Wanted: Civic Giants With Heart & Vision

Terry Stiles

Terry Stiles died Sept 11.
He was 70 and was a civic giant.
He was also a developer.
His success as a builder enabled him to give back to his beloved Fort Lauderdale.
We need more of his kind.
More people willing to step up and give. More people willing to step up and make it happen.

Mr. Stiles was one of the people credited with transforming Fort Lauderdale from a small beach town into a thriving city.
Some people like what’s happened. I’m sure some long for the  good old days.

But regardless of what side of that divide you fall on, there’s no denying the impact Stiles Corporation has had on Fort Lauderdale. But it wasn’t just the skyline that was impacted, it was the entire business community, the arts scene, health care, education and economic development that was forever changed via one man’s involvement, passion and commitment.

I met Mr. Stiles a few times over the years. I know people who worked for him and we have a few friends in common who knew him far better than I did. But I’m impressed and awed by these civic giants–these local icons who make a dent in their corners of the universe.

Compared to Fort Lauderdale, Delray is a small city. We have had our share of civic icons. And several have been generous.
But we need more.

Boca Raton has been blessed with some incredible philanthropy. Christine Lynn, the Schmidt Family Foundation, Dick Siemens, the Snyder’s, the Drummond’s et al.
They’ve made a profound and lasting difference.

But right about now, Delray can use a few folks to step up and make some things happen.

Old School Square can be a national cultural treasure, the Arts Garage needs angels, the Library, Historical Society, Spady Museum, Achievement Center, Caring Kitchen, Milagro Center, Miracle League, Sandoway House, Impact 100 all need financial support and commitment.

The list of worthy non profits and causes goes on and on. All of them need people willing to say: We need to solve this problem, we need to seize this opportunity or we need to rescue kids, animals, families etc. The city itself is a cause: we need people to step up and devote themselves to making a difference in Delray.
You get the picture.
And it’s not just charity.
Civic leadership also means people willing to commit to designing great parks, improving local schools, building affordable housing, creating jobs and opportunities for all, solving the scourge of substance use disorder, giving entrepreneurs a chance to succeed and artists a place to create etc.
We need civic giants.

Those people who move the needle are those who think long term and have ambition not for just themselves but for others.

We have enough naysayers. We have enough complainers. We have enough armchair quarterbacks playing gotcha, spouting off on social media, second guessing decisions and casting blame.
We need more leaders, angels, healers, supporters, investors, mentors and visionaries.

Yes, it matters who sits on the City Commission. Good mayor’s move the needle, they sell their city. They build civic pride. They evangelize and they nurture and support and still find a way to hold people to account without destroying their spirit.

They build, they fix. They don’t tear down.
And they inspire. They make you want to get involved. They make you want to be a citizen.
But…
We need more.
We can’t rely on five people serving for three years at a time.
We need long term players. People who are committed to creating something positive and important.

Such as:
Reinvent Congress Avenue.
Make Delray a cultural capital.
Create a sports and food Mecca.
Make our schools great, not good, but freaking great.
Vastly improve race relations so we are viewed as a beacon for the rest of America.
Break the cycle of poverty in this town. Learn from other cities but blaze our own  trail of greatness.

We need serious people.
Adults.
We need civic giants, people who  change the game.

Here’s To The Teachers

Geoffrey Canada

I had always wanted to see Geoffrey Canada speak.

We tried to get him to come to Delray Beach many years ago, but for some reason we were unable to pull it off.

Canada is a legendary educator and community builder who did some miraculous work running the Harlem Children’s Zone until his recent retirement. He continues to speak around the country and we caught him recently at The Breakers in Palm Beach where he spoke to the annual meeting of Leadership Florida.

He’s a riveting speaker. Riveting with a capital R.

And his message is powerful and built on a lifetime of experience. It’s also timely with our children heading back to school in a few weeks.

While there were many lessons packed into his presentation my two takeaways were this:

  • We completely disrespect the education profession in this country and;
  • Where you grow up and how you grow up matters—a lot.

Canada who grew up in the South Bronx was a bright student who went to Bowdoin College in Maine in the 1960s.

Back home, he saw the plague of heroin stealing young lives (sound familiar) and so out of curiosity he took two science classes his last year of school: pharmacology and physiology.

