Events and Things to Do in Delray Beach and Boca Raton

Boca Raton and Delray Beach are among the most vibrant communities you’ll ever find.

Both cities feature a vast array of events year-round that are sure to interest people of all ages and interests. From arts festivals and music events to a vibrant food scene and cultural landscape Boca-Delray has it all.

At YourDelrayBoca.com we strive to curate the best events and give you insider’s tips to make your experience the best it can be.

Random Thoughts…

Random thoughts on the passing scene…

Last week, I shared that I was invited to be the inaugural speaker for the “Paw Power Hour” at Palm Beach State College’s Boca Raton campus.

What an honor, what a turnout, what a wonderful opportunity to interact with students and faculty.

We talked about leadership in difficult times, careers, education, entrepreneurship, and the challenges facing students (and educators) in a high-priced economy that is challenging for everyone.

Provost Van Williams is striving to build a special culture on the south campus and based on the people I met, it’s working.

I love the mission of state colleges and believe they perform an essential role in our society.

If you have a chance, visit the campus, sign up for a course and tell our legislators that we need to support the men and women who are educating our future workforce.

These types of institutions often fly under the radar, but places like Palm Beach State College are the backbone of our community.

I was grateful for the opportunity to learn and share a little of my story.

I was also thrilled to learn about the existence of the Kimmel Leadership Academy.

A group of 27 students recently went through the program thanks to a generous gift from the Virginia and Harvey Kimmel Family Foundation.

The Kimmel’s live in Delray. They are wonderful contributors and philanthropists.

The curriculum for the Kimmel Leadership Academy, based on the Social Change Model of Leadership, was developed by Dr. Kalisha Waldon, a professor at the PBSC Boca Raton campus. It emphasizes seven key values that individuals, groups and communities should strive for to create change through leadership.

The participants were picked from nearly 100 applicants. During the academy, students learned about team building, personal branding, understanding their values, etiquette, and other topics. Each student also received a $1,000 scholarship and were  recognized at a campus awards banquet.

This is the kind of effort we need to build our next generation of leaders.

PBSC is doing their part and it’s so exciting.

The Vital Role of Local News

I’ve long been passionate about the importance of local journalism.

So I’ve been pouring through new research released by the Democracy Fund that shows the power of local news done right.

Some of the takeaways to ponder:

  • Strong local journalism = more people turning out to vote. 

 

  • Weak local journalism = fewer people vote.

 

  • Thorough local journalism helps people be less biased when considering candidates for office.

 

  • Quality local journalism can counter divisive national narratives that contribute to polarization.

 

  • Every dollar spent on local news produces hundreds of dollars in public benefit by exposing corruption and monitoring government spending. 

 

  • People feel a stronger sense of community in places that have strong local journalism.

 

  • Local news keeps communities informed during times of upheaval, like disasters, protests, and pandemics — when people need critical information to engage their communities and leaders.
  • Important to remember: Local news isn’t inherently good for communities just because it’s local. It needs to be good local journalism.

I’ve long felt we’ve been underserved and ill-served by some of our local media—sorry guys. TV news does a good job with weather stories but lacks enterprise or investigative journalism and print has dried up.

The lack of a local water cooler—so to speak—gives rise to lots of misinformation on the Internet and social media that can be very harmful to a community.

In Delray, we have seen voter turnout crater. That’s not the sign of a healthy community. Local government matters and those who get elected can and do have an outsize impact on our quality of life.

Back in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, locals had a rich diet of local news: The Monday-Thursday papers, Boca/Delray News, Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel and even the Miami Herald (on big stories) covered all aspects of local government. People were informed and involved. It made a difference.

 

Which leads me to Friends of Delray.

For a long time, I stayed away. I was rooting for them and I supported the mission of bringing the community together, promoting transparency and good government, but I’ve seen prior efforts fizzle and quite frankly I’m exhausted. It’s time for a new generation of leadership to step up and right the ship.
Seeing a once independent and successful CRA taken over by politicians in the middle of the night and Old School Square evicted from the campus it created, loved and supported for 30 plus years takes the wind out your sails. Life is just too short.

But I like this group. We haven’t had this spirit here  in quite some time.  Their work is needed. so I will do my part.  I hope you will check them out and if you like what you see. maybe you can help too. They need the community behind them.

Their website, e-blasts, social media posts and now podcast/videos are not traditional journalism per se. There is a point of view, but from where I sit that point of view is to promote local non-profits, urge citizen involvement, strive for transparency in government and dialogue among neighbors. They seem very reasonable and we can sure use reason.

Check it out and make up your own mind. Here’s a link to their site which includes articles and a link to their newly launched podcast. https://www.friendsofdelray.us/

Goodbye and thank you Fed

He never did play the Delray Open.

Sigh.

But that’s about the only gap in Roger Federer’s resume.

The tennis legend announced his retirement last week thanks to age and a balky knee.

What a career!

What a gentleman!

Fed has been the best ambassador for his sport imaginable and leaves behind an unforgettable legacy and is a case study in grace and class.

So, whether you play tennis at Path Reef Park or Pickleball at Pompey Park you may want to channel your inner Federer and see where it leads.

He will be missed.

Reading List

I’m on a reading tear lately and I thought I would share some of the books that are well worth your time.

“Saved by a Song” by singer Mary Gauthier is an honest, emotional and raw autobiography of an artist I have grown to love and admire.

Music is so powerful and such a restorative force in our lives. Mary’s song “Mercy Now” should be an anthem for our time. It’s certainly an antidote for some of the poison and hatred in the air these days. She’s coming to the Broward Center in January and we got tickets. I can’t wait.

“Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott has long been on my radar. As someone who loves to write, I’ve been told that Lamott’s book was a must read. I finally got around to it and she delivered. A great treatise on the joy and difficulties of the writing life told by a sensitive soul.

“Like a Rolling Stone” by Jann Wenner is a tome and I just started it but can’t put it down. The founder of Rolling Stone magazine has met all of my heroes and he’s a terrific storyteller. What a life…

 

Until next week.

 

 

A Birthday To Savor

Scott Porten enjoying a past birthday and a cake made by Diane.

A good friend of mine sent me a nice text after last week’s blog.

