Try A Little Tenderness…

Tony the heroic lawn guy.

Otis Redding was right.

“It’s all so easy

All you got to do is try

Try a little tenderness.”

Actually, Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connelly and Harry M. Woods wrote the lyrics to that classic song, but Otis…well Otis…he brought the emotion.

So when you listen to that song you just feel it in your soul.

“When you get weary, try a little tenderness.”

The words empathy and tenderness have been rattling around in my head these days.

Naïve and romantic old me keeps thinking that if we deployed those words, sent them out into the world to do their magic, good things might happen.

Last week, I read a story about a lawn guy named Tony who was walking to work on Dunes Road in unincorporated Palm Beach County when he saw a car veer out of control. The driver was having a seizure and ended up on the front lawn of what turned out to be a rather nasty couple.

Tony went to render help; he grabbed the fender as the car rolled forward. Unfortunately, the car crushed his bag lunch, but he tried mightily to get the seizure victim out of the vehicle. He yelled for help as the man convulsed violently inside the car.

The owner of the home where the car stopped came outside– not to help– but to yell: “Get off our lawn! Get that man out of here! Have him die somewhere else!”

Oy….

Tony happened to recognize the seizure victim and knew where he lived, a few doors down. He ran to the man’s home, and they were able to summon help.

The Sheriff’s Office was happy to report that they received a call from the seizure victim a few days later. He called officers to find out Tony’s phone number, “I want to talk to Tony. He saved my life.”

The grateful man and his wife found Tony and gave him a big hug to thank him for his actions.

The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office honored Tony with accolades and a photo on social media. The posting prompting an outpouring of love for Tony and a heaping of shame for the less than charming neighbors who were more concerned for their lawn than their neighbor’s life.

They should try a little tenderness.

And frankly, some of the vitriolic social media commenters may also want to consider a dollop of restraint.

Shame can be a teacher, but hatred and threats…well that just leads to more hatred and more threats.

We can do better.

About 10 years ago, we started a charity called “Dare to Be Great.”
The non-profit picked 10-12 Delray kids a year and we helped them pay for college. We also mentored the students and did what we could to connect them to opportunities.

We had one young man, who came to the United States from Haiti with his father. He told us what it was like to say goodbye to his mother (who he never saw again) and come to a country where he did not speak the language. He told us how a church gave him clothes and how he went to school every day passing gang members who tried to either recruit him or hurt him. He learned the language, excelled academically and when he went to Atlantic High School, he became an International Baccalaureate student and a leader in the school’s Criminal Justice Career Academy. His story blew us away.

He told us that his dream was to become a Delray police officer and eventually an FBI agent.

Long story short, we gave him a scholarship, he went to the University of Florida and excelled. With the help of then Delray Beach Police Captain Michael Coleman we were able to arrange an internship with the Gainesville Police Department.

But when the young man graduated, citizenship issues prevented him from getting a job in Delray. That was a real loss because this exceptional young man spoke Creole, which would have made him a great asset to our department. Eventually, he was able to sort things out and he ended up taking a job with the San Diego Police Department. He would visit with us when he came home to Delray.

Last week, he let us know that he realized his dream of becoming an FBI agent. He also let us know that he was grateful for the support—for the kindness extended to him by this community.

The next day, I saw a video of a speech that Vice President Kamala Harris gave to a group of Dreamers— “undocumented” kids who came to this country with their parents and went to college or the military. Their legal status remains in limbo year after year because our dysfunctional, divisive and polarizing politics doesn’t allow us to compromise or fix things.

How sad is that?

Come on folks, figure it out. That’s what we elect you to do.

And before you write to tell me that you don’t like the Veep, that’s great, but remember “try a little tenderness.”

Anyway, the Vice President told the kids that they were home.

This is their home. We care for you.

America, the beautiful. The land of opportunity.

Community is what provides that opportunity. Tony the lawn guy saved a life because he cared. A young man who came here with nothing is dedicating his life to law enforcement in a country he has come to love and cherish. He did the work but was helped along the way by teachers, mentors and a few philanthropists who cared.

Like Otis sang all those years ago…we do get weary.

I think we’re weary.

Maybe we ought to try a little tenderness.

This other stuff? Well it just isn’t working.

 

 

More Than Margaritaville

 

Miami and South Florida have been the talk of the tech world in recent months.

While high taxes and a panoply of problems plague tech hubs such as San Francisco, New York and Boston; low tax, great weather South Florida seems to be on every tech titan’s radar.

It’s a great story driven by the media, economic development professionals and Miami’s tech friendly Mayor Francis X. Suarez who is using Twitter to court Silicon Valley CEOS.

Star venture capitalists, billionaire financiers  and tech CEOS are coming to the Magic City and the Sunshine State and that’s a good thing. We need to diversify beyond tourism, paving the Ag Reserve and serving as a retirement haven.

But not everyone is on the Miami/South Florida bandwagon and there are some headwinds to overcome as well.

