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Investing In Our Future

 

Note: Some of you may know that I’ve entered a new and exciting phase of my life/career working to build and grow the work of the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation. For me and my teammates, this is a labor of love because Carl changed our lives and the lives of so many others. While we lost Mr. D last August, his work continues through his foundation. It’s the honor of a lifetime to be involved. Periodically, I hope to share what we’re doing because it’s important to spotlight some of the great work being done in our community. Our main focus is helping transformational leaders and programs in Palm Beach and Broward counties. We’ve only just begun.

Communities are ever-changing, that’s what makes them interesting.

People, businesses, leaders, and organizations come and go.

But it’s the pillars that stand the test of time.

It’s the pillars that build communities, quietly, effectively and over a long span of time.

The George Snow Scholarship Fund is one of those pillars. The Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation is honored to partner with this wonderful non-profit to build a better future for our youth.

Recently, we announced a $200,000 gift to the Snow Fund. The monies will support a new program we’re calling “DeSantis Scholars”—which will enable students to pursue vocational education in fields such as nursing, HVAC, electrical, plumbing and more. The scholarships were handed out over the weekend at an event at Lynn University’s magnificent Wold Performing Arts Center.

Mr. DeSantis, who briefly attended Florida State University but did not complete his degree, believed that students who wanted to pursue careers that didn’t require college should be encouraged to do so.

We’re pleased to have a partner like George Snow to help make that happen.

Since 1982, the non-profit has given about $26.4 million in scholarships to local students looking to improve their lives. That’s an astounding number. The Snow Foundation is making a profound difference in the lives of our young people.

Through the decades, the Boca Raton-based Snow Fund has been there for students in Palm Beach County. Recently, the fund was invited to help students in Broward, a testament to their reputation as stellar scholarship administrators.

We’ve had our eyes on the George Snow Fund for some time. It’s hard to miss their impact:

  • 2,943 scholarships since 1982.
  • 887 Snow Scholars currently enrolled in college.
  • Almost $5 million awarded in 2023.

 

But their effectiveness goes beyond the numbers: 90 percent of Snow Scholars graduate compared to 62 percent nationally. Many of those scholars come back home and benefit our local community.

So, we were thrilled to partner with such a pillar of the community. We were especially taken by the holistic thinking at the Snow Fund. Students receive inspirational messages to start their week, there are webinars that teach the “soft skills” needed to succeed and scholars receive care packages as well.

It’s been a remarkably effectively model, honed over 42 years by a leadership team led by President Tim Snow.

When you meet Tim and  Development Director Jay Brandt you are swept away by the passion they bring to the cause. For Tim, the son of George Snow, the mission is personal. But he has managed to infuse that passion into a dedicated team and board that have created a family of scholars.

“When you receive a scholarship from the George Snow Scholarship Fund, you become a part of our family. You can count on us to help you in anyway we can,” says Tim.

And help they do: from career development advice, college physicals, an emergency fund for unexpected needs, to laptop computers and mental health counseling Snow Scholars are cared for like family.

Did we mention senior portraits? How about “the scholar closet” to help the budget conscious find free clothing and shoes? There’s also the “Snow Family Network”, a unique social networking platform where Scholars and Snow Alumni can connect and help each other find jobs and internships.

That’s the “wow” factor we look for at the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation.

We are thrilled to begin this important partnership. Mr. DeSantis would be proud.

 

 

Some Gave All

We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.” – Unknown. A fitting thought for Memorial Day.

This week’s post will be a little different.

My company, CDS International Holdings, has done a lot of different things over the years—real estate, restaurants, vitamins, men’s clothing, hotels, eco-tourism resorts, beverages (Celsius), retail ventures and the list goes on.

Our founder, the late Carl DeSantis was a visionary and a lifelong entrepreneur. He kept a note pad next to his bed because he’d wake up with an idea and he was afraid he would forget it if he didn’t write it down. I have a desk drawer full of his notes—some of which we converted into businesses.

One of his brainstorms became Tabanero, a sauce company that creates and manufactures an array of delicious sauces and rubs. CDS and the Tabanero team are committed to building a brand that we hope can be the next Celsius, which went from a small company to a global phenomenon with a market cap of over $20 billion.

For Carl, it wasn’t about the money. Carl loved the game. Could we create something that would transform the marketplace.

He did it at Rexall Sundown, where he changed the game for vitamins and nutrition. Celsius certainly upended the energy drink space grabbing market share from giants such as Red Bull and Monster.

With Tabanero, he set his sites on what he thought was a tired hot sauce category. The idea evolved into being more of a company dedicated to a variety of sauces that could add pizzazz to anything we may eat.

That’s how visionaries think and more importantly act—Carl was a man of action. We went from idea to execution quickly.

Anyway, Tabanero was something he cooked up and a talented team is giving this brand its best shot.

This Memorial Day, the Tab team is donating online sales to benefit a Marine who lost his life to cancer. I thought I’d share this effort.

Here’s the letter from the team:

“During this Memorial Day weekend, Tabañero is taking a moment to honor the sacrifices of military service members who were also leaders in the tight-knit rugby community.

This year, we are supporting the family of Sgt. Ben Williams, USMC, a courageous marine who recently ended his fight with cancer directly linked to his services in the Gulf War.

He was a loving father and leader of his community, profoundly touching the lives of those around him.

In tribute to Sgt Ben Williams, Tabañero is committing 100% of all sales made through our website on Memorial Day to his family. All Tabañero website purchases made on Monday, May 27 — Memorial Day —  will directly support the Williams family, ensuring his legacy of bravery and sacrifice continues.

Join us on Memorial Day to honor Sgt Ben Williams, USMC and all who have served our country with honor and distinction. Together, let us express our gratitude for their service and sacrifice.

Thank you for standing with us,

The Tabañero Team”

Below is a link. If you are interested, today is the day. We hope to raise significant funds for Sgt. Williams’ family.

Have a safe Memorial Day. Please remember those who gave all.

https://tabanero.com/collections/shop-all

Here’s some more about Sgt. Williams.

  Sergeant Ben Williams served with dedication in the United States Marine Corps and was actively involved in his community. He passed away in February 2024 from pancreatic cancer, which was linked to his exposure to oil well fires and burn pits during the Gulf Wars. In addition to his military service, Sergeant Williams was deeply involved in the rugby community, coaching the Lady Cavaliers Rugby team and playing for the Old Breed Rugby Club, fostering a welcoming environment for every player. His influence extended beyond the field, helping students gain admission to prestigious colleges through their involvement in rugby.

