No News Is Bad News

This paper looks interesting.

Local news is endangered nationwide.

That’s not good news.

Democracy really does die in darkness.

According to a recent report on the state of local news, there are 204 counties in America with no news outlets and 1,562 counties with only one.

The Local News Initiative at Northwestern University reports that 2,900 plus dailies and weeklies have failed since 2005, including 130 in 2023.

Technically, we don’t live in a news desert, but our news diet is full of empty calories.

We have two daily newspapers that are shells of what they once were, and with all due respect to my friends in local TV News, they cover “big” and “visual” stories. They don’t cover the nuts and bolts of cities, the stuff you need to know.

What’s filled the vacuum are anonymous emails, social media posts (that are often way off base) and well-meaning citizen journalists who try, but often fall short for lack of time, reach and resources.

When I moved to South Florida in 1987, the Boca-Delray area enjoyed wall to wall coverage. We had three daily newspapers (the Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and Boca News and on big stories the Miami Herald would come to town), the twice weekly Monday Thursday Papers, a few local magazines, a handful of local radio stations (with actual news departments) and three TV stations.

You had to work hard to be uninformed in those days. Reporters were part of the community; we knew our beat reporters and they were often with us for years.

It wasn’t uncommon to see editors at City Hall watching meetings and trying to get the small details right to make their stories better. Today, editors sit in some remote newsroom (or in their living rooms) and my guess is many wouldn’t know Atlantic Avenue from Atlantic Boulevard. Ugh!

If you want to see how out of touch they are, read their political endorsements—utterly clueless. Check that, embarrassingly clueless. I mean pull your hair out, scream at the moon, pinch yourself to see if your hallucinating clueless.

I digress.

Sadly, the internet ate newspapers.

Local journalism is a casualty of technology and frankly some bad decisions by corporate actors who killed papers by the thousands.

Newspapers caused some of their own struggles.  Many failed to invest in their newsrooms and the industry missed the boat on how tech would devastate their bottom lines. Craig’s List and eBay destroyed classified ads, Zillow and the like took away real estate ads and Google took the rest.

Yet, we need journalism.

The loss of local newspapers means we know less about the places where we live and the people who serve us. I believe we’ve lost a great deal of civic engagement because we’ve lost newspapers and because we’ve ceded the public square to those who yell the loudest or those who have an agenda.

Yes, the very notion of community is at risk as we sink into our phones. I was a young reporter in a Delray Beach where reporters competed for scoops, fresh angles and what we called “enterprise” stories that were a little more in-depth than taking dictation at some commission meeting.

I’d like to think the community was better informed and more engaged as a result. More people voted, more people volunteered, and more people turned up at city sponsored charettes. (Remember those?) And if you must look up the word, it’s because we haven’t had a gathering of the community to share ideas in a long time.

We were also building back then, downtown needed CPR, neighborhoods were plagued by crime, there was a sense of urgency to breathe life into the city and to attract investment. These days we wrestle with success. (P.S. I’d much rather manage success than deal with a crack cocaine epidemic.)

So, when I hear candidates vow to solve traffic downtown or complain about leaf blowers, I scratch my head. We worked 25 years to put traffic on Atlantic Avenue. And the only leaves blowing were tumble weeds down our main street.

Want to solve traffic? It’s easy, create places nobody wants to visit.

For the rest of us, if you want to avoid traffic downtown, please use the grid system. Delray has wonderful “bones”—as a result I can zip around town by using the grid. I use Atlantic when I want to see what’s going on. It’s a great street my friends, but if I have get somewhere quick I use our wonderful grid.

But let’s get back to local journalism.

Regardless of where you are in your city’s lifecycle journalism is important. Accurate Information is valuable currency.

So, is there hope? If so, where?

I have some optimism in a nascent effort called “Stet Media.”

“Stet” is an old copy-editing term, lost on a generation of young journalists but the term brings a smile to this former reporter. Stet Media Group provides local news coverage in Palm Beach County.

From their website “ Yep. We’re different.


We don’t chase the story of the day. No car wrecks. No clickbait. (OK, we’ll tell you when a Cheesecake Factory is opening. Because: cheesecake.)


Our passion is public interest journalism. That means the stories we write, how we engage with readers and the events we hold are all guided by one question: How are we serving the community?


In town after town, news has gone dark in Palm Beach County. There are plenty of hardworking reporters, but years of cutbacks have narrowed reporting to fewer topics and fewer towns. Bloggers and smaller news organizations are doing great work, but too many are flying below the radar.

That’s where we come in. We’re writing stories others aren’t. We emphasize context, not just news. We’ll share important documents. We’ll highlight compelling stories from other reporters and show you where you can read more of them.”

Music to my ears.

Stet just celebrated its one-year anniversary.

I wish them well. Their reporting is stellar. There’s talent at work here.

They tend to be West Palm/North County focused but maybe as they grow they’ll dedicate some resources to Boca-Delray–we sure have our share of news and misinformation.



If You Tell A Lie Big Enough…

Connections and landmines.

Last week, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy did something extraordinary.

