Making A Dent In The Universe

Coco at the Delray Beach Tennis Stadium.

The New York Times ran a fascinating interview with Martina Navratilova recently.

The tennis hall of famer is 64 now, living in Fort Lauderdale and enjoying life.

Martina was a landmark athlete—she changed both the men’s and women’s games, but she’s also an influential cultural figure paving the way for female athletes while being outspoken on a range of topics ranging from LGBTQ rights to animal welfare and a lot in between.

Martina matters.

Like Billie Jean King, Jim Brown, LeBron James and Muhammad Ali, Martina is an athlete who transcended sport to leave a large mark on the world.

Those of us who live in Delray Beach and love tennis have been following Coco Gauff’s burgeoning career and wondering whether she will follow in those large footsteps.

There is no doubt that she is a special talent.

Her results as a teenager have been astonishing. Like other greats, she shows no fear on the court and actually seems to thrive on pressure.

But there’s something else about her that shines through—at least to me anyway. She seems to understand that she has power off the court, and she seems intent on using that power to make a difference.

We saw it when she spoke out at a local Black Lives Matter protest in Delray Beach shortly after the murder of George Floyd. And we saw it last week when she made a generous donation to the Achievement Centers for Children and Families in Delray Beach.

Teaming up with Microsoft, Coco is helping to refresh the main computer lab and build two additional labs at the Achievement Center, a wonderful non-profit that has served this community’s most vulnerable children for over 50 years.

Here’s what the Achievement Center had to say in making the announcement:

“As a professional tennis player and full-time remote student, Coco Gauff saw firsthand the ways that technology could benefit education. While completing classes alongside her rigorous training schedule, she was inspired to provide some of the same tools to students in Delray Beach, where she and her parents grew up.

“This community has given me a lot, so it’s definitely important to give back,” she said

Coco thrilled the kids at the center recently with a virtual appearance and coaching session.

Due to COVID-19 limitations, Coco used Microsoft Teams to surprise the kids. During the event, Coco helped students complete a coding workshop, where they learned about game design. The kids were also able to ask Coco questions  including how she became a professional tennis player and what her favorite subject is in school.

 

“Maybe this can give a kid the opportunity to find their own passions,” Coco said before offering advice to the students. “Make your dreams as big as possible, because you never know how far they will go.”

 

It’s hard to quantify how important it is for our children to see someone from their community succeed on a worldwide stage. Children need to be encouraged to dream big and they need to be given the tools necessary to achieve those dreams.

The Achievement Centers for Children and Families is a model non-profit that has done just that for half a century and in process the organization has done a lot to break the cycle of poverty.

To see Coco giving back is not a surprise to me.

While I don’t know Coco, I do know her family.

Her grandmother, Yvonne Odom, is one of my heroes, her grandfather Red is a wonderful man who has coached generations of local kids and her parents Candi and Corey are really special and caring people. The Gauff/Odom family are committed to Delray Beach, especially our children.

Coco had a big week professionally reaching the quarterfinals at the French Open, one of the the cathedrals of the sport. She’s still only 17 years old. She has a game as big as any prospect since the Williams sisters, who also have ties to Delray Beach.

But beyond sports, she seems to be a young woman of compassion and substance. She has a platform, and she appears willing and able to use it—like Martina, Billie Jean, Venus and Serena before her.

Coco’s grandmother Yvonne was a groundbreaker in her day too. Fifty years ago this September she became the first Black to attend Seacrest High which later  became Atlantic High. Three years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 7 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, Yvonne Lee Odom integrated Delray’s high school. To this day, she remains brave, outspoken and respected. She’s a treasure.

I have a feeling her granddaughter is going to leave a mark far, far beyond tennis. She sure has had some great role models.

 

Oldies But Goodies

Phil Mickelson, a champion at 50.

Let’s hear it for the old folks.

Maybe they’re not so old after all.

Or maybe age and experience is an advantage and not a liability.

Look no further than Phil Mickelson who just won the 103rd PGA Championship at the ripe age of 50. Or Tom Brady who won yet another Super Bowl at the age of 44.

Or President Biden who became leader of the free world at age 78.

Other examples abound in every field you can imagine: Dr. Tony Fauci is 80 and has been at the forefront of the fight against Covid, Queen Elizabeth is still reigning at age 95 and Warren Buffett remains an investing legend at 90. His partner, Charlie Munger, is 97 and still at it.

I have a rooting interest in the continuing viability of the older set. I’ll be 57 in August. Granted that’s a long way from 90 but it’s comforting to know that there’s life after a certain age.