Nick Bursey, Director of Coaching and Operations for the Pleasanton Cavaliers Rugby Club, expressed his admiration, saying, “Everyone should have someone like Ben in their life.”

The shared values of the military and rugby communities drive Tabañero’s initiative. Several Tabañero team members, who are rugby players, see this as a meaningful way to honor military families. The collaboration with military rugby organizations highlights the close-knit nature and commitment to support within these communities.

Bobby Linder, Chief Operating Officer of Tabañero and a retired military veteran emphasized the shared values of the military and rugby: “On the battlefield or rugby pitch, we rely on the same core values. We will never accept defeat, we will never quit, and we will never leave a comrade behind. We ask you this Memorial Day to reflect on our freedom earned by our military service members and take the opportunity not just to say thanks  but to give thanks.”

The Long Term Players

Bill Murray’s Hall of Fame photo. Class of 2024.

This column is about excellence.

Long-term, nose to the grindstone excellence.

I’ve been thinking about excellence ever since learning that Coach Bill Murray—a Delray Beach legend—was inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame.

Coach Murray has been a fixture on the Delray tennis scene since 1972. He came to Delray after playing tennis at Kentucky State University and then serving in Vietnam.

Lucky for Delray, he found a home on the tennis courts of Pompey Park where he continues to teach.

That’s 52 years and three Grand Slam Champions later for those keeping score at home.

Mr. Murray worked with Venus and Serena Williams when they trained at the Rick Macci Academy in Delray. Richard Williams would take his talented daughters to Pompey to soak up some Murray magic.

Later, Corey Gauff was coached by Mr. Murray before leaving town to play Division 1 Basketball. When he came home and started a family, he brought his daughter Coco to Pompey for a few lessons with Bill. You may have heard of Coco; she was just on the cover of Time and Vogue magazines.

I got to know Mr. Murray a little bit over the years. He’s a quiet and unassuming man.

I’ve found that a lot of great people are quiet and unassuming. They let their work speak for them. And often that work gets lost, because they are not self-promoting. They are dedicated to the task at hand.

There are dozens of examples in our community if we stop and think about it.

At a recent City Commission meeting, Shawn Beckowitz and Tommy Osborn were given proclamations upon reaching the 30-year service mark with our Fire Department.

Their list of accolades—read into the record by Mayor Carney—goes on and on. They have had remarkable careers. Shawn has done just about everything there is to do in the fire service. He’s a good man too.

Tommy is a local legend with a national reputation in the fire service for his fitness and athletic achievements. He’s 59 and looks 29. He was recently honored by Delray Medical Center for excellence.

These guys are tough acts to follow.

Higher profile positions and more energetic personalities snag the headlines, but it’s the people who quietly serve with distinction day after day, year after year that make a community tick.

Bill Murray is a prime example.

Over his half century of service, he has enriched not only Delray Beach but the larger tennis world. The announcement of his enshrinement mentioned his work teaching tennis in Kenya and his stewardship of landmark tennis tournaments in South Florida. He also found ways for promising players to come to Florida to train.

Here’s what Mr. Murray had to say upon being elected to the Hall of Fame.

“I am honored to be selected into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame and very appreciative; thank you.

I started my tennis career in Delray Beach, Florida, the same park where I learned how to play tennis in 1961, our class walked over from school to participate in tennis and swimming classes.

The Black community petitioned the city to build two tennis courts and a pool in the Black community, in this famous park in 1956.

The name of this famous park is Pompey Park. One month after graduating from Kentucky State, in 1970, I was in the army, then Vietnam, after my two years, they offered me $25,000 to reenlist, I turned that offer down.

I was so anxious to go home, to get back into tennis, signing all these papers, which was taking so long, until I accidentally signed myself back into the army, for a year, the reserves, which became the main army, I ended up staying in the reserve for a long time. I started an intercity tennis program in 1972 at the same park where I learned to play tennis, Pompey Park.

Those courts were abandoned for 10 years, so I had to be the one to shape it back up, by sweeping the glass and rocks off the court. I went to my Black city commissioner, told him what I was trying to do, so he had both the courts redone. Fifty-two years later and the rest was history. Venus and Serena came to Pompey Park when they were 9 and 10, Corey Gauff came to Pompey Park when he played at 10, he brought his daughter Coco there when she was 4. I put her in her first ATA tournament when she was 7, she won the 10’S.”

She won that and a whole lot more.

Bill Murray is a local legend. The genuine article. We celebrate his many, many contributions.

 

Another local legend, Marie Speed, officially retired from her post as group editor-in-chief at JES Publishing.

JES publishes Boca and Delray Beach magazines, outstanding publications that are must reads for those of us who love Boca and Delray.

Marie and I have been friends for a long time. She was good enough to give me some freelance work a few times over the years and I can say from personal experience that she is a superior editor.

Great editors make copy sing and bring out the best in their writers. Marie has done that—for a very long time in a business that is brutal. Between deadlines, fact-checking, a difficult business model and temperamental talent—editing a magazine is not easy. It may seem glamorous—and there are glamorous aspects for sure—but most of the work is painstaking and detailed.

Marie Speed is an editor’s editor.

What makes her special is her passion and knowledge of this community. She is not someone passing through—she has roots here and roots give you perspective, context and depth. When you apply those attributes to a magazine your readers are getting a gift; a rare gift in a field in which so many come and go without leaving a mark.

Marie Speed built a legacy, issue by issue, month by month, page by page, word by word. She will be dearly missed.

 

Continuing with our theme of sustained excellence, consider the amazing example set by Greg Malfitano of Lynn University.

Mr. Malfitano serves as Lynn University’s senior major gift officer. He was one of the university’s earliest graduates from what was then Marymount College. He began his career as an administrator for Lynn’s President Emeritus Donald Ross and quickly rose in ranks from director of student services in 1977 to vice president for administration and student services in 1982.

 

Greg has overseen the development of the campus master plan and has supervised major construction projects, including Bobby Campbell Stadium, Count and Countess de Hoernle Sports and Cultural Center, Eugene M. and Christine E. Lynn Library, Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center, Mohammed Indimi International Business Center, Snyder Sanctuary, Mary and Harold Perper Residence Hall, Lynn Residence Center, Christine E. Lynn University Center and the Snyder Center for Health and Wellness. In 2012, Malfitano became co-chair for the Presidential Debate, where he spearheaded on-campus planning and administration.

 

From 1987 to 2015, Greg served as athletics administrator and oversaw the recruitment of every athletic director and head coach. Under his leadership, the Fighting Knights won 23 of their 25 National Championships and advanced from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II. Greg guided the university’s recreational and intramural sports teams into one of the region’s most competitive athletics programs. To honor his athletic accomplishments, he was voted into the class of 2024 Athletic Hall of Fame.

