Odds & Ends & A Delray Heroine Retires

Beautiful Quebec City

Beautiful Quebec City

In Praise of Quebec City and BVT

We’re back from a week of rest and relaxation in Quebec City and Burlington, Vermont.
Both are terrific cities.
Quebec City is magnifique–physically beautiful and very European in look, feel and scale.
While historic and oozing charm, Quebec City is also a dynamic and energetic place filled with street performers, artists, musicians, innovative food concepts and public art.
If you haven’t been, put it on your list. You will not be disappointed. You will be delighted.
Burlington is also a beautiful city with a rich history.
While its Vermont’s largest city, it’s smaller than Delray and Boca. Much smaller with just over 40,000 people.
Bernie Sanders got his political start in BVT becoming mayor with a 10 vote win back in the day.
When you drive into town after exiting a very scenic ride on Interstate 89 you run smack dab into the campus of the University of Vermont which is spectacular. Drive a few minutes and you come to the top of a hill overlooking picturesque Lake Champlain which serves as a backdrop to the city.
Burlington’s walkable downtown is charming and vibrant and features a pedestrian mall along Church Street, one of the few pedestrian malls that has worked (other examples are Lincoln Road and Charlottesville). It has one glaring flaw– not fatal mind you– but odd and that is an indoor mall anchored by a Macy’s. It doesn’t quite fit and seemed mostly dead while we were there. People preferred to be outside where like Quebec they enjoyed cafe dining, street musicians and the joy of just watching the world go by.
Burlington and surrounding cities –we visited Woodstock, Waterbury–(home of Ben & Jerry’s), Stowe, Shelburne, Queechee Gorge and Winooski–(known as Burlington’s Brooklyn) are teeming with incredible restaurants, creameries, cider mills, vineyards, distilleries and a slew of breweries. It’s beyond cool. And Lake Champlain—just wondrous.
It’s a sophisticated little place.
Relevant lessons for Delray and Boca: don’t design downtowns for cars, design for people. Both Quebec and Burlington favor the pedestrian and celebrate sidewalk dining, activity, festivals, pop up retail and localism. Local food, local beers, local wines, local artists, local farms, you get the picture.
Arts, culture, tourism are important economic drivers. They are celebrated.
The sense of place, history and the cool vibe is leveraged to create other industries. Burlington has a downtown incubator which was recently featured in the New York Times which is doing what it can to capture the entrepreneurial talent in the area and at UVM.
Breweries, distilleries and the local food scene are also encouraged with news articles, festivals, tastings and the like. We saw this in both Quebec and Burlington.
It’s really wonderful to have a university close to the heart of your city. It’s not only nice to see young people, but the college is a remarkable resource and source of intellectual energy.
Finally, both cities have a feeling of civic pride. They know they are special places, people seem proud of their cities and everyone you run into is eager to recommend sites, restaurants and things to do.
Civic pride is a killer app.
The Passionate Mayor
Over the weekend PBS ran a documentary about former NYC Mayor Ed Koch.
It was fascinating as was Mayor Koch. Alternately loved and despised, Koch was a larger than life figure and to a generation of New Yorkers he will always be the mayor.
He strived for relevancy and public engagement well into his mid 80s. It was both poignant and inspiring to see.
Love him or loathe him, one thing that was apparent was Koch’s love of his city. He reveled in New York.
That passion, that fire, I think is essential if you are going to be a mayor that matters.
If you don’t like people, loathe your downtown, use the office as a resting stop until you can get another seat or generally refuse to push, prod, coax, market or move your city forward you simple won’t succeed.
Short story about Koch.
I saw him once in Central Park and he was swamped by people. Many years later, I received a call to have breakfast with him at the Green Owl. It was 2004 and Koch–a lifelong Democrat who had never voted for a Republican– had jumped party lines to support George W. Bush over John Kerry in the presidential race. The campaign sent Koch to Florida and he was making the rounds. I declined the invite because I wasn’t interested in being a political prop, but I sure did wish there was a “no agenda” opportunity to meet Mayor Koch. It would have been fascinating.
Thanks Dr. Hunter
Last but most certainly not least we would like to wish a happy and healthy and productive retirement to Lynda Hunter who retired last week from the Delray Public Library.
Dr.  Hunter was the Children’s Librarian for forty years and positively impacted the lives of thousands of Delray Beach children through her love of reading.
A few of those kids were my very own.
Lynda and I worked closely together along with Janet Meeks and Lula Butler to create the Mayor’s Literacy Initiative which included everything from introducing books to summer camp programs to ice cream parties in our PJs.
Lynda was also there when we moved the library from US 1 to West Atlantic Avenue–which wasn’t without controversy but was the right thing to do. She helped to plan the new and vastly improved children’s section at the larger facility which bears her name along with philanthropist Virginia Kimmel who was so taken by Dr. Hunter’s passion that she felt compelled to get involved. Lynda is that kind of person. Inspirational.
Lynda’s heartfelt dedication to children and reading leaves a lasting legacy.
She sparked a love of books and reading on generations of young people who will surely pass it on to their children. That’s what the great ones do: they leave a legacy, they touch people and shape them, they leave us better for having met them on our journey.
Lynda is one of the  great ones. And lucky for us, she’s not done. She will continue to spread the love of reading which sees as an answer to what ails our society.
Thanks Lynda…what a legacy.

We couldn't find a picture of Lynda Hunter, but we found this from a reading event. Only she could get me to wear moose pjs...

We couldn’t find a picture of Lynda Hunter, but we found this from a reading event. Only she could get me to wear moose pjs…