One of the doubters is influential blogger Tyler Cowen.

Cowen is an economist.

He is also a professor at George Mason University, where he holds the Holbert L. Harris chair in the economics department. So he’s got credibility.

But a large part of his influence stems from his blog “Marginal Revolution” which is eagerly followed by a lot of deep thinkers in the business and tech worlds.

Here’s what Professor Cowen had to say recently on his blog about Florida.

“In Miami and Miami Beach I had a wonderful time. But I don’t see the area as a new and budding tech center. Many tech entrepreneurs moved there during earlier phases of the pandemic, but many have since left. Perhaps the region is more of a place to spend tech money than to earn tech money.

 

The positives for southern Florida are clear: It is a major crossroads with significant connections to Latin America and the Caribbean, it is a fun place to live, Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez is pro-tech, and there is no state income tax.

 

Yet that is not enough. Miami does not have a top-tier university, and the city does not have much of what I would call “nerd culture.” The city’s first language is arguably Spanish, but the tech world is mostly English, and its current ties to Asia are more important than possible future connections to Latin America.

 

Renowned venture capitalist Keith Rabois is in Miami and is a staunch advocate for the city. It would not be surprising if Miami developed a few significant tech companies due to his influence. Miami could also become more of a center for crypto wealth. If you’ve earned a billion dollars through Bitcoin, and live part of the year in Puerto Rico to avoid capital gains taxes, is there anywhere better to hang out and spend your wealth than Miami?

 

All that said, I do not see Miami as a serious contender to be a major tech center.”

Ouch!

First, the University of Miami may take exception to not being considered  a “top-tier” institution. A few other local universities may also be chafed as well. Yes Dr. Cowen is right—we don’t have Stanford but we do have several institutions that are rapidly gaining steam and prestige. FAU has made strides, Lynn University is renowned for being innovative, Nova Southeastern is doing some cool things and so is FIU.

We are getting there—fast.

We have some terrific—although in the case of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County underfunded—economic development organizations that consistently punch above their weight and some local Eco Dev rock stars such as Boca’s Jessica Del Vecchio. I’m also pleased that Delray finally hired an economic development director—it’s needed and long overdue. Let’s hope the office gets some adequate resources and freedom to innovate.

In addition, Florida has some great CRA’s—if local and state politicians would give them some room to do their thing— which is build great places that attract investment.

But there are headwinds too.

At a recent meeting of economic stakeholders in Palm Beach County, there was good news and challenging news as well.

Here’s a summary of a recent Economic Forum call:

According to Kelly Smallridge, President and CEO of the Business Development Board of PBC:

  • A Task Force at the BDB asks the question “Are We Ready” with respect to infrastructure – not only physical infrastructure, but also support systems for employees.
  • The BDB is finding that there are no homes available for mid-level managers or support staff.
  • There are no openings in private schools.
  • The Task Force will make a presentation to the County Commissioners in the near future to outline the opportunities and the challenges facing the county.

 

Development Trends:

  • Many of the office buildings in West Palm Beach are fully leased. (Can this be true? If so, bravo considering Covid etc.)
  • Developers are snapping up infill property in the downtown core.
  • Zoning changes are needed to support quality infill development.
  • There are difficulties in obtaining building permits— especially in the county. There are quite a number of open positions in this department. Palm Beach Gardens and Boca seem to have zoning down “perfectly” according to the participants on the forum.

 

From our friends at the Housing Leadership Council:

 

  • There is a need to change the zoning for the old one story shopping centers on Congress Avenue and Military Trail and re-zone for multi-story housing.
  • The Council is trying to get a study done on this concept.
  • They are also working on a $200 million Housing Bond. The business community needs to come out in favor of this.

 

So as you can see there are opportunities and challenges.

As for me, for what it’s worth, I’m bullish.

A friend of mine is wired into Silicon Valley’s tech scene and he says the valley’s supremacy is here to stay. I agree.

But he also says that world class venture capitalists are finding their way to South Florida. That’s a great sign for the future.

As for talent– remote work and technology will enable Florida based companies to attract engineers from the region and all over the world. Many of the most gifted founders will end up living here at least for part of the year. My guess is that Boca and Delray will snag their fair share of the next generation’s stars if they put out a welcome mat.

The lifestyle is too good, the value proposition too compelling.

Are we ready?
We need to be because the switched on cities in the region will find the next decade to be a golden age. The places who can solve the problems of housing and schools will win. The places that don’t will be left in the dust.

 

 

 

Imagining A New World And The Good Stuff We Leave Behind

Remote work has the potential to upend our work lives forever.

Have you noticed how fast the world moves these days?

Big changes can creep up on you, at first you may hardly notice than all it once the ground shifts and an era is gone.