 

For 50 years, Greg has called Lynn his “home away from home.” He’s a devoted steward of the university, working with leadership to fulfill institutional needs. Outside the university, he builds connections with those who share his belief in Lynn’s mission of providing an innovative, global, and personalized education.

 

Today, this living legend focuses his efforts on fundraising and serves as a trusted advisor to President Kevin Ross. He’s a champion for progress, and a steward for positive change.

As a Lynn trustee, I’ve come to truly value Greg’s amazing achievements. He’s been a catalyst for great things for half a century. All we can say is wow and thank you.

 

A Helping Hand

An army of volunteers helping others.

The first thing you notice when you enter the doors of Boca Helping Hands is the hustle and bustle.

Everywhere you look there are volunteers rushing about. It’s a Thursday and Boca Helping Hands is getting ready to serve hot meals to a growing line of people idling in their cars waiting for their dinner and a shopping bag full of carefully curated foods.

It’s a stunning sight to see—at once heartening and sobering. These are working people—our friends, neighbors, maybe even our co-workers who struggle to make ends meet in 2024 South Florida.

There’s a new term—at least to my ears—to describe these people: ALICE which stands for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed. Many have several jobs to make ends meet. They struggle with housing, food costs, bills, and insurance. An unexpected expense can upend their world.

So, while it is encouraging to see the community respond, it is also heartbreaking to see the struggle. We have become a very expensive place to live.

Boca Helping Hands is on the front lines of this daily slog. While the name says Boca, the organization’s reach extends to central Palm Beach County including cities such as Delray Beach, Lantana and Lake Worth Beach.

Boca Helping Hands is a 25-year-old nonprofit that has become one of the largest service providers in South Florida serving almost 35,000 people a year. There are 23 staff members and more than 300 volunteers. The board is an impressive list of local business leaders led by Chairman Gary Peters, a retired securities executive whose family foundation has given generously to the nonprofit for years.

We’re proud to announce that the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation has decided to help the cause with a $75,000 grant to expand an existing job training program.

The program speaks loudly to our philosophy of providing a “hand up, not a handout.” Our founder Carl Desantis believed in helping people find a sustainable path in life. Mr. D believed in education and training that could lift people to a better station in life.

The Boca Helping Hands Job Training Program (JTP) works with community partners to provide adult workforce training for unemployed and underemployed adults.

The program takes a holistic approach to their clientele identifying barriers to employment and providing mentoring, training, certifications and needed support to find and secure employment.

The program is run in three phrases starting with an assessment of individual needs followed by vocational training in one of 11 “in demand careers” and culminating in on-site or virtual mentoring to make sure clients stay employed.

Boca Helping Hands works closely with local workforce development programs, colleges, universities, and social service providers to make sure that programs are current and lead to employment. Clients receive help with food security issues, housing, and general well-being issues.

Boca Helping Hands invests in people and all that goes with that investment: care goes into making sure that issues like childcare, transportation and the ‘hiccups’ of life don’t derail the opportunity for a better life.

Careers include: commercial driver’s (starting salaries $60K), electrician, plumbers, HVAC repair, medical billing, and certified nursing assistants.

Since 2020, the program has helped 213 clients gain the skills they need to escape poverty.

The program is supported by others local partners including the Jim Moran Foundation, United Way of Palm Beach, and individual donors. There is a broad base of support.

During our visit, we met with Executive Director Greg Hazle, Director of Development Steve King and Director of Career Development Trina Chin Cheong. We also met with board member Dr. Sarah Lochner, a physician. We were impressed with their commitment and the smart design behind their training program.

The program is designed to make sure students succeed. They provide a lot of handholding and counseling to ensure success. The numbers back it up. And while the handholding may sound like a lot of work, it’s needed to ensure success. Life happens and there needs to be a plan to help people navigate the issues they encounter on the path to a better future.

If you can trade $15 an hour into a job paying $55K plus a year it makes a difference. It’s not an answer to all problems, but it’s a step in the right direction. Investments in programs that change lives is always worthwhile.

 

 

 

Passings…

Michael Singer, a legendary sculptor and landscape architect, died last month at his home in Delray Beach.

Mr. Singer was so prominent that he earned a lengthy obituary in the New York Times, a rare honor.

I got to know Mr. Singer a little bit while serving on the City Commission from 2000-07. Michael would send me frequent emails, usually to weigh in on design and historic preservation.

The last time I saw him was a few years ago when we met for lunch with his partner Jason Bregman to discuss a project on Congress Avenue. Michael and Jason shared their work across the country, all of it remarkable. The firm had commissions in NYC, Denver International Airport, and a recycling center in Phoenix. Although we never had a chance to formally work together, I sure wish we had.

From his NYT obit: “Mr. Singer was often characterized as a landscape architect, and an accomplished one at that…But in fact he was an artist, one who saw his medium, and his ambition, in expansive yet humble terms, with work that attempted to remediate humanity’s disruption of the natural world.”

I highly recommend you take a look at the full obituary. Here’s a link: https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/04/arts/design/michael-singer-dead.html

The piece includes photos of Michael’s work. What a talent. May he rest in peace.

Father and Son

Close readers of this blog know I cherish old friends.

One of those friends lost his dad last week. Ron Willemstyn was a great guy and I have a ton of fond memories of spending hours and hours hanging out with his son Ben at his house in the “S” section in Stony Brook, N.Y.

Mr. Willemstyn worked for Grolsch beer, a premium brand known for their “swing top” bottles.

In his garage, he had a large collection of Grolsch and I wouldn’t be honest if I said we didn’t sample from the cache a time or two. The sophisticated taste was lost on our underage taste buds. We also spent our fair share of time trying to flick the “swing top” bottles open with one smooth move.

Ben could do it. I never could.

Those same bottles now sell for between $12 and $60 on ebay. They were cool and unique.

Mr. Willemstyn was much sharper than we were. He knew when we went astray. He had a humorous way of paying Ben back for any indiscretions—beer or otherwise. He would sneak into Ben’s room before daybreak after an especially rough night and wake Ben for some early morning physical chores. We got away with nothing, which is a good lesson. You pay when you play.

Later in life, Mr. Willemstyn lived in Port St. Lucie. He made frequent sojourns to Delray to sample the restaurants.

Mr. W was a great guy. He will be missed.

 

Bob Graham…

We lost Bob Graham last week at the age of 87.

The former Senator and Florida governor was someone I deeply admired.

I had two “encounters” with Senator Graham.

A number of years ago, we were on the same commuter plane from Tallahassee to Fort Lauderdale.

