Ya Gotta Believe

I was young in ‘93. We all were.

I stumbled across a memory last week and it stayed with me.

I have this app called Time Hop and each day it reminds you of events and photos from your past.
It’s pretty cool.
Well last week, an old column I had written for the Delray Beach Times resurfaced. It was from 1993 and it was in the immediate aftermath of Delray winning its first All America City Award in Tampa.
I wrote about how the city planned to capitalize on the win with a marketing blitz that would hopefully capture the eyes of investors looking to build in Delray and companies that may want to move to Delray.

What followed were All America city buttons, bumper stickers, license plates, key chains etc.
The effort may have seemed hokey but it was effective and the results produced positive press and civic pride.
Let’s spend a minute on those two things: positive press and civic pride. They are often linked together—and it makes sense. Positive press creates civic pride.
So in 1993, when residents saw their city make the cover of Florida Trend, they felt good about their city. The headline on the magazine: Florida’s Best Run City.
It doesn’t get better than that.
Only it did—for awhile at least.
Delray in the 90s and early 2000s seemed to to be a magical place.  Every year seemed to be better than the last.
There was a confidence about the town, a sense that by working together the community could accomplish anything it set its mind too.
Want to lower the crime rate?
Ok, let’s commit to community policing.
Want to create a vibrant downtown?
Let’s invest in a streetscape (Decade of Excellence) and innovative policy (Downtown Master Plan) and events and  sure enough—with a ton of hard work— we have the “it” downtown in the region and beyond.

There were some amazing civic projects too: Old School Square, the Sandoway House, the Cason Cottage and the Spady Museum.
There were true collaborations with the Achievement Center for Children and Families, the Beach Property Owners Association, the formation of the West Settlers Historic District, the opening of the Youth Enrichment Vocational Center, successful bids for the Davis and Fed Cups, model beach renourishment projects, the founding of the county’s first land trust, the introduction of public art, dozens of citizen engagement initiatives and landmark programs designed to help Delray Beach schools.
Looking back, civic pride and confidence may be the key factor in success.
As Tug McGraw, the great reliever for the Mets once said: “Ya gotta believe.”
And we did.
We believed.
We acted.
We experimented.
We were entrepreneurial and we took calculated risks. We didn’t fear precedents; we wanted to set them.
I recently watched an ESPN documentary that examined last year’s Wimbledon match up between Delray’s Coco Gauff and Venus Williams, who also played a lot of tennis over the years in Delray.
Two things struck me.
One was Coco’s confidence that she could play with Venus. She believed that she belonged.
You don’t win without that belief.
Second, as ESPN’s Chris Fowler interviewed Coco at our downtown tennis center, I recalled the decision made to keep the center downtown and add a stadium court. That took confidence. It was a prescient decision.
And because of it, a young champion was able to walk to the courts and dream. A generation later, she’s talking from the veranda of the pro shop with ESPN about what it was like to beat a legend on centre court at Wimbledon. Very cool.
Anyway, this is a riff on confidence, civic pride, dreams, aspiration and accomplishment.
Wouldn’t it be nice to do/have all of those things again?
As we sit home enduring this awful pandemic, we ought to spend some of our time dreaming about a better future and taking some steps to make those dreams come true.
We are going to need bold new ideas to survive the post coronavirus world, which will surely be different.
The first order of business is to survive. The second is to recover and thrive. The cities that dream and act will be the ones that thrive.
The ones that wallow in despair and enable dysfunction will sink.
Let’s be the former.
Ya gotta believe.

To Sam, Love Dad

This photo, taken years ago at the Boynton Beach Mall, remains one of my favorites.

Twenty nine years ago today I became a father for the first time.

I was 25, working for the local newspaper and had recently bought my first home—a townhouse on Barwick Road for $69,000 with a few upgrades. Different days indeed….

George H.W. Bush was president, Michael Dukakis spent his winters in Delray and locally Tom Lynch was running for mayor in a hotly contested three-way race as part of a loose slate with Jay Alperin and David Randolph.

January 1990 was an interesting time in Delray. The late 80s were a volatile era with lots of intrigue on the commission and turnover at City Hall but by 1990 the city had a few blueprints on which to draw inspiration and hope.

Visions 2000 led to a $20 million plus bond issue that would pay for all sorts of improvements downtown. A city once split between east and west of 95 came together to vote overwhelmingly on a plan to beautify the downtown and replace crumbling infrastructure.

The city had also adopted an ambitious plan to improve local schools called “Sharing for Excellence” and community oriented policing was beginning to take root and build trust in neighborhoods beset by crime and drugs.

Professionally, I was excited to write about it all. I was living my dream of being a reporter.

