Mayoral Candidate and City Commissioner Keith James Launches Neighborhoods First Initiative

Keith James, city commissioner and mayoral candidate of West Palm Beach (WPB), today launches the Neighborhoods First Initiative

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES, January 31, 2019 / — Keith James, city commissioner and mayoral candidate of West Palm Beach (WPB), today launches the Neighborhoods First Initiative, a strategic plan to foster community input, neighborhood city improvement ideas and ensure the voices of WPB are heard.

As the first major initiative of any candidate running for Mayor, James continues to lead the way in putting forward plans and policies of his administration. He has been hosting events in each district across the city and hundreds of people have attended to hear his vision and plan. Through the Neighborhoods First Initiative, James provides a direct line of communication between local residents and the Mayor’s office guaranteeing voices are heard for a stronger, healthier and happier city.

“I am proud to announce my Neighborhoods First Initiative. It’s a plan to ensure each and every West Palm Beach neighborhood is listened to, their ideas are taken into consideration and that we are all working together to make our community a great place to live, work and raise a family,” James stated. “Our neighborhoods are the jewels that define our city and as Mayor, I am going to work to make sure neighborhood issues and projects are prioritized and getting done sooner. The advisory groups that are formed out of my Neighborhoods First Initiative will provide valuable feedback and ideas to help shape policy and direction.”

James asks those who are interested in participating in the Neighborhoods First Initiative to register online at Once registered, participants will be enrolled for the Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Group. Each neighborhood will have their own advisory group that James will meet with now, and as Mayor of WPB, to discuss neighborhood priorities and ideas for the future.

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About Keith James:
Commissioner Keith James was elected to the West Palm Beach City Commission in 2011 and is a two-time president of the City Commission. As the Immediate Past President of the Palm Beach County League of Cities, Board Member of the Florida League of Cities and member of Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, Commissioner James has become a leader on solving local municipal and regional issues of importance.

On the City Commission, Keith James has sought to create a city of opportunity where people and businesses can succeed. Under Keith James’ leadership, West Palm Beach has seen a boom in economic development and job creation, improvements in city services and increase in local neighborhood projects. Commissioner James has prioritized sound budget management, improving public safety, protecting West Palm Beach’s water supply and environment and addressing homelessness and workforce housing issues.

In run for mayor, Keith James seeks to bridge economic divide



When a land use or development issue comes before the board, City Commissioner Keith James can be counted on to pose the lawyerly questions, asking city staffers to explain details as if parsing a contract. But overall he remains something of a mystery to the public, a frequent supporter of Mayor Jeri Muoio’s initiatives but one who hasn’t stepped into the spotlight with projects of his own. To be sure, that’s partly because, with West Palm’s strong-mayor form of government and Muoio’s approach to it, commissioners serve as policy makers, not movers and shakers of their own accord.

So with Muoio term-limited out, mayoral candidate James, who has represented the wealthier, western part of the city since 2011 as District 4 commissioner, is stepping forward to let voters citywide know who he is and what he hopes to do for them.

For one, he wants the public to know he wasn’t always a Harvard lawyer. He grew up in a small house in Wichita, Kans., son of a single mother who was 17 when he was born, and of a “bad boy” father who dropped in and out of sight.

Though his mother never completed high school, she knew education would be the key to her son’s progress in life, James said in an interview. So he kept his head in his books.

Still, when a high school counselor pulled James aside and suggested he apply to an Ivy League university, he didn’t know what that was. “I said, ‘Ivy what?’” he recalled. “My life experiences are probably more similar to folks in our least advantaged neighborhoods.”

His policy priorities, if elected, will include public safety, economic development, technology and seeking regional solutions to housing, homelessness and transportation, he said in a recent interview.

He supports buttressing police with crime-fighting technologies such as ShotSpotter, license-plate readers and computer analysis, as well as with continued efforts at community policing. But he says the city also needs to build the economic infrastructure of its poorer neighborhoods. “These kids don’t have jobs,” he said.

And if the city can’t stop crime, it won’t fill its office buildings or attract visitors, he said. “We’re only as strong as our weakest neighborhoods.”

The city needs to diversify its economy, to expand beyond real estate and tourism to hot areas of the future, whether health care or the marine industry or others, he said. It also needs to encourage growth of “the generation of creators that’s coming up,” he said, noting the city hosts more of a tech community than most people realize. Similarly he wants the city to position itself to take advantage of the automated vehicle technology of the future. “Why can’t West Palm Beach be one of those test sites?” he asked.

