Delray Beach and Boca Raton Real Estate and Homes for Sale

Watch as Jeff and Dave, the founders of YourDelrayBoca.com, give you their take on the local real estate market:

There is no more dynamic real estate market in the U.S. than Boca-Delray.

From oceanfront mansions and historic homes to picturesque country clubs and subdivisions the market is vibrant, the choices are endless and the neighborhoods varied depending on age range, price and taste. The area features everything from old Florida to the most modern downtown condo’s and townhomes.

You are sure to find exactly what you want in these two world-class cities.

Buying or selling in the Delray-Boca area and need a recommendation? We can help. Learn more here.

Innovation & Aspiration in Pompano

Pompano’s brand new cultural center makes a statement: We are serious.

Last week, we attended a meeting of the Urban Land Institute at Pompano Beach’s gleaming new cultural center.

For me, it was a case of déjà vu—because what I’m seeing in Pompano is the mindset I saw in Delray Beach in the late 80s and early 90s—a time of dreaming, aspiration, visioning and planning.

If you’re a city wonk like me, there’s nothing more inspiring than a city that sends out the message of “come on down, we are open for business and striving for greatness.”

And consequently no more depressing experience than to see a city that says “go home and get lost, we are done.”

Of course, no city comes out and says it quite that way. They all talk about jobs, investment, smart growth, sustainability and every other buzzword you can trot out, but the cities that are sincere actually seek it out and if investment comes to them they work hard to land the deal.

The most compelling incentives are never financial—they are always emotional. Investors bringing jobs and projects don’t expect you to compromise the rules or aesthetics—but they do expect you to have some flexibility and predictability and a sense of urgency to get things done.

One of the speakers at the ULI Pompano event warned those in the audience to avoid two labels:

  1. Don’t be the city where someone has to spend $500,000 beating their heads against the wall before leaving for friendlier towns. Capital goes where it is welcome.
  2. Don’t be the city that is perpetually the next “it” town, but never quite gets there.  I think that’s good advice.

Let’s explore warning number one—the city that develops a reputation for being impossible to work with will begin to attract bottom feeder developers—not the best in class that cities should be looking to lure.

The best developers and business owners aren’t averse to high standards or tough criteria; many of the best welcome a high bar. But they are wary of unpredictability, dysfunction and frankly stupidity. They don’t like corruption either.

They also don’t like an environment in which the rules are fungible—so that even if you follow them you aren’t assured of a fair hearing.

As for the second warning…we all know the label and can name a few cities that fit the moniker. After a while you become like the talented draft pick who never quite reaches his potential. We all know the term that’s used for those types: bust.

What’s also bad is to be known as the city that climbs all the way up the mountain and then before reaching the summit, gives it all away. They call that being “meshuga”: Google it.

Anyway, Pompano is pushing an innovation district just east of I-95 and spanning over 170 acres. They envision jobs, manufacturing, start-ups, restaurants, apartments and open space.

They built a magnificent cultural arts center, redid their beach front, landed the 26 Degree brewery on Atlantic Boulevard, and approved the mixed use Pompano Fishing Village, the sharply designed Koi Residences and a few more signature projects in their eastern core. Even the long troubled Hammondville Road corridor is seeing investment.

Several Delray Beach investor/development companies including Grover Corlew (invaluable contributors to the Congress Avenue Task Force) and New Urban Communities (Atlantic Grove among other projects) are investing in Pompano. Both see parallels between where Delray Beach was and where Pompano is today—solid leadership, a great CRA, talented staff and an aspirational “get it done” mindset.

ULI and Pompano brought Mitchell Weiss from Harvard Business School to the event. Weiss was chief of staff to the late Boston Mayor Tom Menino when that mayor envisioned an innovation district along Boston Harbor that became a national model for job creation and placemaking.

Weiss said cities should stick to their vision—insist on doing something special, invest in education, partner with universities, market their city and take extra care to make sure things happen so that traction and momentum can take root.

Words to live by or ignore.

Live by it and see things happen. Ignore it, and watch other cities eat your breakfast, lunch, dinner and sadly your future.

 

An Evening @ Bourbon Sprawl

Note: Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a wonderful group of urban planners, activists, bloggers, architects and redevelopment advocates at an event known as Bourbon Sprawl on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. It’s a great group and I thought I’d share some of my presentation from that evening. It was followed by great conversation.

Like Tip O’Neill— I’m a firm believer that all politics are local…and like many Americans —both Democrats and Republicans—I believe that Washington D.C. is broken…unable to solve problems, unwilling to collaborate, unable to compromise and challenged to seize opportunities.

So if we are going to solve problems—whether inequality, climate change or race relations—we are going to have to do so on the local level.

If we are going to have successful communities we have to get our cities right…and in order to get our cities right we need to attract the best and brightest to public service—both on a staff level, a volunteer level and as elected officials.

If we can do this—there is no doubt in my mind that our cities, towns and villages will succeed. But if we don’t—there is simply no way our communities will thrive.

I’m sure of this…because I have experienced it in Delray Beach where I have lived for 30 years and I have seen what switched on leadership can do in cities large and small in a variety of geographies…unfortunately, I have also seen what corrosive “leadership” can undo or prevent and it’s not pretty.

The challenges and opportunities facing our communities today are complex….they require serious thinking by serious people. And I often wonder if our “system” is designed to attract the polar opposite personalities…

I have seen what wins local, state and national elections—and it’s a combination of fear and blame. We are told what to be afraid of and we blame our opponents for causing the problems. But we never seem to get around to solutions…we never talk about collaboration, compromise or the need to marshal our resources to either make things happen or to begin to solve problems that threaten our future…

We are here the day after the most expensive House election in American history….$50 million spent—mostly on negative advertising—to elect a single representative— who regardless of who won—would most likely have a negligible effect on the issues facing our nation….the content of that spending will be forgotten in a few days and then the fundraising begins again….an endless cycle. Can you imagine what $50 million could do in your community…if it was invested in start-ups, non-profits, placemaking, research, science and education? Do you think the impact would be greater than $50 million spent on attack ads?

We seem to be caught in an endless spiral toward the bottom…and we have created an atmosphere in which serious people avoid the public square, walk away from public service and in many cases fail to exercise the basic pillar of our Democracy…the right to vote.

There was a time when small towns might have been somewhat immune to this disease… I’ll tell you about my own story in Delray Beach…the basis for my book, Adventures in Local Politics… I saw what good leadership can do…

I moved to Delray Beach in 1987….and the physical gifts our city has, have not changed in those 30 years.

