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.

 

 

 

Things We Loved In July

Don’t miss the latest exhibit in the Cornell Museum. Seven Solos is awesome.

 

Things we loved in July

Coco Gauff’s magical run to the round of 16 at Wimbledon won’t be soon forgotten.
The budding Delray Beach legend acquitted herself with grace and courage on the grass at Wimbledon thrilling fans around the world.
We can’t wait to see her play in the U.S. Open next month.
CanCode is a really cool concept we learned about last month.
CanCode is a group of high school students in Palm Beach County, committed to teaching elementary school students computer programming through engaging workshops. The effort is funded by the Philanthropy Tank and was recently featured on Channel 25 news. We were thrilled to see CanCode working with the Summer Camp Program at Delray’s Achievement Center for Children and Families.
July 4th is always a highlight. After years of braving the crowds at the beach we have settled into a routine where we eat dinner with friends and watch the fireworks far away from the hustle and bustle.
On America’s 243rd birthday, I found myself still marveling at how lucky we are to live in America. My grandparents fled persecution and almost certain death so that future generations could enjoy freedom, opportunity and the pursuit of happiness. I’m grateful for their journey and for a country that would take them in and give their children and grandchildren and now great grandchildren a chance to enjoy all that America has to offer.
We had a chance to see The Spy Behind Home Plate at the Movies of Delray. 
It’s a terrific new documentary that tells the remarkable story of Moe Berg, a major league catcher who went on to play a key role in World War II as a Spy.
It’s an amazing story. Don’t miss it.
Restaurants
We really like Wood & Fire on West Atlantic and Military.
Very lively atmosphere, good food and a nice drink menu.
The Paradise Sports Lounge  also on West Atlantic and Military got some great national press as a result of the Coco Gauff Wimbledon run.
NBC Nightly News and other outlets captured the raucous scene of fans rooting for Coco at the restaurant/sports bar which is owned by Coco’s parents.
Just a great feel good story.
Great to see Troy’s Barbecue open a second location in Boca on Dixie Highway.
The restaurant on US 1 in Boynton is fabulous.
Delray’s Harvest continues to delight with some of the healthiest meals you can find.
We enjoyed a terrific happy hour at Vic & Angelos.
Inexpensive drinks and half price food from 4-7 makes this an extraordinary deal. The bar staff is terrific.
La Cigale remains a favorite.
We had two wonderful large parties in July with candidates for the CEO job at Old School Square.
The food is always sensational as is the service and ambience. Congratulations to the great Francis Toboul and his wonderful staff. 
On a sad note, we were disappointed to see Sardinia on South Federal Highway close. Boca lost the Tilted Kilt on Airport road.
Congratulations to the Chris Evert Pro Celebrity Classic which announced that Chase Private Client Group is the new title sponsor for the event’s 30th anniversary this year.
The two day event is set for Nov. 22-24 at the Delray Tennis Stadium. Celebs include Carson Kressley and Jon Lovitz among others.
Boca’s Chris Evert did a great job giving color commentary at last month’s Wimbledon. We also recommend her entertaining and often funny Instagram feed.
It was great to see Jonathan Burns on America’s Got Talent and on the cover of the Lifestyle section of USA Today.
The talented contortionist and comedian recently performed at Old School Square.
The Seven Solos exhibit at Old School Square’s Cornell Museum is a must see.
Unique installations using light, salt and other materials makes for a fun visit. Don’t miss it.
While at the Cornell, we also enjoyed the terrific 6×6 exhibit featuring a slew of local artists. More than 700 pieces this year.
Marusca Gatto and Melanie Johanson are doing an amazing job at the museum. We’re grateful.
Congratulations to Coach TJ Jackson and the Atlantic High School football team.
The Eagles are the subject of an upcoming documentary produced by the Sturdy Group. 
The documentary will emphasize the team’s devotion to academics and community service. TJ has been a game changer.
We had a blast at the Arts Garage’s summer fundraiser featuring several magicians including headliner Gary Goodman. 
If you haven’t checked out the Arts Garage, please do. You won’t regret it. World class talent served up several times a week in an intimate venue. It’s been really great for Delray.
Welcome to Atlantic Avenue Elisabetta’s. 
After a long wait, Big Time Restaurant Group parent of Rocco’s Tacos and Louie Bossi, debuted Elisabetta’s Ristorante Bar and Pizzeria at 32 East Atlantic.
At 7,800 square feet, the eatery is big and beautiful. Welcome to the Ave.
Two local companies were among the top 10 South Florida venture capital investments in Q2.
Coming in at number 5 was Boca based software management platform Pixeom which raised $15 million.
In 7th place, Delray Beach based health care software firm Sunwave raised $6 million. Keep an eye on both the ecosystem is growing.
Finally, July saw the 85th birthday of a special friend, the high Commissioner himself, Mr. Bob Costin.
Bob is somewhere out there with his lovely wife Sonya riding in his rock star RV. We miss him and will buy him his favorite Chinese food upon his return this fall.

Can Mayors Be Good Presidents? Yes, But One Job At A Time Please

Mayor Quimby is NOT the best example.

