New Year’s Day


 

Happy New Year!

Hello 2024. Can you believe it? We are almost a quarter of the way through the new century.
Time seems to be moving faster these days. There’s still 12 months to a year, but, to a person, everyone I’ve asked said that last year flew by.
I agree.
Even the holidays were a blur. Suddenly, they were on us and then they were over.
We barely had time to process the year that we just experienced.  And yet, we need to do just that. Life is to be lived, but ideally it should be savored if not fully understood.
Over the holidays, we had a house full of kids and their dogs. It was loud, messy, expensive, wonderful, fun and stressful all at once.
And then most of them left, and the quiet returned.
Thanks to my wife Diane, we took some time from our devices and our busy lives to eat meals together and play some after dinner games, which we haven’t done in a very long time. The games were goofy: “center left right”, ( a dice game not a political test), a card game called “Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza” (don’t ask)  and a question and answer game in which we pull a card that asks a question about our lives and experiences. Now that’s a good one.
These games were the highlight for me, I learned a little about my now adult children, shared some memories from my life and after we pushed away from the table we tried out the new Popstroke with my dad and daughter. And that’s what I will remember. The little moments are really the big moments.
We ate too much, slept too little, saw friends and tried our best to disconnect from our worries which, admittedly, is a work in progress for me. I have a hard time letting go. I’m going to work on that in the new year and beyond.
I have a hard time with transitions and I sense one coming on.
But kids are grounding. They arrive and become “the kids” again, with a pecking order, old jokes and a camaraderie that we take pride in because we are a blended family.
When it got too loud and too much, I simply slipped away and listened to an audiobook called “Die With Zero” which my friend Randy has urged all of his buddies to read (or listen to).
It was a enlightening book that urges us to spend our money now on experiences that enrich our lives and the lives of others. It’s a message that’s hard to argue with assuming you have some means.
We don’t know when our lives will end so let’s enjoy life while we are able and let’s give to others while we are here.
Time, health and freedom are going to be my three words for this year and hopefully beyond.
I used to be laser focused on leadership, entrepreneurship and community but now I want time with loved ones, health to enjoy my life and the freedom to do the things I want to do.
I wish these for all of you as well. More light and less noise as Lincoln one said, more love and less hate or indifference, more empathy for others and more unity and less division.
Have a wonderful 2024.

 

The Wish

Peace on Earth in 2024…

“I waited patiently for the Lord

He inclined and heard my cry

He lifts me up out of the pit

Out of the miry clay”- U2 from the song “40”

What a beautiful song.

Beauty beyond exaggeration.

The best songs transport you. This song surely does—the Irish rock band U2 is among the best ever.

‘40’ was the last track recorded for the “War” album. Bono called the song “40” because he took the lyrics from Psalm 40, written by King David.

Psalm 40 reminds us that a higher power holds onto us during the good and the bad days. It’s a reminder that G-d isn’t done with us yet. Though things may look grim now, there’s hope for better days to come.

Not to get all spiritual with you, but hey tis the season to do just that.

2023 has been a tough year…war, terrorism, mass shootings, political division, ghastly weather events you get the drift.

It’s easy to get lost in the miry clay, as the song says.

But I don’t want us to get stuck, I don’t want us to get lost. I long for us to build a resilient community, adaptable to change, proactive, not reactive, empathetic not vindictive.

We desperately need some counterprogramming and that’s what I am going to serve up for my last blog of the year.

We live in an increasingly complex world and yet the keys to contentment are simple: good love, good friends, a safe place to lay your head, health, hope and meaningful work/purpose.

May you have all those things and fun too.

I’ve come to believe in the power of traditions—and recently I had a chance to continue one. The best traditions are something you look forward to, they enrich you in ways that cannot be quantified.

Every year, around this time, I meet old friends at Arturo’s, a wonderful restaurant oozing with old world charm.

We are an eclectic bunch, most are retired Delray cops, a former pro baseball player, a legendary local restauranteur, a has-been former mayor (me) and this year— for the first time ever— we invited a retired firefighter to join us.

Why?
“Because everyone loves the firefighters,” according to my police officer friends. That is true.

We tell old stories, catch up on the new stuff in our lives, eat wonderful Italian food, laugh, and generally bask in each other’s presence.

It’s a brotherhood of sorts. The affection is palatable. There is nothing these guys wouldn’t do for each other.

I love listening to the stories—police officers have the best stories. They have seen so much.

As I listen, I secretly wish there was a way to share these tales with everyone who lives in our city. They would hear about how North Federal Highway was once a “den of iniquity” with prostitutes, hourly motels, and an adult bookstore.

They would hear tales of long-ago closed nightclubs rife with violence and stories of how gory crimes were solved. And I can’t help but believe that if my neighbors heard these stories, they would be amazed at what’s transpired in our village. Those who know… well they know. But there are so many newcomers, so many doubters and so many people who just don’t know where we came from.

I think our story is a remarkable one. That’s what drives me to write every week.

I have so much respect and admiration for what the Delray Beach Police Department brings to this town. The Fire department too. There’s a reason why “everyone loves the firefighters.”

It is because they are there when we need them to protect our loved ones and our property. The profession attracts good people—wired for service and able to make sense out of chaos. They save lives every day. It’s extraordinary and wonderful.

At the end of the evening, we gather for a group photo. We’re closing the place.

Every year, we have a little less hair on our heads and the hair that’s left is grayer. But the camaraderie grows stronger every year. So does my appreciation. Friendship deepens with time if we open our hearts.

Yes, traditions are good.

Men are notorious for bottling up our feelings. We don’t say out loud what we feel in our hearts. But as we get older and we lose friends and see others enter the waiting room so to speak, we begin to feel a sense of urgency. We reach out, we speak out, we say words out loud. And it feels good to do so.

We summarize because we don’t know if there will be another year. We hope the tradition continues until the last man is standing, but we don’t know when that time will come, and we are keenly aware of our mortality.

Everyone at the table last week has experienced loss: Loss of a loved one, personal health struggles, loss of a career or an identity, loss of innocence and loss of infinite possibilities. Life is finite and time is precious.

But the best part of aging is that we let our let our guard down. And so, when we meet, we sum up. This year, I was given the gift—unexpected– of some kind words from a group of men I deeply admire. And that’s the kind of gift that makes someone rich.

Maya Angelou said people will forget what you said, but they won’t forget how you made them feel.

If you make people feel good about themselves and about their contributions, you have given them the best gift possible.

I want to thank you for visiting with me every Monday. Extra thanks to those who read to the end. Have a wonderful Christmas and see you in 2024.

 

 

Two Paths

The guy on the left is a CPA, the dog on the right is a Certified Party Animal.

My son earned his CPA recently.

It’s a proud moment. He has worked so hard.

