The Lies That Grind

I’ve never been called a ‘good ole boy’.

Last week, I think I might have been.

I wasn’t singled out, and names have not been released, but I think I might be in this group called the ‘good ole boy network’.

For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to assume I’m in the network. I hope I am because I’d be in good company.

It seems there is a group in town who support the mayor and Commissioner Juli Casale. They are on a mission to clean up the “mess” the good ole boys made of this place and replace it with what?

Good government?

That would be nice. We haven’t seen that around these parts in quite some time.

The crew that opposes the good ole boys  have been all over Facebook vowing to clean up more messes if they continue to have the votes on our City Commission.  A friend of mine and his good ole boy friends were advised to “buckle up.”


Anyway, this mission to clean up the “mess” some of the best citizens of this town created would explain why Old School Square was kicked to the curb without a plan at a cost of millions of dollars, why we may need to sell part of our golf course to pay for millions in deferred maintenance and why we’ve gone through more city managers in recent years than the fingers on both hands. It’s all the fault of the good ole boys!

Who knew!

We’ve  been warned that the anti good ole boys are the “nightmare” we all feared and it was mentioned that past leaders lacked the guts to do what needed to be done to fix our hometown.

Well, they are right on the nightmare assertion. Finally, a point of agreement! We agree that we are living through a nightmare.

But not for the same reasons—and therein lies the difference and the choice we face in the March 14 election.

There’s a lot to unpack here but let’s not leave the “good ole boy” comment quite yet.

I wanted to better understand the allegation, just in case I’m being lumped into that group, so I did a little research.

According to the New York Times, during the heyday of the Civil Rights movement, the Northern press began to refer to sheriffs, prison guards and anyone with either a bullhorn or a German shepherd as a good old boy.

Hmmm…I’m a Jewish guy from Long Island, I’ve never owned a bullhorn and I have a golden retriever and a chihuahua not a German shepherd, so maybe I don’t qualify.

My friends don’t meet that criterion either, besides many of the people I believe being referenced are—-wait for it—- women.

But I didn’t stop there. I didn’t want the New York Times to be the last word on this fascinating subject.

The Oxford dictionary defines good old boy as a “man who embodies some or all of the qualities considered characteristic of many white men of the southern US, including an unpretentious, convivial manner, conservative or intolerant attitudes, and a strong sense of fellowship with and loyalty to other members of his peer group.”

Well, this a mixed bag.

My peer group is a loyal bunch (we call it friendship) and unpretentious. But intolerant is a stretch; kind is a more apt description of the people I’m thinking about.

But here we are.

We live in a strange universe where many of our best citizens and most generous contributors are on the outs.

There is a real attempt to rewrite local history, recast heroines as villains and try and make the case that everything that came before this current group was wrong, corrupt and incompetent.

Not exactly.

Luckily, the truth is a stubborn thing. While lies get halfway around the world before the truth puts its pants on (to borrow from Mark Twain) the truth has a pesky way of shining through. In other words, truth endures.

Which means that every time the civic achievements of a generation of kind and giving people are denigrated, it diminishes those that do so.

In the past few weeks of this heated election season, I’ve seen some of our best mayors made fun of—with suggestions that a few should seek memory care. And I’ve seen a narrative that said redeveloping downtown Delray was easy and could have been accomplished by just about anyone.

I don’t think so.

It took an army of talented people. An army….who knew how to work together, knew how to engage the community and knew how to collaborate with each other.

As for the mayors, well, I don’t think dementia is something to joke about, besides I know those mayors and on their worst day they can run circles around these social media legends.

But I digress.

I do not think anyone is above criticism.

If you venture into the “arena” you can count on it. And truth be told, plenty of mistakes were made; that’s what life is. Hopefully, you fix them and don’t repeat them.

But I also don’t think it’s healthy or wise for a community to chew up and spit out those who gave their time, treasure, and passion to a place.

I almost felt bad about some of this nonsense, but then I remembered a scene from the movie Good Will Hunting and I felt better.

In this pivotal scene, Robin Williams, who plays a therapist named Sean, confronts Matt Damon who plays the genius Will. Will had criticized a painting in Sean’s office and by extension Sean’s life.

Here’s a snippet of the script. It’s terrific.

Sean: I thought about what you said to me the other day, about my painting.

Will: Yeah?

Sean: Stayed up half the night thinking about it. Something occurred to me…and I fell into a deep peaceful sleep and haven’t thought about you since. Do you know what occurred to me?

Will: No.

Sean: You’re just a kid, you don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about.

Will: Why thank you.

Sean: It’s all right. You’ve never been out of Boston.

Will: Nope.

Sean: So, if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling.