He wanted to figure out what it was about heroin that made the drug so addictive and deadly.

He aced both classes and a group of professors intervened in his career path and urged him to go to medical school.

“But I want to be a teacher,” he told them believing that education was the best way to lift a community and break the cycle of poverty.

“No you don’t,” they answered trotting out the usual reasons: you won’t make money, you won’t be able to drive a nice car and you won’t be invited to all the cool cocktail parties.

It was a full court press and his professors talked him into going to medical school which was where he was heading right up until he had to sign a commitment letter and he decided that he just “didn’t like sick people.”

So he escaped medical school and instead launched a career that has touched the lives of thousands of kids.  An astounding 97 percent of children enrolled in the Harlem Children’s Zone program go onto college—all of this in a community in which poverty, crime, drugs and despair are deeply rooted.

The Harlem Children’s Zone is changing the trajectory of that universe. That’s what great leaders do.

They change lives.

But the point was well taken. Every effort was made– by educators no less—to dissuade young Geoffrey from what would become a brilliant and important career.

Based on his 40 plus years of experience, Canada believes that education needs an infusion of talent to lift the fortunes of American students.

“When we think talent, we think Google, Facebook, Netflix,” he said. “We don’t think of the local elementary school in Fort Lauderdale.”

But we should. We need bright young minds to go into the field. Canada believes that education is beyond a full time pursuit, it requires immense dedication, talent and resources.

“We pay teachers part-time wages,” he argues. “And we entrust the future of our nation to them. In business, there is an intense struggle for talent. In education, we’re not competing for talent and we need to be.” That was not a knock on the quality of teachers, but rather a call to arms. Educators should not have to take a pledge of poverty in order to teach our children.

As the father of a young ESE (Exceptional Student Education) teacher who loves her students and goes above and beyond that argument resonates with me. I simply don’t know how teachers can live in Palm Beach County given the high cost of housing these days.

The second point is that place matters.

“The place you’re in is either going to help you succeed or be a barrier,” he said. “It’s hard for a child in the fourth grade who has to go home to parents addicted to drugs, living in chaos. He or she won’t be able to compete with a child coming home to loving parents.”

Unless….

Unless we start to think deeply about how we are going to make the child successful.

The brilliance of the Harlem Children’s Zone is its holistic approach.

“We start at birth,” he told Leadership Florida. “With baby college which is for newborns to three year olds. And we stay with them through college.”

That’s a big and expensive commitment—financially and emotionally. But it works. It gets results, especially when you introduce remarkable teachers into the equation.

“The message is we are going to do whatever it takes,” he said. “This is the deep end of the pool. In the beginning, the data is going to be bad. We have to get comfortable with that. And know, that over time, we will move it..slowly.”

On August 14, our kids will be heading back to school.

When you take a look at the educational landscape in Southern Palm Beach County you see lots of bright spots and lots of areas of concern.

The state recently released school grades for 2017.

More than half of District operated schools earned A’s and B’s overall and 30 schools operated by the School District of Palm Beach County improved by at least one letter grade. A total of 63 District-operated schools earned A’s from the state and 35 schools earned B’s, which equals 61 percent of traditional schools in Palm Beach County. No District-operated school received an F in 2016-17, and only eight District-operated schools received a D.

Twelve District-operated schools improved from a B to an A, including the following schools in Boca Raton and Delray Beach:

  • Banyan Creek Elementary School
  • Boca Raton Community Middle School
  • Hammock Pointe Elementary School
  • Olympic Heights Community High School
  • Sandpiper Shores Elementary School

But we all know we have lots of work to do.

Locally, we are fortunate to have Delray Students First, the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, magnet programs, career academies, the Golden Bell Foundation, the Delray Education Foundation, the Achievement Center, the Milagro Center, Florence Fuller Center and more.

I’ve always felt that the Village Academy and a concept called “Village Center” had enormous potential to employ the Canada Harlem Children’s Zone model.

But it takes money. It takes leadership. It takes vision and it takes a long term commitment.

In other words, it takes a village.

We say we are one, but it’s not about the size of buildings or whether we get a Publix—(for the record I like our scale and I want to see a Publix on West Atlantic) it’s about the size of our collective hearts.

