Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Bill Delbrugge - One of a Kind"

Photo: Bill Delbrugge, Superintendent of Flagler County Public Schools) (Web: ) I remember it so vividly... first day of Kindergarten, August, 1992... Mantua Elementary School, Fairfax, Virginia. Zach was five and he and the backpack were about the same size. He and his best buddy, Ross, were cranked; and had been for a week. The kids and the parents all waited together on the corner for the bus to come - and for lives to change... A true Norman Rockwell scene. When it arrived and the kids scrambled aboard, Zach fell on the steps, under the weight of his new pack. True to form, he jumped up like nothin' happened and ran to the back of the bus. As it pulled away, he and Ross pressed their hands and faces hard against the window. Funny like crazy... and never to be forgotten. He was the last, preceded by Andi and Suzy and Chelsea - all with their own unique tales of "the first day of school." Now it's sixteen years later and Zach just turned 21. He's been "finding himself" for a bit, but now is on the brink of a real adventure. He starts Firefighter Academy in Tampa on Saturday morning... Today, I was briefing Bill Delbrugge, Flagler County Superintendent of Schools, on a new program for teachers. He asked me how Zach was doing and remembers details about him and the FPC Class of '05. Zach made ok grades, but left his mark as the class president, a good athlete, the "crazy morning news"... and a big heart. He always talked so positively about "Mr. Delbrugge" and his efforts to make things better in our Flagler County Schools. He was "The Man," yet the kids could talk to him... He went out of his way to make himself approachable and available to them. As parents, we could always see that this was a man on a mission. Informed, passionate, vulnerable, professional, dedicated - the complete package. After our briefing, I asked him what was going on in the schools these days. From our conversation, three things struck me:
  • Educators in Florida are really concerned about budgets and funding. "It's such a volatile issue," he said. "We get nervous when the lawmakers start changing the rules." Traditionally, the bulk of school funding has come from property taxes. "If we ever get to where we are funded by a State sales tax, it would be very difficult to predict revenues... and, therefore, more difficult to make meaningful plans."
  • If the current economy sends property values, and hence property taxes, much lower... there's trouble ahead. In case you missed it, Flagler is still the fastest growing county in Florida. Matanzas High School is now FPC's "cross-town-rival"... more elementary and middle schools... more kids... more teachers needed. Wait a minute, doesn't that take more money to run the show? I couldn't help but think that Florida's median age is steadily dropping... and that means more kids. We better be prepared to fund their education!
  • It seems as though our kids are making headway. Those in charge seem to have more faith in the young folks, as key negative statistics (teen pregnancy, violence, drop-outs) have taken a downward trend. "We're investing in them where it counts." In less than five years, the county schools have gone from about 2,000 computers to about 8,000! "We're doing our best to teach them about relationship building, technology, and economic globalization." "America is not all about assembly lines, like in previous generations... that's why we are focusing on teaching the students problem solving skills. We want them prepared for the realities of the world they will face."

Oh, that program for teachers I was there to brief? It's called: and has been created for "Military Forces, Law Enforcement Personnel, Firefighters-EMT-Rescue, Federal Agents, Nurses, and Teachers." It has been set up to provide real, usable, no-nonsense assistance for our community's every day heroes. It helps in a big way, when they choose to purchase or sell real estate, either for personal or investment purposes. To learn more, go to the website or call me direct at 386-931-1987.

So what's the last thing "Mr. Delbrugge" says to me? "Give my best to Zach... and tell him if there's any way possible, I'll be at his Firefighter Academy graduation." That's what we in real estate call "service after the sale..."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"My Lai - 40 Years Ago Today"

It was March 16th, 1968, and I was a platoon leader with the 196th Infantry Brigade in Viet Nam. Not a fun place to be. I remember being struck by the random raggedness and discipline problems within the ranks. It was bad news and reflected the times. We were a uniformed microcosm of what was happening back home "in the world," as we called it. If the USA ever looses its luster and our freedom becomes a footnote in history, 1968 will be the year to stick a pin in as the "start of the fall."

