Decision Time

Well…we did it again.

We managed to go through an election season without a substantive debate on the issues or a respectful discussion of ideas.

We did however manage to lie, label, disrespect, disparage and sling vitriol at each other with great fervor. And we wonder why people won’t run for public office…

Still, there are some emerging trends we should pay attention too if our goal is to be a stronger community.  One in particular that I think we ought to pay closer attention to are the attacks on a candidate’s supporters and their motives.

This year it has been open season on those who endorse or contribute financially to campaigns. But what if your goal is not to corrupt, but to support someone you believe in? What if your motive is good government? Are we that cynical that we preclude those motives as a possibility. As for economic interests, are we that myopic to label donors selfish just because they may wish to invest in our community and they support candidates that they believe will be reasonable or at least follow the local rules?

That said, I want to share with you a list of some (NOT ALL) of my civic heroes. Many of whom were subject to cynical remarks on social media this  cycle by people– who for the most part–  we’ve never seen serve our community. If they weren’t attacked,  many were dismissed as being unimportant as if endorsements and support don’t matter. I disagree. Here’s why:

Frances Bourque-words can’t describe Frances’ impact on Delray Beach. The founder of Old School Square, lifetime achievement award winner, historic preservation icon. Her vision gave us a place to gather and with it a sense of community.

Tom Lynch—three term mayor, School Board Chair, founding chairman of the CRA, lifetime achievement award winner, accomplished businessman and visionary. We recovered our civic pride as a result of his leadership.  Delray won its first All America City Award and was named the “Best Run Town in Florida” on his watch.

Doak Campbell-former mayor and commissioner. The Atlantic Avenue Task Force, Visions 2000, the creation of the CRA and the establishment of the first historic districts happened during Doak’s era.

Jay Alperin-former mayor and commissioner. 10 plus years service on the city commission. Past chair of Old School Square and the Chamber.

David Schmidt—former mayor and commissioner, president of Sister Cities, long time contributor to the Morikami Museum and someone who I sat next to on the commission for three years. David was a terrific mayor with a model temperament.

Yvonne Odom—civic icon who was the first African American to attend Atlantic High. Mentor to hundreds of young people for decades.

Rita Ellis—my successor as mayor. Past Chamber Chair, past chair of the Downtown Development Authority, longtime Beach Property Owners Association leader and successful business owner.

Bill Branning-two time chair of Old School Square, one of the best CRA commissioners ever, Vice chair of the Chamber, successful businessman and dedicated volunteer. Bill is devoted to all things Delray.

Cathy Balestriere– Past chair of the chamber, CRA commissioner, driving force behind Crane’s Beach House and growing Delray as a “destination.” Active in scores of Delray non-profits.

Scott Porten—a dreaded developer, who took a drive through car wash and gave us Citywalk with places like Brule and took a troubled area of town and gave us The Estuary. Scott is a devoted volunteer serving on City boards, chairing Old School Square and the Chamber and helping to lead the Beach Property Owners for years. He loves this city and gives back constantly. You WANT developers with Scott’s level of concern and passion for the city. Because they care about what they build.

Bill Morris—another developer who chairs Old School Square, supports FAU, the Boys and Girls Club and loves this city with all his heart.

Joe Gillie—longtime president of Old School Square who helped us win all three All America City Awards. Joe is Delray. Period.

Fran Marincola—longtime proprietor of the landmark Caffe Luna Rosa, 19 years on the Parking Management Advisory Board, past chair of the DDA, past chair of the Sandoway House Nature Center and longtime BPOA leader, Fran has a heart of gold. He’s devoted to Delray.

Jestena Boughton—historic preservationist and owner of the historic Colony Hotel, Jestena is a delight who has done so much for our town.

Susan Ruby—former City Attorney, leader in Del Ida and a personal touchstone of mine.

Ann Gannon– Palm Beach County’s Tax Collector, former state legislator, devoted to Delray and good government.

Chuck Halberg– I don’t know anyone who loves Delray more or who gives more than Chuck.

Dave Henninger–gave so much to this community especially the Achievement Center, Chamber, Lake Ida neighborhood etc.

David Randolph—long time city commissioner and mentor to so many.

Zack Staghn–decades of service to the community, mentor to countless leaders and devoted civil rights champion.

The list of people and organizations involved in this year’s campaign goes on and on. Amazing young leaders: Connor Lynch, Craig Spodak, Emanuel Dupree Jackson Jr., Lee Cohen, Sgt. Gary Ferreri, Rob Long, Kate Volman, Jason Bregman, Joe Collard, Rob Posillico, Amanda Perna, Matt Shipley, Steve Mackey and more.  Neighborhood leaders from WARC, the Northwest/Southwest Alliance, Del Ida, Seacrest, etc. etc.  Unions representing Fire, Police, general employees–the people who protect and serve us.  Organizations ranging from the realtors association to the Human Rights Council and more. Stellar long time contributors such as Fred Fetzer, Jon Levinson, Gary Eliopoulos, Nancy Dockerty, Bob Currie, Bill Nix, Zack Straghn, Cathy Weil, Shirl Fields, Mark Sauer, Suzanne Spencer, Joycelyn Patrick, Rick Caster, Christina Morrison, Bruce Bastian, Ingrid Kennemer and more.
Many of these people and organizations have been labeled: special interests, good old boys, the Establishment and worse.
But they are the people and the groups that are Delray. They represent the past, the present and the  future of our city.
They are the volunteers devoted to this community. The ones who give their time, their talents and their treasure to this town.
They back Jim Chard for Mayor. Most of the above also back Ryan Boylston for commissioner. (Fire backed his opponent, Police stayed out).
Can they all be wrong?
I don’t think so.
They know Delray. They care about Delray.
They’re not special interests. They are the backbone of this City.
And like me they want change. Unity not division. Progress not indecision and infighting. Leadership not bullying.
Tomorrow we have a chance to help Delray.
It’s Election Day.
Please vote.