When Ben went down this road, I didn’t really have an appreciation of how hard it is to pursue a degree and a career in public accounting.

But I quickly learned that accounting is an immensely taxing discipline—pun very much intended.

Earning an accounting degree from the University of Florida and later a master’s at FAU required a huge commitment. Luckily, Ben’s experience at Atlantic High School’s IB program prepared him for the copious amount of studying it takes to make it through.

It was a far cry from my experience at SUNY Oswego in the 80s where studying took a back seat to going to the tavern with my buddies.

When given the choice between the library and pitchers of Genesee Cream Ale, well let’s just say the Dewey Decimal System didn’t stand a chance. I had a group of entertaining friends who went by names like “Tank” and “Large Guy.” There was a kid from Utica who had a blank stare and never said a word and there was a guy who looked like Bob Denver from Gilligan’s Island. I think the quiet guy became an accountant.

Large Guy never went to class, and I found that…well… I didn’t really give it a thought.

My day of classes would be ending, and I would be coming back to my dorm room when I would see him in a robe paddling down the hallway on the way to the showers. He was just waking up when my day of classes were ending.

One year, when my friend Scott and I had a late final before Christmas break, we wandered back to the dorm after our test. It was dark and cold and windy, because it was Oswego and it was always dark, cold and windy.

We no longer lived in the dorm, but we went back to our old floor in Hart Hall for something. We saw Large Guy sitting in the TV lounge, alone in the dark, watching a small black and white television.

He had nowhere to go. It was a pathetic site. We took pity on him and invited him to our off-campus house because we knew the dorms would be closing and we weren’t sure where he would end up.

It was an early act of mercy, not common when you’re a young man focused on things like 10-cent wings and Monday Night Football.

We felt good about our benevolence for about two minutes which is when Large Guy got on our nerves on the long walk from campus to our house on a dark, cold, and windy Oswego night.

I graduated with a degree in political science, which was a decent background for my first career in journalism. But I have to say that my son’s focus on a profession was smarter than my haphazard approach to my formal education.

I’ve learned a lot after leaving school. I’ve had to learn on the fly, reinvent a few times and fake it till I made it more times than I can count.

It’s been exhausting.

I have zero complaints and things have certainly worked out for me. I’m a grateful guy but my son is taking the smarter path.

He’s building the scaffolding first. He’s made the investment and he’s paid his dues. Now he can go anywhere knowing he has that scaffolding beneath him. I wonder what that’s like.

Accountants get a bad rap in our society. They are often the butt of jokes about being boring. But I’ve noticed that many CEO’s have a background in accounting.

They may not have stayed in the profession, but they parlayed their expertise to lead companies and they will often credit their success to the knowledge they gained studying accounting.

Lately, there has been a lot of anxiety over Artificial Intelligence and its potential to possibly replace humans in a variety of fields; accounting being one of those endeavors.

That may be true, but I have to think that the human touch will never go out of style.

At least I hope it won’t.

I’m here to make a case for people over machines. For face-to-face interactions over screens.

Give me a town hall meeting over a social media page and a doctor’s visit over telemedicine. Oh, I get the convenience of computers, but we must never give our entire selves over to bits and bytes.

Recently, I listened to an audiobook on Spotify for the first time. I chose Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new book “Be Useful” because I like Arnold and because it was short. I also love his accent. I’ve been talking to the dogs in my Arnold “Terminator” voice for the past week. “I’ll be back,” I tell them when I leave for the office in the morning.

The book was pretty good—Arnold said a whole lot that I agreed with, and he said some things that made me want to debate him. That’s a good thing. He challenged my thinking.

Arnold repeated over and over that he was not a “self-made” man. He generously credits a slew of mentors who helped him achieve success in bodybuilding, Hollywood, politics, and philanthropy.

I love that he shared his gratitude for those who lent a helping hand to him along the way. Too many famous people subscribe to the “I’m a genius” mindset and that’s why I made it. But we all know that success is a team sport.

And so, Arnold urges us to find mentors and to mentor others. In the age of selfies, we need to look beyond ourselves and connect with others. And that is not only good advice for a happy life, but also a guarantee that we won’t just look to ChatGPT to write all of life’s essays.

So, I agreed with Arnold on that major theme of the book. But I did think he was a little hard on formal education, particularly college. Yes, going to a university can be expensive and student loan debt is a real burden. But there is something to be said about spending a few years learning to live on your own. It’s valuable to spend some time letting your mind wander by taking courses in history, philosophy and in my case creative writing (the only course I ever failed). And there’s certainly value in prepping for a profession such as accounting. Higher education is a place for both exploring and digging deep.

I did one of those…I explored. And I’ve been exploring ever since. My son did both—he had fun and he went deep and developed a skill. I think he made the right decision. We are so proud of him.

Mike Wigderson

Note:
We lost retired Delray Fire Rescue Assistant Michael Wigderson last week. It’s a big loss.

Chief Wigderson was a wonderful man, a believer in Delray Beach and a major contributor to our community.

He was a big reason why we have the very best Fire Department in the state, and he worked extremely well for a long time with Chief Kerry Koen.

When I learned of Mike’s passing, I reached out to Kerry who shared a few stories of Mike’s can-do spirit, his positivity, and his unwavering commitment to Delray.

Chief Wigderson was very involved in St. Vincent’s Church and quietly helped so many people in our community when they needed it most.

We’ve lost a wonderful man.

This has been a very difficult year for our Fire Department with the loss of five (that I can count) key contributors.

When all is said and done, life is a “people business.” If we’re lucky we attract good people who devote their lives to a cause, a community or an endeavor that enriches others.

Mike was a good man. And Delray was lucky to have him. So lucky.

We wish Sue and his family peace during this difficult time. May his memory be a blessing.

The Sky Has Been Falling For 30 Years

Here’s a picture of a buidling you will never see in Delray.

I took a 5-minute stroll through Facebook recently and saw the following written about our town—Delray Beach.

“So glad I moved away.”

“My wife and I live a few minutes from downtown. We wouldn’t be caught dead there.”

“There is no difference between Delray and Fort Lauderdale.”

There was more—a lot more— but that last gem is my favorite; that’s the one trope that jumps off the screen and disturbs every fiber of my being.

I mean have you been to Fort Lauderdale lately?

Have you seen 100 Las Olas? It’s 46 stories and 499 feet tall.

In the last thirty years, the tallest building built in downtown Delray Beach is 6 stories high, and you can’t even build that anymore.

The downtown height limit has been lowered to 54’ from 60 feet and along Atlantic Avenue the height limit is 35’. There’s a big difference between Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

A big difference.

And because of efforts—(mostly forgotten or flat out ignored) to maintain the city’s scale—we will never be Fort Lauderdale.