There’s a grid system, good ‘bones’ as planners like to say, a glorious beach and good geography since we have proximity to several regional powerhouses—West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and our next door neighbor Boca Raton.

But Delray was a very different place in the 80s than it is today…I can describe to you the blight, the vacant storefronts, the crime, the drugs and the disinvestment…but instead I will quote one of my best friends a restaurateur who was an early pioneer in Delray….”this town was circling the bowl, before it was saved.”

A colorful quote…vivid, descriptive and accurate. Three words: circling the bowl.. says it all.

So when you do a SWOT analysis of Delray and examine its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats you’ll find that alongside some incredible strengths and opportunities are some daunting weaknesses and threats….schools that struggle, deep generational poverty, racial division, a lack of high paying jobs, a lack of a diverse housing stock, a proliferation of sober homes –many run by irresponsible and exploitive operators, poor citizen participation as measured by a lack of civic engagement and poor voter turnout…

And yet….tremendous value was created….we have a dynamic and vibrant downtown, our tax base is growing faster than most of our neighbors, blighted neighborhoods have seen improvements, crime rates —while still troublesome— were improved, culture and art have taken root and we have seen an improvement in race relations since the 80s, particularly between the Police Department and our minority communities.

This did not happen by accident…or by policies pushed by our county government, our friends in Tallahassee or our representatives in Washington.

It happened through visioning, collaboration, solid execution of citizen driven plans, the adoption of new urbanist principles, and a business friendly government that was focused more on outcomes than process. It happened because of leadership: among staff, elected officials, business leaders and volunteers….

And so I suspect that the rest of our nation’s cities have this opportunity to transform…or to be left behind….it all hinges on leadership….all of it….People matter, more than anything…and we better do what we can to attract the right people to the Public Square and frankly keep the wrong people from the levers of power…

People matter….leaders who empower rather than stifle a community—make progress possible.

Because the word impossible loses all meaning if the right people show up and agree to work together….but the word impossible becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy if the wrong people show up and talented citizens sit on the sidelines or decide that the level of toxicity is too high for them to participate….

Again, my city is a case study….

Because as far as we have come….a CRA district that went from $250mm in value to over $2bn in 30 years, recognition as an All America City, the first city to win the John Nolen award recognizing our implementation of smart growth policies, Florida Trend naming us the best run town in Florida and hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment—we are far from done. And far from being bullet proof….

Every ounce of progress cities make is vulnerable to being rolled back. Every dollar spent can yield a return on investment or a loss….and the headwinds we faced 30 years ago remain headwinds today….schools that struggle, the devastation of heroin, neighborhoods on the brink as a result of bad sober home operators….crime, violence and now profound and embarrassing political dysfunction.

None of these problems are intractable—if you attract the right people to the public square.

But all of them are intractable, if you have a mindset predisposed to failure or lack of collaboration—as we see in Washington and in cities that struggle with toxic politics.

Benjamin Barber—who works at the City University of New York–wrote a book called “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities”.

It’s a manifesto…passionately written and convincingly argued—that local governments are uniquely positioned to save the planet and themselves. I agree with him.

Mr. Barber builds a strong case for an informal parliament of cities, perhaps several hundred strong, which would in effect ratify a shift in power and political reality that, he argues, has already taken place. He sees modern cities as incubators for problem-solving while national governments are doomed to failure.

 

“Because they are inclined naturally to collaboration and interdependence, cities harbor hope,” Barber writes. “If mayors ruled the world,” he says, “the more than 3.5 billion people (over half the world’s population) who are urban dwellers and the many more in the exurban neighborhoods could participate locally and cooperate globally at the same time — a miracle of civic ‘glocality’ promising pragmatism instead of politics, innovation rather than ideology and solutions in place of sovereignty.”

I like the ideals espoused by Dr. Barber…but I am a realist as well.

And so the key to success is not just home rule and collaboration among cities…the key is making sure the right leaders are in the right positions to build cities that are sustainable…and that the right leaders feel supported and nurtured by caring citizens.

So we must invest in leadership, which we are not doing…we must encourage people who are courageous…and we must invest in not only the appearance of the public realm but the attractiveness of the public square..because if the public square is toxic and resembles a sewer—good people will find other ways to spend their time.

That does not mean we shun or discourage debate…but it does mean that we confront the civic bullies that all of us working in public policy are all too aware of but are reluctant to talk about….we have to make it safer—not safe—safer and more attractive for promising leaders to succeed. We have to confront the bullies that rob us of aspiration, inspiration, progress and productivity.

If we don’t….the cities that do— will thrive. And the other cities will wither and die…and there is too much at stake for us to allow that to happen…we have a responsibility to the past, the present and the future.

We should strive to preserve the best of our history, serve our stakeholders today and plan to give future generations a better future…it can be done.

It must be done….

So I will leave you with two ideas….and then I want to talk to you guys…because you are the type of leaders we need to fan out across our region to build great places…

Idea #1: Some university in our county…Lynn or FAU needs to step up and build a Public Leadership Institute…we train doctors, we train lawyers, we train puppies…we need to train public sector leaders…don’t you think that will yield ROI?

Idea #2: New Urbanism, Smart Growth, sustainable development—whatever you want to call it, needs a marketing makeover because it is just too damn easy for NIMBY’s and naysayers to derail progress. We need a political strategy that matches the intellectual underpinnings of what we know to be solid public policy. We are starting to see this with the beginning of a YIMBY movement, but we have a long way to go. If we don’t…we will lose any and all opportunities to create a sustainable future for our kids.

 

 

 

High Rent Blight

Bleecker Street in the historic Noho District of NYC may be resembling bleak street these days.

The New York Times touched on an interesting topic last week: high rent blight.
They used the phrase to describe Bleecker Street in New York City which saw rents soar to $800 a square foot before retailers cried uncle and shut their doors. Now the once red hot street suffers from vacancy; hence high end blight which is considered late stage gentrification.
Which begs the question: can this happen to Atlantic Avenue?
Palmetto Park Road? Pineapple Grove?
When I moved here in 1987, we had conventional low rent blight. Rents were $5-$8 per square foot and vacancy rates downtown were about 40 percent.
Today, some restaurants are paying in excess of $100 per square foot–far from Bleecker Street numbers but still very high for our market.
Rents in Pineapple Grove are $30-$35 per square foot for prime space–(solid rents no doubt) and hardly imaginable back when Norman Radin conceived the district; but still not ridiculous.
But ….
high rents are coming.
They have hit the avenue and the  Grove is next.
Why?
Because we’ve had some incredibly high purchase prices on and off the avenue.