I saw the Senator when I boarded and said hello. Although we had met briefly a few times, I doubt remembered me, but he acted as if we were old friends.

When we got to Fort Lauderdale, we were greeted by police and K-9’s and asked to stand on the tarmac while the dogs sniffed our bags. Nothing was found. I don’t know what it was about, but I have a picture somewhere of one Florida’s greatest governors being given the once over by a large German Shepherd.

The second memory is a more positive one.

A few years back, I had a chance to see Governor Graham and former Miami Herald Publisher Dave Lawrence in conversation on stage at a Leadership Florida event. Seeing these two civic giants share stories, talk about the past, present and future was something I will never forget.

These are men of substance. Last week, we talked about long term players and I got to share my thoughts about Mayor David Schmidt and so I was in that mode of thinking about the difference people with gravitas can make in our world when I heard the news.

Bob Graham was one of those special people who brought intellect, class, dignity and intellectual rigor to the public square. In a world where the lightweights and haters often steal the spotlight, I remain thankful for those who transcend and transform.

 

Speaking of someone who transformed…

On April 28, the public is invited to attend a monument unveiling honoring Alfred “Zack” Straghn at 4 p.m. at the Delray Beach Pavilion on A1A near Atlantic Avenue.

If you want to join a processional to the event, please go to the Libby Wesley Amphitheater on West Atlantic Avenue at 3 p.m. for a walk to the beach.

The walk is symbolic because the late Mr. Straghn was a key figure who opened our beach to Black citizens.

A committee, led by retired fire chief Kerry Koen, raised the funds for the monument. I was privileged to be on the committee. It was a labor of love for all of us, but Kerry was the driving force.

The two men shared a unique and valuable friendship when Kerry led our Fire Department and Zack was running a local funeral home.

Mr. Straghn was a lifelong mentor to countless community leaders, a wonderful man, and a great contributor to our city. It is fitting that his contributions will be memorialized.

When Mr. Straghn passed in 2020, I wrote this. Check it out if you want to learn more about this civic treasure. https://yourdelrayboca.com/?s=Straghn

50 Years Deep

Leadership Delray visits Delray Beach Fire Rescue last week.

Every year, the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce hosts a “Mayor’s Lunch”as part of its Leadership Delray program.

Last week, newly elected Mayor Tom Carney, former mayor Dave Schmidt and I met with an enthusiastic group of emerging leaders who are enrolled in a comprehensive program designed to introduce them to how the community works.

I like these kind of programs. I think they’re important. We have a fine chamber.

Usually there are more mayors at this event, but scheduling conflicts and the passage of time conspired to constrain attendance this year. But the small group made the most of the opportunity to share bits of local history and meet new friends.

I enjoy the event because I enjoy telling and hearing stories from a past era with newer residents who may not know where we came from.

Sharing these stories is important. Especially in an era where our attention spans have waned and there’s no long a common “water cooler” to connect us.

I also enjoy hearing from current and former mayors.

Tom Carney struck a positive tone, praising staff and promising to convene the community to create a new vision.

It’s a good idea and a good way to start a new term. Ideally, mayors and commissioners serve the community. It’s hard to do that if you don’t survey the community by inviting them to share their ideas and opinions about where they live, work and play.

Mayor Schmidt followed with some solid leadership tips for the group. He talked about the balance that needs to be struck between service and ego and warned that if ego takes over problems follow.

He talked about how leaders should give credit to others but take the blame when things go wrong.

He also noted that criticism should be given respectfully with an eye toward improvement. Too often, we live in a “gotcha” world waiting for a slip-up so we can pounce. That’s not a sustainable strategy, nor does it lead to a productive atmosphere.

Listening to David speak I was reminded about what an extraordinary leader he has been in this community. David has lived here since 1971 and for most of those years he has been a quiet, humble but highly effective leader. He’s 50 years deep in this place and that means something.

Over the years, he has run a law practice, served on city boards, helped to write a few comprehensive plans, led our Sister Cities efforts, chaired the Chamber and Morikami Museum boards, and served with distinction on our city commission.

I shared with the group that I got to sit next to Dave for my first three years on the Commission. It was a great apprenticeship for me because I saw a calm leader who listened to everyone, shared his rationale before votes and encouraged his fellow commissioners to run with their passions.

For Commissioner Pat Archer that meant leading our drug task force which wrestled with how to make sure those in recovery got they helped they needed. Commissioner Alberta McCarthy concentrated on the theme of “Community Unity”, which can sound cliched, but Alberta’s leadership ensured that voices not often heard were invited to the table. Jon Levinson had an interest in housing and that passion led to the creation of the Delray Beach Community Land Trust. David let me run with the Downtown Master plan, which I co-chaired alongside Chuck Ridley.

David noted that the commission he led praised city staff, but also tasked them with an awful lot to do. They rose to the occasion and good things happened in Delray Beach. All of it was done with a lot of community involvement and engagement.

Listening to David speak, I was reminded of his grace under pressure when we decided to move Atlantic High School. David graduated from Atlantic so I’m sure it was an emotional decision to close the old school and move it to a more central location with room for career academies. The decision was controversial, but we ended with a brand new school, the Bexley Park neighborhood and two parks. We had also hoped to get a water park and a middle school of the arts out of the deal, but all in all it worked out.

I also remember how David led after 9/11 when it was discovered that several of the terrorists, including the masterminds were living in our city. We grieved as a community, handled national press and gathered at Old School Square and the Community Center to process our emotions. In a charged time, it’s helpful to have a steady leader. But Mayor Schmidt didn’t disappear after he was termed out.

No, our David is a long term player, committed to making this place better. And he has.

It’s people like David that make places like Delray work.

He didn’t do it for the remuneration; there isn’t any. He did it because he loves this community. Still, there is satisfaction. Lots of satisfaction.

And if we are to be honest there’s pain as well. Heartache too.

But you don’t feel pain or heartache unless you love something.

There are seasons of joy and seasons of pain. Stay around long enough and you feel both.

The Mayor’s Lunch is a chance to share stories with the next generation of leaders. Both David and I are graduates of Leadership Delray. Many former elected officials are graduates as well. Some who go through the program stay around and others pass through. And that’s fine.

But strong communities look to create the next cohort of long-term players, special people who give their time, talent and treasure to their hometowns.

We should treasure these people because they are everything. Let me say that again: they are everything.

Examples abound: Mayor Schmidt is one of many. This blog was created to celebrate these people. They are civic heroes, innovators and visionaries.

That’s what moves the needle. Everything else is negotiable. Everything except the people.

Here’s to the long-term players. Those who move mountains.

