Philadelphia Inquirer Endorses Ori Feibush
Recent census figures indicate that the influx of young adults, immigrants, and empty nesters to Philadelphia could be ebbing. The growth they have brought, especially to areas surrounding Center City, could recede, and neighborhoods that aren't ready for development could miss out on what's left of the trend.
Philadelphia's Second Councilmanic District - encompassing parts of Center City, South Philadelphia, and Southwest Philadelphia - is especially vulnerable. With deep poverty as well as significant wealth, it has seen rapid change in areas like Point Breeze and Grays Ferry.
Unfortunately, the district's freshman councilman, Kenyatta Johnson, has assumed Council's feudal practices, making himself the gatekeeper on all development. If a developer wants a zoning change or just about anything else, he has to see Johnson. The councilman defends this practice by asserting that his office is open to any developer - even Ori Feibush, whose frustration with Johnson has boiled over into a fierce Democratic primary challenge.
While the race has often devolved into a highly personal feud between Johnson and Feibush, the choice for voters comes down to which candidate can provide the momentum to maintain the district's progress. That's clearly Feibush, whose determination to ease the right development promises much-needed economic growth.
Feibush has detailed knowledge of city codes, government agencies, and impediments to growth that can serve the district well if he keeps his temper in check. As he points out, the district's longtime residents will feel less pressure from development if new construction is facilitated on the district's many vacant lots.
Feibush says he has divested from all but one of his properties in the district. If elected, he should distance himself from other developers, too.
As an up-and-coming African American politician, Johnson represented a departure from decades of representation by Anna Verna, who succeeded her father on Council. And he has sponsored legislation to protect longtime residents from increasing property taxes. But requiring developers to seek his blessing to move on projects that can supply jobs and services, especially for needy residents, isn't helping anyone.
Moreover, sloppy record-keeping by his charity and his campaign has raised questions about the councilman's management skills and judgment. If he wins the nomination again next month, he should be more attentive to those matters as well as the need to encourage growth for the sake of all his constituents.
The Second District's potential shouldn't be squandered by an attachment to old, obstructionist City Council protocols. ORI FEIBUSH offers a more hopeful vision of its neighborhoods' future.