Some Internet trolls love to sit back and bash and pontificate about what they don’t want to see.

I get it. And that’s cool—to a point.

But I often wonder if that same energy was channeled into thinking about the future rather than fighting the latest outrage if we might actually get somewhere again—as a community and as a nation.

I see a lot of loud people who are comfortable with their lot in lives paying lip service to kids but barely lifting a finger. I see others who have placed their comfort and personal convenience over the needs of future generations. What do our kids need?

They need attainable housing. They need good jobs. And we need to nurture our entrepreneurs and have a strategy to both attract and retain talent.

Place matters and that could be our competitive edge.

We’re walkable. We’re cool. We have amenities. We have art and culture. We have great restaurants and a wonderful beach. We have great weather and recreational opportunities.

Sure, we have problems. But you don’t solve your problems by driving down your positives. You solve your problems, you meet your challenges, through collaboration, investment and a can-do mindset.

Frankly, I’m seeing the opposite from our so-called “leaders.”

We have some deep end of the pool issues in Delray these days. It’s not the first time we’ve had them.

Last time, the community said “let’s work together.” Three words=profound results.

And it sure beats “divide and conquer.”

It’s our choice. Which path do we choose?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s To The Winners

Delray Beach won another All America City Award last week and that’s  a good excuse to write a whole lot of nice things about Janet Meeks.
Prior to winning last week, Delray had won the award twice before in 1993 and 2001.
Back then, the award recognized cities for three community projects. These days the award recognizes strides communities make for advancing reading scores.

Janet’s leadership on behalf of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading gained real, quantifiable results sustained over time.
When she asked a few people to serve as peer reviewers to look at other cities efforts, we all said yes.
After I read and reviewed the applications from a few communities I knew Delray would win.
We know how a city can impact education and based on the applications we read it was easy to tell that Delray is a pacesetter.
We should be. We’ve been at this a long time.

Since at least the late 80s when Tom Fleming led an effort called Sharing for Excellence.

Back in those days, Tom was a home builder and he became frustrated by the negative perceptions enveloping Delray’s schools. Young families weren’t buying homes in the beautiful Andover development because they didn’t want to send their children to Delray schools.
Realtors called it the “Delray Dilemma.”
So Tom and members of the community crafted a vision for education in Delray. It called for magnet schools, a new middle school, upgraded facilities and more. The City  got it done.

Mayors Tom Lynch and Jay Alperin were passionate advocates for education investing city monies to help improve neighborhoods near schools. Tom went on to serve on the School Board for 8 years, including 7 years as chair. He did a lot for education during his tenure.
Mayor David Schmidt was also a champion for education leading the city’s efforts to work with the School Board to build a new Atlantic High School, which the opening of career academies including an innovative Criminal Justice Academy in partnership with our Police Department.

The leadership around education in Delray came from all segments of the community. Residents of the Southwest Neighborhood pushed for a new school and the Village Academy was born.

The Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce raised funds through a foundation to support local schools and teachers. Parents, volunteers, non-profits, business leaders all rolled up their sleeves to support better schools. It has made a difference.

Janet was there for many if not all of these efforts.
She became our education coordinator, served as the staff for the city’s Education Board and became our advocate at the School Board fighting for resources, boundaries, facilities, programs and to make sure our schools had solid principals.
The campaign for Grade level reading built on literacy efforts, chamber programs, the work of key non profits and other community partners.
She’s a huge asset to Delray.
Along the way, I’ve been lucky to call her a friend. She’s a fountain of knowledge, does her homework and cares passionately for kids and for Delray Beach.
Over the years, there have been whispers of cutting the position. Luckily they did not come to fruition because Janet Meeks has provided tremendous value.
Delray’s leaders have long recognized that schools are an important part of our community.
We have had our struggles but also our triumphs.
From an award-winning Montessori program at Spady Elementary and the IB and career programs at Atlantic to the creation and growth of the Village Academy to the terrific gifted program at Banyan Creek and so much more we have come a long way.
Obviously, there is more to do. Much much more to do.
But Delray has shown over and over again that a city can impact education, even when it’s not its direct responsibility. If we make the investment, we get the return. It’s just that simple.

Inspiration…

We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to acknowledge graduation season.

