The Art of The Possible


It seems we spend a lot of time looking backwards in Delray Beach.
It’s almost as if we fear the future and want to slam the brakes on change.
You can’t do it.
Change is not only inevitable it’s desired. That’s not to mean that you don’t preserve what’s worthwhile–that doesn’t go without saying–in fact, it’s worth repeating over and over again.
So what’s worthwhile? What do we value? What should we fight for?
Glad you asked.
Our civic pride.
Our vibrancy and charm.
Our historic buildings and districts.
Our downtown.
Our cultural, intellectual and artistic amenities.
Our business community.
Our neighborhoods.
Our wonderful public safety departments.
Those who volunteer.
Those who are public servants.
Our beach.
Our parks.
Our schools.
I can go on.
Cities that work and succeed strengthen their assets.
Cities that work– fix problems and embrace accountability.
But there’s a difference between accountability and a “gotcha” mentality that destroys people, institutions and morale.
There’s a difference between accountability and bullying. Accountability works when it builds capacity. It works when  it teaches and when its constructive.

Bullying is destructive.

And it doesn’t last because you don’t get results via fear and intimidation. Oh maybe short term, but nothing lasting is built on a foundation of fear.
Cities are complex organisms. And a city such as Delray is a very complicated place.
This is a hard town to manage. A hard town to lead.
It’s active.
It’s ever changing.
It’s diverse.
It’s got history, pride, baggage, crime, drugs, homelessness, wealth, poverty, youth, age, commerce and tons of talent.
Delray also has unbridled potential.
We can be whatever we choose to be.
America’s most fun small town can be the place for artists, entrepreneurs, families, retirees, kids and millennials.
It already is in so many ways and it can be even better.
If we want it to be. Or it can be worse.
It’s our choice.
When I drive the streets of this city, I can’t help but feel pride.
If you don’t feel it, I feel sorry for you. I don’t mean that in a snarky way, I truly do feel remorse.
Because you are missing out on a very special place and an incredible success story.
Are we a perfect place?
No. We are not.
We can all list the litany of issues and kvetches. We can dwell on them too.
Or we can focus on what’s good, fix what needs fixing and move beyond our first world problems and enjoy where we are living. And dig in harder to fix the serious problems. Like homelessness, like drug addiction and gang violence. We can begin caring about kids being left behind and about creating opportunities for current and future residents.
We should plan for the future.
How can we transform Congress Avenue and make it Delray’s next great street?
How can we sustain the success of our downtown and extend it to areas  that are lagging?
How can we ensure that Delray Beach is desirable and accessible to young families and young professionals? How we can be a safe and fun place to retire and grow old?
A place that embraces business and recreation, art and culture, history and progress.
Delray thrives when the community comes together and works on big goals, visions and projects.
That’s what created the value we see if we allow ourselves to see it.
Delray drifts without aspiration and vision.
15 years ago bus loads of people from every neighborhood and walk of life–old and young–black and white, east and west, went to Atlanta Georgia and stood up before a national audience of peers and proudly talked about our city.  We talked about our schools and our efforts to fight crime and reclaim neighborhoods. We talked about our downtown and our beach and our history but mostly we talked about what we wanted to be. Our future. Our vision. Our aspirations.
And we were named an All America City. For a second time. The first city in Florida to achieve that honor.
After the event, we hugged and we celebrated and we got right back to work. And that is what it means to look forward and that is what it means to build community.
Delray works, when Delray aspires.

Nothing works when you focus on fear and pessimism.


  1. Well said

  2. Mark Wallace says

    Funny how you start out saying this about looking back…

    “You can’t do it.”

    And end up looking back 15 years to wrap everything up

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