If you talk to veteran commercial real estate brokers, they are wrestling with the challenge of making rents jibe with high land prices.
It’s a conundrum.
If you believe in a free market–and I do–rising prices are driven by the market and represent good news for long time landlords who have weathered good cycles and horrible cycles.
But if you want to see a diverse mix of businesses downtown and if you value independent operators–as I do–the high prices are a major challenge.
As the son of an independent pharmacist I have a little insight into the challenges of making a small business work in a competitive environment.

Today, the challenges are bigger than ever. The internet, Amazon, the very difficult retail environment etc etc., all make it very hard to build and sustain a business. Even well- heeled chains are finding it hard to survive. Throw in high rents, a seasonal economy, high insurance, a tough labor market, competition for people’s time and complicated marketing channels and you can appreciate how hard it is to make it today. You can also appreciate the need to support local businesses and to shop local.

The Downtown Development Authority is wrestling with these issues in a smart way.
They are working with Robert Gibbs, a noted retail and downtown expert who has some familiarity with Delray having worked here during the creation of the Downtown Master Plan.
But no doubt about it, this is a challenging environment. And we need to be cognizant of  that. We also need to be aware of our downtown mix and our demographics too.

When rents get high, restaurants tend to push alcohol–a high margin item. And if we morph from a food destination to a nightclub scene that has consequences ranging from our brand and who hangs out here to public safety concerns and whether we become more of a late night destination than an all hours downtown.

Big topics. Great stuff to chew on.
But what we don’t want to see is high rent blight.

So how do cities address this issue without infringing on property rights or the free market?

My theory is a good offense is a good defense.
So here are a few thoughts.

Successful cities need multiple districts/neighborhoods to perform. If they do, businesses have options on where to locate.
So efforts must be made to transform The Set (and those efforts are being made), but also Congress Avenue, South Federal Highway, North Federal Highway and eventually the “four corners:” of Atlantic Avenue and Military Trail which was rezoned and reimagined a dozen years ago.
You can and should be working on multiple fronts both for practical reasons and market based ones.

The notion that cities can only do one thing at a time is plain wrong.

For example, the players for Congress and The Set are different. The areas don’t compete, they complement. Some investors will want West Atlantic. Some will prefer Congress or South Federal. Some will be interested in all of the above. Your “open for business” sign has to be open for all commercial districts while the economy is good.

One thing we know for sure, the cycle will end, so it’s important to get traction while you can. Development standards can and should be high. But you have to make hay when the sun shines as they say. And you don’t have to offer incentives–just attractive zoning and a smooth and predictable approval process. Be tough, but fair.

In previous down cycles– including the great recession– Delray Beach was the last to city to experience issues and the first to emerge from the doldrums. That was a result of a good planning,  a business friendly environment, a solid brand and a City Hall that knew how to execute.
Those are “hidden” but very real assets. So it’s just as critical that we rebuild capacity at City Hall.
How does this all address high rent blight?
Well..it doesn’t lower rents, or increase availability of affordable housing or commercial spaces overnight but it does spark competition so that if the market skews there are now options in our city. If we don’t create multiple options, people, business and investment will go elsewhere.
Hopefully over time the power of the market will modulate prices to better reflect what’s possible and desirable. That’s the bet, it’s not easy. But it’s doable. One thing for sure, doing nothing guarantees trouble.

It Don’t Come Easy

I spoke to an urban planning class at FAU last night.
Adjunct Professor Glenn Gromann invited me and I enjoy speaking to students so I said yes. (And it doesn’t hurt when the adjunct professor makes your book required reading…wink, I will work for book sales).
It’s not the first time I’ve had the privilege of speaking to college students. Usually I tell the story of modern Delray Beach taking them through the decisions, policies and leadership choices that brought Delray out of the dumps. We cover the ups and downs, the mistakes and triumphs and the rationales behind decisions that to some may seem counter-intuitive.

I don’t have any formal training in urban planning–but I do have real world experience. I am so interested in the subject that I have read everything I could get my hands on and listened to smart planners, architects, urbanists and good developers at every opportunity. I even created a few–by reaching out, by attending seminars, joining the Urban Land Institute, visiting Seaside, joining the Congress for New Urbanism and studying placemakers like Jane Jacobs and Delray’s own part-time resident Fred Kent, founder of the Project for Public Spaces.

I also understand the politics that go into moving an agenda forward–because change and new urbanism isn’t always embraced. Today, I find myself in the strange position of having to defend policies that clearly worked–that created vibrancy, value, quality of life, jobs, opportunities and future potential if we would just open our eyes to the possibilities. Often, I’m debating new residents who moved here attracted by what they saw (I suppose) but vehemently against everything else and resentful of those who played a role in building our town. It reminds me of the phrase: “I’m in the boat, pull up the ladder.” My main point to them: we aren’t done and we have a responsibility to the future to manage change and do it intelligently.
There are many planning and leadership principles to convey to tomorrow’s planners, developers, department heads and architects: the merits of new urbanism, the importance of visioning, the need to engage the community and the value of making investments. Every city needs to be able to provide running water and trash pickup but the cities that make a ruckus are those that do more: art, culture, dynamic downtowns, sports, festivals, food scenes etc.
We did that.
It took 20 years of hard work by a multitude of people. But it happened.
So I shared that journey. And as many times as I share the story, it never fails to move me. Because I know what it took and I have deep respect and admiration for the people who made it happen and I’m privileged and proud to tell their story and I suppose defend their efforts. Some previously important people (PIPS) go away, I’ve decided not too. It’s my town and I love it.
But I’ve started to add to the narrative. I’ve started to talk about what can go wrong. How cities can give back gains and how as aspiring planners or public administrators having great ideas, state of the art policies and stellar execution won’t be enough to make a lasting and permanent  difference.
In fact, you won’t be able to get to the policy part if you don’t understand politics. I shared how good ideas get squashed and how even sound policies suffocate if the wrong elected officials show up to stifle and or choke the life out of progress.
Students need to understand this. As citizens they need to know this and get involved. They need to vote. They need to run. They need to insist that elected officials serve them, not the other way around.

As prospective planners they need to know how corrosive “leadership” can impact their careers and if they go the private sector route they need to know how this can cost them. How it can break their spirits and their bank accounts.
As a result, they need to know that progress can be ephemeral and they need to be able to articulate to citizens why the planning principles they learn are good ways to build communities and manage growth.
But sadly, good planning principles often don’t cut it on their own.  You need to market those policies, constantly sell their rationales and educate voters as to why your plans and visions make sense.
Take for example, new urbanism or the newer “strong towns” movement. Both philosophies have sound thinking behind them and eloquent manifestos.
But…
It don’t come easy, as Ringo once  sang.
Students need to know that and prepare to engage the future communities they will serve.
Because you can guarantee that regardless of how much success you enjoy or how far you’ve come there will always be forces lining up to stop you and in some cases roll it all back.