As students in Delray Beach and Boca Raton graduate high school and college we wish them well and offer a sampling of our favorite commencement quotes. The first few quotes are from graduations held this year. We also include some of our all-time favorites. We hope they inspire you to do great things. Remember commencement means to begin. So while you may graduate, you are really beginning the journey. Enjoy.

“Summon your compassion, your curiosity, your empathy towards others and your commitment to service. Give more than you receive and I promise you, it will come back to you in ways you can’t possibly imagine.” Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO at Arizona State University.

“Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strikes, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything.” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO at Virginia Tech.

“No matter what other work you do, every day, if you find the issues that matter to you and you get in the fight, you will build a life with more heart flutters and fewer don’t-make-me-move moments.” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren at UMass-Amherst.

“Create. Don’t wait around for people to give you things to do. If you’re a writer, write; artist, paint; builder, build! Opportunities will come to you if you create them.” Comedian Maz Jobrani, UC-Berkeley

“No matter how cliché it may sound, you will never truly be successful until you learn to give beyond yourself. Empathy and kindness are the true signs of emotional intelligence.” Actor Will Ferrell at USC.

The Classics…

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” Henry David Thoreau.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

 Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It is not the size of the arena in which you find yourself that counts; it is what you do with it.” Dr. Irene C. Kassorla.

Until We Meet Again…

Sister Mary Clare greets a friend–she’s made many.

When we got up to leave Caffe Luna Rosa last week after a wonderful evening, Sister Mary Clare Fennell drew us close and grabbed our hands. Then, in her soft, sweet brogue she recited an Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields. 

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Sister is leaving Delray on May 30 to go back home to Ireland and she’s busy making the rounds not to say goodbye, but to say thank you. And that’s what makes her so special.

Sister came to Delray in 1968 and in the nearly 50 years she has spent teaching and serving in Delray she has touched countless hearts and souls. But when I asked her if she ever thought about all the lives she has touched—through all those years leading St. Vincent Ferrer School and then serving at Emmanuel Catholic Church—she didn’t hesitate to answer:  “No. I think of all the people who have touched my life in a positive way.”

That answer, stopped those of us at the table cold. And if you can get Fran Marincola to stop talking about parking,,well you know you’ve struck a chord (just kidding Fran).

It was just the start of a wide ranging conversation that touched on heroes—Pope Francis, Dorothy Day, Mandela, Gandhi—and love, acceptance and the pure joy of dining at a truly great restaurant with friends on a spectacular night in a great little city.

Sitting with Sister Mary Clare is like sitting with a rock star. People walking by recognize her, smile from ear and ear and come over to hug, kiss and chat.

When Sister came to Delray nearly 50 years ago this was a vastly different place. She remembers the heat, the lack of air conditioning and a few restaurants–places like the Patio Delray and Arcade Tap Room. Things have changed. 

Over the years she built a school that children and families loved and made many friends along the way. 

My wife and I are two of them. 

When I served as a commissioner and later mayor, I found myself going to St. Vincent Ferrer School for various events and programs including a memorable discussion with students about homelessness in Palm Beach County. 

I felt drawn to Sister. I appreciated her warmth and humor and sensed her intelligence and big heart. 

She believed in love and community and making everyone feel welcome and cared for. 

She has been a big part of Delray Beach. The Delray Beach we all fell in love with. 

Because it’s not about the latest political controversy–they come and go. The sky has been falling for as long as I remember. 

But it is about special people who bless us with their hearts, minds, talents and intellect. 

Sister Mary Clare is one of those people. And she made a lasting difference in her corner of the universe —which lucky for us, was Delray Beach. 

When the evening ended, we didn’t say goodbye. We said so long. 

I hope to see Sister again. We all do. Hopefully, it will be in Ireland where she will take a little piece of Delray with her. 

Until then, many of us will be forever grateful for the love and kindness of a wonderful friend. 

 

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.

 

 

This Week’s Goodshop: Unicorn Children’s Foundation

Shopfunding for Delray/Boca — This week’s cause:  Unicorn Children’s Foundation

 

In 1994, Mark Rosenbloom M.D. was told over and over again by fellow doctors that his three-year-old son’s lack of talking was something he would just “grow out of.” But, he didn’t. After a series of one misdiagnosis after another, Mark was so passionate he founded the Unicorn Children’s Foundation.