When I was a kid growing up in 1970s Long Island, malls were all the rage. It’s where we hung out week after week. There was a food court, a Herman’s Sporting Goods Store, a Walden Books, a movie theater and a Spencer’s Gifts. That’s pretty much all we needed unless there was an event that required some new duds—then we moseyed over to Chess King where the polyester flowed like Niagara Falls.

The mall, the neighborhood and school were our world.

My friends all lived within a few miles of each other. I really didn’t know too many people who weren’t from the Tri-State area. Most of our parents were born, raised and lived within the confines of the Island, Westchester, New Jersey and the five boroughs. When a kid from Pennsylvania moved into the neighborhood he seemed exotic. When a family from Oregon moved down the block we lined up to take a look—the Pacific Northwest might as well have been Timbuktu.

 

Today, that’s very different.

Thanks to tech and apps like Tik Tok, our children have friends all over the country and the world. “Friend” of course is a relative term. While my friendships were forged because of proximity and relied on me seeing my buddies every day at school, today young people may never be in the same room with their best friends. They chat, text and play video games with people from all over the world.

It happened slowly and then all it once.

As we begin to see the world post-Covid (we are still very much immersed in the virus and need to be vigilant) what might the world have in store for us?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the fate of retail and office—two big players in our physical world.

Changes in consumer behavior that seemed relatively marginal and slow-moving undermined the value of retail real estate very quickly in the U.S., especially the once beloved shopping mall. Experts believe  the same potential for disruption exists in the office sector, with changes in human behavior being massively accelerated by Covid-19.

I recently read an interview on an influential real estate blog that painted an interesting picture. Here’s what one British expert had to say.

“Offices are not dead; they are very much alive,” RealCorp Capital founder Chris Kanwei said. “But a word of caution I would sound: For most of us, we tend to look at how offices will work in the future from the perspective of our own orientation. An example, if you take UK shopping centers and look back a few years to 2006, shopping centers and retail parks were a huge deal, they were springing up left, right and center. But just on the sidelines there was Amazon. And no one figured out in 2006 where Amazon would be today, and where shopping centers would be. It is just that sort of parallel you have to look at.”

 

Kanwei said part of the inability of retail real estate to see change coming is because a group of people with very similar backgrounds and experience could not envision a future that might be radically different from their own past.

 

“There were arguments put up by mostly middle-aged people at the time: You will always love the shopping center experience, you will always want to go there with your family or your friends on the weekend. And it was a great argument, but it was being made by people to other people who saw life the same way, who had the same future aspirations.”

 

There is the potential for the same thing to happen in the office sector: an expectation that the behavior of future generations will essentially be the same as what has gone before. While the difference might not be as extreme as changes to shopping patterns, they have the possibility nonetheless to drastically alter real estate usage and value.

 

“We have a generation coming up now who are not seeing life the same way,” Kanwei said. “They are not always as interested in going out and playing with their friends. They making friends online in South America, in Russia, in Africa, playing chess games online and interacting. That is the trend: We see more and more people not wanting to engage with other humans directly. Humans collaborating will never be taken away. But we have to understand that there is a generation coming through that won’t just engage in the same way we did. This same generation will be moving in to the offices of the future, and will look to engage differently, and could see the office structure of today as archaic — why would you want to bring all of these people in to the office? And that might well change the outlook people have on offices, in the same way it has in retail. I’m not calling an apocalypse for the office. But if you are investing for the long term, you have to bear in mind, your office investment may have been worth £200M, but down the line it may be worth £5M, as we have seen with shopping centers.”

Yikes.

Still, that scenario is entirely possible.

My 28-year-old son works for a large publicly traded corporation with offices in Palm Beach County. He got the job during Covid, which means he has never worked in the home office. Instead, he’s working out of his living room and thinking of finding bigger digs because his remote working arrangement may prove permanent. He also realizes that he can live anywhere and dial into the office.

He doesn’t seem bothered at all by the situation. As his boomer dad, I can see his point but wonder if he will miss out on the camaraderie, friendship and esprit de corps of working side by side with co-workers instead of screen by screen.

I happen to like the office.

I’ve worked in newsrooms (which are the best)—chock full of characters working on interesting stories and more “corporate” environments where I was able to make some lasting friendships.

As someone who values collaboration and who always has lots of questions for my colleagues the idea of working remotely forever doesn’t appeal to me.

I like the collision of ideas, the rhythm of the day, the ‘hey what are we doing for lunch’ routine that makes the day fly by.

As Seth Godin says: “The optimism and possibility that come from training and learning in groups is a miracle. It means that, with a little effort, we can level up, become more productive and enjoy the work more tomorrow than we did yesterday.”

So as we gradually emerge from our Covid cocoons, I hope we slow down and make some conscious decisions. Do we really want to give up the office?

After all, while millions enjoy the convenience of Amazon and a “one-click” society, didn’t we lose something by putting all those neighborhood retailers out of business?
Trade-offs.

Convenience versus camaraderie. Price versus personal service. Digital versus experience.