It’s nice to hear from people who take the time out of their busy lives to spend a few minutes reading what you have to say.

My friend asked whether I write the blog in advance or the night before and the truth is I do both—it all depends on when and where the muse (or the news) strikes me.

He also said that he found inspiration in some of the tributes I have written to special people who have passed. All of this is good, and I am very thankful that my friend likes what I write, especially because he happens to be among the most well-read and curious people I’ve ever met. And I have met some curious and well- read people!

But it also struck me that I should write more about people before they pass on. We should show our admiration for those who enrich us while they are still here to appreciate us. In other words, if someone makes you happy tell them.

Which is a long-winded way of saying happy birthday to my friend Scott Porten.

I won’t say how old Scott is, but this birthday is a big one and it’s starts with an s. Hint: he’s not 70.

Inspired by our mutual friend Randy, I’m going to tell you about a very special person my family has come to know and love.

I met Scott 20 plus years ago when he was a young developer in a still redeveloping Delray Beach. Scott and his company did some landmark projects: The Estuary near Palm Trail and City Walk in Pineapple Grove are among the most memorable.

I admired both projects, not only for their quality and design but for the vision he exhibited.

Back in those days, Delray was not the no-brainer “sure thing” it would soon become, but a city trying to revitalize itself in the shadow of a successful neighbor—Boca Raton.

Scott’s two signature Delray projects showed faith in the future. The Estuary was in a part of town nobody wanted to touch in those days and City Walk was on a secondary street that was trying to forge an identity separate and distinct from Atlantic Avenue.

City Walk gave us Brule’ and Joseph’s and later Yama three excellent restaurants and several cool boutiques as well. The project featured beautiful residential units and replaced a coin-operated car wash in a part of Delray crying out for investment.

The building had a distinctive design and I think still looks good all these years later. I remember someone commenting at the time that the building didn’t have a pool or other traditional amenities and Scott saying that the street itself would be an amenity. That was a bold statement. But he was right.

I think Pineapple Grove may be my favorite street in all of Delray Beach—it seems to be a perfect blend of vibrant without being overwhelming, which come to think of it, describes my friend Scott.

Over the years, Scott and I have grown very close. He’s the kind of friend I’d call in the middle of the night not only because you can take his advice to the bank but also because he’s a night owl and he’ll take my call.

Scott is honest, intense (but in a good way), a devoted husband and father, a proud son and an all-around good guy. He has a terrific sense of humor, is scary smart and is fun to talk to about a wide array of subjects. And I mean a wide array: from politics and prostates to real estate and relationships, Scott can hold his own with just about anyone including our mutual friend Randy who is such a whirlwind of activity, learning and adventures that I would get tired typing up his itinerary for a given month. (If it’s Tuesday he must be mastering the guitar or sailing the Greek Isles).

They say you are a product of the five people you hang out with the most and if that’s true, I have a decent shot at a good life because Scott is easily in the top five.

They also say that you make the strongest friendships in childhood when you have the time and space to hang out. Many of you know that I still enjoy the friends I made as a kid growing up in Long Island. But I’ve been truly blessed to make such good friends in middle age. Scott is at the top of that list.

I enjoy people who care about things deeply…who are passionate about what they are passionate about.

Scott and I share a love for business, real estate, Delray Beach, local organizations, sports, and music. We also love restaurants that have great bars where you can sit and debate the day’s events.

We enjoy and practice the art of conversation and like to talk about our lives, children, past adventures and future hopes and aspirations. Dare I say it, but we also like to talk about how we feel about things. The old stereotype is men don’t like to “emote” or share. But guess what? Real men do—within reason of course— because we are not above calling each other out or poking fun at our weaknesses. Friends are also adept at making sure we keep our feet on the ground. Scott is good at keeping our circle anchored.

I admire so much about him but especially his desire to take care of people. He’s sincere, caring and consistently goes the extra mile. He does so many things so well.
He’s also a convener and has lunch clubs, happy hour groups and breakfast clubs that serve to keep disparate groups of friends together.

About the best thing I can say is that Scott Porten is a mensch, which is the highest compliment you can pay someone. A mensch is a person of integrity and honor. According to the great American humorist Leo Rosten, a mensch is “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character.”

That’s my friend to a T.

Happy birthday Scott and a tip of the hat to the legendary Randy Smith for the inspiration to write about our buddy.

Leadership In Difficult Times

 

A few years back, I was invited to speak to “Creative Mornings”, a wonderful group that gathers each month to hear a speaker tackle a subject shared with chapters across the world.
I was assigned the word “genius” which, in all honesty, has never been used in a sentence relating to me.

Miraculously, the speech went well. I was fortunate to be in front of a hometown crowd at The Arts Garage and we had a good time.

This week, I’m heading south to speak about “Leadership in Difficult Times” at an event called “PAW Power Hour” at Palm Beach State College and I feel challenged once more to deliver on a subject that’s hard to discuss.

The invite came from Provost Van Williams who I got to know while mayor of Delray Beach when we embarked on an ambitious race relations initiative.

We contracted with a wonderful man named Sam Mathis to help us navigate a topic that has bedeviled our nation since its founding. Sam reached out to Van who was working in Tallahassee at the time and along with a committed group of citizens we launched a dialogue designed to bring the community closer together.

Ours was no “check the box” effort.

We really tried to make a difference.

We tried to increase understanding, we tried to improve communication. We endeavored to listen. The effort was sincere and I think we made some progress.

But we were also embarking on a journey with no end and that’s the beauty and pathos of civic life.

You can make progress, but you’re never done.

That’s  beautiful because the whole point is to keep going, keep pushing forward, keep trying to make a difference.
But this kind of work can be tiring too. If you’re not checking a box, not going through the motions, it can take a lot out of you.

We asked people to be honest.

We asked them to be real and that can take you to some very interesting places. Some of those places are dark as we confront our fears and biases—and we all have them. And some of those places are beautiful too.

When people ask me about the best and worst parts of public service, I have a ready answer.

I was mayor when a 15-year-old boy was shot and killed outside a school dance by a rookie police officer. That’s a bottom so low you can’t ever fathom being able to catch your breath again.