I have found the 50s to be a poignant decade.

In many ways we are better than ever. We’ve got patience, experience, history, perspective and savvy that can only come with age and hard won experience.

We’ve also got more than a few miles on us so we are a wee bit tired at times and we know how fast time passes. We’ll blink and be 80 if we’re fortunate to survive. And that’s the poignant part.

Just when we get good, we get old.

But the Mickelson’s and the Brady’s of the world inspire us. It’s getting dark, but it ain’t over yet as the song says.

Still despite these inspiring examples we are very much a youth obsessed culture.

We adore the prodigy, laud the next big thing and remain obsessed with appearing youthful.

But I’m finding the seasoned players in this world have a lot to give and even more to impart.

I think we “old timers” can learn a thing or two from Phil and other folks who are crushing it as they age.

The first lesson is we can stay in the game if we choose. We might have to compensate for being a step slower than we used to be. We might not hit the ball as far as the youngsters or zip a football with the same velocity, but we’ve experienced a whole lot and that’s an advantage.

We can take comfort in the fact that we’ve seen most situations before and we know how to make the odds work for us.

It’s called being seasoned.

If you are a smart young person, you should seek out the elders in your community. You should hear their stories, soak up their experiences and listen to the wisdom you are assured of receiving if you just take the time to ask some simple questions.

What was it like?

Why did you make the decisions you made?

What did you learn? How did you get past your mistakes?

How did you run your company, build your business, raise your family, serve your community?

There is so much to learn. The best school there is right in front of us. All we have to do is ask others to share.

Whatever success I’ve had in anything I’ve ever done—-business, politics, love and family life is a direct result of asking for advice from people I’ve admired. Most of them were my elders. My grandparents, my parents.

At Delray City Hall, I was mentored by an extraordinary array of department heads and staff who took the time to explain issues to me, teach me about urban planning, police work, the work of the fire department and how municipal law and redevelopment can be applied to build something special.

After a while you leave– in my case due to term limits—but I never left those relationships behind. I treasure them and regularly draw on the lessons I learned.

But as magical as those teachers were, I learned just as much from some predecessors who served on the City Commission and a bunch more from a slew of community leaders who built this city. From Old School Square and Pineapple Grove to the Spady Museum and local schools these special people did special things. They made a lasting difference and left us lessons— but only if we choose to look and to ask for guidance.

The same lessons apply in business which is changing so fast that it can feel overwhelming to keep up with technology and trends. But there are fundamentals that never change: how you treat partners. employees, customers and the communities in which you work. The seasoned veterans have learned these lessons and I have found that most are happy to share if you take the time to ask for advice.

In business, I have been so fortunate to learn from a series of older mentors including one gentleman who has helped to build two multi billion dollar companies.

Recently, a friend told me about the Halftime Institute, a non-profit built on a belief that the second half of life can be better than the first. I plan to explore a few of their programs and read their literature.

Yes, life in your 50s and beyond can be both meaningful and fun.

Sure those knees creak, that back aches and your hair may be gone (on your head at least) but there’s life in those bones and wisdom too. There’s also time to grab a few more brass rings (or Super Bowl rings). Thanks Mr. Mickelson for reminding us.

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell T.J.

Coach Jackson has been a valued mentor to scores of young athletes.

Last week, T.J. Jackson, the decorated football coach at Atlantic High School, announced that he would be leaving for a new opportunity which has yet to be announced.

When I saw the news, I was happy for T.J.

He’s a really good guy and a great football coach. It’s not surprising that his talents would take him away from Delray Beach.

 

Mr. Jackson was the Eagles’ head coach for eight seasons, compiling a record of 68-23. His 2017 team made it all the way to the Class 7A state championship. And this past season, the Eagles won the Class 7A Tri-County championship after going 5-1 in what was a shortened season because of the pandemic.

 

But T.J. is so much more than his impressive win/loss record.

He is a beloved local figure, an inspiring young leader who earned the love and respect of hundreds of young men that he has coached.

Lee Cohen, a great supporter of Atlantic High football and all-around good guy, had this to say about his friend when news of the resignation was announced.

“Coach TJ understood the importance of not just having a winning team, but in creating a successful program.  Over the past 8 seasons, he led the Eagles to incredible success both on and off the field.  Following a challenging first season, the Eagles’ overall record was 66-16 over the next 7 years and included a trip to the state championship. He created a winning culture that included attention to education, discipline and respect.”