 

It’s Time To Vote

Election Day is tomorrow, March 19.

Note: Today’s blog is a little bit different. I have a co-author for this one. Her name is Judy Mollica and she’s wonderful. Judy is the president of Friends of Delray and the host of their video series which I highly recommend you check out on Youtube. Just search Friends of Delray and you’ll find several interesting interviews with locals on a variety of topics. Here’s our thoughts on the Delray election, which is tomorrow. We hope you vote.

If you go the home page of Friends of Delray (www.friendsofdelray.us) you will find a few sentences that sum up who we are. Our reason for being.

“Friends of Delray is a diverse group of Delray Beach residents and supporters who have come together in the belief that our community thrives best when we work together to preserve our city’s unique sense of place and identity.”

We believe in community. We believe in collaboration and robust debate. We believe you can have both.

The next sentence on the site frames the challenge of living and working in Delray Beach in 2024.

“Our successes have created a quality of life many of us could not have imagined.  Yet success brings new challenges along with it.”

There’s no doubt that Delray Beach is a very special place. We have a rich history and many assets that other cities envy: a walkable and vibrant downtown, historic neighborhoods that ooze charm, a beautiful beach and an array of organizations and people who get up every day with the goal of making this a better place for all.

But those very assets have a flip side.

How do we manage a downtown that has become a regional attraction and keep its charm intact? How do ‘mom and pop’ businesses pay rents that in some cases exceed $100 a square foot?

How do we strengthen and protect historic neighborhoods? How do we create housing opportunities for families, young professionals, working people and our children who may want to come home after college to build a life?

Of course, there are more issues to address: sea level rise, the successful completion of projects funded by bonds approved last year, education and the future of Old School Square.

Very little, if any, of these subjects have been touched on during this election season. And that’s a shame. The voters deserve better.

Instead, we have seen an endless barrage of negativity about candidates and frankly about our hometown. If you didn’t know better, and just read what is being said via flyers and on social media, you would think that Delray Beach is a horrible, soulless place.

It’s not.

You would think it’s a mean place. It is not.

We talk about being a “village by the sea” and that is a wonderful, warm, and evocative description.

But we tend to talk about the vision of a village by the sea solely through the lens of development and change.

It hurts when our favorite places close or change hands (pun intended Hands was a 100-year staple downtown) and we believe that all development should be scrutinized to ensure that it fits in with our rules and design sensibilities. But we should also acknowledge that Delray has tough rules relative to height and density, especially compared with our neighbors. There is NO group even suggesting that we should raise the height limit downtown or anywhere else for that matter.

We will never be Miami or Fort Lauderdale. We will never be West Palm Beach or even Boynton Beach, which allows much bigger buildings than our city will ever entertain.

Still, everything begins and ends with the five people we elect to the commission. Get it right and good things happen. Get it wrong…. well you can figure it out. Either way, we must improve the tone of the town.

The fact that we are locked in a cycle marked by the politics of personal destruction ought to give us all pause. Because this becomes a spiral to the bottom.

Not only will good people not run for office, but they will also shy away from the process entirely which means serving on boards, volunteering for key non-profits etc. We would argue this is already happening. In fact, this is the very reason Friends of Delray was formed. We wanted to provide fact-based information on important issues. We wanted to bring in subject area experts to discuss issues and hopefully stimulate more conversation.

We are proud of what we have accomplished and know we must do more. But we are also dismayed by the toxic politics in our town.

We have seen PAC’s use racist dog whistles, employ homophobia and other fear mongering tactics to sway voters.

We are not advocating that we turn politics into some sort of genteel afternoon tea; that’s unrealistic.  So, if you are a bully, you should be called out for your behavior. If you have a past you should expect it to surface and if you have voted poorly or made mistakes you should be called to account. Issues are fair game.

Tough debate on the issues is needed, but we seem fixated on personalities, feuds, and tribal alliances. It’s not working.

This kind of politics isn’t village like. This kind of politics doesn’t address our needs and it won’t position us to seize opportunities or solve problems.

Photographs & Memories

The Boca Raon News circa 1981.

My friend Kerry gave me an old Boca News from 1981 recently.

The front page featured a story on Delray Beach Elementary School, lamenting its future because enrollment was beginning to shrink. “Rich Past, Uncertain Future” was the headline (pretty prescient since Delray Elementary became Old School Square).

Forty years ago, the population was heading west along with their school age kids and locals were openly fretting about what would happen to the old school at the corner of Atlantic and Swinton. They didn’t know yet that Frances Bourque was waiting in the wings.

A few pages in, there was a story about Delray’s interim city manager—a gentleman named Robert Fisk.

I had never heard of him, and I came to town only six years after the publication of this paper and threw myself into all things Delray. Mr. Fisk was leaving “the big city” of 34,000 to return to his wife Thelma in Palatka. Palatka was more Mr. Fisk’s speed but Delray’s complexities didn’t seem to phase him. He was described as “unflappable” by Mayor Leon Weekes, a trait that would be useful today.

There was a companion piece on Mr. Fisk’s successor, a City Manager named O. Sam Ackley—now that’s a name I would remember if I had heard it. But alas, I didn’t know him either.

Time passes.

We move on.

Yesterday’s prominent players become tomorrow’s trivia questions.

I did know of the civic leader who was on the front-page, Mr. Eugene Lynn. Mr. Lynn was given the first ever “Boca Raton Award.” He was described by Mayor Bill Konrad as “an absolute gem.” That’s a term you don’t hear much these days.

Mr. Lynn was honored by Donald Ross, the president of the College of Boca Raton.

The college would later be named Lynn University. I spent parts of two days last week on a zoom call with Mr. Lynn’s wife, Christine.  She chairs the board of the fabulous Lynn University. I am honored to serve as a board member.

Seeing the old paper and working with Mrs. Lynn reminds me of the ties that bind us—even with all the changes there are some threads of continuity to hold onto.

Changes…beginnings and endings and all the transitions in between.

I heard last week that several Bru’s Room restaurants are closing.  They’ve had a long run.

We used to take our four kids there on a regular basis—they liked the wings and the sports on the big screen TV’s.

We hadn’t gone in a long time. That’s how it goes sometimes.

Before Bru’s there was Atlantic Station, a pretty spot that opened when downtown was still struggling to gain traction.

Yes, there was a time when Atlantic Avenue and Pineapple Grove were dreams more than hot spots.

On a recent Friday night, I sat outside with my wife and close friend Scott Porten at Papas Tapas on Second Avenue. It was a beautiful cool night. We ate wonderful food and drank wine and San Gria. It felt good to be alive.