Don’t Forget to Vote


You can read about Trump, Cruz, Hillary and Bernie elsewhere.

But there’s another election on Tuesday that is of some import to Delray Beach.

Two questions are on the ballot:

The first asks voters to give the Commission the authority to hire an independent internal auditor who will report to the City Commission not the City Manager.

The second asks for permission to make some changes to civil service rules.

Here’s my take. And it’s simple really.

We have a building full of administrators hired to provide municipal services in an efficient, ethical and cost effective manner.

We have a City Manager, two Assistant City Managers, a CFO (I prefer the term finance director, but why quibble?), a finance department, a City Attorney’s Office and outside auditors who help to mind the store.

We also have a five member City Commission who are in office to help ensure that things are done properly.

Oh and we also have an Ethics Commission and an Office of Inspector General who are responsible for ensuring against waste, fraud, abuse and procurement problems.

Seems like we have a lot of protection and it also seems that if we can’t operate properly we may have the wrong people in some of these positions. Long story short, there’s no need for an internal auditor.

Here’s a radical thought: hire competent managers and get out their way and let them do their jobs. Trust but verify that they are doing their jobs. If they perform—great; if they don’t—hire new people.

As for question 2, it seems the change is being sought to enable our city government to make changes to the civil service code without going to the state legislature or holding a referendum. Sounds innocuous enough, but I worry about those “changes” and especially stripping protections from non-union workers.

Regardless, we certainly hope you vote.

Too few people exercise a right that people in America and across the world have fought and died for.


Pre-Election Day Thoughts


After a record $4 billion of ad spending, Americans head to the polls tomorrow to elect everybody from County Commissioners and School Board members to Senators and Governors.

If the polls are correct—and I suspect they are—it’s going to be a good day for Republicans from Alaska to Arkansas. But those same polls also show deep dissatisfaction with both political parties and the general direction of this country. American voters are unhappy with their government and their elected leaders, with rare exceptions.

There seems to be something inherently wrong with our politics and we seem to be attracting something far less than our best and brightest to public service.

Government—at all levels—has been demonized and often with good reason due to waste, fraud, corruption, abuse and incompetence. But we’ve also been told that government is our problem and no longer is the source of solutions and that is a dangerous belief system, because it tends to be self-fulfilling.

The truth is, we need government, limited, effective, fiscally responsible and competent to deal with common problems and opportunities and we don’t seem to be getting it.

As a result, problems ranging from infrastructure neglect and terrorism to climate change and immigration reform go untended. Unfortunately, problems that are neglected don’t tend to disappear, they tend to fester and get worse.

Somehow, someway, we have to find a way to work together again and get things done. If we don’t, our children and grandchildren will inherit a range of deep seated problems and future generations will look back at us and wonder—what were they thinking?

I believe that solutions begin with finding capable leaders who have an ability to engage those who they represent.

But after a barrage of negative TV advertising that was long on the “other candidate is horrible” and short on any ideas, I’m certain we are not going to get that leadership when the polls close tomorrow.

I will vote—as I always do—but like others I almost can’t believe the paucity of choices on the ballot.

This less than inspiring slate—which seems to be a nationwide malady—ought to be a powerful wake up call for voters. We need to do better. Better candidates, better campaigns, better ideas, better debates and better coverage of races so voters can get beyond the horse race and really understand what solutions or ideas candidates bring to the table.

Years ago, I stumbled on a quote in a magazine about a candidate running for Mayor in a small Maine town. She said that holding office “was a job to do, not a job to have.”

I clipped that quote and carried it with me during my seven years as a local elected official to remind me that my responsibility was not to take the easy or politically expedient path, but to do what I felt was right. Like everyone else, you find that sometimes you stumble. But for me that quote was a guidepost, a reminder that politics was an opportunity to make change, solve problems, involve people and try to ensure a future for others. The commission’s I served on called it moving ‘the big rocks’.

Too many politicians think of service as a career and are afraid to actually do the job. They play dodge ball with the issues delaying the inevitable and leaving problems for future generations to deal with.

We deserve better.

Great leaders are hard to find. But we better start trying.

Every day I interact with smart, visionary people, most of whom would never consider running for office because they see politics as dirty and inconsequential. It needs to be viewed differently; recast as public service and transformational.

I think the voters are hungry for good leadership and vision. I think they would welcome bold ideas, honesty and being treated like adults.

Just my hunch.