There’s no holding back the future—it will come. That’s the law. But we can and should choose wisely.

Here’s hoping we do.

A Year Later…..

Poignant memorials to those we lost to Covid-19 sprung up all over the nation.

Last week, we marked the one year anniversary of Covid-19.

It’s impossible to quantify what’s happened to our world since last March when the first cases of coronavirus emerged. So much has changed.

So much loss.

So much pain.

We watched the various tributes and news reports recounting the last year’s toll in stunned silence. We have lost more than 534,000 Americans. It’s just staggering.

Covid has touched all of us in so many ways.

We’ve experienced fear, grief, anxiety and frustration.

Then there’s the economic devastation.

The closed and damaged businesses, the lost jobs, the social loneliness and isolation. The damage to our children’s education’s and psyches.

It’s been overwhelming and enveloping.

And terribly, terribly sad.

We miss our old lives: friends, family, travel, shows, dining out, being with other people.

Like any cataclysmic event, the pandemic has focused our hearts and minds.

A year later we revere health care professionals, marvel at science and have gained deep respect for essential workers. We’re also grateful for the technology that has allowed us to stay somewhat connected.

Our world has changed, I believe forever.

Some of it’s good; I’m so glad to see nurses and teachers getting the props they deserve.

Public health is in the spotlight and hopefully will get the investment it so sorely needs.

I’m hoping that when we get back to normal we will have a deep appreciation for the little things, which by the way, are really the big things.

The year anniversary of the start of the pandemic marks seven months since I left the hospital after my bout with the virus.

And I can share that my life is not the same.

Everything feels more precious.

Every little thing.

And fragile too.

I used to think in years and decades, now I think in terms of moments. I’m not sure I’m saying that quite right but let’s just say that the simplest things are filling me up these days.

A lazy afternoon sitting outside with friends and reminiscing, a text from a childhood friend linking me to a great article, a short weekend away to see our son play hockey and meet a new girlfriend, time with family, listening to music and reading is suddenly more appealing to me than any exotic experience I can imagine.

And I don’t think I’m alone.

I believe COVID has focused many of us on what’s important and while we miss “normal” we also realize that normal was very hectic and maybe not as appealing as we thought it was.

But oh my has this damn virus extracted a price.

Having experienced Covid’s insidious power, I find myself very moved by the stories I read, see and hear.

The heroism of health care workers, the loss of special people —each soul indispensable.

The pain of long haulers, those still experiencing symptoms months after their infections. I am one of those people. It hasn’t been fun.

But we’re alive. So many aren’t. We can enjoy those special moments. And for that and a million other reasons I’m grateful.

Please stay safe. We have lots more to do and a better world to create.

 

One year stats:

29.2 million cases in the United States

534k deaths.

32,254 deaths in Florida

126k cases in Palm Beach County

2,546 deaths in Palm Beach County

120mm cases worldwide

2.65 million deaths worldwide

MLK: Creating The Beloved Community

MLK

 

I find this an especially poignant and an especially important Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

My guess is that I am not alone.

MLK has been a lifelong hero of mine—if you are a leadership junkie like I am, you can’t help but be fascinated by Dr. King’s immense leadership skills.

If you’ve ever spoken publicly, you marvel at MLK’s off the charts oratorical skills and if you’ve been involved in any kind of community work you stand in awe of his vision, relevance and achievements.

We throw around the word giant too easily in this strange age we live in—but if you are looking for a true example of an icon, look no further than Dr. King.

I was honored to be asked to share some thoughts on one of my heroes with young student/leaders from our community last week on a streaming TV show called “Community Conversations.” The program is produced by the Boca Raton Tribune and streams on Facebook and Youtube. Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYtp-hjvURY

 

It is a unique privilege to talk to young people these days, particularly because of the moment we are in.

America feels fragile today, our Democracy vulnerable. I just cannot shake the searing images of our Capitol being defiled by insurrectionists.

So the show was an opportunity to connect to tomorrow’s leaders–the people who will work toward a more perfect union if we are able to keep our Democracy.

Because it is only in a Democracy that we can have an advancement of civil rights. It is only in a Democracy that we can address poverty, inequality, division and racism—the life work of Dr. King.

Before I came on the program, the student hosts heard from my friend Bill Nix, a Delray resident and student of history. Mr. Nix shared a series of slides and gave a wonderful talk on MLK’s life—how he met Coretta Scott who would become his wife and how there was a divine plan for Dr. King to lead the civil rights movement.

It was a beautiful oral history given by a man who went to the same school as Dr. King—Morehouse College—and has clearly studied his history.

Watching his talk, I was reminded how important it is to share history and the stories that shape our world with the next generation. History not only repeats itself, it informs and guides us. Bill Nix is a great guide.

When it was my turn to appear on the show, the hosts —Darrel Creary and Dina Bazou (remember those names they are amazing) –asked me about why Dr. King was either loved or hated during his era, whether he was more important today or during his lifetime and about where we might go from here.