The scene proceeds with a dissertation on war, women, and life itself. It’s a masterful piece of screenwriting but there’s a profound lesson baked into the scene as well. Sean has hard earned experience, while his critic, in this case Will, lobs missiles from the cheap seats, from a place of anger and insecurity. That’s where bullies live.

Life, business, leadership always seems easier from the outside looking in. But if you examine every success story you see the struggle. I have yet to encounter a single “overnight” success story. It takes grit, hard work, sacrifice and this is going to sound odd—a fair amount of failure to succeed.

Why failure?
Because you learn from your mistakes.

So, when you see and experience criticism, please consider the source. Is he or she credible? Have they been in the situations that they are opining about?

Have they run a non-profit arts organization?

Have they made decisions that impact their neighbors?

Have they taken a risk, failed, got up, wiped the blood from their nose and tried again?

Meanwhile, this is a partial list of who is on the outs in Delray Beach these days. If you see these good ole boys and girls give them a pat on the back. They’ve earned it.

A veteran public school teacher who won a “Woman of Grace” Award recognizing her lifetime of volunteering for good causes.

A founder of an arts organization widely credited with leading the renaissance of downtown Delray. She recently won a “Distinguished Achievement Award” given by the University of Florida in recognition of her work as a champion of historic preservation.

A local business owner who gives to just about every charity in town, raises money by organizing a banquet honoring police officers and founded two charitable organizations that give back to local non-profits.

A semi-retired real estate developer who has spent the past 20 years serving on non-profit and city boards while supporting local charities just because he loves this place and wants to see it thrive.

A local contractor who has devoted himself to all things Delray for over 25 years.

A dedicated community servant who is involved in education, the environment, historic preservation, economic development and making sure we have a tree canopy.

A small business owner and philanthropist who has been involved in everything from the arts and culture to making sure we have trained Santa’s at the tree during the holidays.

I can go on and on.

These people are not entitled, elitist or self-serving—they are interested, generous and passionate about our hometown.

Something is amiss when they’ve been sidelined, kicked to the curb, and ridiculed.

Good ole boys?

Well, they are good.

Some of them are old (but young in spirit). Besides there is absolutely nothing wrong with being old.

Lastly, none of them are boys. They are men and women who care.


And win or lose tomorrow they won’t be silenced. They won’t be bullied.

Vote accordingly.


From City Hall To The White House

A good farm system…

Two mayors are running for president and if any of them makes it,  they will become a rarity: only Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge went from City Hall to the White House.
The two mayors are Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana and Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey.

If it’s possible, let’s put partisanship aside for a moment or two.
Can we do that?

Now let’s focus on whether being a mayor of a city qualifies someone for the most powerful position in the world.
The case against:
—it’s a big leap from City Hall to the Oval Office. One position deals with potholes and variances, the other deals with national security and the global economy.

—mayors move policy through their city council’s, presidents have to deal with 535 members of the House and Senate.

On the local level, if you have a good idea on Tuesday night and a few commissioners agree with you things start to move on Wednesday morning. In Washington, it takes an act of Congress to get action from Congress. Ideas may not even resemble what you proposed by the time it makes its way through committees and to the floor in both the House and the Senate. It’s a wonder anything gets done. Come to think of it, not much does.

Good mayors are used to getting things done.
The case for:
–Good mayors work on more than potholes, they are involved in economic development, education, civic engagement, urban planning, transportation and the health and safety of their communities.
They tend to come with a bias toward action and tend to look at issues practically and in a fact-based manner. They are not partisan. That’s a good thing.
–Most mayors develop a thick skin.
That will come in handy on the national stage. We are, after all, a nation of critics.
Mayors understand this because they can’t go anywhere without facing criticism—not the grocery, gas station, to their favorite social media hangout or to dinner without running into someone who seems to live for the chance to insult, berate or complain to you.
Truth is, most people are nice and very sweet. And that’s what makes being a mayor worth it. But if you are in the arena (and mayors are) you will suffer your fair share of slings and arrows–mostly from the cheap seats, i.e. people who don’t have ideas or contribute.

Of course, as President, the Secret Service won’t let you mingle too much with the people. Which is sad but understandable. Mayors can’t hide, but neither can presidents.

Now I’m of the belief that partisan politics is for the birds.

Nothing gets done which is anathema to good mayors who always have a bias for action and decision making.
So I’m thinking that the idea of a mayor as POTUS is not such a bad concept.

Good mayors know how to promote their cities, grow their economies, bring people together, solve problems and serve the needs of constituents. Those are skills that translate.

We’ve had a haberdasher (Truman), a slew of lawyers (I will resist the lawyer jokes), a couple of generals, a community organizer and a reality TV star.
I’ll take my chances on a mayor.

But only a good one.