Focused on children with developmental and communication disorders like ADHD, autism, bipolar, dyslexia and other learning disorders, UCF develops groundbreaking therapies and treatments to help diagnose and assess these issues better. FAU and Nova Southeastern Universities are also involved.

And as a non-profit, every penny counts. That’s why they love Goodshop so much. Through online coupons, supporters of the Unicorn Children’s Foundation have raised hundreds of free dollars, just by shopping online.

Want to help out? To raise free funds for UCF while saving at thousands of online stores, join our shopfunding campaign, where a portion of every purchase will go back to the foundation. Here are some of the deals you can find:

24 Hour Fitness discounts: Free gym pass at any location, and 7.5% will go back to help kids in need.

Best Buy: Up to 35% off tvs, and 0.5% will go back to UCF.

Box Lunch coupon codes: 40% off select tees, and 1.75% will go back to research developmental disorders.

My M&M’s: 20% off and 5% will be donated back to support Mark’s cause.

 

Better Boulder Inspires A Better Delray

We used to be the city that went across the country sharing our story and inspiring others.

Some cities came here…from across Florida and the south—Greencove Springs, Cape Coral, Punta Gorda, Miami Lakes, the Smart Growth Partnership of Broward County, the Urban Land Institute, business leaders from Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Michigan and others—because they saw Delray as a progressive and innovative laboratory on topics ranging from events and festivals to housing, downtown revitalization and smart growth.

And we went out across America to tell our story too—visiting places like Tucson, Greenville, Carmel, New York, Reno, Baltimore, Kansas City and Bellevue, Washington– to share best practices and learn from others as well.

That thought crossed my mind last week when we hosted a group of community leaders from Boulder, Colorado who have created a movement that is sparking others across the nation to say Yes in My Backyard—to jobs, a clean environment, good schools, economic opportunity, smart land use, transportation and housing for all. Indeed Better Boulder (www.betterboulder.com) hosted the first ever YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard) conference in North America last year attracting interest from across the country and as far away as Helsinki, Finland.

Better Boulder is a coalition of young and old, business leaders, environmentalists, parents, educators, housing advocates united in a belief that when it comes to policy—there is more that binds us than divides us in our communities.

They believe in education, infill development, building cities for people (not cars), a healthy environment and housing for all. Those shared values have allowed business leaders and “enviros” to find common ground and build relationships that enable Boulder citizens to work together on a range of issues.

John Tayer is president of the Boulder Chamber and he is passionate about the importance of economic interests. He believes in the chamber’s advocacy role but he has found a lot in common with former Boulder Mayor Will Toor, a noted environmentalist who likewise understands the dangers of sprawl, the importance of jobs and the need to create a sustainable city for all.

Molly Tayer—John’s wife—has done a lot of advocacy work on a range of land use, transportation and housing issues and the other member of the coalition Ken Hotard is the VP of the Boulder Board of Realtors, which strongly advocates for housing and quality infill projects.

All have learned about the need to reach out and build coalitions around common objectives and aspirations. Boulder is a community—like ours—that is wrestling with some weighty issues. But they have found a way to unite and a way to value relationships even though sometimes they might not see eye to eye on every issue. It’s an important and inspiring message at a critical time.

We live in an increasingly polarized society—fueled by bathrobe pundits on social media—who seek to label, divide and stir the pot.

Terms like “special interests”, “greedy developers”, “chamber types”, “renters” and “slick lobbyists/consultants” are thrown around to disparage, minimize and divide people. That’s the price we pay to live in a free society and truth be told it’s a bargain. But….

It’s not healthy.

It doesn’t build community.

And it doesn’t solve problems.

Divisiveness also doesn’t enable us to seize opportunities. It does however, dampen spirits, dissuade volunteers and deter investment—and over time that is death to a community’s spirit.

The biggest asset of most cities is the excitement and vision for their hometown that stakeholders are able to share with the world. Civic pride and a sense of mission drives excitement and compels people to get to work building good things.

When you love something, you commit. And when you commit, magic happens.