He issued an advisory, warning the public that social media is doing “harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”

The advisory—19 pages in length–noted the effects of social media on adolescent mental health were not fully understood but there are ample indicators of “profound” risk.

According to Axios:

“Nearly every teenager in America uses social media, and yet we do not have enough evidence to conclude that it is sufficiently safe for them,” Murthy wrote. He argued that kids have “become unknowing participants in a decades-long experiment.”

The surgeon general’s report focuses on the impacts of social media on teens and kids—both positive and negative—and the attendant health risks. The report outlines two types of dangers associated with social networks: content-related problems, such as negative self-image or bullying, and use-related problems, such as poor sleep and addiction.”

My kids are older, but I have friends whose children are teenagers, and they see a difference. Often, moods are dictated by what’s happening online.

Like 3 billion people worldwide, I’m on Facebook. Like 2 billion, I log in every day. I enjoy keeping up with distant family, old friends, former teachers, college classmates and people I used to work with. I try to avoid national and local politics although I do glance at some of the “groups” that post about Delray Beach and Boca Raton. Sometimes, I learn about a new business opening and sometimes I shake my head at the rampant misinformation and relentless negativity I see about all things local.

If you didn’t know better and just relied on Facebook for local “news” you would think that Delray is a hellscape. It’s not.

As for posting, I look at Facebook as an online memory book. I post this blog, pictures of my pets and scenes from our travels. I like looking at them again years later in a memory app I have. I’m reminded that life is more about moments than milestones. Facebook is a good way to capture some of those moments and share them with friends.

But I understand why social media is risky for kids. I also believe it’s a risk for adults and a peril for communities as well.

Because it’s easy to bully people online. It’s also easy to spread misinformation.

I come from the stone age of technology. I served on the Delray Beach City Commission in the years before social media. We did get a ton of e-mail and we did experience a fair amount of misinformation spread via email, pamphlets etc., but the power of social media goes way beyond anything my colleagues and predecessors had to contend with.

Prior to email, if you were angry at a decision, you had to type a letter, print it out, find a stamp and mail it. It took a lot of time and effort. Or you could pick up the phone and vent. But it was hard to misinform a great deal of people easily.

In my era, we had a woman that went door to door in The Set claiming the city was going to use Eminent Domain to “take” their homes when in fact, our Downtown Master Plan outlined strategies to encourage “development without displacement.”
It turns out the spreader of the false info was a realtor, who really wanted people to sell their homes to her quickly before the city came and “took” them. We pushed back with a public information campaign when we heard from scores of people who were frightened about being displaced.

I remember a long-ago Father’s Day when our commission was forced to respond to hundreds of emails because a political opponent claimed—falsely—that we were going to eliminate the words “village by the sea” from our city’s plans and visions. We answered every single email; it was not a fun day.

Today, the ubiquity of social media allows misinformation to flow instantly to thousands of people. It’s a huge challenge for elected officials.

Of course, social media also can inform and present facts, but for some reason as Mark Twain once said: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”

Such is human nature.

Social media is here to stay, I believe. Although personally, I’ve noticed my own use diminishing and I hear others tell me the same.  Like many things, it has gotten too divisive and too ugly.

I don’t have any solutions to the Surgeon General’s concerns, other than standards. We need standards. Not government imposed standards, but good old-fashioned standards of decency. We seem to have lost the thread. We seem to reward bullying and vulgarity.

In search of inspiration, I often turn to people I admire.

Last week, I watched a State of the City speech given by a man who many consider to be the best mayor in America—Jim Brainard of Carmel, Indiana.

Mayor Brainard has served 7 terms in office and is widely credited with transforming Carmel into one of the best small cities in America. Look up his record and read up on Carmel, his accomplishments are astonishing.

This will be his last term so I thought I would check out his 2022 State of the City speech to see what he’s learned. I think he might have one more speech scheduled, but this was his latest.

Here’s a link.

If you love cities, you’ll find yourself listening to the whole thing. But if you don’t have the time, fast forward to the 27-minute mark and listen to what he says about civility and compromise. Listen to what he says about sitting down respectfully and working things out with those you disagree with.

That can’t happen on Facebook, which is instantaneous, sometimes anonymous, and always done in a vacuum without having to face the person you differ with.

What Mayor Brainard says isn’t some Eureka concept and he’s a bit of a dry speaker, but his advice is profound. It’s common sense, which come to think of it, isn’t that common these days.

Those with whom we disagree are people, they aren’t enemies. They just see things differently. So why not sit down and compromise? Why not set a standard for your community and make it a safe place to serve and debate?

I’m not naïve enough to believe there is no evil in this world. There is plenty of it. And those people cannot be reasoned with. But most people aren’t evil and that’s where we must start, with those willing to sit and listen.


Honoring The Covenant

I don’t like misinformation.

I don’t like bullies.

And I really do not like those who traffic in disrespect; which makes social media a minefield for me.

One of the worst things about platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is the ease by which we can easily step on the mines that are lies, bullying and disrespect.


The lies and negativity run rampant in our news feed, often spread, sadly by those we know. By those who ought to know better.