Yes, I have led in difficult times.

The antidote to hard times is always love and empathy. You can’t lead unless you love your community and feel empathy for others.

The high point are the relationships you build along the way, the people who touch you with their goodness, care, and concern. If we listen closely, and if we pay attention, we learn that there are people in this world who see you for what you are or can be. They light a fire inside you that burns brighter than any fire that threatens to engulf you.

So that’s how to lead in difficult times—with your heart. You have to know that hard times often lead to the greatest times in your life. You have to feel that in your bones.

Challenges build strong people—they forge great leaders.

And that’s what I will share this week with my friends at Palm Beach State College.

A Toast to Serena

By the time you’re reading this, gallons of ink will have been used to describe the incredible legacy being left by Serena Williams.

Serena— so famous that everyone knows her by her first name– is stepping away from the game she has redefined during a 27-year career that’s historic in so many ways.

Serena’s not retiring, she’s “evolving”, an evocative word she used in an essay she wrote to let the tennis world know that she was moving on. I like the word evolving. Because if we are healthy, that’s what we’re constantly doing. We leave one phase behind and continue to grow.

More qualified writers than I can describe Serena’s cultural impact, but I wanted to focus a bit on her experience in Delray Beach.

A part of the Serena (and Venus) story takes place right here in our hometown.

Movies and documentaries  have been made about the Williams sisters growing up on the courts of Compton, California but  they also spent a pivotal part of their early years in Delray Beach, playing with local coach Rick Macci at the Laver’s Resort on Linton Boulevard when they were 10 and 11 respectively.

According to press reports, the sisters trained six hours a day, six days a week for four years in Delray. That time in the Florida sun proved to be a crucial factor in their growth as players. As a newspaper reporter back in the day, I remember visiting the facility to do a story on a prodigy named John Roddick while his younger brother Andy played on an adjacent court. I remember seeing two signs: “Enjoy the Battle”  and “To Get A No. 1 Seeding You Keep Fighting Unless It’s Broken or Bleeding.”

Yes, we have a place in tennis history.

No less an authority than the New York Times describes Delray Beach as a tennis “mecca” and indeed we have seen players ranging from Jennifer Capriati and Andy Roddick to Vince Spadea and Kevin Anderson live and train here.

But as big as those names are in the tennis world, Serena and Venus were by far the most influential—so far.

In a NYT magazine profile last month, local phenom Coco Gauff talked about Serena’s influence on her game and life. The Gauff’s came home to Delray to train at the Delray Beach Tennis Center because the city is indeed a tennis mecca and offers the weather, facilities and coaching opportunities that are hard to match.

There’s no doubt that Serena and Venus influenced a generation of tennis players mesmerized by their strength, power, personalities, fashion, and social activism.

As Black female athletes they blazed a trail that will yield benefits for generations to come.

I had a chance to meet and interact with both Serena and Venus when they headlined a star-packed American Fed Cup team in 2005. The team included three former world number ones: Venus, Serena and Lindsay Davenport as well as Corina Morariu, one of the best doubles players of all-time who grew up in Boca Raton.

Hosting the Fed Cup was a thrill, and the town was electric. We had a dinner at Mar A Lago (yep) where we were able to mingle with the players and enjoy the international sportsmanship on display.

Serena was friendly, but at least on that night, Venus was the more outgoing of the two.

I took my then teenage daughter Samantha with me, and she and Venus hit it off. It was surreal to see them off to the side chatting while Venus styled Sam’s long hair.

C. Ron Allen, Serena and some blogger.

While in town, the team visited some schools and donated a practice wall to Pine Grove Elementary School. The kids were positively awe struck at the site of the Williams sisters and all of us who were there thought “wow, these kids will never forget this moment.”

There have been many other Delray sightings and involvement through the years.

Both Venus and Serena have attended matches at the Delray Beach Open, including this year when a masked Serena sat with her sister to watch their friend Grigor Dimitrov play under the lights.

As she evolves, Serena is telling associates that she will dive deeper into the business world where she already has a bunch of investments/businesses.

It will be fascinating to see the next chapter.

As an athlete, Serena reminds me of Kobe Bryant, whose famous “Mamba” mentality made him a brutal competitor on and off the court. With Kobe’s tragic ending, we never got to see how far that competitive spirit would have taken him in the business world.

With any luck, we will enjoy Serena and Venus’ next chapters.

Tennis will be forced to move on beyond these legends but with Coco ascending it appears that Delray’s place in the sport is still very much on the rise.

This past weekend, Delray was top of mind in the tennis world. Coco advanced to the quarterfinals and looks poised to make a title run. Former Delray Open champ Frances Tiafoe beat 22 time Grand Slam Winner Rafael Nadal in an epic nationally televised match. After his landmark win, Tiafoe was interviewed on the stadium court by another former Delray Champ  James Blake.

Watching Serena bow out and Coco rise, I couldn’t help but think that somewhere in our 16 square miles there’s a young girl or boy dreaming about following in their footsteps.

 

Odds and Ends…

Congratulations to new Police Chief Russ Mager who was sworn in last week. A 26-year veteran of the department, Russ has worked his way through the ranks and recently served as assistant chief. He’s a good man and we wish him well in his new position.

Here’s a little trivia for you. Chief Mager is the 17th chief in the city’s history. W.M Croft was the first. R.C. Croft was the longest serving chief holding the position from 1943 through 1972. That’s from FDR to Nixon. Amazing.

 

Thank You Janet….

C. Ron Allen and Janet Meeks greet students on the first day of school at Carver Middle.

“Many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air.” — From the poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray.

I came across that line in something I read recently.

I can’t put my finger on what I was reading but the phrase stirred something in me, so I wrote it down.

And when I revisited my note, it made me wonder: what does it mean to be a flower born to be ‘unseen’?

As I thought about the phrase, I felt it related to beauty or value that doesn’t get recognized or appreciated.

To be honest, I’m not one for poetry unless of course you are talking about song lyrics which have always fascinated me.

“Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice

In the church where a wedding has been

Lives in a dream

Waits at the window, wearing the face

That she keeps in a jar by the door

Who is it for?”

Now that’s poetry….