We used to call it municipal math…30 years to build, two years to screw it all up, no guarantee you can get it back.
That’s the hardest lesson of all to learn and the most important.

Building A Brand

“You stand out when you stand for something— when you go to a place your peers or competitors aren’t prepared to go.” Bernadette Jiwa

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”
– Louis L’Amour
Those two quotes struck me for different reasons last week. But both make a case for change, innovation and a willingness to look toward the future.

Australian marketing expert Bernadette Jiwa was referring to brands when she made that comment in a recent blog post. 
But the sentiment can also refer to cities too. 
Cities have brands and identifies too. And if you can establish a positive brand you’ll create enormous value and quality of life. 
Similarly if your brand and identity is negative, you’ll pay a price in terms of investment, quality of life, ability to attract business, staff, tourists and residents. 
So getting your brand and reputation right  is important. Check that, it’s essential. 
If you develop a reputation for dysfunction or corruption you’re cooked. Capital flows where it’s welcome. And similarly smart people migrate to where they feel assured that ideas and aspiration are not only welcome but encouraged. 
I will argue that the success of Boca Raton and Delray Beach stems from a mindset–let’s get it done, let’s build something here, let’s make it happen whatever it may be. 
For example, Boca redeveloped a moribund mall and made it Mizner Park. 
I caught a glimpse of the cover of its soon to be released Economic Development magazine on social media and it knocked me out. The city has depth and that doesn’t happen by accident. 
Similarly Delray Beach didn’t happen by accident either. It took a city, a CRA, a DDA, a marketing cooperative, a police department, homeowners, business owners and key non profits working together to take back a city from blight, crack, crime and disinvestment. 
Much was accomplished. Much remains to be done. 
Which leads me to the relevance of the second quote by Louis L’Amour which really addresses complacency and opportunity. 
Complacency is a killer. If it takes root, your gains will be squandered and competitors will eat you for lunch.
Right now, in Delray, there exists a weird combination of complacency and delusion.
Just take a look at the debate over East and West in Delray. You have some people saying the east is done (it isn’t) and others saying that basically nothing has been done west in The Set (terribly wrong). That’s the delusion part. A lot has been done:  more than $60 million spent on beautification all the way to the Interstate, improvements to Northwest/Southwest Fifth Avenue, a new library, Catherine Strong Park, a thriving Community Land Trust, anti-crime efforts, neighborhood paint-ups, the Spady Museum, the expansion of Village Academy, improved water pressure, dirt roads paved, Atlantic Grove, the Fairfield Inn, the list goes on and on. 
Nobody has ever said it’s been enough or that efforts should stop. Nobody. 
Everybody understands that a large part of the mission remains. And everyone I’ve talked to over the past 30 years is committed to doing it. 
It takes time. But if you look around or asked around you can see it happening before our eyes. A Publix is coming. That’s a big deal my friends. They wouldn’t look at West Atlantic before now. Before all that work and effort. 
East Atlantic took time and it still needs help: pockets of weakness, high rents, not enough year round commerce, a lack of office space and an over reliance on food and beverage. 
The beauty of cities is they are synergistic i.e. not zero sum games. The west wins when the east succeeds, that’s how the money grows and flows. 
Similarly, the east benefits greatly when the west succeeds. 
The first quote talks about going where others don’t dare venture. 
We went there as a city and found success. 
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight. And just as failure is hardly ever fatal, success is hardly ever final. 
But we don’t get to the promised land, we don’t taste the sweetest fruit if we are complacent and or delusional. 
We get further (but we never arrive because it’s never over) when we work together. We succeed when we acknowledge, respect, collaborate, communicate and cooperate. We get further when our brand is “welcome smart people, let’s get to work and build the best small city in the world.”

 

 

Ready, Fire Aim

Over time, political bodies develop personalities.
They tend to adopt the personalities of its strongest member or members and that can be a good thing or it can be a nightmare.
It all depends on the personality (or lack thereof) of the leadership.
I’ve observed 30 years of city commission’s in Delray Beach and have watched neighboring cities too. I’ve also paid attention to School Boards and County Commission’s.
Over that time, I’ve seen a lot.
We all have.
We’ve seen larger than life county commissioners and quieter but effective public servants.
Before Steven Abrams and Melissa McKinlay we had commissioners who loomed so large they were  known by their first names–kind of like Cher or Madonna. Everyone knew who Burt, Tony and Karen were–surnames were superfluous.
In 1980s Delray we saw rivalries and factions on the dais and tons of intrigue too. It was a volatile time. But despite the infighting at City Hall we saw the formation of historic districts, the start of community policing, the first “visions” and the creation of the CRA. Not bad.
But it was accompanied by turbulence and sadly that’s what people remember.
The 90s was an era of stability and accomplishment–a Decade of Excellence seeded by the visions and bond dollars of the 80s. The early 2000s was an era of ambition and civic entrepreneurship building on the solid foundation of the 90s.
Along the way, the progress we’ve seen–assuming you acknowledge we’ve made progress–has been driven by a wide range of stakeholders including our CRA.
If you look at any civic achievement in our eastern core over the past 32 years you can be assured that our CRA played a role–often an outsize role in making it happen.
Across the state, it’s viewed as one of the best CRA’s around and over the years scores of cities have visited Delray to pick up redevelopment tips.
But the agency’s PR has always lagged behind it’s achievements. And not for lack of effort by a variety of people who have done a solid job promoting the good works of the agency.
A common complaint over the years has been a lack of investment and focus on the West Atlantic corridor now known as The Set.
Sorry but it’s just not true.
Much has been done over the past 20 years or so and much more is planned.
Nobody has ever declared victory and said the job was done. Nobody on the CRA has ever said too much was spent–and truth is the corridors and neighborhoods west of Swinton have been a focus since at least 2000 and tens of millions have been spent that proves it.
So when I read a commissioners blog claiming that the area has been “ignored” or hear about a resolution calling for the city to take over the governance of the agency I shake my head. But I’m not surprised.
The CRA has been under assault for a long time now. And it’s a shame. It started with a politically motivated audit a few years back that found next to nothing wrong with its administration, financial stewardship and governance and has continued for the past few years with a series of threats to the agency’s role.
First it was an attempt to trim the CRA’s boundaries (a costly study that concluded the obvious: cutting the boundaries would suck county funds out of Delray which makes no sense), then it was the Monday morning quarterbacking on RFP’s and past plans and the constant pecking at the iPic project.
I can go on. But you get the picture.
It’s a shame. Because the CRA is an invaluable economic development tool, a driver of progress, a source of cash for needed projects and a proven performer.
Which brings us back to personality.
The modus operandi of late seems to be ready, fire, aim on issue after issue.