The show is wonderful and I’d like to give a shout out to another friend C. Ron Allen and his Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network for his role in helping to produce the show. Mr. C. Ron empowers our young people and I am endlessly impressed with the quality of our youth in this community.

I thought it was important to tell the students listening on the show that they were doing a good job and that they are well equipped to lead us into a better future.

We would be wise to follow the principles employed by MLK.

Dr. King talked about the  “Urgency of Creating the Beloved Community.”

And in 2021, there is no better nor more important mission.

The Beloved Community, as described by Dr. King, is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it.

Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.

In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.

As I watched the violence engulf our Capitol and I see troops deployed in Washington as we get ready to inaugurate a new president and vice president it is plain that we are far from achieving Dr. King’s vision of beloved community.

Right here at home, I see division in our city. People feel estranged from their neighbors, not heard by their leaders and put on a shelf by the powers that be. It is unsustainable and should not be ignored.

Dr. King gives us all a roadmap for effective leadership.

Non-violence is a way of life for courageous people.

We should seek to win friendship and understanding. Division does not work.

Love and empathy does work.

The end result is reconciliation. That reconciliation redeems us all.

Dr. King’s enduring lesson is to choose love instead of hate.

In 2021, we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

Going To Be A Long Walk Home

Our beach is a prized asset. Protecting it must be based on science not politics.

“ Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

There’s a lot happening in Delray Beach these days.

Water quality issues, controversy over sea grapes, budget shortfalls, lawsuits and an ill timed raise for city commissioners.
As mom used to say: Oy!
When you sit alone in a hospital room for six weeks fighting Covid, you have a lot of time to think. You wrestle with issues large and small as the hours and days tick away.
Weighed against issues such as life and death, the dysfunction at Delray City Hall doesn’t mean a whole lot. This too shall pass as they say, although, to be honest, the nonsense has lasted a very long time and has done untold damage to our beloved city.
So while “sea grape gate” and “raise gate” doesn’t rise to the level of dealing with a pandemic, an economic crisis or racial strife, if you love your town —as I do —the state of affairs should alarm you.
We have strayed far, far away from the days when Florida Trend magazine put Delray on its cover with the headline: Florida’s Best Run Town.
There was a time when Delray Beach was not only well run but it was well led too.
We were aspirational and visionary. There was a sense of possibility, we knew if we put our minds to it, we could do anything.
You could feel the civic pride and the confidence that goes with it. It was palpable and that confidence was a key to our success.
Pick your issue and there was a plan and more important action being taken to make things better.
Crime problems fueled by drug sales were met by groundbreaking efforts in community policing. Community leaders, foundation executives and academics came from far and wide to study Delray’s police department and its efforts to connect to the community.
When city leaders decided to tackle educational issues they adopted an ambitious plan that called for new facilities, magnet programs, summer enrichment activities and partnerships to try and raise the quality of education in our community.
And guess what? It got done.
S.D. Spady Elementary was rebuilt and added an award winning Montessori magnet, Village Academy was built, a brand new high school with career academies was also built and partnerships with stellar non-profits such as the Achievement Center for Children and Families were created to launch initiatives to help the most vulnerable children in our community.
The CRA, ridiculously maligned by people who either don’t know or should know better, revitalized a once moribund downtown and also invested tens of millions of dollars into distressed neighborhoods.
And the list goes on.
Old School Square, Pineapple Grove, the Arts Garage, signature events, world class tennis, successful beach renourishment efforts, innovative housing initiatives such as the Community Land Trust and more.
Now this is not to say that everything was perfect.
Our schools still have a long way to go, our neighborhoods still need investment, reclaimed water was a great idea but there’s obvious managerial and operational issues that need to be addressed  and like the rest of America we struggle and always have struggled with inequality and racial division.

But the difference I see is that back in the day there was a recognition of our deficiencies and a resolve to get after it.
There was a hunger to solve problems, involve the community and innovate. There was a willingness to experiment and yes a willingness to fail.
Delray’s culture was one of “civic entrepreneurship” which is the opposite of a “gotcha” culture in which fear reigns and everyone is afraid to proffer an idea lest they get ripped by trolls on social media or drummed out of town by toxic politics.

So while I spent 98 percent of my recent Covid experience trying to stay alive and pondering how much I loved my family and friends I spent two percent of my time thinking about the town where I live.
Why?
Because I love my city.
I love it enough to criticize it because I want to see it do better.
I cringe when I see story after story of turnover and dysfunction. Others do too. I hear from many of you who can’t believe what they are seeing.
They don’t relish or take joy in the nonsense. They worry because they too love their town.
They want to see an effective and efficient city government that uses their tax dollars wisely.
They want to see a thriving local economy and opportunities created for those who live here or may want to live here.
They want a safe town and to see their elected officials work collaboratively.
It’s OK to debate passionately but once the vote is called they want to see their leaders move on and not hold grudges. Washington take note. People can’t stand Congress because the Dems and Republicans can’t work together.
Therefore, problems never get solved and opportunities are hard to seize.
Same thing right here in little old Delray.
So yes, I spent some time thinking about Delray. When you live in a place, own a home, have a business, raised a family here and dedicated years of your life to a town  you can’t help but care. A lot.
It’s going to be a long walk home as the song says. Because we’ve strayed far from the ideals that created a wonderful little city.