Delray’s current Chief of Police Javaro Sims and former Chief Jeff Goldman praised TJ for his mentoring skills and for his leadership in the community.

In scrolling through the congratulatory comments, my mind drifted back to when I first met TJ a number of years ago.

He was running a non-profit at the time called “Prep and Sports” which was teaching football skills and life skills to kids in our community. He was doing great work and was passionate about making a difference.

T.J. was quiet, almost painfully shy.

But as the saying goes, still waters run deep. T.J. knew kids, had his fingers on the pulse of the community and had a passion for football. That’s a great set of tools if you want to make positive change in the community.

T.J. and a partner brought scores of NFL players and prospects to Delray to train for the season or the NFL Combine, the annual showcase where aspiring players perform physical and mental tests in front of coaches and scouts. The players seemed to like Delray and I had a few lunches with players who expressed a strong desire to help kids find a positive path and they did.

T.J., former Delray Police Capt. Michael Coleman and former assistant community improvement director Jamael Stewart and a few others led that effort.

It’s the kind of activity that often goes undetected, but this is the type of work that builds a community by changing lives.

So let’s say it straight out: these guys change lives.

Michael and Jamael no longer work for the City of Delray. That’s a longer and sadder story for another day. But I sometimes fear that we are losing sight of the special efforts below the radar that make all the difference. If my instincts are correct and those efforts dry up we will be in trouble. Because if we care about the entirety of this community we need to care about the men and women who do this work.

And we should care. We either rise together or we will we fall.

It’s really that simple.

T.J. is a guy who helps people rise.

Losing him in this community is a big deal.

So was losing Jen Costello, a neighborhood planner who went above and beyond because of her passion for Delray—her hometown.

Back in the day, we had Officer Skip Brown organizing Haitian Roving Patrols and working with a wide cross section of the community. I don’t think anyone ever quite replaced Skip or Sgt. Adam Rosenthal who died 10 years ago last week while on the way to work in his police cruiser. Adam taught self-defense classes to women in our community and worked with kids interested in martial arts.

We also lost Officer Johnny Pun, who along with his partner Fred Glass, founded a charter school to teach kids marketable automotive repair skills. The Delray Police Department became the first department in the state to charter a school, an effort that the City Commission at the time was proud to support. Johnny died tragically in a motorcycle crash. He is deeply missed.

When these guys and gals move on, retire, pass away (or are shoved out) it leaves a void. You just don’t go to a job board and replace people like this. It’s not that easy.

Their success is borne of passion for a place and for the people who live there. When you find that, it’s gold.

When you lose it, well you lose a lot.

See you down the road T.J. We all know you’ll do great things at your next stop.

Many in Delray are sorry to see you go.

 

Random Thoughts

Delray’s Mighty Max Weinberg shares stories and insights on Instagram and YouTube. Shows are archived.

 

Pandemic Blues
To see the numbers spike—again.
To see masks become political.
To see 13.3 percent unemployment.
To not be able to plan a summer vacation.
To worry every time you leave the house.
To worry about your loved ones getting sick.
This virus is tough stuff.
Wake up in the middle of the night tough….
Streaming and dreaming
One positive—I suppose—of life in 2020 is we are staying home more and catching up on quality content. Which is pretty much anything but 90 Day Fiancé (Diane).
A good example of quality is a documentary on the amazing Avett Brothers on Amazon Prime.
The Avett Brothers are a North Carolina based band known for their “Americana” songs featuring banjos, fiddles, stand up bass, cello and deeply personal lyrics.
The Judd Apatow documentary “May it Last” is a fabulous look at the band’s creative process and the unique relationship between band members. A must see.
We also just completed “This Much is True” a miniseries starring the incredible Mark Ruffalo.
The series covers family ties, brotherly love, mental health and the struggle to overcome family curses. Which kind of describes 90 Day Fiancé.
A tour de force for Ruffalo.
We are also addicted to E Street Band drummer, Rock Hall of Famer and Delray resident Max Weinberg’s Instagram and YouTube show “Mighty Max’s Monday Memories.”
Max has become a friend and I can listen to him tell stories for days on end.
Now he’s sharing those stories with fans every Monday at 6 pm.
Shows are archived so you can go back and hear a treasure trove of rock and roll tales.
Highly recommended. The shows are archived on YouTube and Instagram.
Speaking of documentaries
Don’t miss the ESPN documentary on Delray’s own Coco Gauff.
There’s also a great article in “The Undefeated” on Coco’s activism and passion for community.
Thanks to Coco’s wonderful grandmother Yvonne Odom for sharing.
My favorite quote from the piece from Kyla Copeland-Muse a former player:
“At 16, she’s more gutsy than Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods will ever be,” Copeland-Muse said. “I just love to see it with Coco. There’s a fearlessness with Coco and some of these younger athletes that puts out the message, ‘We’re not gonna be polite. We’re going to tell you exactly what’s happening in this world .’
Yes it is time we tell it like it is.
Coco is a generational talent but perhaps more important she’s a leader. Just like her grandmother. 😊

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.