Personally, I was thrilled and a little bit scared about becoming a father.

Secretly—for some reason—I wanted a girl and I was granted my wish when Samantha Arielle was born at West Boca Medical Center with Jimmy Buffett music playing in the birthing suite. I high fived the doctor and the nurses—it was a surreal feeling. She was a beautiful baby—happy, healthy with big brown eyes. When we brought her home she was greeted by a big golden retriever named Magnum (after the TV detective). She’s loved dogs ever since.

Today, Sam is a beautiful woman. Still happy. Still healthy (thankfully) and still with big brown eyes.

She grew up in an evolving Delray—going to pre-school at Little Friends with the legendary Mrs. Echols, attending Poinciana Math, Science and Technology’s magnet in Boynton Beach, Trinity School for her middle school years and Atlantic High School for the perilous high school years—which thanks to her goodness weren’t so perilous after all.

After graduating from USF, she taught ESE for two years in Tampa before leaving this fall for Cary, North Carolina to continue her career working with exceptional students.

We miss her. I miss her.

It seems like a blur….decades fly by. Babies grow up. The new townhouse we were so excited about seems like a lifetime ago.

Tom Lynch would be elected in March 1990 and would spend six years as our mayor. He was as good a local mayor as I’ve ever seen and a role model for when I got elected a decade later. I never dreamed that would ever happen as I sat in the back row with Darcie Lunsford of the old Boca News covering the issues of the day.

These days, Darcie is chair of the National Association of Institutional and Office Properties (NAIOP). We still work together. We retained her to represent The Arbors office building that my company owns—back in the 90s, it was an IBM building. There were so many IBMers in Boca that they spilled into Delray. Today, I hear there are less than a handful in Boca these days. Don’t quote me, but someone recently said there were two IBMers left. Is that possible?

Regardless, Boca survived and thrived. So did Delray.

Visions 2000 came to fruition, we won a few All America City Awards, and we adopted a Downtown Master Plan and got that done too. Pineapple Grove—which was a dream back when Sam was born– is thriving too.

You can’t buy much for $69,000 these days…never mind a three bedroom townhouse.

Time waits for no one says the old Rolling Stones song.

Birthdays have a way of focusing us on the value of time, the inevitability of change and the beauty and pathos of life.

I’ve been blessed to have the best daughter a dad could ever wish for…here’s to the next 29 years. I hope to be here to celebrate.

 

 

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.

Thanks Joe

Mr. Debonair

Mr. Debonair

Editor’s Note: Joe Gillie officially retired this week as President and CEO of Old School Square. A celebration of his legacy will be held Nov. 7 at Old School Square. To get tickets visit http://delraycenterforthearts.org/

 

I remember the first time I met Joe Gillie.

It was 25 years ago and he was a board member at Old School Square, which at the time was a fledgling experiment in a town trying desperately to change its narrative.

It was 1990 and Delray Beach was a very different place. In March, the city held a landmark election and elected a slate of candidates who promised to reform government, bring stability to City Hall and implement what was being called a “Decade of Excellence.”

The 80s had been a rough decade for Delray, also known as “Dullray” back then. The city had serious crime issues, the downtown had major vacancies and the crack cocaine epidemic had engulfed entire neighborhoods. But there were signs of hope all around. Visions 2000 brought people together, there were plans to reform schools, a new CRA was doing good things, historic districts were being established and the Decade of Excellence Bond passed with huge voter support, promising over $20 million in needed improvements and beautification.

A year later a visionary police chief was hired and a new chamber president too. It was a time of hope and promise and Old School Square was at the forefront of civic endeavors charged with being a catalyst for downtown revitalization.

Two years after I met Joe, he became President of Old School Square. By 1993, he was in charge of our first bid for an All America City Award and when I say he was in charge, he was in charge.

Joe managed every detail using his theatre background to craft a presentation that literally blew the judges in Tampa away. I recently found archival footage of that event and it was remarkable to see our diversity and spirit in action—and it was remarkable to see Joe’s leadership at its most impactful.

He incorporated young and old, black and white, east and west into a team. In baseball they call it clubhouse chemistry; that intangible that makes champions. Joe was the architect of that chemistry and the vehicle was the All America City Competition.

When you view the footage from that event, you see a young Mayor Tom Lynch, civic giants like C. Spencer Pompey, dedicated city staff like Lula Butler and Dorothy Ellington, residents like John Tallentire and Sandra Almy and you just marvel at the energy, spirit, humor and camaraderie. There was trust among neighbors, people loved their city and trusted their local government enough to go millions of dollars in debt in order to achieve a vision.