Other cities have beaches and main streets, but our main street and side streets and historic neighborhoods and cultural amenities are special, important and have created a tremendous amount of value—both real (property values) and intangible (quality of life). Our friends from Boulder were impressed—so are many others and we should take pride in our accomplishments.

But they also know that none of what has worked would have been possible without teamwork and a collaborative culture. Community work—even politics—should be fun, was a big part of their message. Many people don’t feel that it’s fun anymore to volunteer in Delray, or work here or run for office or seek approval for a business venture.

Unlike others, I will never pretend to speak for anyone or everyone. But I’m sharing an observation that I hear in every room I enter these days across a range of activities and endeavors. Those voices of discontent can be dismissed, labeled, disparaged or even bullied. But they shouldn’t be ignored and pretending they don’t exist doesn’t make them go away. These same people are also firm in their conviction that more needs to be done–more opportunities, more good jobs, better housing options, more culture, more civility, more preservation and yes more smart development.

A group of us reached out to Better Boulder because of these voices and because we love and cherish Delray Beach. We want to see a Better Delray for our children, for our families and for the causes and organizations we are passionate about. That’s the special interest…that’s the agenda, not hidden but available to all in plain sight.

At dinner with our new friends from Colorado, we shared that whatever success that was achieved was hard fought and far from certain.

It took a village. A great many people working together—black and white, rich and poor, young and old to build what we think is a pretty special place. But there’s more to do—jobs to create, neighborhoods to fix, people to help, problems to solve and opportunities to seize.

We aspire.

We are not complacent.

There is too much at stake.

We believe that the best is yet to come.

But only if we work together and remain focused on building a better future.

We need you to get involved…now more than ever.

 

 

Better Boulder Comes To Delray

On Tuesday night, four community leaders from Boulder, Colorado will be in Delray Beach to share their story.
At 6:30 pm at Old School Square’s Crest Theatre,  representatives from Better Boulder (www.betterboulder.com) will give a free presentation on their efforts to build a sustainable city based on respect for the environment, sensible growth and housing policies that are inclusive. We hope to see you there. It’s important that you attend.
Better Boulder’s work has helped to both spark and further a growing movement of people who are proudly calling themselves YIMBY’s for Yes in My Backyard, a counter to NIMBYism which has often stopped smart growth projects that provide jobs, expand the tax base, add vibrancy and provide needed housing in communities.
Across the nation, there is a growing backlash to NIMBYs led by people who want cities and regions to make room for them too.
In the super expensive Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seattle and elsewhere YIMBY movements consisting of environmentalists, urban planners, young people and employers are banding together to push back against those who consistently say no to even reasonable development.
Particularly galling to many in the YIMBY camp is that NIMBYs often claim the moral high ground citing their desire to protect neighborhoods and cities. Others view their opposition in a vastly different light; more of a  “I’m in the boat pull up the ladder” mentality that shuts off opportunities for others.
Many times  it’s not that black and white.
Traffic, noise, parking and design are important considerations in any city.
But they must be balanced against property rights, the need to provide jobs and housing and the very real need to grow your tax base or risk losing services or raising taxes for existing residents.
Saying yes to reasonable, planned and intelligent growth does not mean anything goes.
Indeed, it should mean the opposite.
Cities should plan–and those plans should be based on a vision of the future . And visions should come from a wide variety of stakeholders in a community, not just those with the loudest voices and the time to protest.
A premium amount of attention should be spent on design, compatibility, desirable uses and how projects function in terms of parking and circulation.
Community input throughout the process is critical but it’s also important that elected officials and key city staff engage with development teams early to discuss local goals, sensitivities and sensibilities.
Some cities employ “town” architects who work with developers and designers to ensure good projects. If you seek to work with developers and they don’t listen, give them the boot. But if you don’t engage with them, you are forcing them to guess and setting all sides up for failure, stress, strife and suits of the legal kind. It doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s so much better when our civic discourse makes us smarter not angrier. 

