WHILE THERE are many challengers for at-large Council seats, only two district races are contested: the 7th, which includes Hunting Park, Feltonville, Frankford and Juniata Park, served by incumbent Maria Quinones-Sanchez; and the 2nd, which includes parts of Center City, South Philadelphia, and Southwest Philadelphia including Point Breeze and Grays Ferry, served by incumbent Kenyatta Johnson. Our endorsements:
The 7th: Maria Quinones-Sanchez
The full ugliness of the city's Democratic machine was on full display when party leaders in February bypassed one of City Council's more competent members and opted instead to back Manny Morales for the 7th District.
A month later, that endorsement was rescinded when incumbent Quinones-Sanchez's campaign released a series of disturbingly racist posts on Morales' Facebook page. Morales has insisted that his page was hacked, but the truth behind those posts is unresolved.
Sanchez, who we support for another term for City Council, calls herself a disrupter, a challenger of the system. That alone is reason enough to endorse her, but, unlike many challengers, she actually has stature and a successful track record. That ensures that she'll keep annoying those in the tough political landscape of the 7th District - to say nothing of the male-dominated political class in this city.
If party leadership would rather back almost anyone than the Council representative who has worked hard for her constituents and been an intelligent force on Council, whose interests are they serving?
Sanchez's victories include pushing for alternative solutions to the city's problems, including education, tax reform and development. As a Council freshman, she joined Curtis Jones and Bill Green in a credible plan for saving money; she pushed for a reform of the use and occupancy tax and authored the bill that created the long-needed land bank.
Council members who want to carve an independent path have had a tough go, but Sanchez has shown herself very able in that regard. In a Council made up of many followers, she's a leader worth retaining.
The 2nd: Ori Feibush
Incumbent Kenyatta Johnson may work hard for his district constituents, but it's one he doesn't work for that has put his seat on the line: Ori Feibush, a developer who has made an issue of the stranglehold of Councilmanic privilege over his frustration in securing land he wants to develop in the district, claiming that Johnson steers too many parcels to political donors.
Equitable development is one of the key issues in the city, and Feibush has brought to light a key question: Does the market drive growth in a neighborhood, or do politics?
We think it's a balance that Feibush understands better than Johnson. Feibush, who gets our endorsement, has made a compelling case for breaking the mold of politics-as-usual, and could bring a much needed business-oriented perspective to Council. We also are disturbed by Johnson's recent misstep over a "nonprofit" he created called Peace Not Guns, which claimed to have an IRS tax-exempt status when it didn't, had few financial records or a clear idea of how much money it solicited. Despite good intentions, this is a glaring mistake, especially for someone who has held elected office -including serving as state rep - for six years.