Last week, I saw a thread that really bothered me. By that I mean get under your skin and make you scream kind of bother.

Oh, I’ve gotten used to the garden variety poop we see these days: the insensitivity, the lack of empathy, the political drivel that for some reason people feel compelled to share.

But my skin crawls when people make sweeping pronouncements that discount, write off and outright lie about our recent  history here in Delray Beach.

I get irked when particular misinformation finds its way into the digital realm because I fear that the old adage is true: a lie will travel halfway around the world before the truth puts its pants on.

I used to think that the truth would prevail. I believed that the truth was a stubborn thing and it would refuse to go away.

Not anymore.

We now live in an age where there are no objective facts. That’s a helluva thing. Orwellian, dangerous and deadly.

Have mercy on us, because this kind of magical thinking is not only hurtful its potentially ruinous.

We have enabled this kind of culture. And if left alone, this destructive paradigm will bite us. It will bite us hard. It already has.

From masks to vaccines. From climate change to the integrity of our elections, we are seeing how divisive it can be when each of us is entitled to “alternative facts”—whatever that is.

But what chafed me recently was not the tired debate over something important like whether Covid is deadly but rather an inane argument over whether prior mayors, CRA staff and city staff were committed to helping our neediest neighborhoods and people.

As a former mayor married to a former CRA Director with close friends who were city staffers, mayors, Commissioners  and CRA staff, the assertion that nothing was done until the city commission took over the CRA is not only wrong, it’s insulting.

It’s dismissive and disrespectful to generations of staff, elected leaders and volunteers who devoted years of their lives to public service and rightly take pride in that service.

So I won’t let it pass.

I can’t let it pass.

It is not about claiming credit.

It’s about telling the truth.

And the truth is this.

For a generation, there has been a sincere effort to direct public and private investment to neglected neighborhoods.

Has it been enough?


Nobody ever said it was. More investment is needed. Much more.

We need better schools, more opportunities and more thinking about how we can all work together to lift up everyone who lives in our city.

But to say that nothing has been done is wrong.

It’s a lie.

And it disrespects years of work by scores of community leaders, including a slew of “Elders” who worked closely with elected leaders and dedicated staff—or at least those who were smart enough to listen. And many were.

Truth is, we’ve seen a fraying of these efforts in recent years.

In Delray, we once talked about a “covenant.”

We once asked/hoped and expected that leaders would honor that covenant.

My understanding of the covenant is that when you sought a leadership position in Delray Beach, you were expected to listen, collaborate, learn, respect and do whatever you could to help those in our community who needed it most.

As an elected official, you did not get to claim that you honored the covenant; that was an honor given to you by the people. But only if you earned it. Only if you delivered real results not election year spin.

As a reporter, elected official and citizen I stood in awe of people like Libby Wesley, Vera Farrington, the Pompey’s, David Randolph, the Gholston’s, the Ramirez’s, Zack Straghn, legendary pastors and public employees who devoted their lives to the neighborhood we now call The Set.

Some won’t call the Northwest and Southwest neighborhoods  that name.

Why not?

As we approach the holiday season, the end of a brutal year, we ought to take stock.

As we lay one of our community heroes Alfred “Zack” Straghn to rest this weekend we ought to take a deep breath and assess where we are–as people and as a community.

Mr. Zack wasn’t satisfied nor should he have been with the state of our city. That’s not a criticism, but an acknowledgement that when you love and care about a community your work is never done. You are not allowed to rest on your laurels and you are not allowed let problems go unaddressed–they must be met with answers and careful attention. No Zack was not satisfied, nor was Mr. and Mrs. Pompey or the wonderful Miss Libby. But they also would have told you that they were proud of the progress that had been made and appreciative of all those rowing in the right direction.

Why can’t we respect the hard work done in the past, knowing the task is incomplete and that the promise of Delray is unfulfilled?

Why is it so easy to dismiss the work done by people who have devoted their lives and careers to this town?

Successful cities build brick by brick, inch by inch, year after year. Real leaders look forward, they don’t seek to rewrite history they seek to make history.

A House Divided

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”—Abraham Lincoln.

I was thinking of Lincoln last week as I watched news coverage of the historic House vote on impeachment.

As member after member rose and went on record for or against, we saw the stark and dark divisions in our country laid bare for all to see. Of course, it was nothing new. We see it every single day and have seen it for years.

And I thought of Lincoln. And whether our better angels have departed for good.

Presidential historian Jon Meacham reminds us that we have been through worse and have always come back and for sure we have. But I have this nagging feeling that somehow what we’re seeing is different.

And I thought of Lincoln.

I went to the Internet to re-read his “House Divided” speech. I hadn’t read it in decades, since I was in school.

The House Divided Speech was delivered on June 16, 1858, at what was then the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, after Lincoln had accepted the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination to run for the U.S. Senate.

The speech became the launching point for his unsuccessful campaign for the seat, held by Stephen A. Douglas; the campaign would climax with the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.

At the time, even Lincoln’s friends regarded his speech as too radical for the occasion.