The 23rd Infantry Division, better known as the "Americal," had been moving North into I Corps. My brigade, with our headquarters at LZ Baldy (South of Da Nang) had started to hear about "some pretty bad stuff" that had happened with our sister unit, the 11th Infantry Brigade, further South in a village called My Lai. We heard about a Cpt. Medina (aka "Mad Dog Medina") and a Lt. Calley and "some sort of massacre?" What did that mean? We were Americans, right? We didn't do that sort of thing! Well, during my time, I learned that human nature doesn't leave Americans untouched. They say that "War is Hell." You know what? It's true... literally true. I believe (forgive me for the preaching here) in a very simple, biblical explanation for why we humans often depart from doing the right thing. And for those of you who have experienced war, don't try to tell me that there is not a demonic presence. It is palpable and you can feel it suck on your soul as you live out the madness.

What happened at My Lai that day was demonic, just like Hitler's troops mercilessly eradicating helpless Jews and later saying, "I was just following orders." I thank God that these incidents with our troops are isolated and few and far between... but they happen. War brings it out of all of us - and reading the rules of The Geneva Convention doesn't act as a healing salve. War is not nice... and it takes rough guys (and now gals too!) to win them. Some are justified and some are not. It's often difficult to figure the difference. There are thousands of "massacres" recorded throughout history... most meted out by the bad guys, but not always. There was that bridge in Korea... and that prison in Iraq... The list could be longer, but you see what I mean. Revenge is in the dark part of our nature. Pearl Harbors beget Hiroshimas. It won't stop until this planet does.

Pray for the survivors of My Lai, both Vietnamese and American. Pray that these horrific incidents in some way result in changed lives. God does not do these things to us. But he does allow them, as a result of our choices and will, to happen. Again, I don't mean to preach, but when awful things happen, it's then that we turn to him for help. When Columbine and 9/11 happened, we thumbed our collective noses at the ACLU... and we prayed.

Friday, March 14, 2008

"Price, Price, Price"

Long ago... before I ever thought that I'd be a Real Estate Broker... and be slugging it out for 22 years in this "challenging, yet rewarding" career... the mantra was: "Location, Location, Location"
And to be sure, it's still a key factor when considering the value of property. BUT, I'm thinking there's a new kid in town: "Price, Price, Price." Paul Samuelson writes for the Washington Post and asserts that "Houses will sell, when the price is right." Believe me when I say that the past couple of years have been tough here in Florida... and especially in Flagler County. In physics - and also in real estate it seems - that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Well, for about ten years (1995- 2005), real estate was a nice place to be, after the funk of 1989-2004. The first 5 years was a "slow rise" and the second 5 years was a "rocket ride." You know what happens when the booster expends its fuel? It falls back to earth.
The consensus of economists suggest that we will experience a 20% drop in property values, on average, in the US before it's all over. That would be about a $4 Trillion devaluation (not Million... not Billion... but Trillion)!!!! We've already seen that in Flagler and Volusia County, where our median prices have slipped from about $225,000 to about $179,000. The problem here is that we have some more to go. Why? Because we grew faster than most areas. We share this distinction with California, Arizona, and Nevada. Watch the YouTube Video, titled "Real Estate Outlook 2008," from Realty Times:
In his recent article, Mr. Samuelson says that, "This is actually good news. Lowering prices, says he, is the only real solution to the glut. The sooner prices fall, the better. The longer the adjustment takes, the longer the slump will last. It's elementary economics. Pretend that houses are apples. We have 1,000 apples, priced at $1.00 each. They don't sell. We can either keep the price at $1.00 and watch them rot, or we can cut the price until people buy them. Housing is no different." Think about it. It's not an over-supply, because that would be a surplus. I know this: There are millions of Americans who would love to purchase a home - but they can't - because prices are still too high. True economic "demand" is when "desire" is coupled with the "ability and willingness" to buy. To help this process along, I have developed a program called "Real Estate For Heroes" ( see: ). It's designed to put real punch in the efforts of local community heroes to buy a home. It is helping "current or ex" Firefighters, Law Enforcement Officers, Military, Federal Agents, Teachers and Nurses. Check it out...

Why read "Palm Coast Unplugged?"

"Palm Coast Unplugged" gives a "backstage pass" to locally focused Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, and Ormond Beach, Florida... Real Estate and other useful information:
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