Time for a Reset–Actually Past Time


Delray is abuzz with chatter about a mailing that takes issue with Mayor Glickstein’s job performance.

Interestingly, it is not the content that is controversial. Instead, what has some people fired up is that the source is anonymous. I get it– literally, having been on the receiving end of anonymous criticism myself over the years.

If I have something to say, I say it. And I put my name on it.

It is no secret I have taken issue with the ability of the current administration in Delray Beach to get things done. I’m not a fan of the culture I see taking root, the instability at City Hall, the coarseness of our dialogue, the lack of gratitude for what has been built and what is currently being proposed and the beat down of some good people and organizations.

I see micromanagement, division, a lack of trust and transparency, backstabbing, bullying and a host of other ills.

I see us majoring in the minor—arguing over sea grape permits for instance instead of focusing on our challenges and our opportunities.

But unlike that mailer, I sign my name to my opinions.

In fact, I bought a share of a newspaper to have a voice and I have blogged twice a week for years on local issues. I even wrote a book that shared my thoughts, ideas and opinions. So for those of you who speculate as a hobby—all you have to do is ask me or read. I’m anything but shy with my opinions when it comes to Delray Beach.

And by the way, when people do speak out critically, it’s often because they care.

Sure, not all the time.

Sometimes it’s personal, but many times it’s because something rubs them the wrong way about something they care about. As for me, honestly there are people I can’t stand but I wouldn’t criticize them because they aren’t my cup of tea—my dislike tends to be driven by whether I think they are doing right by a town I love. If I believe they aren’t, I feel a responsibility as a citizen to speak out.

It’s just that simple.

As for the content of the mailer, I think we ought to be concerned about the turnover at City Hall. I don’t think the new codes work and I don’t think commissioners listen to each other. I disagree with the statement that the new codes haven’t stopped growth—the fact is we need investment and jobs certainly more than we need lawsuits.

I’ve heard from city staff at all levels of the organization— there’s concern about instability. There are issues at City Hall. We can spin and deny or we can deal with it.

My belief is that the culture on the dais is a major cause of the issues. Not the sole cause, but a major cause.

Take a look at the last commission meeting. Review the discussion of how to fill the vacant commission seat and then scroll through to commission comments and judge for yourself. I recommend you take a few Maalox before you listen.

I’m out of office almost a decade but I can’t walk down the street without someone asking me what’s going on at City Hall. Whether they can’t get a kitchen permit typed, a grease trap approved or wonder why it is taking forever to get the iPic opened or why we are losing festivals, people are concerned. In my opinion, they should be. People need to wake up and pay attention, because as citizens, voters, taxpayers, volunteers and business owners—I’m all of those things by the way—we have a stake in the outcome. So do many of my friends. So that’s why I/we won’t go away.

If you disagree with me that’s fine.

But almost every room I walk into, the talk of the town is the often rancid politics in this city and the inability to get things done. I know property owners who are sitting out a hot real estate cycle (after a horrendous recession) because they fear the approval process and politics in our city. I know of many long time contributors who feel they are not being listened to, who are frustrated and worried about their city or their non-profit. But they fear speaking out.

And I get it. It can be scary.

But if you love something enough you dig down and do it anyway. So you don’t get invited to every party in town. So what? But some do worry about retribution and that ought to worry us as well. We need our public square to be as safe and civil as possible so we can have substantive conversations.

So call me and others has-beens, or never weres; choose to believe what you will about motivations or aspirations.  It doesn’t matter. Because the issues don’t go away if left unresolved they just fester.

I believe our commission is unaware of the impact its approach on issues large and small has had.

It is corrosive and exhausting, but they do not see it. They often do not get out of the way of staff; they won’t work with applicants, projects or even with each other. Nowhere is that more glaring than in the wake of Commissioner Al Jaquet’s departure from the commission.

While a process was put in place that should have made making the choice of his replacement simple, this commission has chosen to ignore the success of past commissions when dealing with the same issue.  And more importantly placed politics and personal grievances ahead of the charter and the city’s business.

Rather than finding common ground, they are willing to ignore the city charter – the guiding legal document of our city – and leave a vacancy on the commission for several months. In fact, it will be April before a new commissioner is elected, sworn in and seated. Given the politics—a word they seem to hate but appear to practice—not having a fifth vote may deadlock the city, an outcome that they seem to realize is likely.

There were a slew of good candidates to choose from to fill the vacancy left by Mr. Jacquet.

But this deadlock was sadly predictable; I’ve been telling people this was going to happen since Mr. Jacquet announced his departure and the two warring sides declared different philosophies on how to fill the seat.

That’s all well and good. But the charter anticipates political posturing. It gives commissioners not one but two chances to figure it out and make a decision.

So after the dust clears on round one, you get to think about the decision for a week. Hopefully you cool off and choose at the second meeting. If you don’t—and the charter is clear—your failure to make a decision triggers a special election. Now the people get to choose and yes it’s expensive, distracting, confusing and logistically challenging to hold an election—but they chose that option and in so doing you put politics and personal differences over our city’s governing document.