We’ll end with this post with quote from Jane Jacobs, perhaps the most influential thinker and writer on what makes cities work.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created, by everybody.”
It’s hard to argue with Ms. Jacobs. But I’d add that cities work for everybody only when they consider everybody. And sometimes that means making room for others. 
See you tomorrow night at the Crest.
Wishing my Daughter a Happy Birthday
My little girl turned 27 yesterday.
It’s hard to believe because it seems like only yesterday when we were dropping her off at Little Friends in Delray and later at Poinciana Elementary School.
Now she’s teaching school. In Tampa. And I miss her.
I’m also very proud of her.
I have great respect for teachers and especially ESE (exceptional student education) teachers who make such a difference in the lives of children. That’s the path my daughter has chosen.
Samantha has what it takes to succeed as a teacher: passion for kids, boundless patience, a sense of humor and a heart as big as Florida.
When Sam was a little girl she had a series of ear infections. It seemed like we were always battling one painful episode after another.
It finally passed, but the battles left her with something called auditory processing disorder. As a result, she had a hard time learning how to read.
When we finally discovered the cause she was able to address the issue through an arduous series of exercises. Hours and hours of wearing headphones while completing computer programs designed to rewire how her brain heard and processed sounds.
It was hard work. Done after she had already put in a full day of school.
It was a lot for a little girl.
She never ever complained.
I remember telling her that she was special and that people like her succeeded because they had to work hard for their success. And the perseverance and resilience she learned would serve her well in life.
It did.
Nothing came easy for her. But she had a deep appreciation for every milestone achieved.
She graduated Atlantic High School went to Palm Beach State College and then to the University of South Florida where she excelled academically and with extra curricular activities.
To say we’re proud of her would be an understatement. There are just no words to adequately express how we feel about the young woman she has become.
My only beef– and it’s a small one– is somehow she and her younger brother became Patriots fans when their dad bleeds Giants blue.
I have several friends whose kids are having grandkids and I can’t wait for that to happen to us as well.
All I know is that it goes so fast.
The days of taking her to Old School Square as a small child to see an art exhibit, the ice cream cones at Doc’s and Kilwins, soccer at Miller Field, softball with her coach Dr. Grubb (his daughter whose Sam’s age is now Dr. Molly a veterinarian like her dad in Delrat), Girl Scouts, K-9 exhibitions to earn Brownie points, Safety Patrol, summer camp at Trinity, story hours at the old Delray Library. Arts and Jazz on the Avenue, high school, dates, driving and nights you slept with one eye open until your heard her come in the door.
And then they are grown.
Oh she still needs her dad. I know that. I hope that never ends but it’s a fast ride. Savor every moment.
Happy birthday Sam.  

25 Ideas Revisited

ideaload

Editor’s note:

Four years ago—the same length as a presidential term—we wrote a blog outlining 25 ideas for Delray Beach.

We thought it would be fun to take a look back and comment on whether these ideas still make sense or whether any of them actually happened.

25 Ideas …2012 edition

  1. Brand Delray Beach as a mecca for entrepreneurs—Comment: Still makes sense and still a work in progress. Various efforts have been tried and traction has been difficult to achieve. The lack of affordable creative space downtown is a barrier, but efforts such as the co-working space “The Kitchn” are promising. Much more needs to be done and can be done.
  2. To accomplish the above, create a business incubator downtown and invite entrepreneurs to grow in Delray. Comment: There’s potential at the Old School Square Garage to do something facing the park and at the Arts Warehouse, but this idea remains incomplete.
  3. Create a business accelerator in Delray so that once companies are incubated they have someplace to go for the extra needed help. Comment: Incomplete.
  4. Help existing businesses and individuals grow by offering classes and low or no-cost business advice at our own Old School Square. Comment: Lynn University has been scouting locations downtown to offer classes; the Small Business Development Center is active at the Delray Library and it was great to see Code Fever at the chamber recently.
  5. Speaking of Old School Square, offer executive education, certificate and graduate programs in the classrooms; revenue for Old School Square and another tool for economic development. Comment: Incomplete.
  6. Program the Old School Square Park—add shade, music and a few tasteful vendors. Comment: After a series of charrettes and private efforts, a vision is beginning to take shape. But it has been 11 years since voters passed a bond creating the park and creating a vibrant downtown “central” park remains incomplete. Lately, some have complained about vagrancy at the park. And the process to design a park has been fraught. It ought to be exciting.
  7. At holiday time, create a holiday village at the Old School Square park and allow kiosks and “pop-up” stores to capture crowds heading to the 100 foot tree. Give local retailers a free or reduced stall and charge others for the month—use funds to offset holiday costs. Comment: Didn’t happen.
  8. Creatively partner with various private entities to bring “fantasy sports camps” to Delray. Tourists could come to Delray to play with their childhood heroes and enjoy the downtown after the game is over. Comment: Didn’t happen.