The Last Dance & Leadership

Editor’s Note: In honor of Memorial Day.

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” – President Harry S. Truman

Did you see ESPN’s “The Last Dance?”

The 10-hour documentary chronicles the story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls who won six NBA championships during a magical run in the 90s.
It’s must see TV and the 10 hours fly by. I could have watched at least ten more hours; the story was that compelling.
Much has been written about the documentary especially the leadership skills and personality of Jordan whose basketball skills were other worldly but whose personality was… how shall I say it…challenging.
In short, Jordan led through a combination of hard work, dedication and bullying that at least on two occasions led to actual violence. He punched two teammates during practice sessions that got so intense that they …well …led to fisticuffs.

Jordan had impossibly high standards. Winning was the only thing that mattered.
If he sensed you weren’t dedicated, or you were weak, he pounced and wouldn’t let up until he was satisfied you were not going to get in the way of winning.
There’s no arguing that he got results. Six rings. And I was reminded through the documentary that he was the best player I’ve ever seen.
But when asked about their teammate, many of the Bulls who played alongside MJ hedged their feelings. Yes he was great and he made others better. Yes we won. But boy could he be a jerk and yes he crossed the line many times.
At times it was painful too watch. You could see how his teammates are still struggling with Jordan’s style.

There are other examples of great individual talents whose personalities left a lot to be desired.
Steve Jobs led Apple to great heights but was said to be brutal to team members.
In the HBO film “LBJ-All The Way” Bryan Cranston portrays Lyndon Johnson as an expert politician but a man lacking in tact and manners. A theme throughout the film is LBJ’s reluctance to choose Hubert Humphrey as his running mate in 1964 because he openly worries that Humphrey is too nice.
You have to be mean to succeed in a blood sport such as politics, he tells Humphrey.
Which begs the question: do you?
Do you have to be mean and a bully to succeed?
I’m not so sure.
Although it’s hard to argue with the success of Jobs, Jordan and LBJ —who sure passed a lot of landmark legislation before getting swallowed by Vietnam—I’d like to believe that kind, empathetic, servant leadership is a more reliable and sustainable model.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be tough at times. There are instances that call for leaders to be brutally honest and there are times when leaders are called upon to take on bullies. And sometimes  the best way to take on a bully is to give him or her a taste of their own medicine.
Sometimes it’s the only thing a bully understands.
But when it comes to day to day effective leadership I think those who lead with love  get more done.
Maya Angelou said it best: people may forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel.
In Michael Jordan’s case they won’t forget the six titles or the soaring dunks but they also won’t forget that they didn’t feel all that great at times ducking his punches and his insults.
Of course, it’s  hard to argue with results, but few of us are Michael Jordan.
For those with modest talents who wish to change the world,  I think the best way to lead is with love and affection.
Now some may feel that love is a strong word. It is.
But it’s essential for success.
Mayors should love their cities. CEOs should love their company’s mission, their employees and their customers.
Love is the killer app.
It enables you to find hidden reserves when trouble comes; and trouble always comes.
Passion for your cause will ensure you succeed. Jordan, Jobs and others had it. But they wouldn’t have been any less dominant if they mixed their passion with an old fashioned dose of kindness.

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.

Preparing For Recovery

I moved to Delray Beach just when efforts to revitalize the city were beginning to kick into gear.

The year was 1987, so I had just missed Mayor Doak Campbell’s Atlantic Avenue Task Force, an effort that served as an important precursor to the massive efforts that were about to be launched.

But I was there for Visions 2000, the Decade of Excellence, Visions 2005, Sharing for Excellence (which focused on the city’s schools) the Downtown Master Plan and a host of other efforts that created modern day Delray Beach, a three time All America City, that has earned national acclaim for its redevelopment efforts, successful downtown, events, culture and food scene.