But when you read it, you can’t help but feel that it is tame by today’s standards. The language is almost poetic, the writing is outstanding and while he argues passionately against slavery it is devoid of personal attacks. Instead it is full of ideas and optimism.

It concludes with the following line: “We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail.”

It is vintage Lincoln, acknowledging the high stakes and the possibility of failure, but ultimately ending on an optimistic note.

I don’t see that optimism today. That belief that things are going to get better, that problems are going to be solved and divisions will be repaired.

Not on the international stage where a teenager chastises the world’s leaders for doing nothing to save the environment and not on the national stage where we see a constant barrage of attacks, lies and accusations. Even locally, we see a ton of negativity especially on social media which can be a cesspool.

In such a world, is there a place for our better angels to make a stand?
Are people willing to put the world, nation and their own community ahead of their tribe?

What will it take for good people to rise up and say enough is enough?
Do we sit idly by as standards and rules that seemed to work for so long get obliterated?

Or will we continue to bicker and watch the heat and anger rise and take us to ever more dangerous places?

It’s a fundamental choice to make, but the path to something better is not clear.

As a hyperlocal blog, I invite you to cruise some local Facebook pages and see what you find.

It seems like almost every post that has to do with local government attracts a large share of cynicism and snark.

Pebb Capital, a fine firm with a deep track record of success in real estate, ponies up a whopping $40 million to buy the Sundy House and the first comment you see is a cynical prediction that the historic structures will be bulldozed and the historic neighborhood trashed. Followed by comments such as “Delray is shot,” no longer charming or in the least appealing. Really? Is that true?

Should we be concerned about historic properties? Of course. But there doesn’t seem to be any trust in the process or in the officials responsible for enforcing the city’s codes and land development rules.

In reality, with Pebb Capital in town, we will actually see the long-awaited investment promised. We won’t ever see 10 story buildings downtown and if you want to see real traffic try navigating Glades Road after 4 p.m.

To be sure, there is plenty to be concerned about in Delray and I have written extensively on those topics. I will note that you only spend time on the things you care about. So when we see columns on instability at City Hall, poor leadership, a lack of long term thinking, incivility, the lack of talent attracted to public service and rising rents downtown it’s not coming from a nasty place but from a love of this community and a desire to see it thrive and be a happy place. I hope the other comments I referenced on Facebook come from that place too. Sometimes I have my doubts.

While fixing the national scene may be a bridge too far, we can always start at home.

Groups like WiseTribe offer a great template for building community.

Another suggestion is to go back to the old playbook.

Delray made significant strides beginning in the late 80s when the city began to offer a slew of ways for citizens to get engaged. From citizen police academies and resident academies to visioning charrettes and neighborhood dinners, there was a concerted effort to find, recruit and bring citizens to the public square so they could work together and building a better city.

It worked.

As important as those initiatives were, they may be even more important today. We cannot let social media be the only or even the primary way for citizens to engage. For sure, there is a place for Facebook. But it is a poor replacement for face to face meetings and social media does not provide a meaningful way to facilitate important conversations.

It’s hard to demonize someone sitting across a table from you, but very easy to do so on Facebook, especially since the platform allows for the use of fake identities.

Sometimes the old fashioned ways are best; face to face conversations still have a place in our hyper connected world. If we lose the ability to relate to our neighbors we will lose the common ground that builds community and with it our sense of belonging.


Many Soulful Miles

Yulia at Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park.

“Never underestimate your dreams. If there is a will, there is a way to get anything you want in life.” –Yulia


Did you ever want to chuck it all?
Start fresh.

Pick up and go.

Are you intrigued by adventure?

Do you admire the risk takers, the ‘go for it’ segment of our society who just seem to know how to live, really live?

I think it’s a feeling many if not most of us have experienced and while we may fantasize or even dip our toes into something different, the ties that bind tend to keep us in our place.

Not so for my friend Yulia Konovnitsyna.

She’s on a grand adventure as I write this. Or maybe that’s not the right word. Because an adventure implies a beginning, a middle and an end. My friend Yulia has changed her life and has adopted a new way of living.  I’m living vicariously through her travels with her dog Milo across our great country.

I’m having a great time doing so. Even if sometimes her posts stir a longing deep in my soul for change and transformation.

The Grand Tetons, Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, Arches National Park and many, many stops along the way.

Yulia shares her photos and thoughts on social media—and they are sensational. She is a digital marketing entrepreneur and somehow she is managing to grow her business, serve her clients and live a life of adventure.

She’s sharing under the name “Many Soulful Miles” and I find that moniker fitting. Yulia is a soulful person and very much an old soul.

While she’s young in age, she positively oozes wisdom.

I started to hear about her a few years back through my friend Karen Granger, then the president of the Delray Chamber of Commerce.
“You’ve got to meet Yulia,” Karen would gush. “She’s amazing.”
Knowing Karen’s keen sense of people and her ability to spot talent I was intrigued.

So Yulia and I met at The Coffee District and I was very impressed.

My three passions are community, entrepreneurship and leadership—and Yulia ticked all three boxes. She was building a community through Creative Mornings Palm Beach,  she was clearly a leader of that movement and she was an entrepreneur with an inspiring immigration story.