Let me repeat that, because you are sure to get a blizzard of campaign mail saying otherwise as we enter election season in Delray Beach.

We.

Will.

Never.

Be.

Fort Lauderdale.

We won’t be Boca Raton or Boynton Bach either—both of those cities allow much taller buildings than Delray does.

I apologize if this is personal for me, but I know the people who devoted their careers to creating something pretty special in Delray Beach. So, while people have a right to their opinions, it stings a little when you see criticism that— to put it plainly—is not rooted in facts.

Again, people are entitled to their opinions and if we are wise, we should listen to all views. But at some point, we have put unreasonable fears to bed. We will never be Fort Lauderdale.

Still, truth be told, our downtown, while vibrant, may no longer be everyone’s cup of tea anymore. Personally, I find the crowds to be a little daunting at times, and the feel is less village like and more Bourbon Street these days. Some people like it, some people don’t.

But that’s a different conversation, isn’t it?

That conversation is not about whether a building is one-story or three, it’s about demographics and changes that some may love, and others may loathe.

But the misleading vitriol gets old. And it’s used to scare people and demonize investors. I think that’s wrong. And it needs to be called out.

It also ignores some pertinent facts: Delray Beach is a good place.

And so, I ask, where is the civic pride?

Where is the acknowledgement that in the 1980s, we were blighted, and crime riddled with families looking to flee to other cities because parts of this place were circling the drain?

Yes, we’ve changed. That’s a given. To my mind, change is of a fact of life: death, taxes, and change. You can count on all three.

That said, I think we’ve done well. We’re a busy town. A vibrant place. As Yogi Berra once said: “nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Indeed.

The sky has been falling for 30 years.

As we embark on yet another campaign season in Delray Beach, you will begin to see and hear a steady drumbeat of misinformation. Much of the noise you’ll hear pertains to the villainization of the development community. The group, which by the way happens to include some of our very best citizens, is a reliable punching bag.

As Yogi also said: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

To be sure, we ought to care about what gets built here and what it looks and feels like. And trust me a whole lot of smart people have spent a lot of time trying to craft codes to ensure that Delray keeps its human scale.

To wit, we have never granted a waiver or a variance for height, and there is currently no mechanism to increase density beyond 30 units to the acre downtown, unless— and only in some districts—you add workforce housing. Workforce housing is a good thing. We need a place for our workforce to live if we hope to be a real community.

Most places on planet earth do not consider 30 units to the acre overly dense (especially for a downtown) and besides it’s the design that matters. I can show you plenty of low-density projects that won’t win any beauty pageants and a few “high” density projects that look sharp.

Instead, we fight over whether a building should be 3 stories or 4, when we really should be focusing on design and whether the architecture enhances or takes away from the streetscape and the pedestrian experience.

Many don’t like multifamily development, but where are essential workers supposed to live? Isn’t that a better discussion to be having? Also, while we are at it, is it possible that a lot of the traffic we bemoan is the workforce having to drive miles and miles to get to their jobs in our eastern communities because of a lack of affordability?

I live across the street from a large apartment complex called Delray Station.

I’m on Lake Ida Road every day during the morning and the evening rush. I have never seen more than three cars coming out of that development at a given time and I’m looking every day. The truth is that people behave differently these days, some work at home, some work a hybrid schedule, some have odd hours and therefore don’t clog our roads during the traditional rush. Of course, these are all theories, but I can honestly say that I don’t even know those apartments are there. It has had no appreciable effect —one way or the other— on Lake Ida Road. Just my opinion….

It’s also my belief that the big bad developers that we all fear are not all that big or bad.

Like any other profession, there are good developers and there are bad ones. We’ve had some good ones—developers who have done solid work and given back, and we’ve had a few who were strip miners looking to take all the gold out of the ground without giving anything back.

All in all, I think the good ones far outweigh the bad ones.

If you look at philanthropy in our town, you will see developers digging deep to support local nonprofits.

You’ll see others giving their time, which is our most valuable resource. They are not volunteering so they can get a variance, they care about this place. Many of them live here. They are not in business to ruin their hometown.

I see these often vilified and lied about people creating jobs, allowing others to open businesses, and providing much needed housing.

We need more housing not less. For teachers, police officers, firefighters, restaurant workers, etc.

In Palm Beach County, 92,000 non-family households make less than $35,000 a year, according to the Florida Housing Innovations Council; 8,800 of those households are in Delray Beach. In fact, 41 percent of non-family households (individuals, roommates) make under $35,000 per year. Delray is the only city in south or central Palm Beach County where non-family households outnumber families and we have a disproportionate need for both affordable housing and what many call the missing middle; housing that isn’t for low-income people but for working families.

Based on fundamental economics—supply and demand—we can never meet this need unless we increase the supply. And yet…we fight endlessly over height and density.

I find this ironic because there as noted before there is no mechanism to increase either regardless of what your told by some politician seeking your vote by making you fearful that one day you will wake up and Delray will look like Fort Lauderdale.

Waivers and variances exist—for things like sight lines and other stuff that you sometimes need to make infill projects work.

But you can’t build taller or denser than the code allows, period, end of story despite the poop that gets shoveled at us (often anonymously) during our exhausting election season.

So, I think we ought to flip the script.

Let’s remain vigilant about development, let’s keep our human scale, let’s put the screws to developers on design and insist on great architecture but let’s call out the NIMBY’s (Not in My Backyard) types too. The peeps who oppose everything regardless of property rights (we do live in America) and regardless of whether the developer follows local land use rules.

Let’s ask them where our teachers, nurses, children, grandchildren, and young families or middle-income retirees should live.

Let’s call out the “I’m in the boat pull up the ladder” charmers who don’t think about working families or those looking to come back after going away to college or the military. Let’s ask them why the people who serve our community shouldn’t be able to live here.

 

Editor’s note:
We mourn the loss of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who passed last week at the age of 93.

Justice O’Connor came to Delray Beach years ago and I had the distinct pleasure of greeting her when she gave a speech at Old School Square.

She was a kind person and as the first female justice, an historic figure in American history. She gave an amazing speech.

What a life. Her service to our nation will be remembered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Our Corner Of The World

Home grown, a point of civic pride.

It was a wet and blustery night.

The wind was tossing palm fronds like match sticks as we drove through deep puddles on Lake Ida Road toward our destination.

As we got out of the car at the beautiful Aloft Hotel on Federal Highway, we felt the awesome power of nature when the wind almost knocked our car doors off their hinges.

But we were determined to get to where we were going—a celebration hosted by Bound For College– a remarkable Delray Beach nonprofit that is changing lives in our community.

Am I being dramatic?

Yeah, about the storm, but not about the life changing power of Bound For College.

Bound For College is a transformational organization.