It’s been quite a ride—turbulent at times, but joyous too.
Now in the midst of a pandemic I am reminded every time I drive down Atlantic Avenue about those early years when downtown was dead and buried in a lot of people’s hearts and minds.

Delray came back as a result of careful planning, massive public investment, risky private investment and a playbook that included everything from a downtown tennis stadium and festivals to a focus on culture and a big bet on food and beverage as a driver of commerce and branding. A strong commitment to Community Policing was another indispensable tool. If people don’t feel safe, they simply won’t spend time or money in your city.

In a pandemic, most of those tools are largely off the table—- for now at least. So I wonder how we will fare in the short and long term.
Long term I think we will find a vaccine and effective treatments that will give us the confidence to venture out again and be among people.
That’s what downtowns do best if they are healthy. They bring us together.

But short term it may be a while before we see restaurants packed and feel comfortable enough to attend festivals with thousands of people.

Thanks to societal changes, retail doesn’t appear to be viable option especially in a high rent environment.
Pineapple Grove has done well as center of personal services and hopefully salons, gyms and the like can safely re-open soon.

We never quite had a huge office component downtown and one wonders where that sector will be in the wake of the coronavirus. Many companies are realizing they can effectively operate remotely and may not require the large offices they now occupy.

Still, there are opportunities at Atlantic Crossing and the IPic building to bring workers downtown.
In time, it will also be important to get anchors such as Old School Square and the Arts Garage up and running again.
The arts are a morale booster and an economic development engine.

I also think  there is  a great opportunity to introduce educational uses downtown and perhaps someday (post vaccine) that will be possible too.

Tourism is a huge part of our economy and we finally have a critical mass of hotel rooms after years of lacking capacity.
In time, if the hotels can stay alive, that sector will bounce back and be a critical piece of our economic recovery.
My belief is we need a short term survival plan because long term we can bounce back because the fundamentals are there. But it will be harder to bounce back if we lose too much of what we had prior to the pandemic.
What’s probably needed is a local city specific Marshall Plan.
Is that an overreaction? Maybe, but what we seem to be facing is an economic event unlike any we’ve experienced since the Great Depression.
So in my estimate, it will take big and bold thinking to restore a sustainable local economy that has the potential—if done right—to be better than pre-Coronavirus.
Tall order?
Perhaps.
But we are starting with a decent foundation this time.
Back then, all we had were good bones and a lot of dreams.
A slew of visionaries made it happen then, we can do it again.

Things We Loved in February

At 6’11” Reilly Opelka is the tallest player on tour. He’s also the new Delray Beach Open champ.

Things We Loved In February

We know the month is not quite over, but close enough.

Attending the Delray Beach Open.
Nothing like watching world class tennis under the stars on a beautiful February night.
Kudos to Match Point for producing a great event.
The addition of hometown fave Coco Gauff was a master stroke. Coco played an exhibition under the lights against the NCAA champion. Great stuff.
Congratulations to the Bryan Brothers on their record sixth Delray Beach title. The brothers—arguably the best doubles duo ever—come to Delray every year and have been great supporters of the event and the city. They will be retiring so it was great to see them go out with a win.

Also congratulations to Reilly Opelka who battled weather and determined opponents to claim the singles title. He may be someone to watch. He is hard to miss at 6’11” with a serve in the 140 mph range. He has a big future and the Delray event is becoming known as the place that launches stars: i.e. Frances Tiafoe, Kei Nishikori.

Seeing Doris Kearns Goodwin at FAU. She packed them in like a rock star and we could have listened to her for hours and hours. Just a wonderful storyteller.

Having the great and vastly underrated Steve Forbert play The Arts Garage.
A great performer and wonderful songwriter, Forbert is a joy to watch and listen too. Although we were forced to give our seats away, we were told he was great and drew a big crowd. I’ve seen him several times and won’t miss him again if he comes back this way.

Art on the Square—in a word: terrific.

The new Whole Foods on Linton looks great. A most welcome addition.

Another whopper of a real estate deal: Menin Development’s $7.3 million acquisition of Johnnie Brown’s.
That’s not a typo.

February weather. We are reminded why we live here. Crisp mornings, gorgeous days and cool nights. And don’t forget the Florida sunsets.

Black History Month is a good time to learn about some of our local African American icons.
Visit the S.D. Spady Museum for a great primer and see if you can find C. Spencer Pompey’s book “Many Rivers to Cross.”

We wish Pedro Andrade well with his new restaurant Valentina’s Pizza and Pasta on Congress Avenue in Lake Worth Beach.
Pedro did an amazing job serving the community for years at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza never turning down a good cause. We plan to visit his new place ASAP.

