All You Need Is Love

Love changes places.
Unfortunately, so does hate.
I would argue that those emotions are the only two things that leave a lasting impact.
The rest is ephemeral.

Love inspires and motivates.
Hate tears down and destroys.

Love fixes a lot of things but sometimes even love can’t fix what hate destroys. Sometimes the damage is permanent.

That thought keeps flashing through my mind as I watch the slow motion destruction of Old School Square and its 32 year history.
I believe the 3-2 vote to evict the non-profit —-without a conversation, without public input and without regard to the human toll of the decision —-was driven by personality conflicts between the powers that be and some of the citizens who created and operated Old School Square.

The conflict is telling because if you were to look at a list of board members, volunteers, donors and staff past and present, you would be looking at a who’s who of Delray civic leaders. These are the people who have done so much for Delray. Why? Because they love this city.

That they can be evicted without a conversation or a plan shared with the community is a shocking and deeply disturbing development.
We ought to be better than this.

We need to be be better than this.

And I believe we are better than this, as evidenced by over 10,000 signatures on a petition protesting the eviction and the continuing anger we are seeing in the community over this decision.
People are deeply unhappy with the turn of events and the complete lack of process and input from the community before the vote.

They are also deeply disturbed by the human toll of this decision—events cancelled, private parties cancelled, jobs lost and the utter disrespect shown to donors, volunteers and founder Frances Bourque who deserves so much better.

If allowed to stand, this decision will be remembered for two reasons: none of them good.

First, the destruction of a beloved community institution and second the lack of humanity shown to people who have earned our respect and consideration.

If we are to be a community that values people and contributions, this kind of decision and the way it was made cannot stand.

But before we dive in further, there are a few misconceptions surrounding this decision that need to be cleared up.

First is that Old School Square has refused to meet with the city. That is categorically false. OSS has been pleading for a meeting.

The second misconception is that the performance of the organization deserved the death penalty and that a new management company is urgently needed.
OSS is a non profit with operational responsibilities. It is not a management company.
There’s a difference.

The non profit is the secret sauce allowing the community to connect to the institution. Donors give to community based non- profits run by people they know, love and trust. There’s that word again—love.

Over the years, donors have supported OSS because they know the people associated with the non- profit were dedicated to the mission which was serving Delray Beach.

There have been operational deficiencies–OSS has never denied that. But instead of working with the organization, a majority of the city commission has decided to work over the organization. That’s a mistake, with consequences far beyond the loss of a beloved community institution.

And while we are discussing operational deficiencies let’s not forget that City Hall has been a mess for a while now with a steady parade of City Managers, department heads and rank and file staff leaving or being shown the door, often for dubious reasons. The city is plagued by water issues, the golf course, once a jewel has become a cow pasture, and we have gone from a community that once prized unity to a place that has made an art out of division and dysfunction.

OSS is not above accountability, no organization is, but this city is in no position to lecture anyone at this point in time. The difference is OSS stands ready to listen to constructive criticism while City Hall continues to fiddle while Rome burns.

Over the course of this mess, OSS has been hit with a raft of accusations and loaded words such as “corrupt”, “incompetent” and “non-compliant.”
The organization has acknowledged its shortcomings but it has also pushed back against the false accusations.

And if there is evidence of malfeasance bring it. Let’s charge those who broke the law. But innuendo is not good enough. Produce the evidence if you have it.


Old School Square’s  defense of its record has led to more recriminations as if the only proper response to the beating is the Animal House hazing scene in which the pledge is paddled and says “thank you sir, may I have another.”

Sorry, but in the real world, when you are bullied you get to push back.

I believe that the OSS eviction is a politically motivated hit. I’m not alone in that thought.
It’s part of a campaign to erase and cancel the past.

We are developing a bad habit in our country and in our city. If we repeat a lie over and over again we hope it eventually becomes the truth.

OSS is not corrupt or incompetent. It was never designed to be a profit center. It was tasked with lowering costs so it could be accessible to the community. It met that mission and more.

Its retired director Joe Gillie did not receive a “golden parachute”, he received a modest four year gift paid for by private donors because after 23 years or dedicated service to our city he had no retirement plan. The organization didn’t offer one. It should have and he was deserving because Mr. Gillie did a fine job and helped to create millions of dollars worth of value over the years. He is THE reason the city won three All America City Awards which helped Delray achieve a national profile while building civic pride. Pride: remember that quaint notion?

Commission’s get in trouble when things become personal; when it ceases to be about the community and the future; when it becomes about personalities.
Cities risk it all when decisions are driven by personal vendettas not sound analysis. They also risk a ton when empathy and humanity exit the building.

When this ugliness happens–when love gives way to anger— we risk a spiral. There are punches and counterpunches and pretty soon cuts begin to open, blood begins to flow.
We are either there now, or dangerously close. We need the adults in the community to reel us back in.

We need to stop.

But it can only stop when both sides resolve to refrain from hostilities long enough to sort through the issues. And there are many.
Leaders know how to do this. Failures don’t.


  1. Mike Sneiderman says

    I totally agree Jeff. “When you are bullied, you get to push back.” Keep up the good fight!

  2. Randy Smith says

    I want this post to be shouted at city hall! Thanks Jeff. You said what I couldn’t begin to say

  3. Pat Sciarillo says

    One can only hope this matter can be resolved. Its a shame so many of us were looking forward to a new season of old school Square, the Crest theater, outdoor concerts. Please let’s fix this!! As usual Jeff you are spot on !

