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West Palm Beach election: City Commission race gets contentious

The Palm Beach Post logo The Palm Beach Post 3/8/2021 Tony Doris, Palm Beach Post
a large building: The West Palm Beach City Hall. © LANNIS WATERS/palmbeachpost.com The West Palm Beach City Hall.

WEST PALM BEACH — He says she's a carpetbagger, having moved to the West Palm Beach district where she's running less than six months ago, just under the wire for the City Commission election Tuesday.

She says she moved just outside the city line several years ago after a divorce and now lives back in West Palm Beach, where she has worked and volunteered for many years.

She sent out a glossy mailer saying her opponent was sued for not paying his bills. "How can we trust him to manage our city's finances?" she asks.

He says his vendor dispute over $911 for tires has long since been settled, whereas court records show his opponent has a 2014 foreclosure judgment against her of $561,000.

And on it goes, in the race for City Commission, where FAU instructor Deandre Poole is competing against Sickle Cell Foundation CEO Shalonda Warren for the central West Palm Beach District 2 seat of departing Commissioner Cory Neering. A third candidate's name will appear on the ballot, but with a note that a vote for him will not count, as he was disqualified for failing to meet the residency requirement.

More: West Palm commission seat draws three candidates, as incumbent Cory Neering steps aside

Neither Warren nor Poole has held public office but both have held community posts that demonstrate longtime interest and participation in city affairs.

Meanwhile, in the western West Palm race for District 4 commissioner, incumbent Joe Peduzzi faces a challenge from Jonathan E. Jones. Both are personal injury lawyers. It's a race that has its own contentiousness but the likely outcome is less close a call, as the incumbent has a deeper well of endorsements and contributions than his rival, whose positions on the issues are not strikingly different from Peduzzi's.

District 2: Shalonda Warren's 'ABCD plan'

In addition to her work at the Sickle Cell Foundation of Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast Inc., Shalonda Warren recently worked as community liaison to a developer planning an affordable and workforce apartment building north of downtown.

a woman smiling for the camera: Shalonda Warren, West Palm Beach District 2 City Commission candidate. © [Contributed] Shalonda Warren, West Palm Beach District 2 City Commission candidate.

Warren serves on West Palm Beach's ArtLife Committee and lists memberships in the National Coalition of 100 Black Women's West Palm Beach Chapter, Coalition for Black Student Achievement, Unify, Black Village Voice, Martin County NAACP, Florida Rights Restoration, National Coalition of Black Civic Participation and the West Palm Beach Police Athletic League. She previously served on on the school district’s Construction Oversight Review Committee, the Northwest Neighborhood Advisory Committee and an advisory committee that advocated for policies to incentivize economic opportunities in vulnerable neighborhoods.

She boasts endorsements from Mayor Keith James, former Mayor Jeri Muoio, Sen. Bobby Powell, County Commissioner Mack Bernard, school board member Debra Robinson and such organizations as SEIU Florida, Fraternal Order of Police, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance, the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches and the Economic Council of Palm Beach County.

More: City-by-city: What you need to know for the 2021 Palm Beach County municipal elections

As of Feb. 1, she had raised $33,105 in political contributions for the race, $1,000 of it a personal loan, compared with $7,545 raised by Poole, who loaned himself $5,000 of that.

On the issue priorities, Warren pointed to what she called her "ABCD" plan:

  • The A is for ensuring residents have access to city services and workforce and affordable housing.
  • Next in the plan using her budget skills to save and better allocate the city's money.
  • The C is for working with other local agencies to help residents and businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure "a smooth vaccine rollout."
  • Finally, she wants to make diversity "part of everything the city does," she said.

"We need a coordinated response to support residents and businesses during COVID-19, focusing on economic development and creating good jobs, improving public safety, protecting our city’s water supply, and ensuring our neighborhoods are heard and their projects are completed."

District 2: Housing a priority for Deandre Poole

Poole, born and raised in West Palm Beach, is a senior instructor and United Faculty of Florida chapter president at Florida Atlantic University's School of Communication and Multimedia Studies. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from FAU and a Ph.D. from Howard University, all in communication.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Deandre Poole, West Palm Beach District 2 city commission candidate. © [Contributed] Deandre Poole, West Palm Beach District 2 city commission candidate.

He chairs West Palm's Criminal Justice Advisory Committee and serves on the Sales-Surtax Advisory Committee, is secretary of Scholastic Achievement Foundation of Palm Beach County and volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach County. He asserts that his volunteer community work with these organizations is more substantial than his opponent's experience.