We had some monumental birthdays in February.
Zack Straghn, a long time civil rights leader, celebrated his 92nd birthday and Bob Levinson, an author, business leader and philanthropist turned 95.
Lots of wisdom and accomplishments between those two gentlemen.
We wish them many more years of making a difference.

We tried Cena on 7th Avenue and it was wonderful.
A great place to spend Valentine’s Day.
I had the pollo parmigiano and it was spectacular. It’s also huge– so we made two meals out of it.
Don’t miss the buttered noodles and the tartufo.

Heartfelt condolences to the Dubin and Evert families on the loss of Jeanne Evert Dubin.
Jeanne was a really nice person and was a terrific tennis player herself during a brief pro career rising to number 28 in the world and top ten in the United States.
She was an owner of Dubin & Associates which manages the Delray Golf Club and Delray Tennis Center.
On a personal note, Jeanne was just a super nice person. She loved tennis, preferring to be on the court teaching or leading tennis leagues. She had a quiet influence.
She will be deeply missed.

We also offer sincere condolences to the pioneering Love family on the loss of  Marsha and Barbara Love.

Until next month…..

Building On A Rich Tennis Legacy

Coco Gauff plays on her “home” court at the Delray Beach Tennis Stadium.

I saw the future of women’s tennis Saturday night and her name is Coco.

At age 15, Coco Gauff has become a global sensation. But she’s also a native of Delray Beach and seeing her on the stadium court in her hometown was something special.

In its 23 year history, the Delray Open never featured a woman’s match. So history was made when Coco took on NCAA singles champ Estela Perez-Somarriba of the University of Miami Saturday night before a packed house.

It was a spirited match. Coco won in straight sets and the crowd was loud, large and thrilled to be seeing a local prodigy.

We saw many of our neighbors and friends.  Delray came out to support their hometown hero and it was a moment of civic pride in a city sorely needing one at the moment.

I’ve been watching tennis since I was 8 or 9 years old and every year we used to go to the U.S. Open. So I’ve seen them all from Billie Jean and Chrissie to Steffi and the Williams sisters.

Coco has the chops.

She moved beautifully, has a powerful serve, a deft drop shot, is not afraid to to rush the net and has crisp and powerful ground strokes. She’s the real deal.

But what distinguishes her is her competitive spirit. You can see it, you can feel it, she’s not afraid of the spotlight. She knows she belongs.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her family for years and they are lovely people. Based on her interviews, Coco seems grounded, humble and gracious. She reminds me of her grandmother Yvonne Odom, who is also a local historical figure. Mrs. Odom was the first African American to attend Atlantic High School and has been a civic leader for decades.

In her post match comments, Coco praised her opponent, talked glowingly about her hometown and was self deprecating— noting she lost a first round junior match a few years back at the Delray Tennis Center. She shows abundant signs of maturity, far, far, beyond her 15 years. That’s going to be important as she progresses in her career.

While Coco is the latest great tennis story in Delray, she’s not the first.

Delray has a rich tennis history.

In addition to the Delray Open and Coco, the city once hosted the event that became the Miami Open, is home to many touring pro’s and saw prodigies such as the Williams sisters and Andy Roddick cut their teeth on local courts.

Visionary Ian Laver created the Laver’s Resort off of Linton Boulevard, a project built around tennis. We once were home to the Sunshine and Continental Cups, hosted Fed and Davis Cup ties, senior events, national junior championships and more.

Center court at the stadium has seen the likes of Chris Evert (who hosts her Pro-Celebrity Classic there every year)  Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, Guillermo Vilas, Kei Nishikori, Juan Martin Del Potro, John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Lindsay Davenport, the Bryan Brothers, James Blake as well as locals Vince Spadea, Aaron Krickstein and Kevin Anderson who liked the town so much he bought a place here.

And the list goes on.

We should celebrate our tennis heritage. It’s special.

And it brings excitement, publicity and dollars to Delray.

The Tennis Channel is airing the tournament all week, junior events bring “heads in beds” during off peak months and the branding opportunities are endless and global. It is worth our investment and it’s worth it for us to nurture the sport too by giving some thought to how it fits into the bigger picture.

Coco is the latest and may yet end up the greatest of Delray tennis stories.

She’s part of a rich legacy. And a source of hometown pride.

To paraphrase Dr. Seuss: oh the places she will go. And oh the places tennis can take us.