Old School Square itself was a big risk, and you can see in founder Frances Bourque’s eyes her trust and belief in a young Joe Gillie to pull off a vision that if successful would mark a huge turning point in the city’s rich history.

In hindsight, winning that first All America City Award was the propellant we needed as a community to tell the world that things in Delray were changing and we were serious about lifting up all parts of our community.

Joe Gillie was at the forefront of those efforts. He, along with many many others, helped to win two All America City Awards and we became the first city in Florida to do so.

But Joe was our captain. In Joe, we trusted. He kept this city focused, laughing and moving forward through good times and challenging times.

Joe was a different kind of leader. He wasn’t walled off in some office, he could be found in the trenches, usually with a broom in those early days, but always with a larger than life personality that greeted patrons, promoted shows, programs and classes and always talked up the larger goal which was building community through culture.

We hear, often, how people are replaceable. How no one person is larger than the mission or more important than the enterprise. Part of that old saw is true, except that people are not replaceable.

There will be people who serve as President of what is now called the Delray Center for the Arts and hopefully they will do a great job in the role. But there will never be another Joe Gillie. He’s an original; a Delray original by way of Virginia.

In August, I attended a surprise party for Joe at Smoke. It’s not easy to surprise Joe, but it happened. Many of his friends were there and it was a wonderful night, full of memories and laughs, but with Joe in the room there is always talk about the future.

Joe is departing from his role, but he’s not retiring. He’s a creative force and creative beings don’t stop inventing and innovating. He will act. He will sing. He will write. He will paint and he will continue to be a vibrant and positive force in our community.

During the party a loop of old photos ran on the wall in back of Smoke. Joe looking dapper in a tux. Joe with hair. Joe and me and Gary Eliopoulos dressed as rappers (Joe is the only guy who could get me to do that or to get Diane, my wife to sing Rodgers and Hammerstein songs with localized lyrics at a roast in front of 450 people). Joe made us believe. His time here was magical—pure magic. How lucky we have been.

 

 

Moving the Big Rocks

Moving the Big Rocks is a choice and a commitment.

Moving the Big Rocks is a choice and a commitment.

When it comes to publicity very few people can match Donald Trump.

But Mr. Trump met his match last week with the immense amount of coverage given to Pope Francis on his maiden voyage to America.

The Donald and the Pope talk about many of the same issues, immigration, income inequality and climate change, but with all due respect to our Palm Beach neighbor, I prefer listening to Pope Francis’ message—and I’m not even Catholic.

While he was visiting the U.S., Pope Francis skipped out on Congress to eat lunch at a homeless shelter, visited a Philadelphia jail and in one of his most stirring public addresses, reminded mass-goers to stop averting their eyes.

 

“In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath ‘the rapid pace of change,’ so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no ‘right’ to be there, no right to be part of the city,” he said at a mass held Friday at Madison Square Garden in New York. “They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, and the forgotten elderly. These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity.”

Pope Francis knows that our shared future depends on building cities where all people have the opportunity to thrive. But how do you do that?

There are ideas galore from across the country on strategies that work. There are best practices relating to housing, crime, neighborhood revitalization, economic development and education.

But I would argue that the first step is always a decision on whether you want to do these things.

Many cities say they want to tackle their problems, but often it’s only words. But the cities that act are the ones to watch and the communities to emulate.

The problems we face today are vast, serious and seemingly endless and intractable. Most Americans would agree that Washington is broken and that their state governments, while usually more functional than Washington (a very low bar indeed) are also vast and distant from most people’s day to day lives.

The answers therefore must come from the cities, smaller communities that can marshal resources and people and actually solve or at least improve problems if they choose to do so.

The operative word though is choose…cities must commit.

I’m a fan of citizen-driven planning. When done well and with the right motives and people in the room, there is no more powerful tool that communities have than to create a blueprint by engaging as many stakeholders as possible.

I’ve seen this strategy change cities, including Delray Beach and I have seen cities fail to advance because they don’t engage their stakeholders.

So who are the stakeholders?

They include residents, property owners, non-profit organizations, educators, social service providers, law enforcement, business owners etc., anybody who has a “stake” in a city’s past, present and future. These are stakeholders, not special interests.

But often cities fail in their visioning and planning if they try and cut corners by either convening for the wrong reasons (to check a box), restricting input, rushing the process or the common mistake of dictating from the top.

Community engagement takes longer and can be messy. But engaging the public has magical advantages including buy-in and better ideas.

But once you commit, you had better deliver.

When I look at my city of Delray Beach and my neighbor Boca Raton, I see two really different but complementary communities with vast resources and amenities. But I also see challenges and opportunities.