We became friends. She asked me to speak to Creative Mornings (which was an honor and a thrill) and I was happy when she announced that she was hitting the road with her adorable dog Milo.

I look forward to her posts—the photos and videos are magnificent. But it’s the occasional long form posts that I relish. Her thoughts on travel, on work, solitude, narcissism, friendship, self-reliance and the beauty of the places she visits are just wonderful. Soulful too…and we all need a little more soul these days.

As I stare down my 55th birthday in a few weeks, chances are I will never quite replicate what Yulia is doing but who knows? Maybe, just maybe Diane and I will steal away with our rescue dogs for an adventure. But right now, it’s August and I’m still trying to plan a vacation.

I have a strong hunch that this is more than an adventure for Yulia. She may have found a way to live her best life, yet another reason to admire her.

Who knows where the road will lead? Nobody really does. But if you make them soulful miles, well then maybe, just maybe you’ll discover the answers to a lot of life’s mysteries.



Alone Again, Naturally?

There’s a loneliness epidemic in America.

That’s the conclusion made by Arthur C. Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, citing a recent study by health insurer Cigna which says most Americans suffer from strong feelings of loneliness and a lack of significance in their relationships.


Stop and think about that. Here’s another showstopper from the survey:

“Nearly half say they sometimes or always feel alone or “left out.” Thirteen percent of Americans say that zero people know them well. The survey, which charts social isolation using a common measure known as the U.C.L.A. Loneliness Scale, shows that loneliness is worse in each successive generation.”

At first, the survey feels counterintuitive. In the age of social media, where we are able to access “friends” 24/7 regardless of location via Facebook, Instagram and other platforms it would seem we would feel more connected than ever.

But 2018 was the year in which we finally stopped long enough to truly consider social media’s impact on our lives and society. Maybe instead of making us closer, it is driving wedges based on our political beliefs. Maybe instead of deepening friendships it has made them hollow—as we share only the best part of our lives in an endless search for “likes” and “retweets.”

I suspect I’m like most people in that I have mixed feelings about social media. I enjoy being able to stay in touch– even nominally– with old friends, classmates, teachers, co-workers and relatives who live far away. But I’ve seen cyber bullying, real “fake news” and manipulation as well. I’ve seen the worst aspects of social media take a toll on relationships and actually prevent people from speaking their minds or participating in civic life for fear of being trolled.

So when you look at the full spectrum, you can see where loneliness can take root.

And it’s not just social media—it’s media in general. Talk radio, cable TV and some print publications peddle an “us” versus “them” narrative which serves to put us in silos where we only interact with people who agree with us.

I find myself avoiding conversations unless I know where people are relative to politics. It seems we are locked into our own set of facts, which ought to alarm everyone because it’s hard to find compromise or consensus if you can’t even agree on objective facts.

All of this leads to a sense of isolation and I guess loneliness. I have my tribe, you have yours and there’s a sense that we share a house that’s divided and we all know (or do we?) what Lincoln said about a house divided.

Brooks and others who have written about this subject also lament the changing nature of work—where the “gig” economy replaces the camaraderie of the office where relationships evolve over years of working side by side. It’s hard to build friendships when you’re driving an Uber or hopping from gig to gig.

Too many Americans don’t feel “rooted” in community these days, according to the research.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska recently wrote a book about this subject. In “Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal,” Senator Sasse writes about “thick” communities, places that where people have real histories and deep relationships with each other. He describes the feeling as a “hometown gym on a Friday night.”

I’ve heard variations of that sentiment over the years regarding Delray. People would say they go downtown and no longer see anyone they know.

I had a colleague on the city commission years ago who used to say that the difference between Delray and Boca was simple: if you asked someone from Delray where they lived they’d answer “Delray.” But if you asked someone from Boca, they’d give their neighborhood such as “Woodfield” or “The Polo Club.”
I don’t know that to be true or not, but it’s an interesting thought.

When your downtown once lacked vibrancy, you actually take pride when you visit and see a crowd of strangers. Hey, at least there’s a crowd. But now I can see what people mean when they long for the days of going downtown and bumping into friends and neighbors.

I am a firm believer in community building—it’s important. It’s vital and if it is missing you end up a lonely place.

In the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, Delray Beach became an All America City and a different place because the number one mission of civic leaders was to build community.

There was an active effort to help neighborhoods form associations. There was an active effort to involve youth in activities such as the Youth Council. There was a huge amount of resources devoted to “community policing”, visioning, recruiting people for advisory boards and creating a large volunteer pool for our police and fire departments, non-profits, schools etc. There were town hall meetings, charrettes and roundtable discussions.

I think it made a difference.

I think it built friendships and civic capacity. It may have eased a sense of loneliness and isolation too.

Special events—which became so controversial and maligned—also played a role. It seems like everyone went to First Night on New Year’s Eve and Art and Jazz on the Avenue was something you just had to attend because as you strolled the avenue you’d see a lot of people you knew and cared about.

Today, there are some really good groups trying to build community: Wise Tribe, Community Greening, Old School Square, the Historical Society, the Beach Property Owners Association to name just a few.