9 .Install LED lighting in parking lots and parking garages. It’s green and it saves money. Comment: New LED street lights are brightening a six-block section of West Atlantic Avenue, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy totaling nearly $111,000. Efforts appear to be underway.

  1. Create a leadership academy to train the next generation of local leaders. Teach the Delray success story. Comment: The Chamber launched a civic engagement academy earlier this year that was well attended. There are plans to do more.
  2. Create a local Business Development Corporation enabling local residents to buy “shares” in local businesses and invest in growing our own economy. Comment: Not done.
  3. Reinvigorate the Southwest Plan by borrowing a page from Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Empowerment Zone playbook. Seek foundation monies to move beyond infrastructure to developing Delray’s vast human capital. Comment: Various charitable efforts including Delray Students First have embraced the mission of developing Human Capital, but robust financial support remains elusive.
  4. Arm the economic development director with a reasonable budget to market Delray. We have to get in the game and that takes marketing and resources. Comment: Not done.
  5. Public Relations. Delray needs a publicity strategy outside the local publications to attract investment and build awareness of our assets and opportunities. After all, we are the jewel of Palm Beach County. Comment: Not done, the Delray Marketing Cooperative has done a good job on the events front, but PR regarding economic development has been spotty. There were some good articles on downtown development in the South Florida Business Journal and on the efforts of the Congress Avenue Task Force in the Sun Sentinel but creating national buzz around business and investment remains to be seen. There have been good articles in national and regional publications relating to downtown redevelopment, dining, tourism, events, real estate and lifestyle.
  6. Link the new Arts Warehouse to a broader strategy to create an artists and artisans “village within a village” in the Third Avenue area. Comment: Artists Alley has been threatened by increasing prices and gentrification and the Arts Warehouse is still not open.
  7. Help Delray’s Prep and Sports develop a national reputation for elite football training and make the 7 on 7 event one of the premier tournaments in the USA. Comment: Prep and Sports founder T.J. Jackson has gone on to become the head football coach at Atlantic High.
  8. Convene an economic development charrette to discuss our fiscal future and job creation—let the community decide the priorities and tie our spending to those priorities. Comment: 2017 should see a discussion of economic development as a key component of the city’s comprehensive plan. The Chamber is considering a similar conversation.
  9. Team up with our neighbors Boca Raton and Boynton wherever possible: city services, economic development, marketing to save money and leverage our strengths. Comment: hard to do.
  10. Get serious about jumpstarting investment on Congress Avenue. The vision and zoning is in place, what’s needed is execution and beautification. Comment: A task force spent 10 months updating the plan and adding exciting new elements. Plan was submitted in February and was accepted in August, but not formally adopted. Code has yet to be updated and the city is considering hiring a consultant. Meanwhile, the corridor has attracted a few deals: Kaufman & Lynn, Call 4 Health and there is activity on the old Office Depot site and Saltwater Brewery. However, concern lingers that new projects will be forced to “spot zone” since the plan is not yet in place.
  11. Add a Middle School of the Arts at Carver Middle School and tie it into all of our arts activities from Old School Square to the Creative City Collaborative to the new Plumosa School of the Arts. Comment: Talk has died down regarding Carver. But the district has a plan to build a long coveted middle school of the arts on the site of the old Atlantic High School.
  12. Bring a branch of a university downtown and one to Congress Avenue. Comment: remains to be done. Lynn U has plans for a presence.
  13. Revisit the North Federal Highway Plan and come up with a new vision for the 21st Century. Comment: remains to be done. South Federal is being looked at; that’s a good thing.
  14. Host a competition and have our local techies develop some interesting local apps. Comment: remains to be done. Tallahassee recently did this exercise and ended up with some amazing ideas.
  15. Develop a formal, aggressive and powerful Shop Local Campaign. Comment: there have been great efforts but a strong lasting branded campaign remains an opportunity.
  16. Add entrepreneurship academies to Atlantic High and Village Academy. Comment: remains to be done.