Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and challenger Ori Feibush faced off in a one-hour debate Thursday that touched on campaign finance, school funding, and development.
The debate, at times spirited but cordial throughout, drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 people to the Greenfield School's auditorium.
Feibush, a Point Breeze real estate developer, said he's running because the Second Council District has become "a tale of two cities."
"I have some incredibly boring but incredibly important policy ideas to share with you," he said.
Johnson, a first-term councilman, touted his record and said he wants to continue bridging the gap between new and old residents in the diverse and gentrifying district, which includes a swath of South Philadelphia and many of the city's Southwest neighborhoods.
Moderator Holly Otterbein of Philadelphia Magazine asked the candidates whether they would support Mayor Nutter's proposed property-tax hike to fund schools. Neither said they would. Feibush said he would come up with the money by correcting deficiencies in the city's property-tax assessment system, known as AVI. He also said he would sell off all the empty lots in the Second District.
Johnson also said he would look to fix property-tax assessments, and would go to Gov. Wolf and the state for more funding.
On the topic of independent expenditures, the candidates said they would welcome support from political action committees, which are free from campaign-finance limits.
Johnson said he would appreciate it, given that his opponent is almost entirely self-funded.
Feibush doubled the campaign contribution limits by giving himself $250,000 in January. Self-funding, Feibush argued, "means the only one in my pocket is me."
He said Johnson, who has received money from large developers, has and could continue to find himself tied to their development projects.
To that, Johnson quickly rebutted, "If that's the case, how can you be a developer running in the Second Councilmanic District?"
Feibush said he's "divested himself of all his properties" save one in the district.
Otterbein also asked the two what their opponent's best quality was. Their responses said something about the tenor of the debate.
"He's a businessman trying to do well by the city," Johnson said.
Feibush on Johnson: "He can reach very tall shelves."