There is great wealth and great poverty in our communities. There are safe neighborhoods and dangerous ones. There are kids who thrive and children who struggle with poverty, violence and dysfunctional home lives.

Cities are fascinating places because they have obligations to the past, present and future and they have responsibilities to all people—including the invisible and the struggling, the people mentioned by the Pope.

We can honor the past by preserving our historic neighborhoods and buildings, but also by recognizing the hard work that went into long term visions for our cities. We can serve the present by adapting those visions for today’s needs and by ensuring that current residents, from all walks of life have a place in our planning and in our communities. And we can create a better future by remembering that we are stewards. Therefore, it’s not all about our needs, wishes and conveniences; we also have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren as well.

Back in the day, we called some of these issues “the Big Rocks”. And we were determined to move them, even if ever so slightly forward. In Delray, the big rocks were education, crime, neighborhoods, race relations, building a vibrant and sustainable downtown, supporting culture, preserving the beach and creating jobs beyond food and beverage. In Boca, which had good schools, strong businesses, culture and neighborhoods I saw the big rocks as mobility, creating a downtown core and building on some remarkable foundations; medicine, education and technology.

Washington may or may not be fixable—but our cities are pockets of opportunity for us to work on big challenges and be beacons for others to emulate. You just have to choose to move the big rocks.

Still Bowling Alone

Bowling

Editor’s note: YourDelrayBoca is taking a week off after this post to travel. Our stops include St. Petersburg, New York City and the great city of Charleston S.C. where we will participate in the Urban Land Institute Riley Symposium honoring one of America’s truly great mayors, Joe Riley. We will be back with lots of material. Have a great week!

A few weeks ago, I attended a Bar Mitzvah in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.

The Bar Mitzvah boy was the son of a friend I have known since I was six years old. We went to elementary, junior high and high school together, went to each other’s Bar Mitzvah’s, took road trips to visit each other while in college, attended each other’s weddings and have remained friends through the years and the miles through middle age.

I know his family and he knows mine. We had the same teachers, the same friends and I remember his prom date. I have at least six other friends that I share a similar history with. Several also made the journey to Wisconsin to share an important  moment with a lifelong buddy.

When I share this story of friendship with others, I get two reactions: amazement and how nice that must be to have a shared history with so many other people.

I am very grateful for these friendships. The friendships came naturally in the beginning when we spent every day together playing ball, listening to music and talking about girls and what we might do when we grew up.

But over the years we have had to work hard to maintain our friendships. Time and distance, pressures and commitments can take a toll on old friendships. I’m proud that ours have survived endless moves, jobs, wives, kids, mortgages, the loss of loved ones and cancer.

In a way, working hard to stay in touch has made our friendships stronger.

There’s research out there that says that friendship is good for our mental, emotional and physical health. One study says people with close friends live longer than those who don’t have them. I believe it; we all want to hang around for the next chapter in the story.

I’ve been thinking about friendship and community building lately.

A few weeks back, I wrote about an old video we had discovered of Delray’s 1993 All America City bid and how the energy, camaraderie and closeness came through the screen when viewed.

We used to talk a whole lot about community building and citizen engagement in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, but it seems that the subject has fallen off of our radar screens of late. That’s a shame really. And a mistake.

Society has changed. Social media, texting, Snapchat and other tech tools can be wonderful, but they also seem to have replaced community.

In Delray, when we talk about being a “village” it’s often when we refer to the scale of development and the strong desire to have local businesses over chain stores. Those are important subjects, but how we work with, relate and treat each other is just as important, more so in my opinion.

In 2000, Harvard Professor Robert Putnam released a groundbreaking book called “Bowling Alone.”

His research showed that Americans were increasingly isolated; no longer joining civic clubs and bowling leagues which once served as ways to connect us to our neighbors and our communities.

Now a new study from Civic Observatory called “Less in Common” has taken up where Putnam left off and argues that restoring the civic commons will be critical if we are to solve some of society’s most pressing challenges.

The new study indicates that people trust their neighbors less and spend less time with them as a result.

The share of the population that says “most people can be trusted” has fallen from a majority in the 1970s, to about one-third today, according to the annual General Social Survey. Meanwhile, “In the 1970s, nearly 30 percent of Americans frequently spent time with neighbors, and only 20 percent had no interactions with them. Today, those proportions are reversed,” notes City Observatory.

Other trends noted:

Recreation is increasingly privatized. Since 1980, the number of members of private health clubs have quadrupled to more than 50 million.  “We used to swim together—prior to World War II, almost all pools were public” according to City Observatory. “Today, we swim alone in the 5 million or so private swimming pools compared to just a few thousand public ones.”