We are lucky they are here serving our kids.

It’s my strong belief that Bound For College is important to the future of Delray Beach because we need organizations that are future focused. We need leaders who think expansively, who tackle big issues and focus on creating a better future.

I’ve been watching founder Mark Sauer for a long time now. He’s a big thinker.

When I first sat down with Mark to hear his vision I was impressed. Mark is an impressive guy. As a sports nut, I was taken by his background which includes running the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Blues.

Mark understands business, has a passion for kids who need a boost, and he has energy to burn.

Mark told me he saw something special about Delray Beach. He didn’t want to live anywhere else once he discovered our city. He didn’t come here to rest; he came here to work.

Despite a storied career, Mark wanted to do more and through his example I’m seeing that if you have the drive, you can do big things in the later innings of your life. I want to be a Mark Sauer because he wakes up every morning with a purpose. He has a passion to help kids do something with their lives.

Bound For College is hard at work providing tutoring, mentoring and all sorts of other important stuff for kids who aspire to get a degree. Many, if not most of the students Bound For College serves are the children of immigrants and the first in their families to go to college.

The goal is to break the cycle of poverty and give a boost to students who have the desire and the smarts to go to college but often don’t have the financial resources to do so.

Along the way, Mark, his staff, and a dedicated board have crafted what I think is a brilliant business model.

Bound For College works in local schools (including Atlantic High and Village Academy) identifying motivated students early in their high school years and pairing them with teachers and mentors who help them prep for college.

The students must commit, they volunteer for tutoring and are required to stay engaged.

Bound For College hires certified teachers who watch these students during the school day to ensure that every student stays on track. After school, students get hundreds of hours of tutoring to give them the tools they need to get into college and succeed once they get there.

I like the model because it works. But I also like the idea of students “buying -in” and teachers getting paid. This is win-win, and it doesn’t require monies to be spent on a building or transportation because the tutoring takes place at the high school.

Bound For College ensures that students take the SAT/ACT multiple times to create a path for improvement in scores. The organization also aids with applications (for admission and scholarships) and college tours to expose students to what college is really like.

The results are evident.

Consider these stats:

  • Test scores increased by an average of 23 percent in the most recent year measured.
  • A majority of students attend college debt free. (This is huge).
  • And there are plenty of success stories.

We heard a few on that rainy Wednesday night at the Aloft. The students were poised and grateful, they spoke excitedly about their college experience, their aspirations to go to school and their desire to pay it forward which builds community. We heard from mentors and teachers too. I thought to myself, this is an answer—if every community stepped up and let their children know that we care about their future paths,  the world would be a better place.

I saw immigrants—young people who came here after the earthquake in Haiti aspiring for a better life and I was reminded of the value that immigrants bring to this country. That’s my family’s story, it’s yours too, unless you are a Native American.

I’m proud that after years of conversations that in a small way I can help Mark achieve his goal of transforming lives. The Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation invested in Bound For College recently.

We’re sold on the value, we’re confident in the leadership and we want to partner with these wonderful people in our community.

It’s an honor to do so.

The choirs of Temple Sinai and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church joined forces and created a magical moment.

 

The Birth of Something Special

Last week, Diane and I attended an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at Temple Sinai.

It was a very special night.

Given the times we are in, we were moved to see people of different faiths—Jewish, Christian, Muslim—come together for an evening of fellowship and community.

It was emotional to see the choirs of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Temple Sinai sing together.

They sang a beautiful version of “Oseh Shalom” which is a song of peace.

We heard from leaders of various dominations who talked about what they do to serve the community.

Temple Sinai makes and delivers sandwiches to the hungry, churches minister to the homeless, CROS Ministries collects food, the temple gathers clothing and shoes, and the Islamic Center provides shelter during storms among other community initiatives.

It was wonderful to hear the testimony and to see the food bins filling before Thanksgiving.

But for me, it was the feeling in the room that was special and the impromptu interactions between people that gave the evening depth and emotion. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Rabbi Steven Moss walk over to Dr. Bassem Alhalabi of the Islamic Center. The two men smiled, exchanged some words, and shook hands. I don’t know what was said, and it might not even matter. But to see basic human kindness and hear about plans to do more together made us feel good inside.

Our Police Chief Russ Mager was there, along with Assistant Chief Jeff Rasor and the relationship between the faith-based organizations and the Police Department was mentioned several times during the evening.

The desire to be safe in one’s community. The need to connect with our neighbors is basic to the human experience. I’m heartened that in our community, efforts are being made to build bridges.

As was pointed out, there is hatred and violence in our world. But there are more people who yearn for peace than those who live to hurt others. The issues are real and so are the challenges, but you get the sense that love is the answer. We need more love and less hate.

One interfaith service in one synagogue doesn’t change the world. But it’s a start.

That’s why I was most excited to witness the launch of the Anti-Bias Coalition of Delray.

The group is just starting out and I hope you will consider getting involved as they roll out their mission.

The goal is to eliminate bias and to treat all people with respect and understanding.

The evening ended with a benediction from the Book of Numbers 6:24-26. We saw the prayer chanted in Hebrew, English, Arabic and Creole by faith leaders and that was cool to see.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Peace..We long for peace. Even right here at home.

Before we left the synagogue, we sang God Bless America.

At a time of dangerous division, where both sides of the divide view the other as an existential threat, we sang lyrics written by Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant, born in Russia, who came to America at the age of 5 to escape discrimination, poverty, and brutal pogroms.

“G-d bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above.”

Amen.

Special thanks to Kristen Murtaugh and Betti Adams for the invite. It was a magical night and the start of something special.

Editor’s note: Last week, I erroneously gave credit to my friend Randy for always reading to the end. Proper credit goes to Scott Porten who actually reads to the end.

 

The Good Stuff…

Thankfulness is the quickest path to joy.

I love Thanksgiving.

I can take or leave the turkey, but I thrive on gratitude.

I think being thankful is essential to life; as essential as the air we breathe.

Think that’s an exaggeration?

Well, there’s enough negativity in our world that if we focused exclusively on that, we would find it hard to move.

A friend of mine once told me that a recipe for unhappiness is to fixate on what we don’t have. Conversely, the key to happiness is to appreciate what’s good in our lives.

Yes my friends, if we count our blessings, we can find happiness.

That may be an oversimplification, but you get the drift.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving. Here are a few things to be grateful for.

Love.

Family.

Friends.

Health.

Sunshine.

Cooler temperatures.

Dogs (always dogs).

The love of a beloved partner.

The grilled cheese on multi -grain at Granger’s.

Hey, it’s the little things that count.

In fact, the little things may be the big things.

Let me explain.

Every day I come home and get an amazing greeting from two beautiful dogs and a sweet little bird who whistles at me.

