The Truth Is Out There

“There’s a secret plan to fire the city manager/CRA Director/dog catcher and make (fill in the blank) the new city manager/CRA Director/dog catcher.”

 “The new project in town is really going to be a giant sober house/Victoria’s Secret/home for the criminally insane.”

 “There’s a secret plan to make the new iPic a Marriott.”

 “They bought a newspaper so they can publish fake news.”

 “(Insert name) has a handler/puppeteer/secret agenda/secret financial interest in a sober home.”

 “Our old Mayor loves Lake Worth, pines for Boca and hates alleys.” (One of out three ain’t bad, so in the interest of full disclosure I do have a crush on Lake Worth but we’re just dating and I’m free to see other cities).

Evil doers. Shysters. Mediocre minds. Has-Beens.

Blah blah blah…

Are you a fan of Jimmy Kimmel?

I am.

I think he’s real. I got vaklempt when he teared up about his newborn’s health challenges and I really thought his tribute to Don Rickles was amazing and genuine.

I also love the mean tweets segment on his show in which famous people read negative comments about themselves.

It’s funny. And it defangs the bullies and the trolls.

It exposes them as small, petty and mean.  It makes me believe that humor may be the best way to deal with the nattering nabobs of negativity and Nimbyism.

I remember a time when local politics was different. Hard fought yes, but different.

When it was safer to go in the water– so to speak.

Safer– but not safe.

It is what it is I suppose but the level of toxicity discourages good people from getting involved in politics and we need good people now more than ever.

I ran for office four times in my life. Only once did I have an opponent, my first time in 2000. We ran a hard fought race based on issues, ideas and experience and when it was over we became friends and now neighbors. I happily supported Ken Rubin for boards and task forces. I’d like to think he would have extended me the same courtesy.

Not that everything was roses and perfume in the old days—it wasn’t. I know what it’s like to have misinformation spread about me, my family and my friends. I even got a few physical threats and was the subject of a horrible rumor about my health because I went to Bethesda Hospital for something—I can’t even remember what. I’ve been sued, deposed, had anonymous mail pieces sent etc.

And yet, the culture at City Hall and among key organizations was stellar. We got along.

There was debate, some bruises along the way but a whole lot of collaboration. And while mistakes were made, there were outcomes. Stuff got done. A lot of stuff. For the record, that’s not bragging, that’s civic pride.

I served with Jon Levinson, Bill Schwartz, Alberta McCarthy, Brenda Montague, Rita Ellis, Dave Schmidt, Pat Archer, Fred Fetzer and Bob Costin. Did I miss anybody? It’s a blur. We were a range of ages, backgrounds, life experiences, political parties, races, religions and musical tastes. I liked them all. A few drove me crazy at times—(Jon especially) and I’m sure I annoyed them as well. But we saw each other as a team. We saw the city staff as teammates. We wanted to empower them, not micromanage them or stifle them.

We saw each other as the key to our individual success as elected officials and more importantly our collective success as a community. There were egos…I have one, I readily admit. It’s hard to run for office (or do anything of significance, without some confidence in your abilities to move the needle). But there was also gratitude, thankfulness, understanding, humor, empathy and a passionate desire to advance ideas, opportunities, neighborhoods, careers, visions and plans. It was real. It was palatable, you could taste it; it was in the air.

That said, we had enemies.

Only a few to be honest and they were tough. I lost a few people I thought were friends. Usually when I just couldn’t bring myself to agree with them on a single issue and despite my efforts to say “hey, there’s always 10 more things we can agree on”, they’d burn the bridge and try to take your house with it.

That’s politics. It’s rough. If you can’t handle the heat, I suggest you stay home and watch “The Bachelor.”

Then there are those who just don’t like you—maybe it’s the way you look or dress or talk. I don’t know.

I tried to reach out to those folks—but many times when you extend a hand you end up with your fingers bitten off. I’m not sure I understand that, but it just is.

Over time, in order to stay sane, be productive and move on with your life, you learn to focus on helping those who are doing good work in your community. If you do, you’ll succeed. You also learn that not everybody will like you. It’s just impossible.

But despite the fact that the good old days had their challenges…something feels very different now—both nationally and locally.

These days the strategy seems to be to spew conspiracy theories on social media using loaded terms like “dark money” and “hidden agendas.” The posts are loaded with threats and innuendo. They are devoid of facts, specifics or reality.

The self-regard is off the charts.

The ones who specialize in this communication are the only ones who care; the only ones with pure motives. The only ones who know the real truth–which they never quite reveal. When you press them, (which sadly I have done from time to time, sad because they are not worth the time) you only get more of the same. The truth will be revealed “in time.”  It’s like the X-Files…but without the beautiful red headed FBI agent.

Maybe an iPic supporter will be given an extra plush seat when the theater finally opens. Maybe, someone will rent an office at Atlantic Crossing someday. Maybe an evil developer will make a profit somewhere in Delray Beach.

Or maybe they are full of it.

The truth is this: any value that has been created in Delray was a direct result of public policy, investment, risk and leadership that not only enabled but encouraged that value to be created.

The disrespect of anyone remotely connected to the value that was created here is a phenomenon.

It’s a mystery to me. It truly is. But I’ve seen some civic giants dissed and it makes me sad. It makes me want to blog..and that’s a dangerous thing.

The other mystery–and this is a long time  thing I’ve wrestled with–is this notion that there’s some sort of secret, exclusive society here.

I’ve been observing and participating in Delray since 1987.

I don’t know how other places work because I was 22 when I arrived here and this is my experience. I don’t know what it’s really like elsewhere.

But for the most part, I have encountered a slew of very nice people.

When a family is victimized by a heinous crime, I’ve seen busy people drop everything and raise funds to help out.

When we lose community members I’ve seen people drop everything and help the grieving.

And when we’ve experienced hurricanes, accidents or shocks like 9-11, or the loss of a beloved police officer we’ve seen the community rally.

Lots of good, generous people live and work here.

I have found the vast majority of them to be welcoming to others.

If you called them up, they called you back.

If you invited them to lunch they said sure.

If you asked them to support a cause they said yes. And if you wanted to get involved you were put to work.

You weren’t put in charge, you were put to work. And if you showed up and didn’t insult everyone in the room you were given more to do–boards, committees, task forces.

You didn’t have to take a pledge or adopt group think. You just had to be decent, respectful, truthful and reliable.

That’s how it was in 1987 and that’s how it is now.

Warm. Welcoming. A community.

Back room deals? Plots? Grand schemes?

Oh there have been a few.

But the prevailing modus operandi has been putting Delray first. Not the unanimous M.O. but the prevalent one.

In other words, there’s a lot of good here.

Sitting on social media regurgitating or making up rumors puts you on the opposite side of what’s good in this community.

If you have the goods, present it.

If you don’t…well as my old English teacher used to say…”ignorance is its own refutation.”

(I got a B in that class, so if my grammar isn’t perfect, please forgive me).

Comments

  1. Bern Ryan says:

    Quoting Spiro Agnew! Great article as usual, Jeff!

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