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California.

Welcome to America 2019, where there have been 251  shootings in 216 days. Think about that. There have been more mass shootings than there have been days in the year.
Dayton and El Paso join the ranks of communities reeling from gun violence. We’ve seen it happen in churches and synagogues, schools, grocery stores, festivals and now at Walmart.
In the immediate aftermath, you see the same script unfold.
Tweets sending thoughts and prayers from our so called leaders.
Devastated police chiefs, first responders and mayors declaring that this will not break the spirit of the community followed by the inevitable political arguments between the left and the right.
But nothing ever seems to change does it?
Within a few days, the national press moves on although I suspect the communities and loved ones never do. 
Then we have another mass atrocity and we repeat the cycle. 
 
What seems to be missing are solutions or even efforts to seriously work together to tackle the issue of gun violence in our country. 
Legislative remedies seem to be harder than splitting the atom—the gun lobby is too strong for our weak kneed Congress to stand up to so they won’t.
Congress has failed on every single issue of importance facing this country whether it’s health care, immigration, infrastructure, climate change etc. 
They fail despite overwhelming support for common sense solutions. They’ve failed when high school kids were slaughtered in Parkland and they failed when kindergarten students were brutally murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 
So what do we do?
Because accepting this as the new normal is unacceptable. 
 
According to Axios, a digital news service, international research has found that U.S. mass shootings cannot be explained by a violent culture, racial divisions or mental health.
I’m not sure I fully buy that argument but I’ll listen.
We have all three in our country. And all three afflictions seem to be getting worse by the week fueled by a rotten to the core political system and lousy national “leaders” who divide, lie, preen and posture. 
 
The reason why the researchers don’t blame our violent culture is because they believe the problem is caused by the sheer volume of guns in our country. 
 
The United States has 270 million guns. It’s an astronomical number.
 
No other country has more than 46 million guns, according to Axios.
These stats will prompt the usual b.s. responses.
There’s no need to repeat them.
What is needed is real leadership and a desire to collaborate not divide.
Nothing gets solved when people go to their sides of the ideological divide.
So while I don’t think our violent culture helps and there is certainly rampant mental health issues plaguing our society, I think a main culprit is hatred and anger. Extremism is on the rise and if we have any sense we will pay attention to it and do something about it. Hate crimes are also on the rise, fueled by a divisive political system, the power of social media to sow hate and the immense power of the internet to misinform.
Foreign enemies are sowing division and so are extreme websites and chat rooms where the El Paso shooter posted his hate filled “manifesto.”
All of this is happening at a time when our press’ credibility is under daily attack and we are losing local newspapers by the truckload.
This is a recipe for disaster and violence. An uninformed populace can easily be led astray.
This space usually calls for local solutions to problems because local government is the government closest to the people and frankly because Washington has been feckless for decades.
But I think this particular issue requires national leadership.
What if the best minds from law enforcement, mental health, public health, sociology, government, business and academia rolled up their sleeves and worked together on a bipartisan basis to address gun violence?
What a concept.
It might even remind us that we are Americans before we are Democrats or Republicans. We can use that reminder.
What if they came up with a list of recommendations to stem the violence and we  the people insisted that Congress act immediately. Sounds naïve… I know.
But does anyone else have a better idea? Tens of millions of Americans are all ears.
We can  and must do something, including making a serious effort to stem the violence or we can wring our hands, blame our fellow Americans and meet again on the battlefield in the aftermath of the next tragedy.
There’s always one around the corner.
As for the local scene, the shootings in Gilroy felt personal. The news rattled me.
In 2006, Nancy Stewart-Franczak, founder of the local Garlic Festival, hosted a few of us on a trip to Gilroy to see first hand what she hoped our Garlic Fest could become.
We were moved by the community participation in Gilroy and by the fact that the festival funded local nonprofits for the year.
We got to know the organizers and our hearts went out to them when the recent violence occurred.
While the Garlic Fest is no longer in Delray—a loss no doubt– we do host other events and attract crowds to our downtown several times a week. You can’t help but think: what if this happened here?
We know it can.
Of course, we cannot stop living or the domestic terrorists with their hate filled manifestos will win. But we can do our best to prepare—like they did in Gilroy which had a model plan and response–but sadly they still suffered death and injury.
And we can insist that Congress and the president seize this moment to lead or at least get out of the way if the American people propose common sense solutions.
If you believe in America—as I still do despite its problems and division—you must believe we have the wherewithal to stop this carnage. 
Do something, they chanted at the governor in Ohio. Do something…..
We better.
 