Pineapple Grove has become my favorite street. It’s lively without being overwhelming. The street has magnificent restaurants, two nice hotels and some nice shops.

Citywalk– built by my friend Scott— has aged well. The building looks good, the sculpture out front is elegant and my goodness Brule is terrific.

It’s hard to believe that it used to be a coin operated car wash.

I know change can be hard. But it can also be good.

The night before, my childhood friend (a different Scott and his stepson Jason) joined Diane and I for dinner and drinks at Bar 25 and Hawkers.

Bar 25 used to be Mellow Mushroom. I was on the City Commission when Mellow was approved. I was excited to see that restaurant take shape, with its murals and craft beer collection. Hawkers used to be Sonoma. That was a fine place as well.

But I sure like the replacements.

Things change. That’s the law I suppose.

People who were “all that” back in the day are forgotten, but a few are remembered too. For their good deeds, their ventures, their investments and personality traits.

Whenever I go to Pineapple Grove I think of Norm Radin, who dreamt up the concept of a funky district off the main drag,  And I think of my old friend Tom Fleming who devoted a chunk of his life to building that district alongside a dedicated group of volunteers.

I remember a rainy evening in 1999 or 2000 when the archway proclaiming Pineapple Grove was lit up for the first time. We celebrated the lighting with a large crowd that extended to Atlantic Avenue connecting the two streets and then a bunch of us went for drinks nearby.

Bob Currie, the legendary architect was there, so was Janet Onnen from Meisner Electric and a bunch of others.

We toasted Pineapple Grove and the future.

Bob passed a few years back and I haven’t seen Janet for years and years. Janet and Tim owned the property where Bru’s Room would open. It was cool having a former Miami Dolphin great, Bob Brudzinski, take a shot on little old Delray Beach. We weren’t an obvious choice back then. But we were on the move and smart people knew that something special was happening.

Those were some days. When “Delray was a warm hug” to quote my friend Susan.

A warm hug.

Don’t we need one of those.

If you think that’s hokey, if that sentence gave you a cavity because it’s too sweet, I get it. But if you were there you know what I mean. You know what a warm hug feels like.

You know what a village feels like.

It sure beats a pie in the face.

If you are like me, your mailboxes are filled with nasty grams from candidates deriding our city.

To me, they are missing the point. Missing it completely.

Things change.

People come and go.

Some leave their marks—like Mr. Lynn and people like Scott Porten who saw a coin operated car wash and had a vision to create a building for the ages.

And there were others who came and went like those city managers who ran our town for a brief period.

We are all here briefly if we really think about it.

Doesn’t it make sense to enjoy life while we have it? Doesn’t it make sense to sit out on a beautiful Florida night and enjoy tropical breezes— while we can— alongside loved ones?

To me, those evenings feel like a warm hug and more real than the claptrap filling my mailbox.

 

Farewell and thank you

Lt. Gray

Last week, Delray Beach Police Lt. Vinnie Gray retired after 30 years of service to our city.

Vinnie left a mark on Delray Beach. He was dedicated and outspoken. I enjoyed working with him when he was union president, and I was mayor.

We could always count on a frank exchange of ideas. Vinnie appreciated honesty and we were able to work out a lot of issues during his tenure that I believed strengthened our police department.

We solved a lot of things at the old Rotelli’s on the Avenue. We didn’t always agree, but we were always civil, always respectful of each other and we always found a way forward.

Along the way, we became friends. Not the kind that hang out, but the kind that you could count on if the chips were down.

Here’s what the department had to say upon Vinnie’s retirement.

“Throughout his career, Lt. Gray has been an embodiment of commitment, hard work, and integrity. From his early days at Ocean Ridge Police Department to his legacy at Delray Beach Police Department, he has left an indelible mark on our community.

Lt. Gray’s contributions have been invaluable, serving in various roles and demonstrating unwavering dedication to keeping our streets safe. As he embarks on this new chapter of his life, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for his service and wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement. Lt. Gray, may this next journey be filled with joy, relaxation, and endless adventures!”
Bon Voyage Vinnie. Here’s to the next chapter!

 

Celsius enters rarefied air

Last week, Celsius—the beverage company born in Delray and soaring in Boca—hit a major milestone surpassing one billion dollars in annual sales.

Actually, the company racked up $1.3 billion plus in sales, up 102 percent over last year’s numbers.

It’s an astonishing feat. Truly astonishing.

I’ve been blessed to have had a bird’s eye view of the company. I was there almost at the very beginning when the company had a dozen employees on 4th Avenue in Delray.

Local entrepreneur Carl DeSantis got involved because he saw the potential and he recruited me and others to the cause. It was a long, slow and at times painful ride full of twists and turns. I think it’s a book or a case study because Celsius was left for dead a few times—unprofitable, delisted from NASDAQ (where the stock is now a darling), gaining and losing distribution. Through it all my friend Carl never lost faith. Celsius has many, many heroes but none bigger than Carl whose belief and major investment kept the company afloat financially and spiritually.

I had the pleasure of working side by side with Carl for close to 15 years before he passed in August. He taught me and everyone in his orbit the power of belief, the spirit of entrepreneurship and why it was important to brush off the punches and pursue your dreams. Carl dreamt big dreams—and he had the courage to pursue them. Working with him (never for him) has been the highlight of my career and I carry his lessons with me every single day.

Celsius has been blessed with some amazing leadership and talent and they have done miraculous things in a highly competitive space. Today, Celsius is the best selling energy drink on Amazon and the number three energy drink overall. I believe it will be number one, and the growth metrics back me up in that belief.

When the numbers were released last week and the stock soared, I couldn’t help but wonder what my friend Carl would say. Somehow, I know he knows.

I went back to my archives to read some of the emails I got from Carl after he recruited me to work as COO of Celsius in those early days.

I found this gem from 2008, when sales were in the low six figures and there were no major customers—yet.

“I think you signed on to a POTENTIAL MAJOR WINNER..I know I did. I’m not in this for “Cracker Jack” prizes.. Time is NEVER on our side…luv ya, Carl.”

Isn’t that how an entrepreneur thinks?! Swing for the fences, believe with your whole heart and have a sense of urgency.

The dream came true, Carl. Thanks to your unwavering belief.

Savoring What’s Magical

 

The winners of the first annual Catalyst Award: Sergeant Danny Pacheco and Pastor Bill Mitchell. Photo by Amy Pasquantonio (who is terrific).

I had a magical day last week and I just want to share.

Have you ever walked into a room and gotten swept away by the spirit and positivity in the air?

Luckily, I’ve experienced magic a few times in my life and when it arrives it makes you feel fully alive.

