Here’s What We Think… Civic Fabric

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If you don’t know why something is working when it is, you won’t know
how to fix it when it breaks.” – Craig Groeschel

There’s a lot of writing about cities that refers to something called the “civic fabric.”

Civic fabric refers to the framework/structure/material that make up communities. The best leaders add to the fabric—they strengthen, invest in and tend to the framework that make places special.

The opposite of leadership is tearing at the fabric.

When you start to pull threads, you risk fraying the material and risking the structure.

For five years, in our opinion, we have torn viciously at the fabric—and as a result 30 plus years of municipal progress, civic pride and the marrow that makes our community special is at risk.

It doesn’t give us or others who feel the same way we do pleasure to write those sentences. And speaking truth to power certainly hasn’t been easy. Those who do pay a price…civic projects, causes, businesses, non-profits and friends have been hurt because they have not gone along to get along.

That’s OK.

It’s important to be able to look in the mirror and say you have stood up for your beliefs. But the temptation is there to capitulate or just throw in the towel.

After all, you might be granted approvals for your projects or initiatives, instead of seeing them litigated, delayed and ridiculed—even if you have a contract (Matchpoint), won an RFP (iPic) or played by the city’s rules (Atlantic Crossing).

Our advice: Don’t give up. Continue to stand up, speak your piece and move forward.

If your favorite candidate won the election last month, congratulations. Local elections can be brutal affairs.

The arguments are personal because we see the combatants around town—we live in each other’s neighborhoods, go to the same stores and restaurants and know each other’s friends and supporters.

But if you won, the work is just beginning.

Serving in local elected office—or any elected office—is a privilege and an honor. As is winning an election. But all it means is that you have a chance to serve and an opportunity to make a difference.

You’re on first base, you still have to get home. And we hope you do, because if you succeed the community succeeds. We all win.

If you lost this cycle, it’s hard.

We’ve backed many candidates who have lost. It happens. We’ve backed a few winners too.

If you backed someone you believe in, take pride in that. Because something as precious as your hometown should not be about picking winners, it should be about backing someone you believe in.

We believe in our old partner Ryan Boylston and was pleased to see a talented young leader with ideas and aspirations for Delray win. Our newspaper endorsed Adam Frankel and he won over an impressive debut from Eric Camacho who we hope runs again. We are also pleased to see Bill Bathurst, a lifelong Delray resident, get elected unopposed. Bill is a very nice man with a lot of ideas and a tremendous passion for Delray.

Many were disappointed to see Jim Chard lose, but we want to see Shelly Petrolia succeed as our next mayor because cities do better when mayors succeed.

For those who are disappointed, my advice is to play the long game and stick to your beliefs, because over time it pays off.

Our hope is that the new mayor and commissioners are servant leaders who engage, listen, unite, compromise and learn on the job. Because the fabric begins to fray when favorites are played and rules are ignored, bent, spindled and mutilated to reward friends or punish enemies. The fabric tears when a city’s volunteers and staff feel put upon, disrespected and disparaged; when City Hall becomes a place you fear rather than a trusted partner.

We are a city in need of healing. That’s our opinion and that’s why we backed who we backed.

That doesn’t change regardless of outcome. To those who don’t feel that we are in need of healing, you ought to talk to the volunteers in this town or the employees who often can’t afford to speak out so they either remain silent or vote with their feet and leave us for other cities. Another source of toxicity is social media. We are beginning to believe that social media is tearing at the fabric of our community.

We want to revisit this idea of civic fabric in future editorials because when you start to pull threads you don’t know which one will trigger the collapse.

Is it losing the St. Patrick’s Day Parade after 50 years? Is it telling every craft brewery to look elsewhere?

Is it calling the CEO of a publicly traded company who wants to come here that he’s an “amateur?”

Is it referring to the founder of Old School Square as “that woman?” Or is it telling your police officers and firefighters that they are replaceable? Or is it a 24-7 insult fest on Facebook that finally rips us apart?

We’re not sure. But we know those are examples of pulling threads—ripping at the fabric.

We want to see leaders who lift us up. That’s their primary job, even when (maybe especially when) we see things differently.