We have to learn to work together again.
We have to stop labeling, dividing and sowing fear.
We have to want to do better and to be better.
Not every elected official is on the take. Not every developer is here to pillage the village. Not every business is a special interest with only profits in mind.
There’s talent at city hall, but I’m not sure there’s a culture here that encourages staff to be creative or to even do their jobs effectively. For goodness sakes, let them loose to create value.

Last week, I saw the Beach Property Owners unfairly maligned for wanting to protect the dunes at the beach.
Friends, the  Beach Property Owners Association has been a force for good in this town for a long, long time.
If they differ with others on the height of sea grapes we ought to listen and ask why instead of assuming that they selfishly want a better view and that they are willing to risk the beach to get it.
I know the leaders of that association. They love Delray, they are not selfish.
The ‘Delray way’ as we once called it,  would be to listen, seek understanding and find a way to protect our dune system based on a full understanding of the science.

Yes, it’s going to be a long walk home.
But we need to take the first steps toward restoring civility, vision, collaboration and stability.
The first rule when you are in a hole is to stop digging.
Our town deserves better.
And all of us have a role to play and a stake in the outcome. We have to speak out. We have to get involved.
As John Lewis wrote in his posthumously-published essay, “When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”
Amen.
The same goes for cities.

A Change Is Going to Come

 

George Floyd’s murder will spark change.

I had (a socially distant) lunch last week with a small group of special men.

We met to discuss the day’s events particularly the murder of George Floyd and America’s continuing struggle with racism.
We talked about policing reform, our fears for our children and our hopes that this time things will be different. Oh how I hope it’s true.
I sat a few feet away from Anquan Boldin, a former NFL superstar, and a founder of the Players Coalition which was formed to advocate for social justice. Mr. Boldin’s cousin, Corey Jones, was murdered on a Florida highway by a police officer.
Football seemed small after that tragedy so Boldin decided to devote the rest of his life to the cause of equal justice.
He’s a serious man on a serious mission. I admire him.
A few feet away from Anquan sat Abram Elam, another former NFL player. Mr. Elam has lost three siblings to gunfire. Think about that for a moment. Three siblings. You might say he yearns for change.
Across from me sat Corey Gauff,  tennis star’s Coco’s father and coach.
I first met Corey when he was a standout high school basketball player for Boca High.
He’s grown into a smart and serious man, someone who wants better for his kids and the next generation.
Also at the table were my
dear friend, Michael Coleman, a former Delray police captain, Jameal Stewart, who grew up on the streets of Delray, Atlantic High football  coach TJ Jackson, attorney Lee Cohen, youth mentor C. Ron Allen and a few others all with their own stories of tragedy and hope.

It was a powerful afternoon: a group of men sharing ideas, experiences and strategies.
I felt privileged to be there as a former mayor whose community was visited by violence; the shooting death of Jerrod Miller by an off-duty police officer who was working a security detail at a school dance.
Truth be told, while I learned a lot from the experience, I felt humbled by my company.
Their experiences, their losses, their time spent on the streets and with youth far, far, far exceed what I’ve seen.
So I listened.
And what I saw was a group of men, most of them fathers, determined  that the future will be better than the present and the past.
They want and will demand police reforms: from getting rid of qualified immunity to ensuring that standards for becoming police officers are raised and made uniform nationwide.
It was a far ranging discussion. I mostly listened and was deeply impressed.
It’s one of those afternoons you don’t recover from. You listen to these men and you change—for the better.
I think this is the moment. The moment those of us who desperately want a more perfect union have been longing for.
I think we will see needed reforms. I think we will see positive change.
And I think it will happen because of leaders like Anquan Boldin and the others I was privileged to meet.
I’m going to see them again today. We are going to talk and more importantly act.
It’s time.
In fact, it’s long overdue.

My Generation

As this pandemic goes on and on, I’ve been struck with a recurring thought: I’m so glad I grew up when I did.

I’m a child of the 70s and 80s which means a few things.
I grew up with great music.
I experienced drive ins.
I saw ET, Rocky, Jaws and Animal House in the theater.
I remember watching the Watergate hearings on TV and saw elected leaders put their country over their party. Can you imagine that?
We watched Walter Cronkite every night, read an actual newspaper every day and believed what we heard and read. Why? Because it was true.
My friends and I played outside until it got dark. My parents didn’t feel a need to hover, they knew my sister and I were safe in our neighborhood.
We knew our neighbors, every single family on the block, and we looked out for one another.