There was a fascinating profile last week in the New York Times’ Sunday Magazine about Mayor Pete of South Bend, Indiana.

Pete Buttigieg, 37, is running for president and as of today is considered a “top-tier” Democratic contender in a large field of candidates.

I’m drawn to the Mayor Pete story for several reasons but mostly because he’s a mayor, having been elected to the top office in Indiana’s fourth largest city while still in his 20s.

I can relate –somewhat– to the story having also been a mayor albeit in my late 30s of a city that toggled between the third and fourth largest in Palm Beach County at the time.

That’s kind of where the similarities end.

Mayor Pete went to Harvard and was a Rhodes Scholar who speaks 8 languages. I went to SUNY Oswego (the Harvard of Central New York) took Spanish in junior high school and studied Hebrew for my Bar Mitzvah but never really could master either language.

But we do have something else in common.

Mayor Pete, while running for president, is trying to heal a city in the wake of a police shooting of an African American resident. I had a similar experience in 2005.

What I don’t understand is how you can do two jobs at once—run for president and serve effectively as a mayor.

Perhaps you might be able to slide by if you’re in Congress if you miss a few votes, but serving as a mayor is the political equivalent of a hands-on, 24-7 job.

As someone is quoted in the Times story—when you are a mayor “every turd tends to land on your doorstep and everyone knows where your doorstep is”.

Not the most elegant description but apt nonetheless.

And it doesn’t matter if you a so-called “strong mayor” like Mayor Pete or if you serve in a council-manager form of government like we have in Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

The buck stops with you on everything that happens in your city. Some of it you can exert some measure of control over—zoning, budgets, capital projects—but some you just can’t control—such as shootings, natural disasters or when the principal of your local high school decides to question the validity of The Holocaust. In Florida, schools are the purview of the School Board, but you can be assured that my friend Boca Mayor Scott Singer was deeply involved in that recent controversy as he should have been.

When a shooting occurs in a city the mayor needs to be present.

The NYT story quotes Buttigieg as saying that mayors serve as their community’s pastors and commanders in chief—an interesting and accurate description.

When tragedy strikes and anger, sadness and emotions swell, mayors are there to absorb the pain.

It’s hard to do that when you are campaigning in Iowa or pressing the flesh at a fish fry in New Hampshire.

That said, I’m not of the school that mayors can’t be good presidents, even though none have ever made the leap directly from City Hall to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

In fact, mayors may be uniquely qualified to serve in this moment of division and gridlock. After all, when you are mayor you are compelled to solve problems, tend to look for non-partisan solutions and are always reminded that policies at their core effect real people, something that every elected official ought to remember.

Mayors serve in a fish bowl, everybody sees you. There’s no hiding behind a party and no voting in distant places like Washington orTallahassee.

That proximity keeps the best mayors grounded in reality—they have to live close to the impacts both positive and negative– of their decisions.

I like that—it leads to accountability but only if your constituency is paying attention as we should always do.

So yes, I think mayors could be good presidents. But I don’t think they can or should run at the same time they are serving their cities.

We’d all be better off if the people we elect concentrate on the jobs we elected them to do. That goes for the Mayor of NYC as well, who was out of town when his city suffered a large blackout earlier this month.

Yes, you can fly back as Mayor DeBlasio and Mayor Pete did when crises occurred. But then they have to fly out again—which leaves their cities rudderless.

That’s never a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Kindness Leaves A Mark

A close friend of mine turned 80 last week.
He’s a private person so I won’t name him, but suffice it to say that over the course of his long life he has touched thousands of lives.
But what makes my friend extraordinary is that all of them would say that he influenced them in a positive way. That’s not an exaggeration. Rather it’s a testament to being a good person, someone who wakes up every day seeking to do good in the world.
A common thread ran through the small birthday celebration:  words like kindness, generosity, fun and humility came up time and time again during tributes.
When I left the festivities I thought that’s how it’s supposed to be.
If you live the right way, you will be remembered for your kindness and generosity toward others.
The people we remember, the people who make an impact are those who touch our hearts.
I’ve become absolutely convinced that emotional intelligence is the single biggest predictor of true success in life.
If you can find a way to touch people, make them laugh, show them you care, tell them you believe in them you can move mountains.
I’ve seen it happen.
The best leaders I’ve known have inspired lots of love and affection.
Close readers of this blog know that I’m fascinated by leadership. I believe it’s the answer to most challenges and problems we face.
Put the right leaders in the right seats on the bus and you’ll succeed.
It is not a complicated concept. Yet it sometimes feels so elusive.
Emotionally intelligent leaders get the best out of people. It’s just that simple.
I’ve seen it in business, I’ve seen it at non-profits, fire departments, police departments, a chamber of commerce, arts organizations, a city attorney’s office (here’s looking at you Susan) and in schools.
So perhaps as we go about our lives we should think about what might be said about us at our 80th birthday parties if we are so fortunate to make it that far.
I’d take kind and generous.
It sure beats the alternative.
Plus, we can all use a lot more kindness and generosity in our world.