Teachable Moments

Leaders not only seize the day, they seize the moments.

This is a season for reconciliation and appreciation.

I tell friends who endure criticism that in most cases it makes no sense to feed a troll.
That’s what the troll wants; for you to engage and respond.
Why give them the satisfaction?
I can only think of two exceptions:
-their warped views are gaining traction
-their actions provide a teachable moment.
Well in this case, there’s no chance of the former but there may be a lesson here to talk about. Let’s see if we can find it.
I was invited to ride on a float in the Delray holiday parade this past weekend with a group that included the Mayor and Vice Mayor and City Manager of Lake Worth and some folks from the Garlic Festival.
I said yes.
Because I like my friends from Lake Worth and I really like the people associated with the Garlic Festival.
For those of you who need a review, after nearly 20 years, the Garlic Fest is leaving Delray for John Prince Park in suburban Lake Worth.
It wasn’t a happy departure. In my opinion it was a needless controversy and not a good thing for Delray to see the event leave.

Others disagree. C’est La Vie.
Lake Worth is happy to see the event at a county park–good branding for the city; no expense.
The folks in Lake Worth have a sense of humor. It comes in handy in life and in cities.
They thought it would be fun and smart to put a float in the Delray parade to remind people of the move.
For many years, Lake Worth has had an inside joke relating to their high end neighbor Palm Beach.
The saying “Lake Worth making Palm Beach Nervous for 100 Years” has appeared on shirts and hash tags etc.
It’s both self deprecating and complimentary. Obviously, Lake Worth doesn’t present a serious threat to Palm Beach nor does it aspire to be Palm Beach. Lake Worth has its own charm.
So as a play on that schtick those on the float -me included –wore a t shirt that said “Lake Worth Making Delray Nervous.”
Now trust me Lake Worth does not want to be Delray Beach. Nor should they want to be. But there are leaders in Lake Worth who wouldn’t mind aspects of Delray’s success.
Again–the shirt struck me as complimentary and done in the spirit of fun.
While cities compete, they also root for one another and make fun of each other too –usually in an innocent way.
Former Boca Mayor Steven Abrams and I once debated over whose city was better and appeared on the cover of the Boca News in boxing gloves. Did we say harsh things about our cities? You bet we did.
Did we mean it? Not really.
I like Boca. Steven likes Delray.
It seems the shirt got under the skin of someone who seems to be aggrieved frequently–especially if you don’t agree with her.
That’s Ok, she’s entitled.
So she spewed on social media on a page I don’t frequent, opining that the float “dissed” Delray and that it was disgusting for a former mayor (that would be me) to partake in this grievous insult of her beloved Delray Beach. (A friend sent it to me, otherwise I would have missed it).
Where do we begin? What is the teachable moment?
Ok, how about this.
It’s ok to have a sense of humor. In fact, it’s imperative.
It’s ok to like another city other than your own.
It’s ok to root for a neighbor to succeed and I’m rooting for Lake Worth.
I have lived in Delray Beach for almost 30 years and few have questioned my love for this city–even those find my beliefs about smart growth, economic development and the Garlic Festival–well disgusting.
But to equate wearing a t shirt to an act of municipal treason is so far off the mark that it defies description.
I didn’t think I was participating in a protest but what if I was?
Is it wrong if someone wanted to make a statement about losing a community tradition that supported local non-profits and didn’t harm anyone?
Are we so tribal that we can’t like another city? Are we so humorless and angry that we can’t poke fun, or crack a joke?
There are many many many people who don’t like the blistering criticism of Delray Beach from a small batch of people who have never given back much if anything to this town.
But they are often the first to assign blame, take offense, assume motives, lash out and yes make threats. (Like don’t advertise in a paper because the owners don’t agree with your politics).
As we approach the holidays, we sadly live in a divided city in a divided nation. I sincerely hope we can bridge those divides both in Delray and across America.
Maybe it would help if we gained a little perspective.
In east Aleppo people are praying for death over injury because death is more merciful when you live in a place with no hospitals, food or medicine.
In countless households across our nation, families worry about sons and daughters in the grips of addiction. People are jobless, homeless and in despair.
A former newspaper colleague of mine just lost her daughter to cancer. She was a young mother.
If a Garlic Fest float can anger you, I suppose you are blessed. I reserve my anger for injustice, hatred, racism and corruption.
So your comments don’t bother me. Your judgment of my motives and those of my friends also mean nothing because you don’t know us. You think you do, but you don’t. I actually wish you’d get to know some of us because we aren’t monsters. You might find we love his city too and that there are projects and needs we can work on together. (Yes that’s an olive branch).
I think we are very fortunate in this city. Look around, appreciate, enjoy. What you like about Delray didn’t happen by accident. What you don’t like won’t be solved by division. That’s the teachable moment.
Happy holidays!


  1. Jeff Perlman is a Delray treasure. He speaks with such authenticity that it is impossible not to embrace his message of love and caring for community. Everyone gets wound up about silly things that in the scope of life really don’t matter very much – let’s all take the time to be more thoughtful to friends and neighbors who may not have the blessings we enjoy. Thank you Jeff!

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Thanks Rick.
      I have long admired your work and vision. Thanks for being so good to Delray over the years and I know in the future as well. Happy holidays my friend. Best always Jeff

  2. Jeff, I for one am honored that not only the ‘1st Mayor’ for Garlic Fest in Delray accepted an invitation to promote it in this weekends parade. I am also honored that the city officials from Lake Worth offered to sponsor the cost of the float to promote Garlic Fest. They also participated. Yes, they do have a tremendous sense of humor and have done nothing but show love and appreciation to us by welcoming us.

  3. Totally agree, Jeff!

    Our company does lots of business in Lake Worth and we worked hard this year to bring the first micro-brewery to downtown Lake Worth, plus several businesses to the Park of Commerce. The Leadership there – Mike Bornstein, Mayor Triolo, Commissioner Andy, Commissioner Scott – are GREAT: responsive, engaged, and they’ve done what’s right for their CITY (not what’s politically good for them, not what is popular with their supporters, and not what gives them more perceived “power”) over the past four years, which is exactly what City Leaders are supposed to do. And it shows!

    Lake Worth will never be Delray Beach – nor would they choose to be. Lake Worth has staked its claim on the artist and artisan communities, have created zoning regulations and permitted uses that help those businesses come to Lake Worth and THRIVE, and best of all, Lake Worth is still affordable for small businesses! They are optimizing their location and making the infrastructure improvements to ensure the City’s future sustainability and success.

    Continue to speak up, Jeff – your perspective is totally unique and valued. Thank you.

  4. A wise man once sang,”Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny..”.

  5. Tom Johnston aka Mr. Garlic says

    Mr. Mayor thank you once again for pointing out the positive and saying it such a way it is offensive no one. I too am sorry the Garlic Fest is moving from Delray. The many children I taught, while a teacher here, will miss the event and their annual photo with Mr. Garlic. Many of those same children will miss the opportunity to share in the contributions the Fest has given them throughout the years. I will miss all the smiling faces and thousands of pictures and fun we shared together. Hopefully many of you can come visit us in Lake Worth I’d love to see you there. Love you see you around town. ???? Mr. Garlic/ Mr. Johnston

  6. Jeff, as usual your perspective and thoughts are very accurate especially during the Christmas season. Regards, tom

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