Consider the following:
–When it came time to renew the Highland Beach Fire contract (which has worked well for both cities for two decades) what do you do?  Blow it up and insult your neighbors or inquire about the deal before drawing a conclusion?
Wouldn’t it have been easier to investigate to see why it might make sense? It’s not too hard to find past fire chiefs, past city managers etc who might be able to explain why it works? If you have to raise the fee you charge– so be it. Why not explain to your neighbors that you can’t lose money providing the service? You might find you get more with honey than vinegar.
Ready, fire aim.
–How about last week’s kerfuffle over a letter from an attorney that mentioned making Delray the recovery capital of the world again?
Wouldn’t it have been easier to make a call to the chamber of commerce rather than put the issue on two TV stations, several newspapers and all over social media? Doesn’t that level of attention brand the city more than a phone call to inquire about the intention of the Recovery Business Council? Which is a good idea, by the way. You don’t improve problems by ignoring them.
And then there was the shot by the mayor that he doesn’t know who was sitting in the commission seats in 2007 when the New York Times typed the words “recovery capital” and Delray in the same sentence but by golly this commission sure wouldn’t sit by and allow it.
Well, I know the five people who were there in late ’07 (Rita Ellis, Fred Fetzer, Brenda Montague et. al) and I doubt that they either embraced the recovery capital tagline or could control what the Times writes.
Ready, fire aim.
As for taking over the CRA, it appears the leadership of The Set is united in opposition to the idea and was taken by surprise. That’s a pretty big surprise to spring on a valued constituency.
Ready, fire aim.
So what are the personality traits we are seeing? I see bullying, I see a lack of communication, I see going off without first getting facts, I see an unwillingness to stop and understand issues and determine rationales before setting a course that upsets key people in the community.
Ready, fire aim.
You may not agree with past decisions and the reasons why they were made. And you may despise the folks who made those decisions. But history is important. Time did not start on your watch.  Daniel Boorstin, a former librarian of Congress once said: “trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past was like trying to plant cut flowers.”

Indeed.
You may think those decisions were wrong or ruined the city. But plenty of people would disagree with you. I think the last election spoke volumes. People love this town. They want to see progress. Again.
So mock the past, label and disparage those who served and volunteered.
But those folks got results. They achieved outcomes.
It wasn’t blind luck. And it wasn’t ready, fire aim.
It was decisions based on citizen driven plans and assigned to agencies and departments like the CRA. And  things got done. And commission’s had control and there was accountability.
A southwest plan, the Village Academy, Catherine Strong Park, beautification from Swinton to 95, improvements to Northwest/Southwest Fifth Avenue, the creation of a successful Community Land Trust, a race relations initiative, Atlantic Grove, the Fairfield Inn, a roadway bond that paved streets, an ATP tennis tournament, a reduction in crime rates, the S.D. Spady Museum, a new library, courthouse expansion, the mitigation of sinking homes and on and on and on. Doesn’t seem like the CRA has ignored the area–but nor have they declared victory either.

Pretending those accomplishments didn’t happen and that you can’t build on them unless you take over ignores and disrespects a lot of hard work, investment, risk and leadership that has been exercised over the years and today.
Ready,fire aim is a lousy way to “lead” a city. In fact, it’s not leadership at all.
I’m told of rampant heartache at City Hall. That heartache manifests itself with unprecedented turnover. People don’t leave a place like Delray if they are happy or productive.
I also understand I’m persona non grata with certain people in power (for now anyway).
That’s ok. I’m proud of that fact.
I’m going to speak my mind. I’m going to write. I’m going to help publish a newspaper. I’m going to serve on non profit boards and try to encourage leaders to emerge. I’m also going to continue to invest here–time, money, emotion, ideas and I hope you do too. Because it’s our town too.
Those who want to see jobs, better schools, a strong, happy city staff, investment, tourism, festivals, art, culture and a sustainable city deserve better than ready, fire aim.
We deserve a voice. We deserve collaboration and we deserve kindness and respect.
Taking over the CRA would be a bad move. It’s worked for 28 years for mayor’s, commissioners, city managers and city attorneys. For some reason it’s not working for some members of this group.
You wonder if they are capable of asking themselves why.
Ready fire aim is not a sustainable strategy. We deserve a better personality. Before it’s too late.

In Praise of Volunteers

Have you driven by Delray’s municipal beach lately?
It’s going to be a bit of a mess for awhile but when the dust clears the A1A “promenade” should look great.
Which is a good excuse to say thanks to the Beach Property Owners Association better known as the BPOA.
If my recollection is correct, the BPOA worked on the Beach Master Plan for the better part of 8 years. That’s a long time. Lots and lots of volunteer hours.
Architect Bob Currie donated his time and talents to the effort and so did the board led by President Bob Victorin–one of the truly great people who live in Delray.
It’s the volunteers who make our city so immensely special.
Their love of Delray is palpable and can be seen in every corner of our community.
Dedicated citizens bring energy and resources that can’t  be measured to the effort of building a great community.
It really does take a village.
Recently, I had the occasion to have dinner with three all time Delray greats at 50 Ocean.
While two of the three–former Police Chief Rick Overman and retired Officer Skip Brown–were city employees, their success was driven in part by their ability to attract and effectively deploy a slew of volunteers. The third gentleman was the one and only Perry Don Francisco, former owner of Bostons on the Beach, who became legendary for his community service over the years. In fact, Perry is still working for the community through Delray Citizens for Delray Police. In addition to a sensational banquet honoring longtime police employees (held last weekend) he’s still deeply involved in the holiday toy drive and when the chips are down –as they have been recently –you can always count on Perry to be there.
It’s here that I will note that while his wife grew up in Delray, Perry has always lived just down the street in another city. So for those city commissioners who cavalierly suggest that only residents should be able to serve/volunteer on city boards I respectfully disagree. Take a measure of where someone’s heart resides. If it lives here, it doesn’t matter where the head hits the pillow.
But I digress.