The dogs pin me on the couch, and we wrestle and play and right then and there I can shake the day’s stressors and transition to an oasis I call home.

I live in a beautiful neighborhood where people wave, the kids are polite, and we look out for each other. That’s pretty cool in 2023.

Every morning I wake up and look forward to seeing the same two dogs (and my wife of course). One little guy jumps on my chair (which has become his chair) and the other bursts through the door wagging her tail and looking for a sock she can steal.

You fill up on these little things.

I’m sure you have your own small joys. They are to be savored.

In the spirit of the season, here are 10 things to be thankful for.

  1. Teachers- they don’t do it for the money. But if you’ve had a great teacher you’ve been given a lifelong gift more valuable than anything money can buy.

My daughter is a special education teacher in Wake County, North Carolina. She was recently chosen to mentor other teachers, and we couldn’t be prouder. If she can transfer her passion for children to younger teachers, she will become an even bigger force multiplier. As for me, I’m still in touch with my 4th grade teacher through the magic of Facebook. Every day, I’m boosted by his positive posts, and reminded of his influence on generations of students. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a Giants and Yankees fan. Wink 😉.

  1. Great police officers and firefighters- I just read an article about how police chiefs are reimagining the culture of law enforcement to emphasize a mission of service. While I was reading, all I could think about was how the Delray Beach Police Department has been doing that for more than 30 years. We are so fortunate to have an excellent PD and FD. It’s been a game changer for this community. I’m grateful to remain close to several officers and firefighters. Many are now retired, but they remain active and involved. Their work built the foundation for our success and their stellar service will ensure our future. I’m so grateful. Most people I know feel the same way.

3. Cool mornings at Lake Ida Park—there’s not enough of them, but when you catch the right day, and you see the birds and wildlife it centers you.

4. Gallagher’s finally opened up in Boca–If you’re from New York, you know about the legendary steakhouse. We now have our own version on Glades Road. My best friend’s uncle— we called him “Uncle T” —used to work at Gallagher’s in NYC. So now I get to think about that great guy every time I visit or drive by.

5. We have a bookstore in town! Welcome Barnes and Noble. If you get a chance, pick up Commissioner Rob Long’s new children’s book “The Great Weather Diviner” written with Andrew Dolberg. Oh, and ask them to stock “Adventures in Local Politics” by that guy..I can’t remember his name but the book was pretty good. The new store in the Delray Plaza is a welcome addition.

6. The movies– Don’t miss The Holdovers with the amazing Paul Giamatti. And see it on a big screen if you can. It was playing at Cinemark in Boca. There’s still something magical about the movies.

7. Impact 100–  based in Boca Raton, this innovative philanthropic initiative started a new program to inspire the next generation of young women to become philanthropists. It’s called NextGen and it’s a brilliant idea.

8. Amanda Perna- I’m grateful for Amanda Perna. The talented co-host of Delray Morning Live is also a gifted entrepreneur and designer. She recently ran into some adversity when she lost an entire collection to a fire. But in true Amanda fashion, she’s going to find a way forward. You can support her by visiting her this holiday season in the Arts Warehouse. She’s on the second floor.

9. New Beatles stuff- here we are in 2023, and the world is still talking about The Beatles. There’s a wonderful podcast McCartney: A Life in Lyrics, a book of the same name, a new AI enabled song and two new remastered albums to savor. I’m enjoying it all!  Oh, and the Rolling Stones just released a great new album called Hackney Diamonds. It’s 2023 and we are talking about new Stones and Beatles music! I’m thankful.

10. The concept of a next season–This is kind of a life lesson. There’s usually a new season to look forward too if things are a little awry in your world. Which makes me think of my New York Giants—there’s always next year. I’ll be grateful when this season ends.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thanks for reading, be safe, I’m grateful for all of you. But especially Randy because he reads to the end and always says nice things. And my friend Scott in Virginia who always takes the time to comment. Nothing made me smile more than seeing him on our recent Zoom call with his grandson William. He’s a grandpa! Where did the time go? My friend wears the years well. I knew he would.

 

 

 

 

 

Second Chances….

Recently, I went to an open house at a nonprofit called The Second Chance Initiative.

I was swept away.

It was my second visit to Second Chance’s warehouse like headquarters in Boca and both times I left there deeply moved by the nonprofit’s mission and the work being done by women overcoming obstacles so they can rebuild their lives.

There is so much good work being done in our communities. Much of it is done quietly and without fanfare, but lives get saved and that’s what matters.

Some of you may know that I serve as a trustee for the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation https://www.carldesantis.org/. It is an amazing honor to do this work. Carl was a generous and kind man. Those of us involved in the Foundation are deeply committed to extending his legacy and his strong desire to help people.

Giving people a second chance in life was a value that Carl believed in. He related to the underdog and always rooted for the David’s in their struggles against the Goliaths of the world. I don’t know the root cause of that sentiment, but I think that Carl thought of himself as an underdog in many ways. He itched to take on the giants—whether it was competing with the big players in nutrition or challenging the leaders in the energy drink space. Carl was always up for a good challenge.

One time, he went to Mexico and tasted a hot sauce. He came back with the recipe and a plan to take on Tabasco.

That’s how Tabanero was born, right here in Delray Beach. Today, Tabanero is poised to make a run at the big players in the field. The little brand with a big taste is already at Walmart.

But as much as he loved business and the challenge of taking on the champs, he truly loved helping those who needed a second chance.

So, when a friend from Delray told me about the Second Chance Initiative, I was all ears. Second Chance is dedicated to changing the trajectory of women’s lives. The program enables women in recovery to work toward self-sufficiency by breaking what they call the “cycle of shame” that often leads to relapse.

Second Chance believes that work can contribute to well-being. In the small warehouse in Boca, women in recovery produce mugs, ornaments, and tumblers that they sell on Etsy. Proceeds get funneled back into the program which also teaches job skills and provides a supportive and loving community for women rebuilding their lives.

When a colleague and I conducted a site visit to the check out the program a few months ago, I committed a terrible faux pas. You’re supposed to observe the program, ask tough questions and be dispassionate, but we met some of the women and we heard their stories and I found myself….well… I found myself choking up.

I was touched by the stories of women who lost it all—families, children, marriages, homes, careers and their self-worth. And I was moved by the stories of how this program is helping these women rebuild their lives.

They are getting a second chance. They are finding a community of compassion, and it’s powerful to witness. You can feel the love that goes into every coffee mug; it sounds goofy but there’s magic unfolding in suite 312 in a warehouse district on Boca Raton Boulevard.

And so, I thought, my friend Carl would love this mission. It had it all, stories of people overcoming obstacles, women learning business and life skills so they can live good lives. And they were making cool products that I knew the “product guy” in Carl would really appreciate.