But something about this particular Thomas Gray poem resonated. So, I looked it up and I learned that it’s about the universality of death and how our inevitable end serves as a leveling force that brings all people, rich or poor, to the same final fate.

I know. I know. You didn’t bargain for something this heavy on Monday morning. But please bear with me, we get sunnier as this goes on.

Thomas Gray wrote the poem after the death of a friend. It’s meant to be a tribute to the common man and is considered Gray’s masterpiece.

Pretty impressive stuff.

Wouldn’t it be nice to create something that others call your masterpiece?

Regardless, perhaps the beauty of poetry (or a song lyric)  is  that the reader gets to assign their own meaning to the words on the page.

For instance, the Bob Dylan classic “Lay, Lady, Lay” was said to be written about or for Barbra Streisand. Isn’t that wild? Who knew?
But as much as I appreciate Ms. Streisand, when I hear the song, I don’t think about her. And I don’t think about death when I read “Elegy.” To me, the poem speaks to undiscovered or underappreciated beauty.

Not to get all philosophical on this Monday morning, but that’s a concept that reverberates!

So, let’s think about the unsung heroes and heroines in our lives and communities.

Let’s make sure they are not “unseen,” let’s recognize them, let’s thank them, and let’s appreciate them. Now, while we still can.

I’ve been thinking about those extraordinary and sometimes unsung people because I’m on a committee planning a special Delray Chamber gala set for spring 2023. Never too early to mark your calendars!

Details are still being worked out but there’s a consensus that we would like the event to honor some of the special people who made a difference—many of them quietly.

The big shots get the glory, but the folks in the trenches make it happen. That’s true in business and it’s true in communities.

These special people should not go unseen. Their stories need to be told, remembered, and shared so that future generations may know.

I believe in the old proverb—when eating fruit, remember who planted the tree.

One of those special people who made a huge difference was honored Aug. 25 at the Delray Chamber’s Annual Education Breakfast. Janet Meeks, Delray’s long time Education Coordinator, is retiring. She’s a special person and should not go ‘unseen’ as the poet would say.

I couldn’t make the breakfast, but I sent some brief remarks. Below is an expanded version of what I sent.

 

I am sorry I can’t be with you to celebrate the start of another school year and the end of a remarkable career.

I was there at the beginning in 2001, when Janet Meeks invited me, a new commissioner, to lunch at the old Annex restaurant in Pineapple Grove to discuss an idea. Janet wanted to become the education coordinator for the City of Delray Beach.

In typical style, Janet laid out the facts about why the city needed to dedicate someone full-time to education in Delray Beach even though it was the School Board not the city that was responsible for local schools.

I was sold, instantly.

Not only on the need for our city to have someone who could help us improve our schools, but I was sold on Janet, the person. She’s special—hard working, dedicated and data driven. She has a heart of gold and a ton of vision.

The mayor and commission at the time were richly rewarded for supporting Janet’s initiative. Subsequent Mayors and commissioners have also benefited from Janet’s hard work and her unique ability to see the big picture: there are public servants and then there are public servants. Janet has always gone the extra mile. Janet Meeks has made a difference.

During my time in office, we decided to move Atlantic High School so we could build a new and larger facility to bring our children back home and add career academies.

We also started the Principal For a Day program to bring business and civic leaders into our schools, we championed the modernization of Spady Elementary School, created the Eagle Nest construction program, worked with community partners to add  Beacon Programs at Village Academy and the Achievement Center, developed a new Teen Center, saw the opening of a new Boys and Girls Club, provided afterschool and summer programs to stop the “summer slide” in learning and launched the Get Caught Reading program which gave books to children. We also launched citizen academies to build relationships with our stakeholders. That was just our term in office….she’s done a whole lot more.

Janet spearheaded it all….and then some. In short, she has been an amazing asset for this city.

Over the years, we’ve become good friends, so I’m excited for the next chapter. Janet leaves a legacy of achievement…she created this job and set the bar high.  Those of us lucky enough to work with her will always love and appreciate our remarkable friend. Good luck Janet…thanks for asking me to lunch all those years ago. You hit it out of the park my friend and a generation of Delray children are grateful for your care and concern.

The Adventures Included A Stop In Delray

Highly recommended and a thorough joy.

A few years back, we went to a conference in New York City that featured two well-known keynote speakers: Bill Clinton and Rudy Guiliani.

President Clinton was making a comeback from heart surgery and Rudy was still riding the “America’s Mayor” mantle post 9/11. This was long before bizarre press conferences at landscaping companies with dripping hair dye.
But despite the pedigrees of the two aforementioned speakers, the guy that absolutely stole the show was a plain spoken man from Brooklyn named Herb Cohen.
Herb’s conference session was the single best presentation I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a bunch of good presentations. Nobody has ever come close.
Mr. Cohen was funny, informative and devishly charming and he gave the rapt audience actionable information they could apply to their lives and their businesses.
He spoke about the art of negotiation and if you think about it, we do a lot of negotiating in every aspect of our lives.
I left the session hungry for more information and when I returned to Delray Beach I Googled Mr. Cohen to learn all I could about this master negotiator who was funnier than the best stand up comics.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that Herb Cohen, Herbie to his friends and family, lived in Delray Beach!!!
Of all the gin joints in the world, Herbie lived in the town where I was serving as mayor.
I had to meet him.
So I sent an inquiry through his website and within a day heard back from his lovely wife and associate Ellen.
Herb would love to meet you, she wrote. Would we like to come to their home for brunch?
I jumped at the opportunity and Diane and I made a date with the Cohen’s.
We hit it off right away, like old friends, and I tried to contain my excitement. There were so many questions I wanted to ask Herb.
After all, he was considered the world’s best negotiator. He was the man that worked with Presidents Carter and Reagan on the Iranian hostage crisis, stared down the Russians in arms control talks and worked on labor negotiations with the auto unions and Major League Baseball. He basically invented the profession he was practicing, traveling the world working with Fortune 500 companies and other organizations who needed someone to come in and get deals done and disputes solved.
Maybe, he even had a few words of advice for a small town mayor?
We went to dinner a few times at New York Prime and we enjoyed every moment with Herb and Ellen.
Over the years, we lost touch, but I never stopped thinking about and admiring the man who wowed the crowd in NYC.
When I heard that his son, the bestselling author Rich Cohen, was working on a memoir of his dad’s life I pre-ordered the book and waited.
When the book—“The Adventures of Herbie Cohen: The World’s Best Negotiator” —arrived I devoured it in a few sittings. It’s a great book. Rich captures the unique character and life of an American original whose life also included helping the FBI create its famed behavioral unit and being best friends with Larry King and growing up with Sandy Koufax.
Pretty cool…
The book also inspired me to go back to the source material Herbie’s classic “You Can Negotiate Anything” which still sells well 40 years after being published.
I highly recommend checking it out (and then reading my book “Adventures in Local Politics “, sorry I couldn’t resist).
Anyway, we lost Ellen a few years back and Herb decided to move back to Brooklyn.  But for a brief shining moment, Delray was his home. It makes me wonder who else may be quietly residing in Delray or Boca.