Let’s just say that Perry’s been invaluable to countless lives in our community. Mine included.
Chief Overman and Skip have also been invaluable.
Rick was a force of nature who came to Delray and created a department that became a farm system for future chiefs and legendary officers who made it possible for Delray to succeed.
Without a great PD there would be no Delray as we know it. It’s just that simple.
To quote someone in this story who shall remain nameless: Delray was circling the bowl before it made the turn.
My contention is it doesn’t make that turn without a great Police Department and some terrific city staff and yes volunteers and business leadership.
So as we enjoyed the ocean view from a restaurant once owned by Perry and swapped old stories I sat there in awe of three local legends.
And realized that all three employed volunteers to help them succeed. Rick and Skip and a few others launched and managed a remarkable volunteer effort at the department. An effort that earned national and international accolades.
But it wasn’t just PR. No, the accomplishments were real and lasting.
MAD DADS led by Chuck Ridley and Ben Bryant helped a great set of cops decimate the drug trade in Delray.
Skip’s volunteers–1,300 at its height–were something to behold. They still are.
And Perry set a standard for involvement for all other business leaders that may never be matched. Right up there with him are people like Frank Wheat, Bill Branning and Cathy Balestriere—contributors who give and give. P.S. those three don’t live here either. But we don’t have the Delray we know without them.
What a legacy.
Which brings me to The BPOA.
The association has a long history of engagement and advocacy.
While they are chartered to look after the barrier island, in my experience they have always pushed for the the betterment of the entirety of Delray Beach.
I’m glad to see dirt finally being moved on the Beach Master Plan. It’s been a long slog. It didn’t have to be, but that’s the subject of another column or my next book. Maybe both. Let’s just say the improvements don’t happen without them.
The volunteers work hard. They care.
And that makes all the difference.

Replace the Hamster Wheel; Get Things Done

“Coffee is for closers” – Glengarry Glen Ross

I’m about to write an amazing sentence.

Ready?

Here it is….

At 35—a Methuselah like age for tennis– Roger Federer may be better than ever.

He won the prestigious Miami Open April 2 easily swatting away Rafael Nadal, whose game once bedeviled Fed and has notched a 19-1 record for the year including a perfect 7-0 against top ten opponents.

In February, 39-year-old Patriots QB Tom Brady led his team to another Super Bowl win which also happened to be the greatest comeback many fans had ever seen.

He has told teammates that he can see playing for another 5-7 years.

Charo is killing it on Dancing With the Stars at an advanced age—ok that’s stretching it— but you get the point.

Age is not a barrier to achieving great things. In fact, it may be an advantage. Maturity certainly is a huge edge.

Federer has talked about playing with a joy and a looseness that has enabled him to get great results.

Samantha Bee, a late night TV comedian, says the key to her success is that she and her team have entered the “I don’t care what you think about me” years. As a result, they are just going to hang it out there.

I find it all inspiring.

Especially as my friend and I  approach my so-called dotage (hmmm…perhaps we can change that word from dotage to do-age, i.e. the age in which we apply our hard earned experience and get things done).

Yes the millennials are here and they are awesome–I’ve raised a few–and they are changing the world but don’t write off the boomers just yet.

Delray just elected two energetic boomers and one could argue that they–not the young (er) ones on the dais–are the ones brimming with ideas and ambition; the ones willing to try new things and new approaches to government and leadership.

Bravo!

An open mind is the key to progress in just about any endeavor including building great places to live and work. When leaders are willing to make some strategic bets and create a culture of learning good things happen. You kick off a virtuous cycle and attract talent.

Consequently, when you don’t make decisions and you slam experiments, you inhibit risk and you snuff out innovation. In a world that’s increasingly driven by speed and has become hypercompetitive you simply can’t afford complacency and rust.

In Delray Beach, the recent election turned on openness to new ideas and the need to change what more and more people are recognizing as a negative culture that has bred indecision, instability and frustration. The symptoms are unmistakable: lawsuits, staff turnover and issues that go on and on and on and on draining the community of investment and enthusiasm.

The ‘let’s get things done’ message resonated with voters who want to go move forward not back. Those candidates won by margins of two to one. That’s a mandate: a mandate to move forward, stop kvetching, seize opportunities and fix problems. It is not a mandate to throw out the rules and overdevelop. But it is a strong directive to fill the done box and stop the nonsense.

As a result, there’s an interesting relationship that can potentially take shape between elected officials like Shirley Johnson and Jim Chard and open minded creatives of all ages who seek to do radical things like create jobs, grow the tax base, bring new industries to Delray and create vibrancy and a sense of place and community.

There are a slew of entrepreneurs and a lot of energy in Delray these days and it’s very exciting. They have been attracted as a result of the work done over decades by scores of civic entrepreneurs. We should have a lot of civic pride in what’s been achieved and more importantly what’s in front of us if we loosen up and go for it—like Roger Federer crushing a backhand down the line. He doesn’t always make the shot, but he always takes it. As Wayne Gretzky once said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

I’m fortunate that my life’s work has enabled me to get to know some of these emerging leaders who are finding inspiration in Delray Beach. They are excited by the new leadership and hopeful for the future.

They see Vice Mayor Chard and Deputy Vice Mayor Johnson as open-minded change agents, willing to listen and learn.

The best elected officials are community builders who see possibilities. The worst are hand wringers who manufacture controversy, douse ambition and see a bogeyman behind every idea.

If you take offense at that statement; I’m sorry I don’t mean to offend you but perhaps you ought to look in the mirror and do some self-examination. Do it quick though, because time waits for no one—(sang Mick Jagger still rocking and having babies in his 70s) and the one thing you can count on in life –other than death and taxes– is change.

Delray was built on risk taking.

Flexible codes that allowed a downtown with a human scale to take root

Conditional use that enabled infill development and adaptive reuse

And;

Public private partnerships that have given us projects like Old School Square, the Arts Garage, the Community Land Trust and yes even iPic.

Yep, we’re still talking about iPic a third of the way through 2017. The topic has been kicking around since the  original Hunger Games opened and was screened at the Boca iPic (there have been two sequels since)– but still no theater in Delray. Sigh..

Is iPic “corporate welfare”?

In a word, no.

Corporate welfare is when a company rings you up and says give me money or we will take our company to another state, county or city.

But when you ask a corporation to go above and beyond your code or the scope of an RFP and they ask for assistance it’s not called welfare (defined as “government-provided support for those unable to support themselves”) it’s called a partnership. And if you think the RFP was “flawed” so be it, time didn’t begin on your watch and it’s easy to be a Monday Morning Quarterback. The facts are the RFP attracted four good bids coming off a crushing recession–and now as a result of a terrific CRA we have a chance to land jobs, downtown entertainment and put a derelict property back on the tax rolls. If you want the deal, you make it happen. You iron out the problems and you drive it. Period. That’s leadership.