Luckily, the board agreed with our recommendation to fund a gift.

When we returned for the Open House, we were greeted by a group of women working at Second Chance. We were treated to amazing stories of resilience by those who “graduated” and are doing well—one day at a time— and we met several friends who support this mission.

This time, I didn’t tear up, but my heart filled with joy. This was a joyous experience, and I was grateful that my friend’s generosity made it possible to help others.

I’m falling in love with philanthropy. I’ve been on the asking end as a board member raising funds for local nonprofits for decades and that’s been fulfilling too. But giving is extra special.

We are trying very hard to make every hard earned dollar count, to honor Carl’s memory and to help people and communities thrive.

When I come to my office, I long to share what I’m seeing with my friend, who made this all possible but he is no longer here. When I shared that sentiment with a co-worker, she assured me that Carl knows what’s happening.

I believe he does too. And I believe that we are going to do a lot of good.

For more information on the Second Chance Initiative please visit https://her2ndchance.org/

If you need holiday gifts for the office or home Shop Directly https://her2ndchance.org/pages/shop-us-direct or visit the Etsy Shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/SecondChanceMugs

Use Code GIVE20 to save 20 percent.

 

Rest In Peace

This week, we remember Cathy Arts who passed Nov. 6.

Mrs. Arts was the wife of my friend Mike Arts and the mother of my friend Peter. Both Mike and Peter are well-known for their public service, but Mrs. Arts was a major contributor to the community as well.

She served as a past president of the Palm Glades Girl Scout Council, past chair of the Florence Fuller Development Center and past president of the Boca Raton Historical Society.

She will be missed by many.

We also lost a dear friend Sister Mary Clare Fennell.

Sister Mary Clare led St. Vincent Ferrer School for years. I fell in love with her spirit of kindness, her sense of humor and her beautiful Irish brogue. She became a touchstone for me and so many others. When she retired and moved back to Ireland, I wrote about her for this blog. Here’s the link. https://yourdelrayboca.com/until-we-meet-again/

The title of the blog was “Until We Meet Again.” We had talked about going to Ireland and visiting. But once again life took over and we never did take that trip. I regret it, but I have a feeling we will meet again. Sister was a guiding light in this world; a positive, compassionate and loving soul. I’m glad she went home to her beloved Ireland, but wow did she make a mark right here in Delray Beach.

Open photo

 

We also extend condolences to Roy Simon and the Simon family on the loss of Mary Elizabeth Simon.

Mrs. Simon was involved in the committee that created the Delray Affair. She was also a Jubileer and was involved in our library and St. Paul’s Church.

May her memory be a blessing.

 

 

The Blue Marble

The blue marble.

There are moments in time when our world seems unhinged.

It’s as if our little marble slipped off its axis and a cascade of garbage just keeps flowing at us.

The violence in the Middle East, the depressing quagmire in Ukraine and the sudden lack of empathy for that ally is stunning.

Here at home, the House of Representatives— the so-called ‘People’s House’–goes rudderless for weeks and emerges with a new Speaker nobody ever heard of who is now two heartbeats from the presidency.

We are days from another budget crisis, an ex-president faces 91 felony counts and yet another high flying entrepreneurial “genius” turns out to be a fraud.

Rising interest rates have made already unaffordable homes and cars even more unaffordable and while the experts are telling us inflation is slowing it sure doesn’t feel that way when you visit the grocery store.

Yes, these are heavy, heavy times.

So, it’s hard to get riled up by the usual local shenanigans.

We are knee-deep in yet another Delray election cycle and a crowded field of contenders are jockeying for advantage.

I’ve been preaching the importance of this stuff for a long time now. Local government matters. Community matters.

Yet, the usual subjects of debate seem small these days compared to the existential challenges we see every day in the news.

Yet another mass shooting.

In idyllic Maine no less; a place where the slogan is “how life should be.”

Its discordant to see the picture of the latest monster with an AR-15 entering a local bowling alley in small town America hankering to slaughter some poor people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But we’re numb to this news, aren’t we?  Sure, it’s heinous and nauseating. It makes us quake with anger, but we are no longer surprised. And we know nothing is going to happen. We won’t even try to figure it out.

And a few days later in Ybor City, just a few hours up the road, 18 more people get shot and two more people die and nobody even talks about it. And then a child is shot to death in a shooting in Cincinnati. The murder victim was 11, five other children were shot in an incident that is sure to fade in a day or two.

Anger and pain. Mourning and sadness. Thoughts and prayers.

Rinse and repeat.

So yes, local politics has a hard time breaking through the fire hose of atrocities and challenges.

Did you ever stop to think what we argue about around here?

Whether a building can be three or four stories?

Whether we will allow people to volunteer and raise funds for a local arts center?

Whether we can afford to restore a golf course?

To be sure, there are things to worry about it, and wrestle with.

Here are a few:

How are we going to house our workforce? Where will teachers, police officers, retail workers, restaurant staff, nurses and young families live? And please don’t tell me Boynton Beach or that you don’t care.

How will seniors be able to age in a place where insurance costs are soaring, and staples are super expensive?

What’s going on in our schools?

Are we creating jobs? Is our economy sustainable or are we becoming a rich seasonal enclave that is a bad storm away from being yesterday’s news?

So yes, local politics means a lot. Local government matters. And the people who seek to serve us matter as well.

Last week, as I drove to work my phone rang ceaselessly with the latest political rumors. I let them all go to voicemail.

And a single thought entered my mind.

Where’s the vision? Where are the big, animating, and ideally unifying ideas that we can tackle together as a community.

We used to have an abundance of big rocks we were trying to move. We worked on race relations, we innovated on housing policy, we saved our police and fire departments when we were bleeding cops and firefighters to other jurisdictions, we were all over education, pushing for programs and fighting for better facilities. We led the region in ideas and ambition. We became a beacon for the region and beyond for good planning. We experimented with different ways to communicate with our stakeholders. We strived to involve our residents and business owners. We led with arts and culture.

We dared to dream.

And we got things done.

We didn’t major in the minor.

We didn’t play small ball.

Maybe we can’t fix the Middle East, or break the moronic, corrosive and nauseating partisanship that threatens the greatest nation the world has ever seen, and we certainly can’t stop a dictatorial despot who wakes up one day and decides to take a nation. But we can try and support candidates who look at this mess and say enough is enough.

And yes, there’s plenty we can do—especially right here at home.

Local government can lead the way in ways large and small. It can be entrepreneurial and visionary, it can bring people together and it can change lives; one city at a time across the land.

I’ve seen it.

And if you are looking for some optimism, I have a little for you. (If you’ve read this far, you deserve it).

Our City Commission has done a lot better lately.