The city also should partner for regional solutions to major issues, from addressing the shortage of affordable housing, the need for mass transit improvement and to coordinate on addressing homelessness, he said.

With the mayoral election not until March 2019, James was the first to jump into the race. The only other person to file candidacy papers so far is Priscilla Taylor, former county commissioner. City Commissioner Paula Ryan, a developer whose district runs from the wealthy El Cid area to the poorer Northwest, sounds more and more like a candidate lately, as well, while south end businesswoman and former commissioner Shanon Materio also is considering a run. Subculture Coffee co-owner Sean Scott said he, too, may run.

West Palm needs to focus on what it wants to look like, five, 10 years from now, James said. Some people still want it to be the same sleepy town it was 30 years ago, he said. While aware of the problems growth created for Miami-Dade and Broward, he said, “we can’t ignore the forces of change.”


The Palm Beach Post // By: Tony Doris

Full article:

City Commissioner Keith James announces for Mayor in 2019

The 2019 mayoral race began in earnest Wednesday afternoon as Keith James, a city commissioner since 2011, threw his hat in the ring to replace Mayor Jeri Muoio, who will step down because of term limits.

James, 59, a Harvard-educated lawyer and one of two African-American men on the five-person commission, said he is “focused on supporting city initiatives that keep taxes low, increase job opportunities for residents, improve public safety in our neighborhoods, support our local schools and education programs, manage transportation and traffic issues and encourage diversity.”

He faces potential opponents in colleagues Shanon Materio and Paula Ryan but neither has filed candidacy papers yet.

He has represented District 4, which consists of western, relatively wealthy sections of the city, and with few exceptions has been a supporter of Muoio’s initiatives. The district traditionally has heavier voter turnout than the rest of the city, giving James an early advantage.

“As a city commissioner, I have provided a level of experience and collaboration that has helped West Palm Beach become the city of excellence we have today,” he said. “As mayor, residents can expect from me leadership that listens, a champion who looks out for all our neighborhoods and a vision for the future that unites our city.”

James has served during a period when the city was pulling out of recession, a time of tight budgets that the commission has gradually relaxed as it unfroze employee pay and played catch-up with maintenance, equipment and program shortfalls, from police cars to road repairs and parks improvements. Even as real estate values rose and the city raked in increasing amounts of tax revenue, the commission has not reduced the property tax rate.

James pledged Wednesday not to increase the tax rate if he’s elected and said it’s possible he would move to reduce it.

As for addressing the city’s areas of generational poverty, he said, “We’re pecking away at it through our Housing and Community Development Department at the city, as well as the Community Redevelopment Agency, to try bringing projects that add to employment possibilities.”

“It’s a matter of continuing to push away at the buttons and address the problems,” from employment, to education and real estate ownership in those areas, he said. “We have to continue to expand our tax base so we have monies available to pursue these programs.”

He cited his early support for The Bristol, a luxury waterfront condominium project now rising at the former Chapel-by-the-Lake site, which was controversial for its view-blocking size but which is expected to bring the city millions of dollars in additional property tax revenues.

He stirred controversy in 2015, when a developer proposing a major medical campus on the downtown “tent site” alleged that James angrily refused to support the proposal because the developer had sided against the mayor in a recent election. A state ethics complaint filed against him by developer Michael McCloskey was dismissed.

James declined to say Wednesday where he stands on another controversial project, the proposed 25-story One Flagler office project proposed for a site currently zoned for a maximum of five stories, also near the waterfront. He said he wouldn’t comment before that project is formally presented to the commission.

Recently elected president of the Palm Beach County League of Cities, James also serves as one of the city’s representatives on the county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, which focuses on regional transportation and other growth issues.

Along with the rest of the commission, he has consistently voted to fight the extension of State Road 7 near Grassy Waters Preserve and the Ibis Golf and Country Club community. He recently persuaded a majority of the city commissioners to remove his potential mayoral opponent, Materio, from her seat on the MPO, for a vote she cast for a project priority list that included the road extension.

As a lawyer, James represents small- and medium-sized businesses in corporate, real estate and governmental law. He graduated from Harvard in 1979 and Harvard Law School in 1982.

He and his fiancée, Lorna, live in the Andros Isle neighborhood.

Palm Beach Post // By: Tony Doris

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