Are the terms good? Is the deal fair? Is it a win-win scenario?

All fair questions to ask and answer.

But when “requests” or “demands” are made as a condition of approval, it’s OK for those on the receiving end to counter with an offer. It’s called negotiations.

And folks, if applicants are unable to negotiate then we don’t have a system that enables compromise, progress or finality-we have something else entirely; a place where nobody will want to do business or make investments.

Think that’s an unfair assessment? A stretch?

Guess again.

Because as we have seen on other projects—even when you follow the rules and agree to dozens and dozens of conditions— you can still find yourself delayed, denied and despised.

That’s no way to run a railroad.

So how do we get from Federer and Brady to Delray politics?

Easy.

Maturity.

The veterans who succeed do so because they are seasoned leaders. They don’t panic when they are getting pounded in the first half or when they face Match Points (Match Point, that’s the subject of a future column) they adjust.

And they figure out a way to win not whine.

 

 

 

Lynn’s MBA in Delray: Only The Beginning

A most welcome addition

Last night was an important one for Delray Beach.

Quietly, before a few guests, the trajectory of our downtown might have changed forever.

That’s a big statement. I may be wrong, but let me try and back it up.

After months of negotiations, Lynn University will launch an MBA in Delray program focusing on entrepreneurship and marketing at the Delray Chamber. The one-year program will be offered at night and tailored to working professionals and entrepreneurs.

The move was announced a few weeks ago, but it felt real last night when a contingent of Lynn staff led by President Kevin Ross and Business School Dean Dr. RT Good told a small gathering of local leaders and entrepreneurs why they chose Delray and what the program will entail.

Folks, we have to make this work. Why?  Because if it does it changes the game and enhances the brand that has been fostered by a slew of Delray Beach visionaries and stakeholders since the mid-80s.

Dr. Ross and Chamber President Karen Granger see the MBA in Delray as an innovative model that chambers and universities can replicate across the country. It enables chambers to get needed revenue, enhance value for their members and grow local economies, while enabling universities to reach into communities and tailor programs to meet local needs and trends.

Dr. Good and the Lynn team have been hard at work designing a “different” kind of curriculum that promises deeper relationships with faculty, classmates and local businesses while focusing on leadership, hands-on projects and case studies.

For the chamber it enables a deeper dive into the world of entrepreneurship, a focus and passion for President Granger who has quietly but persistently nurtured relationships with a growing number of promising local entrepreneurs. Many were there for the Lynn celebration including Brian Niles of Rooster, Eric Bucher of Call Sprout and Project Runway’s Amanda Perna, who runs “House of Perna,” an emerging fashion design brand.

Delray and Boca’s emerging foodie economy was represented as well with catering by fabulous Farmer’s Table restaurant, which I think has enormous potential. (Here’s where I should plug my two food/beverage related brands Tabanero and Celsius, but that would be indulgent no? Wink)

All of this is to say, that this partnership may signal that Delray’s downtown and indeed its economy is expanding beyond food and beverage—and that’s a good thing. A diversified economy is a more resilient and sustainable model.

Many years ago, Delray made a conscious choice to lead with food, beverage, culture and festivals to jumpstart its moribund, dull and dangerous downtown corridor.

It was a smart move, brilliantly executed by many, many important contributors and risk taking entrepreneurs.

And it worked, remarkably well.

We have a vibrant, valuable, cool, and attractive and revenue generating downtown that looks and feels good.

Our restaurant “row” generates crowds, creates jobs and helped to change how people see Delray Beach.

Our cultural and intellectual amenities: Old School Square, the Delray Beach Library, Spady Museum, Sandoway House, Delray Historical Society, Arts Garage and historic districts make us a distinct destination which drives property values, tax base, quality of life and tourism which is another critically important industry.

Festivals have also played and continue to play a major role. Which is why it was incredibly disappointing to see the debate about their value so mishandled. It’s an opportunity missed because so many cities are building their economies and brands around festivals. It’s something that should be revisited and expanded beyond the myopic debate around cost and inconvenience. I’m not saying that cost and resident convenience isn’t critically important because it is, but most of those issues can be solved with creative planning and by examining the revenue side of the equation and the intrinsic value created by events.

The Delray Marriott, Residence Inn, Seagate Hotel, Hyatt, Fairfield, Crane’s Beach House, Wright by the Sea, Parliament Inn, the historic Colony Hotel, Sundy House and other properties are extremely valuable assets that drive our economy and brand. They don’t stay viable and valuable—if we don’t have a vibrant local economy with many parts working.

The Delray ATP and the many junior events as well as our golf courses and sports facilities are also important assets that can be grown, nurtured, promoted and leveraged to keep our economy sustainable and the Delray value proposition higher than most other cities—especially small cities. We compete for investment and jobs. And we’ve built a powerhouse of a charming little city.

Cities that work have many moving parts that have to work together in concert to create lasting value.

Delray—imperfect as it is, challenged as it is—has done that. Value has been created. Quality of life and place has been created. It is our job and our responsibility to keep it going and to create a city of opportunity for all.

Through my 30 years here, my community involvement and my professional life—I get to meet and work with many talented people who aspire.

Kids from Atlantic High School and Village Academy who want to come back to Delray and make a life here, City staff who went into public service to make a difference, startup founders whom I encourage, informally advise and ask for help myself on my business challenges, educators who care, non-profit leaders who perform miracles, established business owners who volunteer and invest here, retirees who mentor, artists who amaze and parents who want to see their children achieve the American Dream in a world that is increasingly complicated and fraught.

They want a Better Delray—they’ve wanted that for a long time and they’ve made and are making a difference.

So yes the Lynn MBA in Delray is very big news.

I know President Ross. He’s a friend. He’s a visionary. He and his talented team make things happen. So this is just a start.

But it’s an important beginning. A unique and innovative university is working with our Chamber of Commerce in our downtown—and the potential is enormous.

In his remarks last night Dr. Ross noted that he recently began talking to his teenage daughter about life after college (she’s still in high school). Does she want to come back to Florida? Of course, she does.

Where does she want to live?

Delray.

She’s not alone. So take pride. Something very special was built here and the best is yet to come.

Welcome to Delray, Lynn University.

We’re thrilled beyond words.

We’ve wanted you here for a very long time.

Many people have worked very hard to catch your attention and create a place you and your students will want to be.