The additions of Angela Burns and Rob Long have made a difference in tone and in the culture. People are happier, there’s seems to be some stability at City Hall, investors in the city are bullish that they can get a fair shake— if they play by the rules. That’s no small thing. People matter.

Angela Burns seems to be everywhere with a smile. She’s engaged in the community. She shows up. She listens. She cares. That’s a huge part of the job. That’s what leaders do.

Rob Long is cut from the same cloth.

Tone matters.

The next step, in my opinion, is to create a space and invite ideas. Put the vision back in Delray. Encourage civic engagement. Not just the usual suspects, go out and invite people in. Ask them to care. And reward their caring with positive action.

So, my friends we have a choice in the next five months.

We can argue over personalities, or we can press those who seek to lead us to think differently. To think, period.

It’s long past time that we did so. We may not feel better about the world’s problems, but we may find we have some ability to move forward right here at home.

Wonderful Lives Remembered

We lost Rebecca Jennings last week.

She was a nice woman and a contributor to Delray Beach.

Rebecca ran for Mayor in 2000, the same year I ran for City Commission. Although she lost to David Schmidt, who became an exceptional mayor, Becky ran a good campaign.

When you travel the campaign circuit, if you are lucky, you develop a rapport with your fellow candidates.

David and Rebecca and the third candidate in the race Gene Herring kept it civil. I became friendly with my opponent Ken Rubin, who later became a neighbor. I nominated Ken for some city boards and task forces, and he did a great job.

You get to know people on the trail and back in those days we had over 20 candidate forums in neighborhoods across the city. Yes, we each wanted to win, and everyone fought hard to do so, but it was a good experience. Our campaign was issue oriented and candidates talked about ideas and solutions.

I considered Becky Jennings a friend. We shared an endorsement from our fire union and prior to running, Becky helped me with an education newspaper I published. When I was in Leadership Delray, Becky was our program leader. We were a rowdy bunch, but she kept us in check because she had a sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. You can a long way with a sense of humor.

She will be missed.

I was remiss for not mentioning another wonderful person who recently passed.

Joan Weir was an amazing woman. She did a lot for our community.

Mrs. Weir was an admired educator, teaching 2nd grade at Plumosa Elementary School for years where she touched the lives of so many.

She was a pilot, threw legendary Halloween parties and was deeply involved in all things Delray.

She was a Boy and Girl Scout leader and taught Sunday school at St. Paul’s. She was a past president and founding member of the Delray Historical Society, a founding member of the Morikami Museum and chaired  Delray’s 75th Diamond Jubilee Celebration.  She was involved in Pineapple Grove’s Main Street application (which led to the revival of that neighborhood) and was a member of the legendary Jubileers.

The list goes on and on.

What a life! And she always had a kind word. Thank you, Mrs. Weir.

 

 

 

A Different Florida

Same slogan, different valuable proposition.

Florida Trend may be the best statewide business publication around.

I’ve been reading it since I moved here in 1987. The magazine is essential if you want to learn what’s going on in the Sunshine State.

Florida Trend recently celebrated its 65th birthday with a blockbuster issue that was chock full of cool stuff.

Perhaps the most interesting was a look at 1958 when the St. Petersburg based magazine made its debut.

Florida Trend’s editors offered some stats comparing 1958 to today.

Here are a few stunners:

  • In 1958, Florida was the 10th most populous state. It’s third today.
  • The population grew nearly 400 percent from 4.5 million people to a whopping 22.3 million in 2022.
  • Population density grew from 84.2 per square mile to 415. More than a quarter of the state’s population (28 percent) lives in South Florida.
  • The state’s economic output grew from $14 billion to $1.4 trillion.
  • In 1960, the median home price was $11,800 which adjusted for inflation is $122,174 today.
  • Average rent in 1960: $71 which is $669 in 2022 dollars.
  • In 2023, the average rent is $2,448 in the three largest metro markets.

Yikes.

In 1971, when Disney’s Magic Kingdom opened on October 1 admission was $3.50 for adults and $1 for children.

It’s a lot more today.

In fact, I hear it’s more efficient to drive to the Magic Kingdom, park, and throw your life savings over the wall. Sigh.

Yes, there have been a lot of changes.

And so, you can’t help but wonder what the next 65 years will hold.

What will climate change and sea level rise mean for our state?

How high can home prices go? What will rising prices mean for our demographics and our society if the middle class is priced out of Florida? (Maybe they already have been?)

How high can insurance rates soar before we cry uncle? The Wall Street Journal had a stunning story last week about insurance rates in an historic neighborhood in West Palm Beach. One home was quoted $120,000 for an insurance policy—that is not a typo. Modest homes are seeing prices ranging from $10,000 to $40,000 a year. Something has got to give: without being political perhaps we ought to worry less about banning books in Florida and more about how to do something about homeowner’s insurance.

We were told that reforms to reduce lawsuits would lower costs, now we are being told that rates are unlikely to fall. Rising reinsurance costs, inflation and the effects of climate change are keeping prices sky high.

Ugh.

There are other vexing issues that nobody could have predicted 65 years ago.

For instance, will we ever figure out how to navigate our ever-polarized politics?

It’s hard to predict, but it’s fun to speculate.

One thing is certain: change. Change, like death and taxes, is inevitable.

We didn’t see  a worldwide pandemic coming and the amazing changes left in Covid’s wake.

Who could have predicted that remote or hybrid work schedules would remake cities? And doesn’t it seem like the impacts of climate change are coming faster than we thought? Or is it that we just keep ignoring the science?

Regardless, it’s fun to look back and fun to look forward. It’s also imperative that we enjoy today and try our best to impact tomorrow.

One thing is for sure, when I moved here 36 years ago I and 1,000 newcomers a day saw Florida as an affordable paradise. That is no longer the case.

Odds and Ends

A shout out to the great Nancy Chanin on her nomination as “Woman Volunteer of the Year” for her work with the equally terrific EJS Project in Delray Beach.

The award is offered by the Junior League of Boca Raton and the winner will be announced at the 36th Annual Woman Volunteer of the Year luncheon Nov. 10 at The Boca Raton.

The list of nominees is impressive. But Nancy is so deserving. She’s kind, hardworking, and does so much for so many. Soo glad she’s up for this honor.

 

Happy Retirement D

I was under the weather last week and missed retirement ceremonies for my friend Delores Rangel. It broke my heart because I adore Delores and her family and I really wanted to be there and celebrate.

Delores served with distinction as the Senior Administrative Executive Assistant to the Mayor and City Commission for a long, long time. That’s a fancy title.  I kept it simple. I thought of  her as my boss. You put D in charge and she made sure you were OK.

Delores kept your schedule, manned the phones, took the messages, made sure you were where you needed to be and generally took care of everything a busy elected official could ever need. And she did it well, with a smile, a sense of calm in the midst of chaos and a sense of humor that was needed and appreciated.