In his New York Times op-ed, Brooks reaches out to Senator Sasse because he’s moving to a new state and he fears being isolated and rootless. Here’s the advice he gets. It something I hope we all heed.

“(Sasse) told me I had it all wrong — that moving back home and going to the gym on Friday aren’t actually the point; rather, the trick is “learning how to intentionally invest in the places where we actually live.” In other words, being a member of a community isn’t about whether I have a Fremont (Sasse’s hometown). It isn’t about how I feel about any place I have lived, nor about my fear of isolation in a new city. It is about the neighbor I choose to be in the community I wind up calling my home.


And there lies the challenge to each of us in a country suffering from loneliness and ripped apart by political opportunists seeking to capitalize on that isolation. Each of us can be happier, and America will start to heal, when we become the kind neighbors and generous friends we wish we had.”



Art Endures: So Does Social Infrastructure

The legendary Paul Simon is on a farewell tour. He visited South Florida for a final show at BB&T.

I’m at an age where my childhood heroes are— how can I be delicate– terming out so to speak.

It seems like every concert I attend these days is part of a “farewell tour” and I have some anxiety every time I hit the “obituary” link on my New York Times app.

Yet, I feel compelled to visit the link because I don’t want to miss the passing of people who meant something to me along the way.

Recent weeks have been especially difficult: we’ve lost Burt Reynolds, the wonderful Neil Simon, Aretha Franklin, John McCain and character actor Bill Daily—Major Healy on “I Dream of Jeanie” which was on every day in my house when my sister and I were growing up. In ways large and small, these people played roles in our culture and therefore our lives.

Politics are important, but politicians come and they go. They may leave a wake—policies may benefit  and they can certainly harm– but the cycles keep coming. But culture endures.

We attended the “farewell tour” for Paul Simon last weekend when it rolled into the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

He played new music and some songs that were 50 years old. They all sounded good, but the older songs still resonated, they were still relevant and they still rang true.

The final song of the night was “American Tune” which was written in 1973. The song is as meaningful today as it was 45 years ago.

“Still when I think of the road we’re traveling on I wonder what’s gone wrong. I can’t help it I wonder what’s gone wrong”.

In introducing the song, Mr. Simon spoke briefly, but his few words spoke volumes.

“Strange times,” he said drily. “Don’t give up.”

We won’t.

I know every generation thinks they have cornered the market on musical genius, but I think the Baby Boomers really did.

We grew up amidst an explosion of musical talent and their music has invaded our pores and informed our thoughts and views of life.

Don’t believe me?

Then consider: The Beatles, The Stones, The Beach Boys, Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, U2, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Byrds, CCR, The Band, Stevie Wonder, Aretha, Neil Young, Smokey Robinson, Dylan, The Dead, Elton John, Billy Joel, the Allman Brothers, The Kinks, Bob Seger, John Mellencamp, Fleetwood Mac, Queen, Earth Wind & Fire, The Temptations, Michael Jackson, Paul Simon and on and on she goes.

Oh I like new music too and seek it out regularly. But our golden age will be hard to match. The world has changed, there is no longer any water cooler, no multi-format radio stations that everyone listens to—we are tethered to our devices and our Spotify song lists. We have convenience and music on demand, but we have lost that common experience. Nobody is home at Graceland anymore.

We all knew what happened when “me and Julio” went down to the school yard and we surely knew what it was like to listen to “Dazed and Confused” while drinking warm beer with friends on a hot summer night. We have traded Budweiser with our buddies for earbuds and solitude. And it makes me a little sad and more than a little nostalgic….

Then, over the weekend, I read about a new term: “social infrastructure.”

I love it.

The author lamented the loss of “social infrastructure” in our cities—places like libraries, places like Old School Square and Patch Reef Park—“palaces for the people” is what the author Eric Klinenberg calls them. I love that phrase.

We ought to start thinking of our public spaces that way. It may be more important now than ever to tend to the commons before they go away and we physically meld with our cellphones and social media platforms. A new study released this week says that teenagers prefer to relate to their friends on their devices rather than in person. Think about that…it’s disturbing.

Regardless, this is a ramble. And I appreciate you reading this far.

From Major Healy to Old School Square we’ve covered some ground…but this drift was anticipated by the likes of Paul Simon when he sang (way back in 1967):

“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio

Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you

What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson

Jolting Joe has left and gone away.”

Yes, he has.

I will miss this amazing array of talent we have enjoyed–as one by one they fade away. But their music…their sublime and transcendent music… will surely endure.









Seems mighty tempting at times.

There’s a growing sentiment that tech companies are spiraling out of control these days.
There’s even a hashtag expressing the sentiment: #techlash.

Facebook is being questioned around the world for its role in sowing electoral discontent and losing control of  its user’s personal data. As a result, its stock has tumbled this week.
Twitter has been assailed for bullying and misogyny and Google and YouTube have had to answer questions about questionable search results and ads from less than savory groups populating it’s platforms.
It’s enough to make you want to live off the grid like my old commission teammate and dear friend Bob Costin.