I remember when a neighbor’s house caught on fire and we stood on the lawn watching the blaze and were scared that the house may burn to the ground and that our friends would be forced to move away. We cared for each other genuinely.
As pre-teens we roamed the mall, soon to be a relic of the past, visited bookstores (remember those) and saved our money to buy record albums (vinyl!) and baseball cards.
We didn’t keep the cards in pristine condition or look at them like investments.  We flipped them, traded them, put them in the spokes of our bicycles and memorized the stats on the back. We even chewed the bubble gum inside the packs even though it tasted like cardboard—dusty cardboard.

We took the Long Island Railroad to the city and wandered Manhattan and saw some things that… well …helped us grow up.
We bought old cars for little money. Rusty Mustangs and Cougars and we even managed to appreciate the unique design of the AMC Pacer—which in our optimistic eyes looked like a short squat Porsche.
We went to dances, proms, comedy clubs and Broadway shows which were affordable back then.
We went to Shea and Yankee Stadium and truly believed that the “Magic was Back.”  (It wasn’t).
Our friend’s mom worked as a store nurse for Macy’s (do they have those anymore—store nurses that is, Macy’s seems on the way out too) and she made sure to reserve us concert tickets which were $8 back then.

We saw Billy Joel, The Doobie Brothers, Styx, Aerosmith and a slew of other classic bands. We once slept outside to get tickets to see The Police at Shea Stadium only to get seats just below heaven. We didn’t care, we were there and that’s what mattered.
We had fake ID’s and we snuck into bars and it felt exciting. We could get caught. But we never did. And every time we got past the burly bouncer we saw another kid that we knew wasn’t quite of age.
We spent hours shooting hoops, throwing around a baseball or a football and trying to hit a spaldeen ball with a stickball bat over the roof of the neighbor’s house.
We listened to music, shared pizza and talked about what we were going to do with our lives.
There were no texts, no social media, no Tik Tok videos but we did have MTV when the station actually played music.
Can you imagine?
Last night, I shared 90 minutes of Zoom laughs with five guys who were there for it all.

Dave, who biked to my house to trade baseball cards when he was five and I was six. We’ve been friends ever since.

Joe, whose dad owned the pizza place with the best thin slices. New York style.
Greg, who drove a Dodge Dart Swinger and was our designated driver.
Scott, the Mets and Giants fan, who could hit the ball over the roof.
And Howie, whose mother was the store nurse and who had an older sister who would drive us around and talk sports with us. She would later become a famous pioneering sports journalist at ESPN. But to us she was the cool older sister with the driver’s license who thought we were funny.
When we speak via Zoom these days we gather from Southern California, Northern Virginia, New Jersey, Raleigh, N. C., South Florida and Stony Brook, N.Y.
Our conversation these days is focused on current events and we argue—politely. But those arguments always end with “hey, I still love you guys” which could be a lesson for all of us.
And we do.
There’s too much history and too much in front of us to ever walk away from each other over how we differ in our views of a virus.
I see the men these guys have become—all successful in their own ways every time we talk.
But I still see the boys we were too and that connection to the past is critical.

 I remember conversations from 1979 when a few us pledged to stop being so shy around the young women we liked.
That conversation prompted me to finally ask for a date with someone I had a crush on for years.
I was so nervous that I did not remember what she said when I asked. I walked away from her so nervous that I literally had no idea what she said.
Apparently, it was a yes because a day later she said she couldn’t go out because she was going fishing with her uncle or something. I never had the courage to ask again.
My supportive and sensitive friends responded by printing T-shirts of people fishing with a cutting remark underneath the graphic. Hey, this stuff makes you resilient. So thanks guys.

Anyway, we talked last night about how we feel so sorry for kids today. Cut off from their friends and girlfriends, denied proms and graduation ceremonies and unsure if they will be going off to school in the fall or if they will be cracking open their iPads.
One of my buddies kids is in limbo about college and another just had two boys graduate college and grad school only to enter a scary job market.
Sigh.
You wonder and you worry how this will impact a generation.
As I said, I’m grateful to have grown up when I did. We didn’t have much in the way of technology but we had each other. Still do.

Riding The Roller Coaster

I’m officially sick of Zoom.
Yes, it’s better than nothing and better than a phone call or text chain, but I miss my family and I miss my friends.
I miss making plans to get together. I miss real happy hours. I miss restaurants.  I miss bars. I miss being able to walk into a store without looking like I’m going to rob the place.

I even miss business meetings where you sit in an office and talk to someone about opportunities and possibilities.

I miss life.

I suspect I am not alone.

Last week, I touched base with a slew of friends and every single interaction made me feel good or at least better.

And truth be told, a little sad too.

Sad, because I have to come realize how much I miss being able to see them in person.

We had a Zoom happy hour last week with some of my favorite people in all of the world. People who have made a huge difference in our community.