Unhappy New Yorkers

High Taxes.

Lousy weather.

Outrageous cost of living.

Those are the first three lines you see when you click on the website http://www.unhappynewyorkers.com .

There’s testimonials from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo extolling Florida’s tax advantages and a quote from AOC’s mom saying she moved to the Sunshine State to save money on her property tax bills.

The website is actually a clever marketing piece for Downtown Doral as well as a smack down of the Empire State.

There’s even a downloadable “resignation” letter that goes like this: Dear (Family Member or Friend’s Name):

 

New York is no longer for me. After careful thought and consideration, I’ve officially decided to leave the Big Apple to move to the true apple of my eye: Downtown Doral in Florida.

 

This may not come as a surprise to you–I’m not the only New Yorker who agrees with Mayor Cuomo that Florida is an attractive option for those unhappy with the change in the tax law. In fact, many of our friends and neighbors have already made the move to Florida. I know you won’t question my decision as it’s no secret that New York has the most expensive properties in the nation, our taxes are becoming more burdensome and Mother Nature has only grown more relentless.

 

With the money I will save on taxes and cost of living, I can stop dreaming about paradise and actually live in it. I’ve found a luxurious, urban home at Downtown Doral just steps from some of the best schools, eateries and boutiques in South Florida. Plus, I’m just minutes from the white-sand beaches of Miami. I’m ready to welcome the warm climate, diverse culture and engaging lifestyle of Doral without feeling like all my money is going to taxes!

 

Please continue to stay in touch, and when you’re ready to find tax relief, you can join me in Downtown Doral. Just visit DowntownDoral.com to help you find your new dream home.”

 

Brilliant.

And mostly true, I suppose; although July and August in Florida is no picnic.

Still, as a native and proud New Yorker I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about a website trashing my ancestral homeland.

Thirty-two years ago last week I made the move to Florida driving a 1978 Toyota that was spitting water out of the air conditioner. I drove that Corolla 24 hours to my best friend’s parent’s condo in the Inverrary section of Lauderhill.

There was no doubt in my mind that I had found paradise. Of course, my definition of paradise in 1987 was a pool, a tennis court, bagel shops everywhere, a beach, sunshine and a job writing for a newspaper covering Delray Beach and Boca Raton. Come to think of it, that definition still works.

I would later live—albeit briefly—downwind from a landfill in Coconut Creek next to a guy named “Ace” who told me not to feed the turkey vultures that hovered over our condo quad. (I hadn’t intended to).

By 1988 I made my way to Delray Beach where I have been ever since.

I don’t regret leaving New York, but there are times when I do miss it, even though I doubt I would ever move back. If I did win the lottery I would consider a home on Long Island and would definitely spring for a Manhattan condo—something overlooking Central Park with season tickets to the Yankees and Mets and a box at the U.S. Open.

All of this is to say that New York is not so bad. It’s actually pretty wonderful and believe it or not there are a lot of friendly people there too and yes a few who may have missed charm school including the poor guy who went viral a few weeks back after losing it at a bagel shop. (Google it, its wild).

Still, as a fan of clever and edgy marketing, I applaud unhappynewyorkers.com. Downtown Doral looks interesting despite the traffic, heat and distance from those white sandy beaches.

As noted in an earlier blog, demographers are expecting that Florida will be getting more than its fair share of northeast transplants as the tail end of the Baby Boom roars toward retirement.

I know that has some people worried, but not me.

One thing you learn growing up in New York is how to roll with whatever life hands you.