The latest city attorney—it has been hard to keep track without a scorecard—gave the commission some cover citing logistical issues etc., but I think he’s wrong. The integrity of the charter is sacrosanct. You either have a governing document or you don’t. Ignoring what’s inconvenient in it is a slippery slope and sets a dangerous precedent. Apparently, a lawsuit filed by another applicant will answer that question hopefully soon.

But we have seen this song before—with our Land Development Regulations; where personal preferences and political considerations often trump the rule of law. That leads to lawsuits and bad reputations.

So while I think anonymous mailings are ultimately not the way to go, the lack of transparency and results by this administration and commission are equally disappointing.

Leadership is sorely needed, with less of a focus on optics and yes politics.

That’s how I see it—and I’m not alone. I don’t enjoy feeling this way; I love my city too. I want to see the mayor and commission succeed. I know them all and believe they too want to see a stronger community—even though we disagree sharply on how you get there.

But amazingly, there is an opportunity here. If they choose to see it.

They can take pot shots at critics, label people, guess at their motivations etc. Or they can hit the reset button look in the mirror and figure out a way to work together and truly listen to each other and to others.

Even if, especially if, they disagree.

I know how hard the job is—and I know how rough, nasty and threatening people can be.

I did get death threats—I did have an anonymous newspaper distributed on Atlantic Avenue that brutalized my family. I had someone tell me they knew when my kids got out of school and what time I picked them up.

But I was extremely fortunate to work alongside colleagues that worked well together. We didn’t always agree. We debated. We argued. Not all of us were the best of friends. But it never got personal. We worked hard to ensure that.

And we worked hard to make sure that decisions did not harm the city we were sworn to serve. You can decide whether we succeeded or failed. I think the people I worked with and others did amazing things.

I get that each side of this divide feels unlucky to be up there with the other side.

But I see self-inflicted trauma over mostly small things—other mayors and commissioners dealt with far, far worse.

There’s an opportunity here—for compromise, leadership and rapprochement or at least détente.

Those who care about this community would like to see its elected leadership seize the moment. And we’d also like to see an election season focused on issues and ideas—not personal attacks and pretending that Delray is an awful place. Because it isn’t; it’s a great place, with problems galore, but talent and passion to solve anything thrown our way.

That’s how it used to be when things worked here.

It wasn’t all cronies and crap—although we’ve had our share of that too. It was about collaboration, compromise, respect, thankfulness and outreach too.

Those days are beginning to seem hazy—and we’d be best served not to allow those values to be replaced by anger, frustration, fear, insults and a lack of trust. If we do, 30 years of progress will be lost and any hope for the future will be compromised.

Signed, Jeff Perlman.



  1. Patricia Sciarillo says

    Well said…now would you consider running again ?

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Hi Patricia…I’ve been asked to run, my hope is good leadership emerges and can right the ship. We have a year. Happy holidays. Jeff

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful article. I am hoping that a true reset occurs. The tone is always a reflection of its leaders. We need a more conciliatory tone.

  3. I concur with your very thoughtful article. The tone is important and leaders set the tone. We need a more collaborative and conciliatory tone in the City.

  4. Steve Lampel says

    I am very torn with what is going on in ” politics ”
    On a national and local level.
    Even in my own community I see a mirroring of what is going on
    It is fine to disagree with other points of views
    The backstabbing, name calling and all the behind your back
    Actions are not acceptable
    On a personal level I have been thinking of running for Board
    In my community
    I was going to ask for Jeff’s opinion in helping me make a decision ( do not even know him).
    It is a rough community with a lot of vocal and not so nice
    Opinions .
    At times do not know if I can or want to handle, but after reading this blog know what I must do!

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Hi Steve:
      If you feel you can help I would recommend you run for the board. We need more good people getting involved. Happy holidays Jeff

  5. Well said, Jeff. Thoughtful and heartfelt. Unfortunately, Delray is a reflection of what is going on in the country and the world. Reasonable and respectful discourse is seemingly forgotten or never learned by some people. We can’t do much nationally, but we can try to change the tone and direction locally.
    Your concerns are not new but certainly have not gotten any better. Maybe it is time to start a movement . Polite Points to Make Purposefully for the Good of Delray.

  6. John Brewer says

    I respected the hell out of you before but even more so now.

  7. Gary Eliopoulos says

    No surprise here, a well written, heartfelt article from someone who has put in years of work in making Delray Beach a great place to live, work and play!

    Thank you Jeff for caring about our city and the people!!!

  8. George Maso' says

    Hi Jeff:I agree and share your comment.Our beloved city need a pleasant and prosperous continuation of de good work.When I move to Delray(1990)we had only hope.Many years took to establish the recognition and credit we have now.Best “American City”,twice,and many other awards,are part of the history.We need good people to kip the “Vision” alive and well,for a promising future.Happy Holidays for you and family!!!

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