I live for those moments, but they can be few and far between. But when you get swept away you want to live in that moment. You don’t want it to end.

So, here’s what happened.

I co-hosted a lunch on behalf of the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation at La Cigale where we got to celebrate our grantees and honor two people who are doing amazing work in our community.

People who devote their lives to giving back are very special. I like businesspeople and admire entrepreneurs—their success creates the type of wealth needed for non-profits to address some of our most pressing needs.

But there’s something extra special about the philanthropic world so when you put those people in a room and mix them together, the molecules change.

Our goal at the foundation is to build community. Our hope is our grantees can work together and leverage each other’s strengths if possible.

We are off to a good start, but as the song says, ‘we’ve only just begun’.

A few years back, a colleague and I were asked by Mr. DeSantis to create a foundation. We reached out to friends who connected us to philanthropic leaders across Florida and the country. These leaders were generous with their time and advice, and we built the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation using best practices that we studied. It was an incredible experience to dig into this world. When we presented our business plan to Mr. D he was all in.

We started modestly with a few quiet grants in December 2022, had a busy 2023 and we are off to the races in 2024. Along the way, we are meeting and supporting philanthropic leaders who are making a difference in our community and beyond. Our areas of interest include health and nutrition (Carl was the founder of Rexall Sundown, one of the leading vitamin brands in history), leadership and entrepreneurship, faith-based charities, and civic innovation. We have a special project supporting early childhood education in South Africa where Carl spent many happy years, and we are all in on tackling Alzheimer’s Disease.

Many of our grantees were able to come to La Cigale to learn about each other’s programs and we saw them interact and partner in real time (thrilling!). It’s natural for these type of leaders to collaborate. It was a room full of optimistic problem solvers with big hearts. I wish I could harness and bottle their enthusiasm for making our world a better place.

We are getting behind “name brands” like the Mayo Clinic and Max Planck Society, but we are also working with promising non-profits such as Delray based Bound For College and The EJS Project as well as established local standouts such as 4 Kids and the Achievement Center for Children and Families. We’ve discovered the amazing people at Boca-based Second Chance Initiative and we are working with FAU on a promising program that will harness services for families who are impacted by Alzheimer’s.

It’s such a joy.

As we were celebrating, I couldn’t help thinking about my friend Carl and what his entrepreneurial talents have made possible. I wish he was here to see it all, we lost him in August, but I believe he knows what’s happening.

When I think of Carl, I can’t help but smile.

My goodness I miss him.

He was really something.

Carl was a man of action, he made things happen.

He was compassionate, generous, and colorful —in a word —he was a catalyst.

To honor that spirit— which led to so much good in the world— we wanted to create an award that recognizes the catalysts in our midst. The people who show us what is possible if we act, never give up and dare to try.

And so, we created the Catalyst Award to honor those in our community who are making good things happen.

This is a no-strings-attached cash award to individuals who exhibit transformational leadership and contribute significantly to their community. You cannot apply for this award; the work you do speaks so loudly that it can’t help but be noticed.

The catalyst award celebrates individuals who inspire and motivate others to excel.

The award recognizes those that go above and beyond to contribute to their community’s well-being.

Just as a catalyst triggers chemical reactions, the recipients of this award spark positive change wherever they practice. They are known for their ability to identify areas in need of improvement, and they take proactive steps to bring about transformational change.

They are impact players; just like Carl was.  And we are blessed to have them working in our communities.

The first ever winners honored last week are Sergeant Danny Pacheco Jr. of the Delray Beach Police Department and Pastor Bill Mitchell of Boca Community Church.

Danny founded “Delray Kicks”, a soccer program that works with children, most of them immigrants who might otherwise run from the police. Instead, Danny, Officer Mark Lucas and others  have created a program that has built relationships, taught citizenship and generally changed the lives of the kids they serve. One mom of a player called Danny an “angel.” We agree.

Danny is a special kind of leader.

He is an immigrant from Peru and he has a special feel for the immigrant experience and what these children experience.

When he said he wanted to become a police officer, people scoffed at him. Danny not only became an officer, but he also became a standout leader and community servant. Hearing him tell his story was powerful and emotional. The value this catalyst creates is incalculable. We can’t say Danny and Delray Kicks are completely unsung, his program made the national news a few years ago but more people need to know, and more people need to take pride in the value he and others in our police department bring to our city.

I shared that sentiment with our Police Chief Russ Mager who was at the luncheon. Chief Mager started his career when Delray was a far more dangerous place…the police department’s work made our community safe for success to take root. That work continues with people like Danny.

Our second Catalyst winner is the amazing Pastor Bill Mitchell, whose Boca Lead program has made a huge difference in Boca Raton and has now scaled to other cities in Florida and the Midwest.

Every month, a sold-out house fills Boca Community Church where attendees get a lesson in life and in business and community. You see corporate chieftains and small business owners, educators, non-profit leaders, elected officials and others gather to listen to Pastor Bill’s lessons. As a longtime “business guy” before entering the ministry, he can relate to anyone. If you haven’t experienced Boca Lead, I urge you to do so. You will leave inspired with tools to help your business, organization, and family. Bill Mitchell is a Catalyst and a man I deeply admire. He’s inspirational and has lived the lessons he imparts.

Leaving La Cigale last week, I felt hope for our world. I won’t let that go. I hope you don’t either.

If you want to feel magic get involved in a non-profit, attend a Boca Lead event, mentor a child, check out local cultural offerings, coach a team, rescue a pet—and celebrate those who work quietly, often with few resources, to make our world a better place.

 

 

Love & Light

 

Today would have been Martin Luther King’s 95th birthday.

Each year on MLK Day, I make it a point to listen to a speech, read something he wrote or take a stroll through his famous quotes. MLK has been a hero of mine, even though I was not quite 4 when he was assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39.

Each year, I think of Dr. King in the context of ‘the dream’ and whether America or my own community is living up to the ideals he outlined during his famous speech.

I think it’s obvious that we aren’t there yet. The promise of the United States remains a work in progress.

And that’s OK, because as Americans we are responsible for working toward a more perfect union and since perfection may be unattainable our jobs are never done. But we are called to never give up, to never stop striving to live up to America’s  ideals.

Those ideals—all men (and women) are created equal, the pursuit of happiness, freedom, Democracy—have inspired people all over the world. Those ideals are to be cherished and protected.

This year, on my hero’s birthday, I fear for America’s future and for MLK’s dream. I don’t think I am alone.

And so, in reading some of Dr. King’s most famous quotes in the wee hours of this morning I was struck by six gems which meet the moment.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.”

“A lie cannot live.”

Yes, that’s only five. But if you stay to the end, I will share the 6th.