Poole has the endorsement of incumbent Neering and hopes to continue programs like Neering's Ties That Bind, to mentor youths. Poole started as a special ed student from West Palm's Pleasant City neighborhood but teachers saw something in him, mentored him and by middle school mainstreamed him, leading to acceptance at Suncoast Community High School and a Pathfinder award, he said.

His other endorsers include the Hispanic Political Action Committee; Laborers’ International Union of North America; Palm Beach-Treasure Coast AFL-CIO; State Rep. Omari Hardy; Port of Palm Beach commissioners Joseph Anderson, Jean Enright, and Katherine Waldron; Riviera Beach City Councilwoman KaShamba Anderson-Miller; Mangonia Park City Commissioner Addie Greene; former County Commissioners Paulette Burdick and Priscilla Taylor; and community leaders Edith Bush and Aaron Wormus.

Poole said the city needs to continue its push for more affordable and supportive housing to address its population of homeless individuals and families. He supports the city use of engagement teams to reach out to the homeless on the street and engage them in supportive services, and to tighten the city's partnerships with The Lord's Place and other nonprofits with expertise in helping the homeless.

West Palm needs to find a way to buttress public safety by paying police and firefighters better, to avoid losing talent to other municipalities, he added. And like all the candidates in the race, Poole opposes the county push to extend State Road 7 beside Grassy Waters Preserve. In his district, he'd like to see police corral more speeders on Village Boulevard and promote use of community patrols as crime spotters within subdivisions where residents' parked cars often fall victim to thieves. 

He contended that some of Warren's support stems from her closeness to the business and developer community. While he looks forward to a collegial working relationship with the mayor and fellow commissioners, he sees himself as less connected than some others to that development community, more able to "be myself."

Warren, acknowledging that "development has to be careful," argues that construction can bring jobs and tax revenues that support improved city services. 

District 4: Joe Peduzzi stresses neighborhood safety

Peduzzi, a former deputy fire chief of North Palm Beach, where he also served as a reserve police officer, said he became a West Palm Beach commissioner in 2019 because he was concerned about the city's high homicide rate. Everyone in every neighborhood should feel safe and he felt his background in public safety would be of use on the five-member board, he said.

a man wearing a suit and tie: West Palm Beach District 4 City Commissioner Joe Peduzzi. © [Contributed] West Palm Beach District 4 City Commissioner Joe Peduzzi.

The city did well this past year to avoid layoffs or increasing the tax rate, despite a tough economy that gnawed at revenues, he said. He remains concerned that West Palm police and fire salaries are among the lowest in the county, he said. 

He participated in city efforts to address COVID safety for seniors, and in city efforts to distribute sanitizers, face shields, school supplies for virtual instruction, while supporting small business loan programs and other measures to help businesses make it through the pandemic. A top priority: He opposes the proposed expansion of State Road 7, which most directly would affect his western district.

Economically he sees a bright future for the city, with new office towers under construction that are luring businesses from the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Does downtown risk becoming overdeveloped? "It's always a balancing act," between bringing customers for downtown businesses, and people who live in the shadow of the new buildings, Peduzzi said.

He and the city are committed to not allowing buildings much taller than they are now downtown. "We don't want to become a Miami or a Fort Lauderdale," he said.

Peduzzi said he sees the biggest difference between himself and his opponent as his record of "lifelong commitment to public service."

District 4: Jonathan Jones: 'I'm against roads going through the preserve'

Jones did not attend an interview offered by The Palm Beach to elaborate on his positions. A political newcomer, he had raised $8,400 in campaign contributions as of his Feb. 1 filing with the city clerk, $5,000 of it a loan from himself; Peduzzi raised $50,600, $10,000 a loan from himself.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Jonathan E. Jones, West Palm Beach District 4 city commission candidate. © [Contributed] Jonathan E. Jones, West Palm Beach District 4 city commission candidate.

Jones' stands are similar to Peduzzi's, particularly on support for the preserve, a priority for western residents. "I'm totally against any roads going through or next to the preserve," Jones said in an interview in January

With an MBA from Florida International University and a law degree from the University of Denver, Jones handles personal injury, criminal and wrongful death cases, as well as civil settlements, business litigation and family law. He said he's running because he understands the difficulty of running small businesses and wants to help them succeed.

"A lot are hanging on by a thread now because of what we've been through," he said. "I want to make sure we do what's right for small business, however the city can support them." 

He wants to see the city treat its homeless with compassion by devoting more resources to housing and other support services. He also wants the city to better support its firefighters and police, who are mired in contract talks with the administration.

More: Palm Beach Post editorial board endorsements for March 9 election

tdoris@pbpost.com

@TonyDorisPBP

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: West Palm Beach election: City Commission race gets contentious

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