Dream Plan Grow
I had the pleasure of appearing on Allison Turner’s wonderful podcast recently and I recommend you check out her series which includes conversations with local entrepreneurs.
Allison operates BatCat Media and is a business coach as well. She does important work well.
Here’s a link to our conversation.

The Entrepreneurial Mindset: Interview with Jeff Perlman

For The Bird…

Her name is Bailey and she’s special.

Do you believe in miracles?

I do.
And we just experienced one a week or so ago.
It was about 4 pm when my wife Diane called to tell me that Bailey, our 14 year old cockatiel, had flown out the door and flew high above the trees toward Lake Ida Road.
Ugh.
We’ve had Bailey since she was a baby and we adore her. The thought of her flying away was heartbreaking. How long could she last? She’s never really been outside unless you count a few car rides to grandpa’s house for babysitting.
I hurried home to join the search which now included Diane and our son Sasha.
We whistled and called her name, but we didn’t see anything.
It was boiling hot out. We didn’t even see a wild bird, never mind a pasta loving cockatiel we got from Brenda’s Birds in Delray.
It occurred to me that finding her would be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
We went back inside to regroup and get some information.
I posted a message on our neighborhood Facebook page and surfed the Internet hoping to learn something about escaped cockatiels.
The information I unearthed was grim.
Finding a bird who escapes is a low odds deal and the more time they are gone, the worse the odds get.
We did find a suggestion to put her cage outside on the off chance that if she was still in the neighborhood she might recognize her perch and fly home.
So we tried it. And waited. To no avail.
Meanwhile, we continued to scour the neighborhood.
Nothing.
Sasha then came up with the idea of going  out with a speaker playing cockatiel songs including a YouTube video in which her late mate Butters sang the Tarantella. If you go to Youthbe and type in Butters Tarantella you can see it. It’s a brilliant performance.
Within minutes Bailey responded!  We heard her distinctive chirping answering the familiar sound of Butters’ voice. Miracle number one!
But while we heard Bailey, we still couldn’t find her. By this time, the search for Bailey included my wonderful neighbors Iain, his daughter Brooke and Barbara.
Then, miracle number two occurred when Iain spotted Bailey on the top of a mango tree in an empty lot adjacent to both of our homes.
We had found the needle in the haystack, but how do you get the needle to fly to us?
We tried by calling her name, whistling and generally praying that she would fly down to safety.
She refused.
Then some bad luck intervened when a mean old crow went after our poor little defenseless and domesticated pet.
Bailey fled the tree with the crow in hot pursuit. They flew over the house in a battle reminiscent of Top Gun, with the crow bearing down in our little bird, and Bailey flying like mad to get away. It was heartbreaking to watch. We had come so close to getting her back only to lose her again.
The pair flew fast down the canal and out of our sight.
We were stunned.
This was cruel.
What were the odds of finding her only to lose her again?
We were heartbroken.
By this time, it had been a few hours and it was starting to get dark. What would happen to our little Bailey? Did the crow get her? Did another predator? How would she survive in the wild?
We went back inside crestfallen.
Diane checked Facebook and yet another miracle occurred.
A neighbor had seen our post and another one on another Facebook  page I never would have seen. She put two and two together and contacted Diane alerting us to the post on the other page. A woman had found a brown cockatiel in her backyard in the Lake Ida neighborhood.
She was sitting out back (rare on a very hot night) and Bailey flew onto her shoulder (atypical behavior if she doesn’t know you, but she must have been tired) and the woman happened to be experienced with birds, happened to have a cage and had the presence of mind to post about it.
That’s a lot of breaks and we got ‘em all!
Within a few minutes, we were on the phone and making the match. Sasha cut through the backyard and came back with Bailey who was no worse for the ordeal other than a few scratches near her face. She chowed down on pasta and was off to bed.
All told, she was gone almost four hours.
What are the odds?!
Yes, dear friends there are small miracles.
The next day she was a little quiet as if she was processing her adventure. But the day after that she was back to her saucy self.
We don’t know how she got out of the cage and the house, but we are being extra careful now.
After all, she’s a magical little bird saved by a speaker, chased by a crow and rescued by a very Good Samaritan. Whew!!!

Further Adventures….

Shameless plug…available on Amazon. If you are interested in Delray you may like it.

A few years back, I wrote a book.

“Adventures in Local Politics” was an attempt to chronicle my experiences as an elected official from 2000-2007.

It was also an attempt to write the book I was looking for and could never find—a primer on local government. I wanted to share some insights about the things that I saw that worked and I wanted to share what didn’t, because I’m a firm believer that mistakes are a great teacher.

During Covid, my old publisher went belly up and I learned that my book would no longer be available on Amazon or other outlets.

Since I still get a few stray requests for books, I decided to find another publisher and refresh my work. I spent about six months adding a new introduction and working with a new editor to tighten up the manuscript.  I decided not to update the story because I felt I should preserve my original experience. In other words, I didn’t include current events. I figure that’s what this blog is for.

Still, the experience of revisiting the Delray I once knew was powerful and potentially instructive to a growing movement of people seeking to make our hometown better. There’s lessons in the book that I firmly believe resonate today.

Still, revisiting the Delray of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s was impactful.

So much has changed.