I sent Delores a message and I was told that the City Manager read it at the ceremony. I’m glad. Here’s a brief summary of what I sent.

“You made my time on the Commission and as mayor so enjoyable. You always had my back and kept me organized during some very interesting times (hurricanes, the Jerrod Miller shooting, and all those late night meetings dealing with the controversies of the day).

It breaks my heart that I can’t say this in person. But please know you were amazing to work with, always supportive, organized and level headed. It was so appreciated. I know David Schmidt and other mayors and commissioners felt the same way.

I’m so glad that I got to know your family. They are wonderful.

I hope you have many years of happiness and health ahead of you.

You’ve done so much for our city. Those of us who know, know. Thank you my friend for everything. With love and appreciation, Jeff & Diane.”

 

 

 

EJS Project: 9 Years Of Action

Delray’s EJS Project has impacted over 500 teens in its first nine years of existence.

We went to the annual EJS Project gala at The Addison in Boca Raton last week.

It was a fun event.

“Delray Morning Live” host Jamael Stewart is a natural comedian and the mood in the room was happy, festive, and hopeful. This was a family gathering and it was beautiful to experience.

The EJS Project is a Delray Beach nonprofit that is transforming the lives of local teenagers by giving them a safe place to gather, study, talk about issues and learn the skills they will need to navigate a tough world.

To date, more than 500 of our children—and they are OUR children—have been touched and in many cases transformed by the EJS Project.

We heard from several alumni of the program. They talked about how EJS changed their lives by caring for them in every aspect of their lives. There is counseling, tutoring, group therapy sessions, field trips and training in soft skills.

Kids who get involved are exposed to leaders at all levels of society. They take trips to Washington D.C. and talk to policymakers about issues, they travel to Tallahassee to lobby the powerful and they go to City Commission meetings to see how their own community is governed.

The catchphrase used by the EJS Project is “Bout Dat Action” and it means that students who engage in the program are called to take action; they are challenged to make the changes they want to see in the world.

I sat next to a local hero, Yvonne Odom at the gala. Mrs. Odom was a long-time educator in our community.

She knows kids.

She’s raised them, taught them, coached them along with her husband Red and pressed their interests as a vocal activist in Delray and beyond. She’s also an historical figure having been the first African American student to attend Atlantic High School. Mrs. Odom also happens to be the grandmother of Coco Gauff, who just won the U.S. Open and has the promise to not only be a tennis champion but someone who makes a difference beyond sports.

As young people testified about the power of the EJS Project, I was moved by the reaction of my friend Yvonne.  She was beaming with pride.

What we were seeing was special. It was powerful too.

We saw a shy young man testifying in front of hundreds of people about how this program helped him break out of his shell and opened his eyes to the potential of his life. We heard from a once troubled young woman who doubled her GPA with the help of EJS and became focused and interested in her own future and listened to how a socially anxious young woman found her confidence through EJS and the internship they secured for her at a local company, Festival Management Group producers of local favorites such as Garlic Fest and the Delray Affair.

Jamael, the talented emcee, talked about growing up in Delray and how he and others felt there were limited opportunities for a bright future. Many of his childhood friends sought opportunities elsewhere but he and others returned to give something back. To coach, mentor, tutor, encourage and urge the next generation to believe that their potential was limitless.

Emmanuel “Dupree” Jackson, the founder of EJS was one of those who returned after college. Dupree has dedicated his every waking hour to helping the next generation find a way forward.

Mr. Jackson had to navigate some tough streets as a young man. He knows the pitfalls that can consume a young person and never release them. He wants the teens he works with to dream big, act and become leaders not only in their own lives but in the community as well.

We need this kind of training—desperately.

I’m proud to say that the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation, of which I am a director,  is investing in EJS’ work. We see the potential.

My wife and I are investing as well.

There is no more important mission than to build and empower tomorrow’s leaders. If we are to survive, if we are to thrive, we must ensure that tomorrow’s leaders are ready.

Yes, that is a trite and obvious statement. But it doesn’t mean we’re doing it; progress is not a given.

As I sat next to Diane and Mrs. Odom at a table that included some wonderful people who serve our community as teachers, volunteers, elected officials, business owners etc., I thought back to a long ago experience I had with Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Hollywood recently made a movie called “Just Mercy” with Michael B. Jordan about Mr. Stevenson’s life.

I was at a Leadership Florida event when Stevenson got up and gave the single best speech I’ve ever heard.

Mr. Stevenson talked about proximity—and the importance of getting close to others and their issues, regardless of how hard it is to see.

In order to solve problems, to understand each other we need to be proximate to one another. Stevenson calls it the power of proximity.

I’m seeing that power, I’m feeling that power at The EJS Project.

I was at a table with Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston, Commissioner Angela Burns and candidate Nick Coppola. Candidates Christina Morrison and Tennille Dacoste were in the room too.

I didn’t have a chance to speak with them, but if they are reading this, I sure hope they were as swept away as I was. I’m betting that they were. And my hope is that Delray pays attention to this little non-profit that is making a big impact. This is the kind of work we should invest in. The return on that investment will be a better world.

To learn more about EJS visit  https://ejsproject.org/

 

Sad News

Lt. Keith was a role model to many.

Ray Keith, a 31-year-old lieutenant with Delray Beach Fire Rescue, died Wednesday, October 18 after a courageous two-year battle with cancer. Keith has served the residents of Delray Beach since October 2016. Lt. Keith will be laid to rest with full honors.

 

“Our hearts are heavy today, and I know that every single person in our department is affected by this tremendous loss,” Delray Beach Fire Chief Keith Tomey said. “Lt. Keith was everything a firefighter should be – brave, kind and selfless. I thank him for his service and sacrifice. Our department will not be the same without him, but he left behind a great legacy in his three children.”

 

Lt. Keith, who was named the 2022 Firefighter of the Year, was one of the department’s first 21 lieutenants promoted to serve as an officer on a rescue company. He was certified in hazardous materials, was a member of the DBFR Honor Guard and a leader for the DBFR Explorer program. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in October 2021.

 

When nominating him for Firefighter of the Year, one of his peers said he “embodied perseverance, positivity and class.” Another said he is “a true inspiration for all firefighters with his strength and leadership.” Yet another lauded his “humility and compassion while training, working and responding to the calls in our city.”

 

Lt. Keith is survived by his wife, Amanda, 12-year-old son Gabriel and 2-year-old twins, daughter Willow and son Kairo.

 

“On behalf of the Delray Beach City Commission, we extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and colleagues,” Mayor Shelly Petrolia said. “We are grateful for his dedicated service to our community.”

 

Firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population, according to research by the CDC/National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.