James Joyce III said he’s used to representing more than just himself.
As a student-athlete, he represented his school and his team.
As a journalist, he represented his publications and his editors.
As an aide, he represented then-Assemblymember Das Williams, and then as a district director, he represented then-state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.
He even said as a black man going to school in America, he represented his family and the black community.
Now he’s hoping to represent the city of Santa Barbara as its mayor.
Mr. Joyce has announced his candidacy in the race with Mayor Cathy Murillo and Planning Commissioner Deborah Schwartz.
Mr. Joyce, a Maryland native, ran track at and graduated from Ohio University with a degree in journalism. From Indiana to Yakima, Wa., to Toledo, Ohio, and finally to Oxnard and then Santa Barbara in 2012, Mr. Joyce worked both as a reporter and as a staff member for local politicians behind the scenes.
On Monday, the entrepreneur announced he was ready to come to the front of them as a mayoral candidate.
“I found you can be effective as a staff member and get work done and don’t have to worry about some of the things elected officials do,” Mr. Joyce told the News-Press Wednesday. “But members of the community were reaching out to me saying, ‘Look, you have a great skill set, and we think that could be useful for the city.’
“Any reason that I came up with not to run was a selfish reason.”
Back in July 2016, in light of the shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas, Mr. Joyce founded “Coffee with a Black Guy,” a social impact movement that allows black men to share their experience and open themselves for better understanding of citizens’ shared experience and background.
With this, he held office hours, which turned out to be sessions for people to share stories, have conversations and impart perspectives, and community members began attending the chats.
By listening to others share their stories through CWABG, along with listening to others through his reporting career and policial staffing experience, Mr. Joyce said he’s ready to step up to the plate and listen to residents of Santa Barbara.
“Among the city council, the community doesn’t feel as if they’re heard all the time,” he said. “We know that there’s public comment for three minutes, but there’s more demand out there, and I’ve been hearing that over the years. That’s not leadership.”
Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Joyce said that while he believes the state’s tier system has aspects that “don’t make sense,” he thinks Gov. Gavin Newsom has shown leadership through it all.
“What COVID has pointed out across the board is we need to be flexible and nimble to the changing environment,” he said. “In my mind, there should’ve been a way at the local level to allow for variance to allow certain businesses to open who are already following procedures.”
He added that businesses attempting to duck the health orders or individuals refusing to wear masks is an issue.
“That is just indicative of discord in our community. There’s no common base of knowledge. Facts are disputable. That is not a helpful environment dealing with a pandemic,” he said.
However, Mr. Joyce said he believes there are solutions to Santa Barbara’s homelessness issue in some of the policies that have been passed during the pandemic, such as housing homeless individuals in motels until they can get back on their feet.
“Instead of having to spend the salary dollars or the hourly rate wage of police officers going and dealing with homeless folks where they are, the city can allocate those funds to purchase a place and put homeless folks in one spot where they know where they are. Now they have a home and can start to get on their feet and build their life,” he said.
As far as Santa Barbara’s housing crisis goes, the mayoral candidate said he thinks the city can work creatively to repurpose vacant spaces, but also that the city needs to utilize industry professionals more.
“I’ve been a generalist in public service, but there’s people who focus on housing alone. Listen to what solutions and ideas they have, and not just the department head but the folks who work throughout the department. They have great ideas too,” Mr. Joyce said. “What that indicates to me is the need for a more inclusive community process between those two.
“Emails starting with, ‘I’m an expert in…’ or ‘I’ve studied this, that or the other…’ Those are the people you want to talk to early and have them be a part of the conversation.”
He added that he respects the city processes in place for building or constructing projects, and they’re in place for a reason, but there needs to be more constant communication regarding delays or other hold ups. He said that if Domino’s can let its customers know when the pizza is in the oven or the delivery driver is on its way through an app, the city could do it too.
“It may not speed up the process, but if you can’t speed up the process, at least provide an avenue for communication in the process,” Mr. Joyce said.
The candidate said he’ll bring a perspective to the council that his opponents, incumbent Mayor Murillo and Ms. Schwartz, cannot.
“You look at the current makeup of the city council and it reflects a certain perspective. The different district’s representatives come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and I think there’s value in that,” he said. “In the issue of race, for somebody in black skin, if you’re not in black skin or don’t have an ethnic identity beyond what the ‘norm’ is, your skill set to deal with race is diminished.
“Race is a tough topic. People don’t like talking about it because not enough people have experienced it … That is what I can bring. Unmistakably, I’m a black man. That’s not how every sentence starts, but that informs my perspective.”
Mr. Joyce believes the city is on the right track in addressing and agreeing to meet the demands of Santa Barbara’s Healing Justice, but he thinks there’s still some conversations being avoided, and he feels comfortable that he is ready to have them. He also supports the Community Formation Commission and the civilian police review system, but he still wants more.
“The only critique I have about that process is there wasn’t enough community outreach to solicit diverse folks from our community,” Mr. Joyce said. “There’s good folks in the community who have stepped up, but a lot of them have been involved elsewhere already. How do you get the folks that aren’t already involved and understand they have access to this system too?”
He floated the idea of implementing a public information officer for the council to do outreach such as that, or infusing that role into the role of the mayor or some other position that already exists that could be reclassified or remodeled.
“What’s been clear to me since announcing on Monday is there is a genuine excitement about my candidacy and it’s been overwhelming,” Mr. Joyce said. “It just shows and speaks to the thirst for leadership, for vision, even if it’s just as simple as, ‘Listen, we’re going to sit down and have a conversation letting folks know what the plan is.’ The discord on the council right now is obvious and that’s not a good look for Santa Barbara.
“Having some sort of weight of representation has been a part of who I am since early on … It’s been an adjustment to move from behind the scenes to the front, but with that adjustment, I feel there’s a great responsibility to represent the people who say, ‘We support you.’ People who can stand up to that is what leadership is.”