It’s as if the town that I knew— and fell in love with—has vanished.

Now I am not talking about the physical changes, which are many and certainly important. I’m talking about the atmosphere, the feeling in town, the sense of community and the general mood.

Truth be told, Delray is not alone. The world has changed and so has America.

Some of those changes have been good and some have been…well …not so good. I’m trying to be diplomatic.

I think the fundamental change is that there is a coarseness to our society.

There’s less kindness.

Less teamwork.

Less collaboration.

Less trust.

Sadly, there’s a lot more nastiness, individualism, and suspicion of each other.

As happy as I am— and I am blessed– and as happy and fortunate as many of my friends are, I can honestly say that an overwhelming majority feel that there is something fundamentally wrong these days. Things just don’t feel right.

Diving back into the galleys of my old book I was transported back to a different time and a very different place. I miss that place. I loved that place. I long for that place and so do many of my friends.

We were a community and a country brimming with possibilities and aspirations. Each year things seemed to get better. You could feel the optimism in the air. It was electric and our confidence in the future grew alongside our vision which was exciting and seemingly within reach.

The trust in each other grew as well. When we saw our collective dreams become reality, we believed that anything was possible.

Yes, I know it’s easy to glorify the past, easy to brush past the sins and the mistakes. And mind you, there were plenty of both.

There were lots of heartbreaks and disappointments, but we seemed to absorb them better as a society back then. Some of the setbacks actually made us closer.

I’ll give you an example.

I served in the wake of 9/11. Do you remember what a shock to the system that was? The horror? The sadness? The fear?

We discovered that many of the terrorists were living among us. They were at our library; the mastermind of the plot filled a prescription at Huber’s Drugs. Those monsters lived in The Hamlet, at Laver’s Racquet Club and worked out at a gym on Atlantic and Military Trail.

It was all so surreal, but we came together.

We gathered at Old School Square for a vigil, gathered again at the Community Center for a prayer service and beamed with pride when our police department created a volunteer Homefront Security force staffed by senior citizens wearing berets and sharp uniforms.

Those beautiful souls– many were World War II veterans and members of our Greatest Generation– patrolled our public buildings. They watched over us and were proud to give back once more to a country and a city that they loved.

And we loved them back.

I remember talking to Charlie Goldberg and Bob Banquer, two of the most dedicated volunteers you can imagine. They were concerned, but they weren’t worried. We beat the Nazis, they told us. We surely won’t allow the terrorists to destroy our way of life.

And we didn’t. We didn’t allow the terrorists to win.

But I do wonder, if our divisions will do what the Nazis, the Soviets and the terrorists couldn’t do. And I’m not alone in my worry.

Right here at home, there is so much paranoia and mistrust. So much division.

Who’s behind this group? Who’s behind that candidate?

MAGA people will save our nation. MAGA people will destroy America.

We speculate on social media. We make things up. We try and hurt each other. And often, we succeed. To what end?

There wasn’t so much of that back in the day. There was some of it, but for the most part we got most of what we aimed to do over the finish line. The theme of the commission I served on was “community unity.” It was a phrase coined by Commissioner Alberta McCarthy that we happily embraced and truly believed in.

Did we achieve that lofty ideal?
Do you ever?
Maybe the best aspirations are always just out of reach. Maybe they are designed to be big enough to never quite be achievable but exciting enough so that you never stop trying.

Of course, there was no social media back in those days but that’s not really the problem. It’s a tool. You can use a hammer to build something or you can hit someone over the head. It’s how we use the tool that matters.

I like Facebook. I get to wish my friends a happy birthday, share pictures of Gracie our new golden retriever and I have an opportunity to see what old and new friends are doing. Heck, the platform even helped my little bird Bailey get rescued last week. (It’s a long story and a good one, it will be in the next book or an upcoming blog).

Nope, there’s something else in the water.

As I read through my book, I remembered anonymous emails, mailings and rumors designed to divide us, frighten us, and misrepresent some of the work being done in town.

It was there. It could be vicious, but it was an aberration not a way of life.

And when our local government pushed back with the facts, those facts were embraced and believed. Local government was trusted by residents who knew the men and women who worked at City Hall.  There was a base level of faith in institutions.

They knew their local government wasn’t perfect. They knew that mistakes would be made but they also assumed –correctly— that the people working at City Hall were trying their best. You may have been angry that Mayor Schmidt (one heck of a mayor by the way) favored moving Atlantic High School, but most people didn’t think he meant to do the city harm.

In fact, I think one of the reasons the more vehement opponents of that move failed to defeat those who favored the new school was because they assumed a corrupt rationale for the policy. There was none.

Like the idea or not, most citizens understood that the policymakers serving the city loved Delray Beach. We just had a different vision for the future.

I’m not sure if that’s true today. I’m not sure elected officials or government employees get the benefit of the doubt anymore. Check that, I’m sure that they don’t.

That’s a fundamental shift. And that’s sad.

Yes, many of the aforementioned have earned the distrust of their constituents. But what about the good ones? And what about our system?

Do we trust it, does it still serve us. Why aren’t we attracting better leaders to do the important work of building community?

So, yes, I miss the old days of trust, aspiration, partnership and yes love.

We were a place where you could feel embraced because you were. And that meant everything.

I didn’t write about Old School Square’s demise in the new/old book. But I did write about its importance as an idea and as an object of civic pride. The restoration and revitalization of those historic buildings were important to the evolution of our town and our civic culture. It was not only important it was elemental. And we just flushed it away.

Hundreds of donors and volunteers—likely thousands— feel an attachment to that campus and the non-profit that created and breathed new life into those old and once decrepit buildings.

The Delray I knew and wrote about wouldn’t have handled the issue the way it was dealt with recently.

If audits were late, there would have been an inquiry and a sit down. If performance lagged there would have been a series of meetings and a pledge to work together to fix what was wrong.

The efforts of volunteers and donors would have been acknowledged and more importantly respected.  There would have been love (tough if need be) and room for thanks as well.

We are devoid of those fundamental building blocks of community today both here and across our great land. Nobody but the corrupt fears accountability. But respect, gratitude and yes love are the table stakes behind anything of value or it won’t last.

