8 Mayors: We Can Do Better

The recently renovated Cornell Museum features a new exhibit that celebrates OSS’ contributions to Delray Beach.

Last week, eight former mayors signed a letter in support of Old School Square.It was an extraordinary gesture. I don’t think we’ve ever seen this level of solidarity among every living former elected mayor.The eight mayors—Doak Campbell, Tom Lynch, Jay Alperin, David Schmidt, me, Rita Ellis, Woodie McDuffie and Cary Glickstein represent 33 years of service. Some have lived in Delray for 50,  60 and 70 plus years. I may be the newcomer with almost 35 years in town.We’ve seen a lot.We’ve all worked with Old School Square which has been serving Delray for 32 years.Our call to action is simple: we’d like to see the public have input into the future of Old School Square and we’d like to see a discussion/process on how to heal some of the divisions and hurts caused by our current political environment, a culture that we all feel threatens our present and our future.Old School Square is a casualty of this environment. It’s lease was terminated without notice, cause, public input or even an agenda item that may have notified it’s many supporters.Given no choice, the non-profit was forced to litigate the very city it has served. It was either sue or walk away from three decades of service and millions of dollars in assets.What’s next is costly litigation for the organization and taxpayers. There’s a better way.Here’s the letter.  It calls for our better angels to prevail. In this holiday season, it may be the best gift we can give our community.

An open letter to the citizens and stakeholders of Delray Beach:
We are a group of former mayors whose service to Delray dates to 1984.
Some of us have lived here for 60 plus years.
We love our city, but we are worried about the direction the current administration is taking.
We find our community is divided, unable or unwilling to talk and we fear that the progress we have made as a community is in danger as a result.
The most recent issue is the impulsive termination of the lease with Old School Square Center for the Arts, Inc., the non-profit organization who created and has successfully managed Old School Square for the past 32 years, without a conversation with the organization or input from the City’s diverse stakeholders who deserve a say in its future. All of us have worked closely with the dedicated volunteers at Old School Square during our terms. We believe that they are willing to work hard to improve their partnership with the city. As with any long-term relationship, we believe that any problems can be solved with open communication.
This decision to terminate Old School Square’s lease has proven to be highly controversial, but we are just as alarmed at the lack of transparency and due process when making such a monumental decision.
We must do better.
Delray has a rich history of citizen involvement. That involvement has been a key factor in our success.
But while the Old School Square termination is what’s on everyone’s mind, we see a similar pattern in the general culture of division and polarization in our city politics that has led to costly turnover and litigation.
We don’t believe this is the “Delray Way,” and while we may not ever see eye to eye on the issues, we risk losing what’s been built if we don’t call a time out and endeavor to do better as a community.
As former mayors, we understand the difficulty in leading a city as active and complex as Delray Beach.
We stand ready to assist and suggest the following:
• A charrette to gain public input on the future of Old School Square.
• A process to discuss the culture in Delray Beach so that we can find a better way forward for everyone.
We need to reverse the damage and hurt that has occurred in our town before it is too late.
Mayor Doak S. Campbell III (1984-1990)
Mayor Thomas E. Lynch (1990-1996)
Mayor Dr. Jay Alperin (1996-2000)
Mayor David W. Schmidt (2000-2003)
Mayor Jeff Perlman (2003-2007)
Mayor Rita Ellis (2007-2009)
Mayor Nelson “Woodie” McDuffie (2009-2013)
Mayor Cary Glickstein (2013-2017)


  1. jill m goodman says

    Couldn’t agree more. Let’s not let a few individuals ruin what so many other people have worked so hard to do.

    Communication and input from our citizens are key factors here.

  2. The term “better angels” is particularly appropriate regarding this issue which is tearing our City apart. Residents who have been friends for years no longer speak to each other. Our better angels from both sides should sit down, identify commonalities, and negotiate differences. The entire City would benefit.

  3. Rhoda Berke says

    I’m not a Delray resident…I live in Boca and have for the past 17 years. Throughout those years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to sit under the stars at Old School Square and enjoy many musical performances, Shakespeare, etc. and always patronize the huge assortment of wonderful dining venues. It would be simply a travesty if this no longer existed for the enjoyment of Delray residents and surrounding areas.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Thanks for sharing. We think the secret sauce was the community non-profit that ran the venue with passion and devotion to the arts and the community. We hope the city will come to its senses.

  4. Carl C. Carter O.D. says

    As a resident and active citizen of Delray for over 50 years, I join those fine public servants in requesting a pause and reconsideration of this unilateral decision to terminate the management by Old School Square by the corporation that created and managed it for so many years, We witnessed the evolution the eyesore in the middle of town to a Arts and Community Center we could all cherish and be proud of. Lord knows our country is divided and polarized enough, we should do better and be better together. Thanks for listening.

  5. Tiffany Young says

    What they have done is so wrong. Transparency in City and County governments is non-existent. The people demand better.

  6. Robert Wieder says

    Leaders should never fear open communication with the people they serve.

    I hope our leaders gather at the table to listen to the citizens (VOTERS) and this will allow both sides to be heard and a hopeful compromised solution can be reached.
    This is The American Way…..

    I hope our Delray leaders read your article Mayor Jeff Perlman….. and call for such a gathering.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      They have a chance to be leaders Bobby. Let’s see if they take it. So far, all we’ve gotten is a rant from one of the
      Mayor’s attack dogs. I didn’t read it because nothing he says interests me. He’s a homer.

  7. Alex Rosenberg says

    Thank goodness you all came together in like-spirit to influence and, hopefully, correct this misguided and totally unnecessary and destructive step by some of the current City’s leadership. The citizens’ voices with yours will turn things around.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Let’s hope so Alex. I’m usually an optimist but this group is dug in and that is causing an awful lot of damage.

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