At way over 6 feet tall we called Bob the “high commissioner” and often joked that he violated Delray’s strict height limits.
Bob was a wonderful commissioner with a terrific sense of humor but he and the Internet weren’t acquainted.

He didn’t have email, didn’t read documents online and if you wanted to talk to him you had to do it the old fashioned way: call him or visit his table at the old Green Owl.
He was there most mornings by 10 a.m.
Ahh..the good old days.
But my point is during my time in office 2000-07, if you wanted to vent you had to email, call or make an appointment.

Prior commissions—pre email—would eagerly await snail mail from their neighbors; so if you wanted to opine you had to write a letter, find an envelope, buy a stamp and look up an address before you could put your thoughts in front your mayor or commissioner.

Today, we have Facebook and other social media platforms where a robust debate rages 24-7 and city politics are a hot topic.

There’s no filter. No fact checkers. No obligation at all to be civil– short of threatening bodily harm which may get you booted—eventually.
It’s changed the game.

As  a result, lots of people don’t want to subject themselves to the abuse, bullying, misinformation and vitriol shelled out by a wide variety of charmers and so they don’t participate in local politics.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have rarely if ever visited most local Facebook pages devoted to Delray politics and recently opted out of one page I was a “member” of. I won’t judge those who indulge, I just don’t want to.

If the platforms featured intelligent debate, I might feel differently.

But what I saw during the recent election cycle was something less than intelligent or interesting.

What did I see?  Anger, division, polarization, innuendo, lies, attacks, hatred.
We should be better than this.
We need to be better than this.
Truth be told, I saw some kindness too. But the ratio of mean to nice is not even close.
And so I’m out.

I will continue to enjoy Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked In for other things such as sharing pictures of my dogs and birds, promoting local causes and businesses that I like, reading and sharing interesting articles and staying in touch with old friends, favorite teachers and distant relatives.

As for my old friend Bob Costin: he called me in the days leading up to the election blissfully unaware of the toxicity on the Internet.
He’s still not online. He still doesn’t have email.

And he still uses his favorite line when asked why: “my modem is down” before breaking into a laugh I’ve grown to love and cherish.
But despite Bob’s conscious decision to keep his modem on ice, he’s very much rooted in modern life. He’s up on the news (through newspapers), embraces change and is always fun and interesting to talk to.
He was a progressive commissioner back in the day, open to new ideas and had a few of his own as well.

He told me no candidate contacted him before the election. He wasn’t complaining just stating a fact.

But I thought to myself ‘what a shame’ because Bob has so much to share.
And it made me think that at least locally, we ought to make an effort to connect face to face.

We used to have town hall meetings, charettes, neighborhood dinners, community visioning sessions, citizen goal setting workshops and even roasts.
These are the things that build community.

This is why efforts such as WiseTribe, Creative Mornings, Old School Square, Chambers of Commerce, festivals, green markets and pet parades are so important.
It’s harder to demonize someone standing in front of you. It’s easy to do so online.

And if you can’t demonize someone you may find that there is common ground amidst the very real differences. Or at the very least, we may realize that those differences are heartfelt and honest –rooted in beliefs  sincerely held.

Social media has its place. But when it starts to erode community and humanity, count me out.
I think I will stick to pictures of my dogs sleeping and videos of my birds singing.
It feels a whole lot safer this way.

Something Has Changed

Jason Aldean covers Tom Petty’s “I won’t back down.” Neither will we.

Two musicians have been on my mind since the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Jason Aldean was on stage at a Country Music Festival when the carnage began and issued a heartfelt statement in the aftermath. His words have stuck with me: “Something has changed in this country and in this world lately that is scary to see.”


Tom Petty passed away while we were trying to process the Vegas shooting. He was 66. Mr. Petty meant a lot to me and to music fans of my generation and beyond. In reading through some of his interviews, I saw a quote that also made me think.

Petty gave an interview to USA Today upon the release of what would be his last album, 2014’s “Hypnotic Eye”, a record he said was about “what’s happened to the human that’s lost his humanity.”

Petty went on to say: “I’m not extremely political. I just look at what makes sense to me. I would think we’d be in the streets demanding that our children be safe in schools. I see friendships end over politics. I’ve never seen so much anger. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. In a two-party system, ideas are argued and you compromise. You’re not supposed to stop the process.”

Mind you, this was 2014. Things have gotten a lot angrier and nastier in the past three years haven’t they?

We see violence all over the world—people brutalized in Myanmar, blown up in Britain and France, girls kidnapped in Nigeria, cartel violence destroying cities in Mexico—the list goes on and on. And we see violence and unspeakable acts here as well.

But something else is afoot.

Something else is happening.

It’s a lack of civility. A lack of respect for common decency. An inability to see other points of view.

We live in a divisive society and taken to its extremes we become tribal and if you are not in my tribe you must be stupid, evil, bad—or somehow less human.

But Jason Aldean’s full statement called on us to remember that we are all human—and we are all Americans, even if we disagree—maybe especially because we disagree. Isn’t that what America is supposed to be about?