I took a visit back to that world I wrote about. And I didn’t want to leave it. I live in the same exact place but somehow, I feel very far from home.

If you want to take a peek back at that Delray here’s a link: https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Local-Politics-Jeff-Perlman/dp/1736105167/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1RNPO1P6WQWTY&keywords=adventures+in+local+politics+jeff+perlman&qid=1655317745&sprefix=%2Caps%2C53&sr=8-1

 

Congratulations

Delray Beach Police Detective Paul Pitti retired last week after 25 years of distinguished service to our community.

I met Paul at the beginning of his career, and it was clear to all those who worked with him that he was going places in the department.

I happened to talk last week with one of Paul’s former supervisors and he said Detective Pitti was one the “best men I ever had a chance to supervise.” High praise indeed because we have been fortunate to have a bunch of great men and women serve and protect us.

Blessed with a great personality, a wonderful sense of humor and a ton of skill, Paul was a valuable contributor everywhere he was assigned.

Fortunately, he won’t be going too far. Paul will become a Highland Beach Police Officer going to work for Chief Craig Hartmann, also a former Delray officer.

We wish Paul the best. Highland Beach is getting a good one.

On a sad note, we learned last week that retired Delray Police Officer Mike Kosick has passed away.

Mike was one of the early downtown police officers assigned to keep an eye on things when Atlantic Avenue began to pop. He also distinguished himself during several undercover assignments.

We mourn his loss.

Speaking of our Police Department, my company CDS International Holdings was proud to be one of many sponsors of the annual Delray Citizens for Delray Police Awards Dinner recently.

Thanks to the herculean efforts of Perry Don Francisco and Chuck Halberg, the banquet has become a favorite event bringing together current officers and retirees to celebrate the best of the PD.

This year, Sgt. Andrew Arena, Capt. John-Crane Baker, Lt. Scott McGuire and Detective Pitti were honored for their long service to the department.

Administrative Assistant Stacy Tarantino was recognized at the 2021 “Patricia Taylor Employee of the Year” and Detective Anthony Sala was named 2021 Officer of the Year.

Service Award recipients were Sgt. Paul Weber, Executive Administrative Assistant Beatrice Screciu and Administrative Assistant Patricia Swain.

We are blessed to have such a wonderful police department. Our Fire Rescue department is also top-notch. It’s so important that we recognize these special people.

 

Birthdays, Father’s Day, A Puppy & A Beatle

Celebrating decades of friendship at Avalon nature trail in Stony Brook, NY. earlier this year. Dewey is the good looking one.

This is a big week for me.A big, important and wonderful week.My father, two of my best friends, my new golden retriever, and one of my all-time heroes are celebrating birthdays. Plus, it’s Father’s Day.So this is a time to celebrate, a time to rejoice and a time to take stock.I’m sharing my bounty in the hopes that it will inspire you to think about yours or to create one if your lacking. It’s never too late to resurrect or cultivate a relationship. And you know what? Life is all about relationships.Close readers of this blog know how much I admire my father.

He’s my hero and someone who has made a profound difference in my life and the life of everyone he has encountered. He’s just a good man. And when I survey the landscape these days  I realize that he’s a rare commodity in a troubled world. I appreciate him more and more as time and life go on.On this Father’s Day, I find myself thinking about how fortunate I have been to have such a great father and I hope I’ve been a good father to my children.

I also find myself thinking about the father’s who’ve lost children in Uvalde and elsewhere. Life is capable of delivering us sorrow beyond words, a fact I remind myself of when I find myself stressing about something that will be insignificant a few months from now.So that’s a reminder to enjoy the little perks  of life—a lunch with a good friend at Granger’s, the squirrel who comes to the door and watches us watching television and the first birthday of your golden retriever.Yes, our Gracie turns 1 on the first day of summer. A good dog—and they are all good—changes your life. Gracie happens to be a great dog.

She’s a joy. A character. A beauty.

She’s friendly, affectionate and so well behaved. She delivers a large dose of love everyday without fail and has an endless reserve.I wish I could say the same about myself.Dogs make you question your priorities because dogs—Gracie especially—-have their priorities in perfect order. Happiness equals good sleep, good (or any) food, affection, long walks and spending time with your pack.

Speaking of my pack, two core members are celebrating birthdays this week; my buddies Andy (we know him as Dewey) and my brother from another mother Scott.I go back a long, long, long time with these guys. I’m talking 50 years back. We graduated high school 40 years ago—together.So, if you have old friends you know how special they are. And if you have lost track of your friends look them up and reach out. It’s worth the effort.

I’m so proud that I have stayed in touch with my childhood friends. We are all proud. Life doesn’t make it easy. Deadlines and commitments what to leave in, what to leave out, Bob Seger once sang.

Distance, time, wives, kids, careers and now even politics can separate  you from people who mean so much.But if you can navigate those things the rewards are enormous.We’ve managed to do it. And I’m so grateful.Today, when I look at these guys via Zoom across the years and the miles I still see the kids I once knew. They are there, right in front of me. While we talk about current events, we can also access decades of history. Nights spent in Dewey’s legendary Karmann Ghia, summer days playing tennis with Scott but mostly dreaming of the future. Where would it lead?Today, we have most of that answer.  Not all of it. Nope, we are not done yet.But I can say this, when I talk to these guys I’m overcome with pride. They’re good men. And that fact satisfies something very deep inside.My buddies share a birthday week with one my all-time heroes Paul McCartney.The “cute” Beatle turns 80 on June 18.I have loved The Beatles for as long I can remember. I have listened to their music almost every day since I was a little kid.So Paul is a big deal for me and a few hundred million people. It’s amazing and inspiring that he’s still out there performing, writing and recording music. A blessing in a screwed up world.My dad, two friends, a golden named Gracie and a Beatle.I just boosted my spirits writing this.I hope you have your own version of this happy tale. Have a wonderful Father’s Day.

She’s a lot bigger now but just as cute.

To The Class of 2022…

The Arts Garage was a nice venue for the EdVenture Class of 2022 to celebrate.

