Embracing The Oops

A good quote stops you dead in your tracks and makes you think.

I ran into two quotes recently that did just that.

“A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams.” – Herb Caen, legendary San Francisco based columnist.

“Better an oops, than a what if” – author unknown.

I like them both and they go together.

If you are going to have a broad vision and big dreams, you are going to have to take some risks. And with risks come the inevitable “oops.”

Those that make a dent in our world risk the “oops” because they fear regrets more than they worry about mistakes. We need these kinds of people in our world. They are the ones who move the mountains, and we need those mountains to move.

I’ve been thinking about vision, dreams and risk a lot lately.

We are a little more than a month away from another big election in Delray Beach. In March, we will have a new mayor. That job means a lot, even if we have a “weak” mayor form of government. City Managers run the day to day—and obviously that’s important. We need our toilets to flush, our roads to be free of potholes and our taxes to be spent efficiently.

But mayors and commissioners are important too. They provide leadership, set policy and if they are good, they are stewards (and sometimes architects) of a city’s future.

A good mayor can move mountains. I’ve been watching mayors in this town since I arrived here way back in 1987, when this was a very different town.

I’ve seen good mayors and frankly I’ve seen awful ones too. The good ones make a difference, they leave legacies. The bad ones leave scars—opportunities lost, dreams dashed, investments and human capital chased away.

Leaders come in all styles.

Some are quiet, some are charismatic. But in my mind, the good ones have courage and pride themselves in being servant leaders. They work for the people, too often we get that equation all wrong. They are kind but willing to make tough decisions. They can bring their neighbors together and they also have the fortitude to look them in the eye and say what needs to be said.

I write this during yet another ugly election season.  Last week, I spent an hour of my life watching a video produced by the Sun-Sentinel in which they “screened” candidates running for Seat 1 on the commission, that happens to be my old seat.

It was an ugly affair.

It wasn’t illuminating but it was telling.

I saw anger, accusations, ego and “gotcha” questions, I did not hear any discussion of ideas, solutions, or dreams of what this town can be.

That’s the good stuff folks.

We need more signal and less noise. We’ve lost that on the national level years ago and I fear we are in peril of losing our nation as a result. We are less about delivering results for people and more about ensuring that our enemies fail. It’s ruinous and it makes me angry. We the people deserve better. Our children and grandchildren will suffer. History will not be kind.

Locally, we used to be oasis from that nonsense. We are no longer. And that’s why it is becoming harder and harder to find people willing to run and expose themselves to a toxic stew.

We can do better. But we don’t.

I’m what they call a super voter. That means I get a lot of campaign mail.

It’s often a steady dose of misinformation, innuendo, and pandering. We hear about “overdevelopment” but nobody defines it—do we think a four story building is too tall, do we pretend there’s no property rights or even more important— a need to create housing or expand the tax base?

Where are teachers, cops, nurses, firefighters, and those who work in service industries supposed to live? “Who cares” is not the answer. If you are in the boat, please don’t pull up the ladder, let’s responsibly make room for those who drive our economy.

Let’s welcome them to our community, let’s give our children a chance to come back here to live, work, play and serve our town.

Candidates vow to tackle traffic, taxes, and crime but I don’t see detailed plans to do any of those things. My hunch is they don’t have a plan other than to pander to your fears and get your vote. Last week, I got a mailer from a candidate promising to lower my homeowner’s insurance rates? Really?! Give me some details, I’m all ears.

The media doesn’t do anyone a favor by majoring in the minor. How about some questions about sea level rise, the housing crisis, the fact that Old School Square is still an unresolved mess/opportunity. What’s your vision for economic development? What’s your vision for the arts and culture in Delray Beach?

What skills do you bring to the dance? Because if you are elected, your job is to drive positive change not sit up there and bicker, harass staff and punt on important decisions.

In the interest of transparency, I am supporting Ryan Boylston for mayor and Jim Chard and Nick Coppola for City Commission.

Ryan is a hard-working commissioner, he’s aspirational and we need aspiration—desperately. Nick is a kind man. He connects with people. He chairs our code enforcement board and is VP of the Sherwood Park Homeowners Association. He’s involved in several local non-profits as well.

Jim has worked harder than just anybody in town over the past two decades on a vast array of issues. He’s smart, kind, and knowledgeable.

I’ve spent time with all three candidates over the years, they are community builders. They aspire.

None of them have all the answers, nobody does. The two best mayors I’ve seen here or anywhere else were smart, honest, and courageous people. Their names were Tom Lynch and David Schmidt. I covered Tom when I was a reporter, and he became a friend and mentor. I sat next to Dave for a few years on the Commission before succeeding him when he termed out. He taught me and others by example. Dave handled every issue with grace and humility. He empowered people. He was quiet but resolute.

Tom and David’s greatness stemmed from their inclusiveness—they listened to their fellow commissioners, they worked well with staff, and they listened to the community. They made sure we had goals and strategic plans that involved all the stakeholders in Delray. They didn’t divide, they didn’t pander either. They were willing to risk their seats—they embraced the ‘oops’, because they believed in the what ifs.

 Note:

We got an email last week letting us know that Rev. Juanita Bryant Goode has resigned from CROS Ministries.

Juanita is a friend and has been a wonderful community servant. She is embarking on another chapter where she will work directly with people during challenging times of illness and hospice care.

Juanita has a huge heart and for nearly three decades she served CROS Ministries in a wide variety of capacities including overseeing the Delray Beach Pantry and The Caring Kitchen Program.

She will be missed. Thanks my friend, for all you have done and all you will do.

Comments

  1. “The media doesn’t do anyone a favor by majoring in the minor.”

    One of your most powerful quotes, ever.

    The sad fact is that the Sun-Sentinal and Palm Beach Post who were once embedded in, and truly partners in the community now see more value in divisive muckraking

    Excellent piece Jeff

  2. Nancy Chanin says

    Thanks Jeff. Not being divisive is a key ingredient when it comes to effective public service, and pretty much everything else for that matter.

  3. Great piece, as always, Jeff. As a resident of Delray Beach for over 40 years, I have also observed some outstanding, some mediocre, and some truly awful, destructive leaders on our Commission. I hope the newest group will turn out to be the former. Like most residents of Delray, I am sick of the negative (and often embarrassing) backbiting and name calling which has dominated our local politics. When I receive campaign materials which only attack the opponent and which do not identify a vision for the city, I immediately eliminate that candidate from my voting list. I’m hoping that Ryan, Nick and Jim help to usher in a new, positive era of Delray Beach leadership.

  4. Andrea Levine ORourke says

    Always spot on Jeff.

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