Prayers for Paris

Paris is on our minds today.
As it should be.

We ache for the shocking loss of life and we agonize over what’s happening in our world: violence, hatred, terror, extremism.

Paris is known as a city of villages and despite its size and greatness we relate and connect.

Saturday morning the board and staff of Old School Square met for a strategic planning retreat and Paris was on our minds. And we discussed–albeit briefly–concerns about security in our own hometown.

The terrorists targeted art and music and sports venues. They targeted vibrant restaurants and bars–where people gather to savor and enjoy life with friends. We built our city around that ideal. Boca Raton too.

And so this attack–sadly only the latest in a series of disgusting, despicable and ultimately cowardly acts–seemed to penetrate very deeply.

I read a lot of opinion pieces over the weekend suggesting what might be next and how we might combat the ISIS scourge.

The best piece I found was in The Atlantic because it delves deep into the ideology. We must understand it if we are to defeat it and we must defeat it. Here’s a link. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/

Spotlight

We went to see “Spotlight” at the Cinemark Boca.

It’s a must see film, expertly written with terrific performances by a stellar cast.

Why is it must see?

For two reasons:

1. The story of the Boston Globe’s investigation of priests molesting child’s and the cover-up by church hierarchy is an important story to tell and understand because the abuse proved to be systemic and worldwide.

2. The movie is also a primer on the importance of great journalism and the power of newspapers. Spotlight refers to the Globe’s investigative team, three reporters and an editor who concentrate on big stories the kind that take months to unearth.

As we move with blinding speed to the digital age, we seem to be losing this kind of journalism which is critically important to Democracy and societal accountability.

As much as we enjoy social media and the wonders of the Internet, we do lose something when there is no community water cooler.

Having spent 15 years in newsrooms, the movie touched a chord in me and reminded me why I fell head over heels for newspapers as a young man. There is no better job than to write and report and affect change as a result.

Sadly, the business model has changed and journalism–community journalism has taken a beating.

Technology can’t be blamed for it all, newspapers were complicit in their decline by failing to invest in writers and all but eliminating enterprise reporting the very thing that the Internet cannot do. It’s a real head scratcher because there is still an audience who wants and needs to know whats really happening at city hall and in their neighborhoods and schools.

What a movie. Superb.

Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch

Last Saturday, we attended a wonderful event honoring Old School Square’s Joe Gillie on his retirement after 25 years of service to Delray.
It was a fun evening, full of love, joy and warmth. The kind of night that makes you realize The Beatles were right when they sang: “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”
Joe loved Old School Square and he loved Delray Beach. And in return, that love was returned by a group of people who also devoted a great many years of their lives to creating community—this community.
The feel of the evening was nothing short of magic. Everywhere you turned, you saw a local icon.
There was Linda Hunter, the legendary children’s librarian who has taught generation of Delray kids to love books and stories. There was Tom Lynch, one of Delray’s truly great mayors chatting with Tom McMurrian of Ocean Properties, a company that has helped put Delray on the map with its investments. I got to chat with Evelyn Dobson who has quietly changed lives for a decade at our Community Land Trust.
We saw Old School Square Chair Bill Branning, who has been a leader on our CRA and whose company built our library, the Milagro Center and the entertainment pavilion enjoyed by thousands every weekend.
The event attracted former CRA Chair Howard Ellingsworth, a local CPA who has given countless hours to preserving Delray’s history while also growing the community. Bob Currie was there too. He has been practicing architecture in Delray for 45 years and has left a stamp on downtown, Pineapple Grove, Old School Square, the library and more.
It was great to see our former Assistant City Manager Bob Barcinski, happily retired but still pitching in with this weekend’s Sister Cities Golf Tournament.
And of course, Frances Bourque who started it all, with a vision for Old School Square that brilliantly encapsulated the city’s past, present and future.
It was also heartening to see new faces as well. Connor Lynch, Tom’s son, who runs a large business in Delray, but finds time to serve on a slew of community boards while helping young entrepreneurs; Ryan Boylston who is so busy it’s exhausting to watch and Terra Spero, who was just recognized for her entrepreneurial talents by the Delray Chamber.
There was a magical feeling in the room as these people and many, many more gathered to thank Joe.
It’s not easy following someone like Joe, who has a larger than life aura. But this transition to new leadership seems to be a model for how to do it well. Rob Steele, the new CEO, is a smart, sensitive and seasoned executive who has welcomed Joe’s input and insight while taking the reins. Along with Artistic Director Matthew Farmer and COO Karen Richards, it seems that the organization will make a smooth transition; embracing the past while introducing new ideas.
After the event—not wanting to let go of that old Delray feeling—a bunch of us went to Da Da for a late night dinner. While walking to the restaurant with a friend, we talked about that intangible feeling that has made Delray Beach so special.
To be honest, that feeling is in peril. And in my mind, that’s worth a conversation and a lot of introspection.
Culture in communities is everything. In this case, we’re not talking about art, music and festivals, although that’s important too. We are talking about what it feels like to live here. Is this a supportive community? Do we respect each other? Are we inclusive of people and ideas? Do we put the community’s interests above egos and personal agendas? Are we nice to each other?
When Joe and Frances and many of the others mentioned above got started in Delray, we were a vastly different place; a start-up so to speak.
Start-ups are nimble, fun, exhausting, exciting and inspiring. Some crash and burn and others soar. Delray soared, probably beyond most of our imaginations.
So while walking on Swinton my friend asked whether it was possible to still maintain that warmth and excitement in a city that has grown larger and arguably more sophisticated.
It’s a question I’ve been thinking about for a long time now. And I lean toward yes—I believe it’s possible. In many ways, I think it’s imperative.
See the size of buildings never got me wound up—whether they are 48 feet or 54 feet—few can tell even if they are experts.
But the intangible feeling of community is what we should be focused on. And we’re not. We are not.
We’re too quick to condemn. Too quick to write off; too quick to label and too quick to pile on when we disagree.
A community that works is grateful, loving, supportive, respectful and takes pride in the past, present and future; especially if your past, present and future is as rich as Delray’s.
There’s a nagging feeling that we’re not these days. That we have sprung loose from those very important moorings. So every week, we experience symptoms of that condition: we blame the CRA for—take your pick: being too successful, having too much money, spending too much, spending too little, being out of touch etc. etc.
We criticize our library for not being all it can be and forget to give credit for what it is; we critique festivals, criticize city staff, wring our hands about traffic and accomplish little.
That doesn’t mean accountability isn’t important or that our library, CRA or any other entity, group or project is perfect and can’t be better. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about growth and development or traffic. But the conversation has to transcend our own personal drive times and has to consider our financial future and the opportunities we are creating for future generations.
The people in the room last weekend thanking Joe Gillie for 25 years of leadership are pacesetters. They built a heck of a start-up. If cities were start-ups, we’d be Facebook, Apple or Google, a billion dollar plus unicorn.
Yes I’m proud of what’s been built. Is it perfect? Not on your life. Is it done? No way.
Is Delray Beach everybody’s cup of tea? Nope. Some people prefer Myspace to Facebook. But not many.
So to those saying the town has been ruined; I disagree. It’s been saved and it’s terrific. Not perfect, but still pretty terrific. Sorry, we have nothing to apologize for and a lot to be proud of. To those who are concerned by change, I agree—to point.
But let’s talk about it intelligently and stop demonizing developers—some are pretty bad and others are damn good. The opposite of development is not no development, its better development. And change-well that’s inevitable.
We have a lot of work to do.
We can start with culture. Let’s build a place where it’s safe to disagree and safe to innovate.