“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
These words are written, framed and hung on the office wall of local attorney at law, Jeffrey Lynne, of Weiner, Lynne & Thompson P.A. Where one might expect to see an expensive painting strategically placed to calm potential clients with a sense of financial success, this office seems to permeate an attitude of principle over pomp. I will confess, what I knew of this group of lawyers walking into my morning interview could hardly fill the cup of coffee I rushed to purchase in the popular coffee shop located one floor below the law office. My experience with this local business had been limited to the occasional community board meeting where planning and zoning for a new downtown building was slated for discussion.
It was not until I began to hear Lynne speak that I realized this was more than a long standing business doing their share to give back to community. It was more than a way to put food on their tables each night. This was a set of lawyers with ideals and the dedication and foresight to face them each day with vigor and intellect. There are a core group of men and women who greatly impacted the transformation of Delray Beach from a small underdeveloped town into the thriving destination it is today. The original members of Weiner, Lynne & Thompson were an influential part of that group. Since its original founding by Michael S. Weiner, Esq., in 1986, Weiner, Lynne & Thompson remains actively involved, both professionally and financially, in many of the non-profit organizations which support the greater Delray Beach community, from the Board of Directors of the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Chairman’s Club, to the Creative City Collaborative/ Arts Garage.
“A day doesn’t go by where the members of the firm are not engaged in public policy discussions relating to the implementation of market-driven, sustainable economic growth for the City,” explains Lynne. While the group is well known for their dedication to preserving historical properties in Delray Beach, such as the historic Clark House located at 102 N. Swinton Avenue and the property currently occupied by DaDa’s Restaurant, the firm has more recently taken up arms in protection of some of our most fundamental rights as American citizens living in Delray Beach. One might not easily associate real estate, zoning and land use law with civil rights protection, but Weiner, Lynne & Thompson has become a beacon for both. The public debate over the rights of those in recovery from substance abuse addiction apparently began on November 16, 2007 when New York Times reporter, Jane Gross, published an article titled “In Florida, Addicts Find an Oasis of Sobriety.” In her piece, Gross praised Delray Beach and its vibrant recovery community, declaring it “a funky outpost of sobriety between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.” When discovered by residents and businesses in the area, this article triggered a battle between housing rights and public opinion that the community is still actively engaged in today. To Weiner, Lynne & Thompson, the campaign to amend transient housing policy and prevent some of the best national and local recovery service providers from setting up shop in specific residential neighborhoods, is “the next civil rights movement of this generation.” Most recently, a lawsuit involving the Caron Foundation has placed Weiner, Lynne & Thompson at the center of another controversial court battle based upon Caron’s patients’ right to housing of their choosing with others in recovery in the exclusive beachfront community in Delray Beach.
The City of Delray Beach found itself in a difficult position and in early August reached a settlement with the Caron Foundation that would include a limit on the number of occupants in each of their two sober houses located on the beach, further safeguarding home owners in our single family neighborhoods. The Caron Foundation also agreed to essentially forgo their tax-exempt status as a 501(c) (3) and donate the annual property tax amount to the City. “The sober community has a right to cohabitate in the manner in which countless studies have proven to be most beneficial for recovery without discrimination,” Lynne affirms, “Their rights are clearly protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. There is no loophole here. The law is specifically intended to protect our citizens bravely going through recovery.” Shared space and round the clock peer support is widely considered the basis of recovery living.
“Addiction knows no boundaries of culture, race, gender or demographic”.
While the campaign against transient housing may be intended to protect our community from falling property values and menacing behavior, it is important that someone act on behalf of a local population in danger of losing their rights as disabled citizens. “Addiction knows no boundaries of culture, race, gender or demographic. Because of the support Delray Beach has lent to the recovery community in the past, many of those who discovered our town in their search for sobriety have remained here to become some of our most prominent local business leaders and contributors to our city,” adds Lynne. Wherever you fall on the scale of public opinion, there is no question that Weiner, Lynne & Thompson P.A. plays a vital role in the balance of justice and the protection of individual and group rights in our city. I am blessed to have been given the purpose, as the author of this column, to seek out acts of kindness, generosity, compassion and greatness in our close knit community. Through this experience, I have learned that whether we agree or not with the battle being fought, it is essential to recognize those in our community who fight for what they believe in.