When you read MLK two words rise above the others. They are the themes of his life, and they are evergreen. Love and light–those words will never be archaic or wrong.

And yet we are lacking both in our world right now.

We cannot remain silent. We are in the same boat now.

In this new year, I will be looking for love and light. I will strive to help those who are struggling to build a better world.

Last week, my colleague and I visited Boca Helping Hands, a wonderful charity that brings so much light to our community. We heard about programs designed to give people the skills they need to build better lives. It filled our hearts with light and hope.

As you enter the facility, there’s a saying carved into the front desk: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Indeed.

As we moved through the facility and saw the bustle of volunteers hard at work, a long line of cars lined up to receive a bag of food and a hot meal. They are the working poor, or as the government characterizes them ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed).

They are our neighbors—our brothers and sisters.

Yes, in our “wealthy” community there remains great need.

The recipients of the food were getting sustenance and a dose of love. Another program provides children with nutrition to get through the weekend. Yes, children go hungry in our community. These are our children.

When the kids are given food to take home, they are receiving love and light provided by an army of volunteers and philanthropists who shine brightly and love greatly.

Love and light. That’s the beauty of MLK. A bullet may have ended his life but his work endures, which is why I saved the sixth quote for last.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

It’s just that simple.

A Call To Heal

A rendering of the planned Wallach Center at FAU.

We stumbled on an interesting sign during a recent visit to FAU’s Theatre Lab.

The sign announced the future site of “The Kurt and Marilyn Wallach Holocaust and Jewish Studies Building.”

I was intrigued, so I did a little research and learned that the Wallach’s pledged $20 million (with $10 million going to the building) to create an education center dedicated Holocaust Studies, Jewish Studies, human rights, and leadership training.

When looking into the program words like dignity, compassion, human rights, and understanding were peppered throughout the literature.

“This is truly a transformative gift that values the strength of education in combating anti-Semitism as well as hatred and intolerance of any kind,” said Dr. Michael Horswell, Dean of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters. “This building will become a living testament and example for thousands of students and community members who pass through its doors.”

Let’s hope so.

As we begin a new year the usual promise of a fresh start is shadowed by an ominous feeling.

Our nation is divided.

Our world is dangerous.

There are conflicts that have the potential to spin out of control. It’s a scary and uncertain time.

When we are faced with these challenges, it seems natural—maybe even logical—to tune them out or try to ignore them. But we can’t.

We just can’t.

We must confront hatred and intolerance. We must step up and defend Democracy, decency, and human rights. Somehow, someway, we must dial down the hate. We have the tools to do so. We just need the will.

There are inspirations and guides everywhere if we open our eyes. People who lead with love and compassion. Organizations that are trying mightily to overcome those who seek to foment hate and divide us.

We must rise above.

Over the holidays, we watched the Kennedy Center Honors which included the great Billy Crystal.

Mr. Crystal was lauded for his comedic chops, his many hit movies and for the longevity of his career. It was great to see scenes from “When Harry Met Sally” (which is the perfect romantic comedy) and “City Slickers” which was a boon to dude ranches everywhere.

But what struck me most was Whoopi Goldberg’s tribute to her friend. She invoked a concept called “tikkun olam”, which is a Hebrew phrase that calls on us to heal and repair the world.

She said Billy Crystal was all about tikkun olam, doing right by people, healing the world in his own way through humor.

My grandparents and parents did not use that term when I was a child. But they encouraged my sister and I to be “mensches.”

A mensch is someone who tries to do the right thing—always.

In a world in need of repair, we need mensches more than ever. I’m hoping the Wallach Center mints mensches.

Here at home, we are heading to yet another election season where voters will be hard pressed to choose amidst the nasty rhetoric and flat out lies about candidates. Lost in the cacophony of mail, social media wars and robocalls are serious discussions about important issues. We don’t debate ideas; we don’t talk about challenges, and we don’t seem to be discussing opportunities either.

What a shame.

Candidates vow to “fight development”, “cut taxes and spending” and find “innovative solutions to traffic.” But we don’t see the details, do we? We never see the details.

You’re going to fight development? Ok, what are you going to do to provide housing? Are workers supposed to magically appear to serve you in restaurants, dress your wounds in the hospital and teach your kids and then just vanish? Don’t they need places to live?

You say you are going to cut taxes and spending? Wonderful! What are you going to cut? Roughly half the budget goes to police and fire, do you want to invest in those critical departments or do you want to lose our best to nearby agencies who are always hiring and always looking for great cops and firefighter/paramedics.

Then there’s traffic.

What are your solutions? More lanes? That doesn’t work.

You’re going to vote to stop that new apartment complex? Great, so our workforce gets to clog our roads driving from elsewhere when they could be living in town close to their jobs.

Everyone one of the challenges I mentioned are real and every one of them can be made better with detailed analysis, strategic decision making and the political will to involve the community and then stick to your guns when the critics fire up their laptops and call you a turd on Facebook. And you can count on that happening.

I know I’ve been rambling a little here…just taking my mind out for a spin. Thanks for bearing with me.

I’ll conclude with something else I saw over the recent break. I opened the sewer they now call “X” and was greeted by some hate-filled hack barking about Kwanzaa. Apparently, this holiday didn’t cut it for this charmer. It wasn’t “real”, it was “offensive” and “fake.”

I feel sorry for this person. I do. She was so unhappy with Kwanzaa that she had to share her venom with the twitterverse.

Like magic, a longtime resident, began posting about Kwanzaa on Facebook. Each day, he explained the principles of Kwanzaa. I had seen them before, but I had forgotten what I had learned. The posts allowed me to revisit the principles and because they were served in daily doses, I was able to think about them and process their meaning.

My favorite was UJIMA (oo – GEE-mah): Collective Work & Responsibility. Here’s how it was explained.

“Collective Work and Responsibility reminds us of our obligation to the past, present, and future, and how that will affect the role we play in the community, society, and world,” he wrote.

“As residents of “The Set.. (a historic neighborhood in Delray) we must make our neighbors’ issues our collective responsibility. By doing this, we can solve our struggles together. Each one, teach one.

To transform into the Beloved Community envisioned by our ancestors, each resident must buy into the principle of “Ujima”. We must care for – our public spaces, children, elders, history, and institutions. The health and welfare of The Set is the responsibility of all residents.

Our personal sense of Beloved Community is the key to successfully transforming our neighborhood. Each resident must love and care for The Set and pass the legacy on to our children. The Set must be recognized as unique and something to be protected.”

Well said.

I like the notion of collective responsibility. I agree we have an obligation to the past, present and future. We are called to heal the world. Let’s get after it.