When we get together, we always laugh and hug and joke and talk and share. We did the same thing—minus the hugs and it was great. But I do miss the hugs.

We are social beings.
And so every time I read about the “new normal” I want to debate the topic.

I just don’t see us social distancing forever.
For now—yes. We need to, it’s important.
Forever—no. People are meant to be together.

We will get past this thing and anything else that follows it.

There will be a vaccine. There will be effective treatments.

In the meantime, it is important to be there for each other.
I have a dear friend who calls me once a week. He told me he calls five people a day just to check in. It might a co-worker, a friend from church, a neighbor or a relative—he just makes sure to check in.

I so appreciate being on his list.

“It’s so important to call,” he told me. “Just to see how you’re doing.”

Amen. It’s so important to check in with each other.

I think most of us are doing—meh or worse.

We all have our moments.

Children are missing school and their friends. Seniors are missing proms and graduations.

People are losing jobs. Many can’t pay their bills. Families are lined up to get food from Food Banks.
Our nest eggs are smaller. Our future’s are uncertain.
We worry about getting sick. We know people who are sick. We know people who have died. Alone.
All alone.

We know businesses that have closed or are struggling. Each one is a dream in trouble or dashed.

We mourn it all.

My daughter is a teacher. She works with special education students and last week she sounded so tired. Remote learning is a slog.
She misses her kids.

Trips have been cancelled.
Holidays come and go.
Weddings are threatened by a virus.
Celebrations of all kinds put on hold.

It is a sad sad time.

And I’ve come to learn that it’s OK to be a little sad; to let myself feel all of it at times.

But I will not give up on a brighter future.
Neither will you.

We will be each other’s rock.

And we will see each other on the other side and it will be a happy, happy, happy day.

Ingenuity in Crisis

There’s a little bit of Edison in all of us.

 

“The value of an idea, lies in the using of it.” -Thomas Edison.

There’s no amount of perfume that you can put on this pandemic to make it smell good.
So I won’t try.
This stinks.
It’s scary, surreal and tragic.
But….
But I’m heartened somewhat by some of the things I’m seeing and experiencing.
As I work the phones, email, Zoom and Chime I’m impressed by the ingenuity, resilience, generosity and innovation I am seeing.
People are doing all they can to make it work, to stay alive and to survive if not quite thrive.
Companies are figuring out how to work remotely, charities and arts organizations are figuring out ways to raise funds and stay relevant and schools are digging deep to find ways to educate their students.
Make no mistake, the pandemic is taking a toll and I’ve had my fair share of calls from friends worried about their businesses and jobs.
I’ve had other calls from friends concerned for their health and the health of their loved ones.
But I’ve also had a lot of conversations about life. And they’ve been good.
I think the pandemic has made us appreciate some of the simple things in life that we might take for granted.
From going to the beach and the gym to visiting local restaurants and stores, it will be a long while before we take these simple pleasures for granted once we are able to return to these places.
As for me, I miss my office mates, the kibitzing, the daily debate over where to eat lunch and the great feeling that Friday brings.
Right now, I don’t even know what day it is.
I miss movies, shows and walking the mall with my brother in law and sister in law.
I miss Saturday night.
You know date night…right now every night is date night which is cool but I’d much rather have a romantic evening at La Cigale than watch (yet) another episode of “Say Yes to the Dress.”
But I digress.
There’s a whole lot of discussion of what comes next and how things won’t return to normal.
So here’s a few general predictions.
Remote meetings are here to stay but I think as soon as it’s safe we will want to congregate again. We are social creatures and let’s face it, we miss each other.
I think the Eat Local, Shop Local ethos is also here to stay and that’s a very good thing.
There’s nothing better we can do than to support local businesses.
It’s not only good for the civic soul, it’s good for the economy as well. Buying local ensures that our money will circulate right here at home.

There will be a lasting appreciation for doctors, nurses, medical workers, restaurant staff, delivery drivers, first responders, grocery store staff, teachers and others who truly make our world go round but are rarely appreciated or compensated for their work. Let’s hope this newfound —or in some cases rediscovered —appreciation leads to meaningful policies that will make people’s  lives easier in terms of housing, health care and compensation. It may take a while but let’s get started.

There will be a lot of focus on local manufacturing, farming  and public health. Long, long overdue. Let’s build that infrastructure, let’s get after it.

Some will rediscover respect for expertise.
Some will acknowledge that Ronald Reagan’s tired old “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem” philosophy has proven to be ridiculous.
Of course, government isn’t the answer to all problems. But good government is necessary, good government is important and let’s face it when the poop hits the fan we look to government to provide answers.
We need to improve government not destroy it. We need public service to be respected and we need to attract the best and the brightest to the field.
We humans are interesting. Once we absorb the shock, we get about the business of making things work. The best of us seek to help, educate, volunteer and innovate.
I can’t wait to see what this crisis will yield. I do believe with all my heart that it will be a different but better world.