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the commencement of the EdVenture Charter School. The event was held at the Arts Garage in Delray Beach. It was a moving ceremony because each of the graduates had to overcome a lot of challenges to earn their diploma. It was a stark reminder that many of our young people face steep odds and that we are fortunate to have educators, counselors and volunteers who devote their lives to ensuring that they have a shot. I want to thank my friends Barbara Fitz, the executive director of the school, and board member Jennifer Costello-Robertson for inviting me.

I thought I’d share my commencement speech in the hopes that others may be inspired to volunteer on behalf of our children. They are the future and we need these young people to succeed maybe more now than ever.

 

To the graduates, parents, educators, staff, board and assembled guests…thank you for the honor and the privilege of being with you on this important day.

I’m deeply touched to be here.

I’m impressed by what I have learned about the EdVenture Charter School and I happen to be acquainted with your Executive Director Barbara Fitz and one of your board members Jennifer Costello-Robertson. They are both very special leaders. You are fortunate to have them in your lives.

10 years ago, a high school graduation speech went viral on the internet. A teacher named David McCollough told the graduates of Wellesley High School that they were not special.

It was an interesting message…and it was meant to advise students to put their phones down, stop taking selfies and think about others. I think that is good advice.

But I am here today, to tell you that you are special.

You are part of a unique class of graduates.

Your high school experience at EdVenture Charter School will forever be linked to a pandemic that has taken the lives of over 1 million Americans. I was almost in that category. I am lucky to be here having gotten Covid before there was an effective vaccine or even a treatment. I spent 40 days on oxygen at a hospital just up the road.

I was fortunate.

Many of the people who got sick during that Covid wave ended up passing away.

Life teaches us to count our blessings and to understand that we must make our time here count.

You have all been through a lot to earn your high school diploma.

You studied through an historic pandemic…you persevered through an experience that nobody in the past 100 years had to live through and you thrived. You are resilient, you are strong and yes you are special.

You are a special graduating class.

Your journey in life is just beginning but you’ve already learned some key lessons.

Life is unpredictable.

Life is fragile and education is the key to success in a world that is changing rapidly.

I graduated high school in 1982…40 years ago.

There were no cell phones, most families didn’t have a computer, there were no streaming services, there was no internet and there was no social media.

Apple the company was around but when most people heard the word they thought of a fruit, not a Mac computer or an iPhone.

Amazon was a river, MTV played music videos and the word “selfie” did not exist.

All of this is to say, that one day, you will look back on your high school years and be amazed at the changes you have experienced.

 

EdVenture was established in 1988 to support students who were falling through the cracks. Its mission is to help you learn grit and determination.

Those are the two skills that will guarantee you a successful life.

The third skill is a love of learning.

You don’t have to love school, but if you love learning…. you will go far in life.

And we need you to go far. We need you to make a positive difference.

 

Your generation has been handed a mixed bag….

We carry more technology in our pockets than most presidents had access too.

We are blessed to live in a world where scientists are unlocking answers to disease and sickness.

We have so much to be thankful for….and yet there are challenges too.

The world can be a hard and a dangerous place as we have seen these past two weeks with mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.….you will need grit and determination to get where you want to go.

We all have individual paths…personal journeys that we all must take. But while your grit and determination will mean so much….so will your network. Family, friends and community count for a lot.

If you have a supportive family, that’s wonderful. Some of us may not be as fortunate, please don’t let that stop you. Find, keep and cherish your friends. Build and be part of a community. Nobody succeeds alone…we all need a hand.

 

40 years ago….when I stood under a hot sun waiting for my diploma I had no idea where my life would take me. I knew I was going to college, but I ended up not liking where I started and transferring to a school far away from home.

When I left for Oswego, New York, on the banks of Lake Ontario, I didn’t know that I would never come home again. Oh, there were visits and weekends, but that was it…. I never lived at home again.

Life takes you places you don’t plan for. And that’s the magic of life…Savor it all….

My journey took me to Florida after I graduated and into a career as a newspaper reporter, a business owner and eventually the mayor of Delray Beach. I didn’t foresee any of that happening.

I thought I wanted to be a lawyer.

After leaving politics, I went back into business and worked with the team that had purchased a controlling share of an energy drink called Celsius.

I never thought I would be an executive at a beverage company….

But I have learned to say yes to adventure. I have learned to not let my fears stop me from trying new things and I have discovered that the best things in life are the things that we feel a little uncomfortable about doing….

My wish is that you will take some chances, try new things, and be prepared for the opportunities that life provides.

Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Be responsive. Be open to change.

Don’t let fear ever stop you.
Magic happens when you say yes…but good things happen when you are prepared…so please don’t stop learning….we are all students even when—especially when—we graduate.

 

You’re here because you’ve done a lot of hard work. But more than most, you’ve shown great determination to achieve what you have.

So on you go…

The world needs you.

There is important work to be done and you can make a difference.

Whatever path you choose, take it seriously, but enjoy it. Savor the moments…like this one with beloved family, friends and teachers who care about you.

I wish you all the fullest lives possible. Never lose faith. Never lose heart. We can’t wait to see you thrive. Congratulations!

Congratulations Coco

I think everyone in Delray was glued to the TV Saturday morning to root for hometown heroine Coco Gauff as she vied for her first Grand Slam title in the finals of the French Open.

Coco put up a valiant fight before losing to world number one Iga Swiatek who has won 35 matches in a row.

I’ve been a tennis fan for almost 50 years and for what it’s worth here’s what I saw.

Coco will win her share of slams because she’s not afraid of the moment, she knows she belongs. At age 18, she’s already a force, already a role model. I think she will be one of those “important” athletes whose talent and persona transcend the game. She ran into a buzzsaw in Swiatek, who is also very special. But the great ones often need to taste what the finals feel like before they take the next step and win it all.

Look for Coco to have a big Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

 

Remembering Stan Weedon

We lost a good man recently.

Stan Weedon, a former planner for the City of Delray Beach, has passed away.

A celebration of life is planned for Mr. Weedon, Saturday, June 11 at 1 p.m. at the Indian Hammock Lodge in Okeechobee.

Stan worked in long range planning. My wife worked with him.

Often times, people like Stan Weedon are overlooked but they contribute to the success of a town and we should honor those contributions.

We send our best wishes to Stan’s wife and family.