 

 

Seize the Momentum To Come Together

Local elections are different.

They are up close and personal—almost like trench warfare among neighbors.

So when campaigns end, there is widespread relief– as if a pressure valve is finally released and you can breathe again.

It’s the morning after and it feels good for a few thousand Delray people whose candidates won and won big last night.

For the few dozen who roll up their sleeves and do the campaign grunt work–signs, signatures, phone banking, message development, fundraising, canvassing, social media, sign waving and get out the vote efforts– the feeling of stress gives way to elation if your candidate wins.

Losses sting.

On many levels, those brave enough to enter the arena deserve a measure of credit.

Because it’s no longer safe to run; not that it ever was but it’s much worse than I’ve seen it. And that’s a sad thing for our community.

Of course, we are not alone. Other cities have toxic politics too.

But that’s immaterial? Delray always dared to be different.

Campaigns used to be about ideas. Lately it’s about how Delray has been ruined. Only that’s not true. And finally people said; we’ve had enough.

Enough labeling.

Enough division.

Enough whining.

Enough bullying.

And not enough empathy, collaboration and listening.

And people said enough. Enough negativity. Enough online attacks by people who have contributed little to nothing to what has been a national model for city revitalization.

As I’ve written countless times, we are not a perfect place. We have problems, big challenges and mistakes were made. But…

A great job was done here by many many people over many many years.

And it’s time we say that. It’s ok to feel good about our town. Have pride, you’ve earned it.

We are coming off a very hard fought campaign following what has been a trying time in Delray.

I’ve written often about the need to ensure that the contributors, volunteers and investors in your city are happy. I’ve written often that it is impossible to please everyone. But if you have to make a choice it’s easy. If you’re a Mayor or a city commissioner, the best way to succeed is to please the people that do the work in your town.

A large number of workers and volunteers in our community have not been happy for a long time now.

Many of our major organizations and agencies have been criticized, bullied, dismissed and disparaged.

Some have had to spend their time justifying their very existence and past decisions. You can’t focus on your mission when you’re doing that.

So when I went to Jim Chard’s Election Night Party hosted by a young entrepreneur named Ryan Boylston a lot of thoughts flooded my mind. Ryan is a partner of mine in a local newspaper and media company. He runs a successful creative agency, employees a bunch of people, volunteers an enormous amount of hours, serves on boards, started a business incubator/co-working space and is raising a family here in Delray. His wife is a teacher.

But I’ve seen him ripped to shreds by people doing none of those things. Why? Is it because he has tattoos, ambition, energy, aspirations, and a point of view?

So what?

I wish we had more Ryans. My goal—and the goal of many other mayors—was to create an atmosphere where we would attract young entrepreneurs and their families. As the movie “Field of Dreams” taught us, if you build it, they will come. Well, we built it.  And they came here. Let’s be thankful.

And the opposite of that saying is also true: if they come, they will build it–that is take your community in really cool directions and create opportunities we didn’t dream possible.

One of my other partners in the newspaper is my friend Scott Porten. He built CityWalk, the Estuary and Harbor House in Delray and he stopped developing about 10 years ago. He took risks here, he created value and energy in Pineapple Grove and elsewhere where businesses and restaurants create jobs and serve people. I think what he and others did was pretty amazing. He replaced blight with vibrancy.

In the past decade, he has chaired city advisory boards, been heavily involved in the Beach Property Owners Association, he and his wife are raising two terrific kids, they are involved in their children’s school and Scott has chaired our chamber and Old School Square. He is a good and generous man. He loves this city and serves it every single day. I’ve never seen him say no to any person who has asked him for help and or advice. I can say the same for many other developers in town. Have you seen what Rick Caster has done with the 21 Drops Building? It’s indescribably beautiful and houses his wife’s growing business. Have you been to Ziree, the great Thai restaurant? Before New Urban Communities came to town–the area’s highlight was a drive through liquor store.

But some have vilified developers and development; when we should be encouraging good design, respecting property rights and putting trust in our land development regulations which guarantees we won’t look like Boca or Fort Lauderdale.

At Commissioner elect’s Jim Chard’s party, a woman I know came over to me and thanked me for helping Jim and Commissioner elect Johnson. She said “thanks for being fearless.”

Well, the truth is I’ve been anything but.

Yes, I speak my mind but I also pull punches. And that’s wrong. And so another guy I know called me out on it this week and we got loud with each other. And I said, “well, I have my style and you have yours. Let’s see which is more effective.”

But perhaps he’s right. A little bit anyway.

I don’t like bullies and I will and have stood up to them. But I also don’t like to fight and I don’t like politics. I like the work.

But another friend taught me that commissioners own culture in a town. Not the kind of culture we see at Old School Square or the Arts Garage. But culture in the sense of how we feel about our city—whether we have pride, whether we can work together effectively and whether we can disagree without burning down each other’s homes.

And on that measure our commission has failed. Big time.

So that’s why worked I hard for the candidates I backed this cycle—because I liked their maturity and temperament.

I left Jim’s party when Mayor Glickstein began to speak because I hold him accountable for some of the mess the volunteers have been dealing with for the past several years. I care about our Chamber—and it has its challenges because of politics. I love Old School Square—and it struggled to get a lease, lost events and rental income and I watched as two of my heroes Frances Bourque and Joe Gillie were criticized and the board I serve on accused of not being effective and worse. These are good people, our best.

I watched when the BPOA spent 6-8 years working on a Beach Area Master Plan pro bono—only to see the architect Bob Currie–who has been 48 years– get criticized and the leaders of the association feel dismissed.

And I watched a corporate headquarters and movie theater CEO who does business on a global basis be called an “amateur” at a hearing. That remark stung him. And many of us volunteers who love Delray reached out to him to apologize. Not because we’re shills or bought, but because we value people who want to invest here.

It doesn’t matter so much whether you want iPic or not, but it does matter how investors and businesses or anyone is treated when they go before our elected officials. It’s everything and it reflects on all is us.

So…I’m happy this morning. So are many others.

But we have made mistakes in this town that I hope we don’t repeat this time. When we hit a rough spot and we think we correct it, the tendency is to move on and that’s good. But it’s not good to move on before we the people discuss what has happened and why; and how we might avoid problems from recurring.

We have a chance…to mend fences with people who have spent years attacking each other culminating in ugly elections that trash our town and leave marks. But only if we seize this moment.

My hope is we do—this time. Because there is a new positive energy in the city and there is room for everyone—even those who disagree. But only if there is civility and respect. And it starts with the dais.

It always has.