“The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision. A choice we make. And if we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.” President-elect Joe Biden Jr.

History is fascinating.
It delivers us moments in time where if we make a choice we can make progress, squander an opportunity or make a colossal mistake that will set us back.
Good leaders don’t miss the moments. They get them right.
Like most of you, I watched a blizzard of pundits opine on the election and what it means for America.
My personal read on the election is that moderation won and divisiveness lost.
One of the commentators noted that voters determine the direction of our Democracy and I agree. Government of the people, by the people and for the people is our American DNA.
But while the people have the ultimate say at the ballot box, those we choose to lead us play an outsize role in our society.
Their style, personalities and demeanor make a difference.
If our leaders have empathy, our communities feel a little more empathetic. If our leaders strive to listen, our communities will feel heard, not marginalized.
I had lunch with an old friend last week. He did a lot for Delray Beach over many, many years.
We talked about what’s happened in recent years: the vitriol of social media, the turnover at City Hall, the infighting on the commission dais.
And we talked about what works too—civic engagement, team work, goal setting.

Somewhere along the way, we as a country and a city decided to demonize those with whom we disagree. We chose not to listen. We chose to bully, marginalize, divide, disparage  and spread misinformation.
This choice—and it was a choice—has done a lot of damage to America and to our hometown of Delray Beach.
Nationally, we the people have watched helplessly as America has become tribal and we have paid a price as we watch the tribes do battle.
We have lost our unity, ceded our leadership position in the world and watched our problems pile up.
Problems can’t be solved if we can’t compromise and find a way forward together. They don’t go away either, they fester and grow in complexity.
Same in  our communities.
There was a time when other cities made pilgrimages to Delray to learn how it was done. How to rejuvenate a downtown. How to implement community policing and how to leverage culture to build community. We were a leading municipality; a place where talent longed work.
I miss those days. So do many others.
Partisan politics aside, I invite someone to argue with President-elect Biden’s statement that he will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for him as those who did.
That’s how it’s supposed to be.
In my hometown, I have friends who live in fear of retribution  if they back the wrong candidate—therefore the one who loses.
So rather than choose the candidate they feel will be best for Delray they try and pick winners. This isn’t good.
We shouldn’t feel threatened by our endorsements or lack thereof.
We should elect leaders who work as hard for their supporters as they do for those who didn’t support them. We should elect leaders who follow our codes and make decisions based on what’s best for our town. Period.
We can have those leaders.  It’s a choice.
There is no mysterious force keeping us apart. We just have to recognize each other’s humanity and good will and vote out those who divide.


  1. It is hard to negotiate with someone who says. “What is mine is mine, what is yours is negotiable “- JFK. That describes the Horrible “Republican White Bellies”. They took over a great party. Bring back the thinking republicans! Tea Party is evil. Bring back the party of my friends. They agree. Let Us, “Bring America Home Again“- MJM

  2. Marianne Regan says

    I have a disagreement with “single-issue” voters. How can they ignore everything else, so long as their “issue” is the only one that matters? That is not democracy; that is “ostrich” politics. Putting your head in the sand or stopping up your ears while shouting “la, la, la, la” so long as your single-issue is safe and secure. As an American, you need to vote for the good of all Americans, not just some. I applaud the country’s presidential choice this year and look forward to once again, having a government that serves all of us, not just some of us.

  3. Hi Jeff,
    I agree that it is time to turn the page and appreciate the good people that step up to lead our town. You did it, and you contributed a lot to where we are today. So too has Mayor Petrolia and all the commissioners. Look these people get paid a pittance (12K for mayor and 9K for commissioners) and have to put up with lots of gratuitously negative public comments. Why don’t we try something different, let’s thank them for their service. They work their hearts out and how often does anyone say thank you. Let’s take a page from Biden’s book of healing and respect the commission for giving their time and their collective smarts and energy to keep Delray a charming town. Let’s have a positive message of appreciation for our neighbors who give of their time and do their best for us. I think people are tired of all the negativity and criticism and want to see positive leadership. If your voice as a leader can help further that goal it would be very welcome.
    Joy Howell

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Yes, Joy I do think it’s time to turn the page and I think the current commission is in a perfect place to do so. This is a “moment” that I hope they don’t miss—years of division and dysfunction capped by a scary and deadly pandemic. As community leaders with a bully pulpit the opportunity is ripe for a magnanimous gesture of healing much like Joe Biden is offering. Perhaps they can embrace the Set Transformation Plan or at least engage in a civil discussion on the merits or flaws in the plan. Perhaps, Old School Square can be acknowledged as an essential part of Delray’s fabric. Maybe in anticipation of better times they can send a message to our festival producers that they will be needed and welcome once the pandemic passes. Perhaps, we can resume a sincere race relations effort led by the commission. Perhaps, the development community (what’s left of it) can be invited to meet with residents in a safe forum where issues and concerns can be aired constructively. Delray used to pride itself on thinking and acting outside the box—surely we can be an example for the nation on how to heal. It all starts with an acknowledgement that neighbors can disagree—without being labeled, disrespected and dismissed. I would be happy to participate in those efforts. But I believe the commission should lead them as they are the leaders we have chosen for just this reason to bring us together so we may prosper and progress.

    • Randall Rabbitt says

      Delray is politically a joke, and you defend Petrolia? You obviously didn’t read the article that was posted, or just choose not to let It apply to you. Petrolia is the worst Mayor this city has ever had. She is arrogant and divisive.
      In her mind, her opinion is the only one that matters. She doesn’t care about this city. She is a “Hillary” . She only wants power, which is ridiculous for a Mayor. I couldn’t care less about Democrat or Republican. I care about getting people out of office who are morally bankrupt- which fits Petrolia to a T.

  4. A great American, Theodore Roosevelt, delivered a classic speech in 1910 – well named “Citizenship In A Republic”. His overarching message still rings true, and hits the “Nail on the Head” as you speak about CHOICES.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    — Theodore Roosevelt

    Many good, quality people I know are afraid to be visible or willing to take risks for the greater good. Delray’s success was not built by cold and timid souls. Now is a great time to choose to become one of those in the civic arena to honor the past, but build for the future.

  5. j reeve bright says

    unfortunately our current mayor is leading by doing exactly what you describe

  6. Chris Calderbank says

    Delray is suffering and will continue to suffer from the divisive politics going on. And no matter what we write here, no matter how inspiring and true, nothing will change just because you wrote it. We need action.

    Someone needs to intervene to bring these commissioners together. They have proven they can’t do it on their own and at this point probably don’t want to.

    I work for a large company that has internal strife and different factions fighting for their believes. We also have individuals that do not agree but we always get thru it. How? By meeting and disagreeing and if needed – arbitration. I have sat through workshops to do just that. We don’t all see eye to eye or maybe even like each other but together we dominate in our market.

    In the words of our former CEO – “we can talk about anything, but when we fly, we fly in formation” I would like to see Delray fly in formation again.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Very well said.
      My hope is that by writing we will wake up citizens and encourage them to take action. But you are correct. Writing alone won’t do it. Thank you.

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