  4. Scott Porten says

    To date the commissioners have not offered any explanation as to why they had to terminate that particular evening without a conversation with the public or OSS. What was the urgency after 32 years? One can only assume that they feared a public conversation would have forced a different outcome other than the one they wanted.

    Thanks for writing about “love,” sometimes we need to be reminded why we fight for the things we care about.

  5. Chris Davey says

    What is it now, 10 out of 24 board members resigning in the past 10 months? That’s almost half the board. And the vast majority of the 10 (or so) left the organization well before the hammer came down from the City Commission in july.

    I know some of the people who left, and they left because they were being kept in the dark about actions taken by management and the Executive Committee.

    Jeff, you know the City provides 20-25% of OSS Inc.’s budget in a CASH Grant. That’s not chicken feed and it amounts to almost $1M per year. And, if you include the services the city supplies the non-profit, for free, the number is well over a million dollars per year.

    Most years, the city is far and away the largest single donor to OSS Inc.

    You state that private donors gave the funds to compensate Mr Gillie after he was no longer employed with the organization. That’s false and impossible for you to state as a fact. The audits for the organization show there was no proper segregation of public grants and private donations. The organization used any funds that were available to pay bills.

    You talk about love and hate. Well, there was plenty of the latter from the team you supported for City Commission in March. And, not a lot of truth from the Mayoral candidate or her PAC.

    Let’s look at it this way:. The largest donor (most years) and landlord, of OSS Inc, got tired of the excuses, falsehoods, and manipulations from the organization.

    The Jimmy Buffett concert worked out well for those that were politically connected to OSS Inc.. Not so much for the rest of Delray residents. The organization fails to properly notify the city of a $1.6 million renovation that was awarded to an executive board member without any competing bids. And, the organization is delinquent in filing/completing audits.

    If private entity owned OSS (the place, not the Inc.) and had been in the role of the city, OSS Inc would have been removed years ago.

    It’s unfortunate that it had to come to this, but a divorce is rarely pleasant.

    I have faith that our Commissioners and our new City Manager will have OSS functioning well in the next year. I am eager to say what the RFP brings.

    This is an incomparable facility. It should be run in a way that serves the broadest cross section of Delray Beach residents. That wasn’t going to happen with OSS Inc but I am hopeful it will happen in the future.

    Just look at the CRA. Changing the board there has done wonders for the City and the residents it is supposed to serve.

    I’m hopeful and I optimistic that the same will take place at OSS.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Dear Chris,
      Thanks for reading.
      You are an excellent writer; too bad you consistently draw the wrong conclusions.
      Yes, there have been resignations from the OSS board and staff turnover too just like at the city. In this case, a lot of the resignations stem from the attacks and lack of support from the City. By your logic, that should wipe out the organization and the business model. That doesn’t make sense. If we followed your rationale, we should also expect the City Commission to fall on the sword because the turnover at City Hall has been far worse and with more serious circumstances and bigger public dollars at stake.
      Some of that turnover may also be attributed to the pandemic. After all, we are talking about volunteers and as a result of Covid, perhaps people’s minds were elsewhere such as on their businesses and families.
      I’m not a member of the board but I did hear a lot of complaints about the board chair earlier in the year and I think it is reasonable to conclude that some of the turnover on the board level may have been as a result of her leadership style.
      I do talk about love and hate and have the track record to back it up. Do you?
      The team you have consistently backed has ruined careers, endangered the city’s finances and deeply damaged Delray’s hard earned reputation such that executive recruiters have said that Delray is a extremely hard sell to potential executive level recruits. Coincidence? Hardly.
      In fact, just last week, a local contractor was threatened at a CRA meeting because he exercised his first amendment rights to object to horrible public policymaking. In typical form, the bullies can dish it out but when confronted with objections they cry intimidation.
      I vehemently disagree with your assessment of the CRA another terrible public policy decision done without public input and without an agenda item. So much for transparency.
      The CRA had been one of the finest in the state. Now it has been politicized by adding politicians to the governing body. As a result, every RFP seems to be fraught with controversy, inaction and lawsuits.
      As for a divorce, yes those are never easy. But they are typically done after conversation with the feuding parties. That’s what is missing here Chris.
      You are also wrong about Bill Branning. OSS is not a government entity therefore bidding rules differ. There were two other potential bidders. One never submitted. The donor preferred Mr. Branning’s bid which is her right. It’s her money.
      You are completely wrong about the Joe Gillie situation. That money was raised privately by people with hearts and appreciation for a man who did great things for this town.
      Anyway, thanks for reading and writing in.

  6. Stacey A Winick says

    It’s pretty telling when Boca Magazine’s July/August issue posts in their (Things We Are Looking Forward To) Not being like Delray for another year (In terms of politics) 🙁

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Indeed. And yet the message from the powers that be is that all is well. In fact, all is better than ever.

  7. Lottie Gatewood says

    Beautifully said. As a long-time volunteer and museum docent I am heart sick at this decision. Old School Square and its commitment to bringing arts to the city was the reason I selected Delray Beach as my home. And its the reason I selected this organization as the place I would lend my skills and passion. I was proud to be a part of OSS and proud to showcase it to our city’s many visitors. That once felt love and joy for my city, Delray Beach, is slowly waning. I hope our city commissioners reconsider their decision and we are able to keep this gem in the heart of our city. And keep the heart in our city.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Dear Lottie, thank you so much for your service and dedication. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail. Jeff.

  8. Joe Gillie says

    Jeff I don’t have the words to thank you for your honest and straightforward assessment of a very sad decision… it will be remembered the day our culture died… I refuse to give up my memories and my pride for a job so well done by all of us. We did it the “Delray Way”

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