Economic segregation trends upward as middle-income neighborhoods decline. “Between 1970 and 2009 the proportion of families living either in predominantly poor or predominantly affluent neighborhoods doubled from 15 percent to 33 percent. Think about Delray Beach and Boca Raton which have lots of high end neighborhoods and some low income neighborhoods, but very little in the middle and virtual zero neighborhoods that have a mix of incomes.

Many live in gated communities. “By 1997 it was estimated that there were more than 20,000 gated community developments of 3,000 or more residents.”

Politically, America sorts itself into like-minded geographies. “Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of consistent conservatives and about half (49 percent) of consistent liberals say most of their close friends share their political views.”

The biggest portion of our leisure time is spent watching television. “TV watching is up to 19 hours per week today compared to about 10 hours in the 1960s.”

Low-density, automobile-oriented living patterns are partly to blame, according to the report.

Still, there are encouraging counter trends.

Third places. “The number of coffee shops in the United States has nearly doubled in the past decade, from about 11,000 in 2003, to about 20,000 in 2012 (SBDC Network, 2012).”

 

Farmer’s Markets. “The number of Farmer’s markets in the U.S. has quadrupled in the past two decades to more than 8,000 nationally (Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA), 2013).”

 

Declining Racial Segregation. Overall, American neighborhoods have become demonstrably less segregated by race over the past half-century (Glaeser & Vigdor, 2012). I don’t think we can say that in our community.

 

Overall, notes report author Joe Cortright, “There is compelling evidence that the connective tissue that binds us together in cities is coming apart. As we’ve spent more time in isolation and less time socializing with our neighbors, participation in the civic commons has suffered. Rebuilding social capital in America will require innovative approaches to spur community engagement.”

To take a look at the full report visit http://cityobservatory.org/less-in-common/

So what does it all mean?

In Delray Beach, we have seen more expensive elections and less voter turnout despite a bigger population. Twenty five years ago Commissioner David Randolph received over 9,000 votes, today about a third of that many even vote and Delray is a far more populous place than a generation ago.

We are also seeing less civic involvement from a wider range of the community enabling smaller groups to claim the public square.

In Delray Beach, the beach area and Lake Ida neighborhoods are extremely active but wide swaths of the city are virtually never heard from. There was a time–not too long ago– when the lion’s share of the city’s voters resided west of Interstate 95. Communities such as Rainberry Bay, Pines of Delray, Del Aire, The Hamlet, Country Manors and High Point not only were politically active but were also active volunteers for police and fire and local schools. Leadership in these communities was regularly tapped for advice and support. Newly elected Delray Commissioner Mitch Katz recognized this gap and did a good job of communicating his desire to include the west in the recent municipal election.  But much work remains to be done to engage Andover, Rabbit Hollowe, Sabal Lakes and virtually the entire Linton area corridor.

Active and engaged Delray Beach has become a much smaller, eastern focused endeavor.

Less than a decade ago, when I was on the City Commission we were covered by three daily newspapers, a weekly newspaper, a local radio station, three TV stations and one or two magazines. Media coverage was once heavy, now it’s scant. The community water cooler is gone. And that makes a difference.

Beginning in the 80s and gaining steam through the mid 2000s, Delray made a huge effort to organize neighborhoods, host interactive town hall meetings, publish newsletters, use an emergency radio station with community news in three languages, host citizen driven visioning charrettes and resident academies all designed to engage and build community. Efforts were also made to talk about race relations and to create volunteer opportunities for those willing. Special events—the subject of lots of discussion today—also had a community building component when originally conceived. The entire All America City effort mentioned earlier was designed to foster community, build relationships and work collaboratively to solve community challenges. My favorite activities during my term in office were holiday parties hosted by the commission for city staff and neighborhood pot luck dinners.

During the former, we donned aprons and served lunch and punch to three shifts of city workers, getting to know them and giving us an opportunity to say thanks.

The pot luck dinners paired disparate neighborhoods in our city giving neighbors a chance to meet and find common ground. We learned that just about everybody has a desire to live on a safe street and to give their kids opportunities to succeed. Simple gestures, big results.

Today, in an age of “screens” and disruptive technology we should take the time to refocus on community. I think people long for it.

If we want to talk about building a sustainable village, a place of value, gratitude, respect, civility and warmth it has to start with people. The best part is these efforts aren’t expensive. It just takes time and genuine commitment.

If you restore and strengthen the civic commons you create a city of immeasurable value.

It all comes back to friendships and relationships—they benefit us personally, but they also benefit communities by—you guessed it— building community.

Just ask the cities that experienced unrest recently whether they wish they had invested more in community building and relationships.