Meet the Candidates: James DeLeon


DeLeon served as a municipal court judge for 34 years before resigning to run for mayor. He worked as an attorney before becoming a judge.

On protecting trees and natural spaces

My plan to protect Philadelphia’s forests and natural areas from further decline and support the growth of an equitable urban forest for future generations would consist of following the best practices of:

  1. Mapping and assessing the tree canopy to understand the current status and distribution of the Philadelphia forest and plantable areas, working with urban foresters, arborists and/or spatial mapping experts.
  2. Update and, where necessary, modify the Kenney tree plan for Philadelphia to ensure optimal preservation of the city’s tree canopy by the use of reforestation efforts to remove dead and dying trees and to plant new trees as needed.
  3. Use digital tools to map the city’s tree canopy with a focus on identifying areas where reforestation is critical and to direct city financial resources at those areas for immediate attention.
  4. Update and/or undertake a tree inventory to assess tree health and age, the mix of species and vulnerability to both climate- and insect-related threats and work with arborists to develop a plan to revitalize the existing tree population and to protect it from known, and unknown, insect and environmental attacks.
  5. Establish goals, targets and timelines to achieve the reforestation efforts.
  6. Begin community engagement efforts to involve the stakeholders in identifying problems in the Eastwick neighborhood to allow effective planning and implementation of flood mitigation measures.
  7. Preparation and finalization of a checklist of goals to be achieved through the City’s plan with a timeframe for completion of each goal so identified.
  8. Prioritize and create a mayor’s implementation plan and immediately start that plan in the community through identification of financial resources and City departments to carry out the plan. The mayor’s office will oversee this plan to ensure that work is begun quickly and completed in a timely manner as in the best interest of the residents of Eastwick and the citizens of Philadelphia.

My plan [is] to protect Philadelphia’s forests and natural areas from further decline and support the growth of an equitable urban forest for future generations.”

Photography by Chris Baker Evens.

On flooding in Eastwick

As mayor, I would ensure that City financial resources are directed to the City planners for use to develop policies and solutions to mitigate the flooding problem currently plaguing Eastwick that would protect homes, roadways and green spaces located in that community. These plans would include:

Limiting development in Eastwick through:

  1. Land use planning, with a focus on ensuring that both new and renovation building plans conform to strict building codes developed to address the Eastwick floodplain issues.
    1. Establishment of essential infrastructure repairs and modifications aimed at withstanding the stresses created by flooding.
    2. Reinforcement of the framework of existing structural components currently in place to minimize and/or prevent flooding events.
    3. Ensuring that flood prone landscaping and green spaces are redesigned to ensure maximum water containment during a flooding event.
  2. Use of mitigation strategies, such as:
    1. Hazard specific control activities.
    2. Design improvements to infrastructure or services.
    3. Land use planning and future design decisions that avoids development of community infrastructure in areas prone to flood hazards.
    4. Community awareness campaigns to increase knowledge of how to prepare for disaster events before they strike.
    5. Community education programs to build knowledge of preparation/readiness for flooding/disaster events.
    6. Capital works construction needed to reduce flooding impacts on the community.
    7. Resilience activities, including partnership building, to ensure that the community will effectively rebound from a flooding event.
    8. Annual programs, such as vegetation management/removal of encroaching trees, branches, plants and/or vines from areas of essential services (e.g., power lines, sewer inlets) and reinforcement of city infrastructure (e.g., power lines, clearing of sewer inlets).

On improving bicycling in Philadelphia

My plan to expand a protected bike lane network throughout every neighborhood in Philadelphia so as to give all citizens access to bike transportation would consist of:

  1. Maintaining the growth of the Vision Zero initiative.
  2. Fully initiating parking separated bike lanes (PSBLs) into the Vision Zero initiative, changing this from a pilot to a full program. PSBLs have demonstrated the following protections for bikers:
  3. small decrease in total number of crashes and crash related fatalities.
  4. 6% decrease in vehicle speeds as measured across all time frames.
  5. 96% increase in the number of bikes/bikers in those areas where PSBLs had been installed, particularly on JFK Blvd. and Market Street in Center City.
  6. modest decrease in average transit vehicle speeds. Bike lane expansion was slowed due to Governor Wolf’s veto of H.B. 140 in November 2022, which blocked PSBLs on state routes. I would pivot this restriction to an expansion of the PSBL system throughout the non-state roads of the city while politically addressing councilmanic prerogative in an expedited manner.

My plan [is] to expand a protected bike lane network throughout every neighborhood in Philadelphia so as to give all citizens access to bike transportation.”

On sustainable development and the understaffed L&I

As mayor, my number one priority is the safety of the people in Philadelphia. I also will demonstrate good leadership skills. One of those leadership skills will be to recognize that I, as mayor, need help to operate a City and I cannot rely on just subordinates and department heads to look for personnel to fill needed positions, such as L&I inspector shortages. To address these vital shortages, I would do public service announcements, wherein I would ask Philadelphians to come help me better run the City by applying for these vitally important positions with the City.

On addressing the city’s backslide on waste management

The Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet was disbanded by Mayor Kenney amid the coronavirus budget crunch of 2020. There were two staff members, and the executive director’s salary was $75,000/year. The job of this small office was to coordinate cleaning efforts across City agencies, businesses and other community groups. Over three years, between 2018-20, the cabinet created an interactive geolocated “litter index” that mapped litter levels across the city and issued a citywide plan to reduce waste, litter and illegal dumping. This committee also worked on bills to reduce illegal dumping and plastic waste and started the city’s first urban composting facility.

As mayor, I would reinstate this very important cabinet position and task it to continue, undisturbed, their contribution to Philadelphia waste management and disposal.

On using vacant lots to improve the community

As mayor, I would first attempt to identify the owners of the 42,000 vacant lots and contact each owner to meet with City officials as to their intentions related to the identified property/lot.

Those properties where the owners do not come forward within a specified time period, the City will exercise its eminent domain powers over those properties to bring them into the city’s Land Bank.

The City planners would then determine which properties and/or lots would be designated for affordable housing development, and which would be designated for green spaces — taking into consideration the University of Pennsylvania study on the greening of vacant urban land and its ability to reduce gun violence by 29%, as well as decreasing feelings of depression and the improvement of overall mental health for residents who live in proximity to those green spaces.


Grid Magazine’s Mayoral Voters Guide is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others. To learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters, visit www.everyvoice-everyvote.org. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.

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