Democracy is loud and messy at times, but Lincoln and others reminded us to be mindful of our better angels. We sometimes lose track of those angels and we lash out.

We see it on cable news, online, in our nation’s capital, in Tallahassee and right here at home in our city halls.

We can blame it on social media. We can blame it on #fakenews. We can blame it on Trump. We can blame it on Hillary.

But the buck stops with us.

I write down quotes that make me think. I got this one from the former CEO of Office Depot. Bruce Nelson and I used to meet here and there when he was running the show at their old Delray headquarters out on Congress Avenue. Mr. Nelson once said to me: “You stand for what you tolerate.”

It’s an interesting quote isn’t it?

So why do we tolerate nastiness, bullying, incivility and lack of results?

Why do we wait for the knight on the white horse to arrive and save the day, when we have the power to bring about positive change?

Something has changed.

We are tolerating too much nonsense.

Our leaders work for us—why are we afraid of them?

If we want to see a just world, a gentler, and safer place why do we tolerate nonsense?

If we want to solve problems, why don’t we?



Finding the Signal in the Noise

It can get noisy out there.

It can get noisy out there.

Like many things, social media has its pluses and minuses.

I suspect I’m like many when I say I enjoy Facebook for the convenience of being able to stay in touch with a wide variety of friends and family that I wouldn’t have been able to without the ease of social media.

From former work colleagues and classmates to neighbors and far flung family, Facebook enables me to catch glimpses of their lives and to share snippets of mine (mostly dog pics). It makes me feel at least nominally connected to people I care about but in all honesty would never have time to call, take to lunch or visit. (It also enabled me to discover a fantastic song called “Debris” by the Faces, thanks to music guru Steve Martel).

But there’s also a dark side to social media—where trolls, cyber bullies, rumors and outright lies thrive.

On balance, I’ll take the bad because I think the upside and potential of social media far outweighs the negative.

The good, bad and ugly of social media is being debated loudly these days in the wake of the strangest and most divisive election most of us have ever seen. I assiduously avoid national politics on my Facebook page but many of my friends on both sides of the gaping divide had a field day this cycle.

I watched in real time long standing relationships blow up over posts and comments and it saddened me.

I suspect a few Thanksgiving celebrations may have different rosters as a result of social media posts.

And it’s not just national elections that get us overheated. Local politics is also rife with anger and recrimination.

I keep an eye on this page in Boca that can get lively. I’ll shield the names to protect the innocent, but this was an exchange last week regarding a luxury hotel coming to town.

It follows a typical pattern.

Someone expresses happiness that a project is coming.

Someone else quickly replies that the project stinks, will ruin the city forever and create traffic jams.

The person, who was happy a second ago, replies that his neighbor should move if they don’t like what’s happening. This is a pattern and usually it’s not a polite: “why don’t you consider a locale where you might find bliss” suggestion; nope it’s typically a variation of “shut up and move if you don’t like it.”

And now we are off to the races: fighting words like whining, greed and moron are exchanged and we descend from there until it finally burns out only to be rekindled when someone else joins in and expresses an opinion about how things “used to be” or the need for one thing or another. It’s exhausting and I’m not sure what it all adds up to.

Did we learn something?

Did we solve anything?

I think there’s some value in expression, but this kind of stuff hardly qualifies as dialogue.

I just finished an interesting book: “I’m right and you’re an Idiot” which explains why people get dug in and offers some insights into how to bridge divides and achieve some measure of civility and compromise.

One giant takeaway is that “facts” hardly matter—oh sure some people will change their mind if presented with evidence, but many won’t regardless of how much you throw at them. People do respond to stories and emotion, but typically once they adopt a narrative and a world view it’s hard to budge them. Social media only amplifies that human trait.

I think social media is an amazing tool for a public official or anyone in a leadership position. I think if you are in office you should be using social media to connect to constituents and to explain your positions and also solicit input. But it is NOT a substitute for face to face human interaction and real life interaction.

A lot is lost online—we’ve all been burned by email, text messages and social media posts—because we can’t see body language or ask for clarification like we can when we are face to face.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, as I’ve seen families fight and friends “defriend” and “block” each other.

Social media platforms have had an odd response to this difficult and complex environment.

Twitter has suspended accounts and has been blasted for doing so. The service says it is ridding the platform of hate speech; those who have been booted are crying censorship.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has argued that “false news” (like the Pope endorsing Trump which was shared, liked and cited thousands of times) didn’t have an impact—in the next breath he’s selling advertising on his site because of its ability to influence decisions. Sorry, you can’t have it both ways. And yes, Facebook ads work. I can personally attest because I have sold a few books with Facebook ads and we have sold a bunch of hot sauce and beverages by promoting our brands on the site. Like it or not, Facebook is our water cooler these days. It matters.

I would just caution that we don’t limit all of our interactions to social media—there’s still room for meet ups, coffee with friends, group discussions etc. With augmented and virtual reality coming fast, we better leave room for face to face old-fashioned conversation.

We may not ever agree on whether a Mandarin Hotel is the right thing—but it’s not as easy to call someone a moron when he or she is sitting right in front of you.