Friday, June 17, 2016

Part 2: Jeff Perlman's thoughts about the City of Lake Worth and Delray Beach

First a recap: This is the second blog post about the talk given by Jeff Perlman in Lake Worth on Tuesday, June 14th. Use this link for the previous post. Check back for another post or two about this. If you're interested, Perlman wrote a book titled, "Adventures in Local Politics" and the profits from the book go to the charity Dare 2 Be Great.

A group of Lake Worth residents joined Perlman in downtown Lake Worth and he talked about his time in Delray Beach as a community leader, journalist, a commissioner and then the mayor. The theme that ran through the entire talk was how important it is to forge your own City identity. One of the things stressed during Delray's visioning process was not becoming another high-rise community like Boca just like most of us in Lake Worth do not want to be a clone of Delray Beach or any other city.

Perlman explained how important community events are because they help identify the personality of a community. Delray Beach is now having a re-evaluation about the number of events they have in the downtown. He thinks it's important to have events in a central downtown location, or public spaces, that are safe, attractive, well-designed and welcoming to art and culture.

"You can think of art as both import and export", he said. You can import art and artists for special installations and resident artists can export the art made within your community.

On business and change he brought up the example of Boston's on the beach that was once locally owned and a popular community hangout. The owner sold the business and it was bought by the Marriott chain. Changes like this are an economic reality and are going to happen. It's important for City leaders to keep reminding people and the business community about what the goals are and keep the message consistent. You have to guard against complacency, know when it's time to tap on the brakes, and most importantly remember your work is never done.

You need a team with the right people in the right seats on the bus and everyone has to be in sync. You can agree to disagree and then move on. Everyone is not going to agree on everything. Compromise is not a dirty word and don't let any one disappointment or disagreement "burn the bridge".

Perlman told a story about what he did before the advent of social media: When he was mayor of Delray he was hearing a lot of rumors and was trying to track down where they were coming from. It turned out most of the rumors were coming from a certain barber shop. So he decided to go there and address what was being said. That's how you did things before social media.

And on social media he cautioned how easy it is for the wrong messages to be sent to the community and how newspapers are not covering local politics, policies and issues like they did in the past. So most people have to rely on social media for information and a city has to stay current with up-to-date information using many platforms.

He mentioned how politically polarized the situation is now, both nationally and locally, and it's one of the great challenges of our time. He spoke of the racial divide that is present in Delray Beach and cautions about setting up situations where people can overtake the political process and alter the message.

And then there's this sage advice that needs to be hammered home from Perlman's blog:
"What it takes for an elected official to succeed"
To be continued. Check back tomorrow for Perlman's thoughts on Lake Worth's strengths and weaknesses.