Sorry, But the Johnson-Feibush Verdict Won’t End Councilmanic Prerogative

City Council Entrance

The verdict in the federal civil lawsuit between Point Breeze developer Ori Feibush and 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson was remarkable for a couple reasons.

Think about it on the most basic level: A federal jury determined, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a sitting Councilman was guilty of the kind of petty abuse of power that everyone suspects, but can never prove, that Philadelphia politicians are involved in all the time. In the jury’s view, Johnson had blocked the sale of two city-owned lots to a developer because that developer was a political opponent. Johnson maintains that politics had nothing to do with it, but the jury rejected that. They saw it as cheap retaliation under the color of the law.

On another level, it was remarkable to hear judges, jurors and city attorneys talk openly in court about Councilmanic prerogative, an unwritten tradition that lets Council members control development in their districts. The tradition occupies a shadowy sort of space in the mythos of local politics. How real is it, reporters and political observers sometimes wonder? How powerful? How ripe for abuse? And then right there in court, lawyers for the city government flatly stipulated that Councilmanic prerogative is so solid a custom that it might as well be written policy.

But even though the jury ruled that prerogative was the moving force that led to the retribution against Feibush, the verdict won’t end the tradition. It’s unlikely even to slow it down. Here’s why: Read more »

The Ori Feibush V. Kenyatta Johnson Verdict Is In: Feibush Won

Kenyatta Johnson. Photo | Jeff Fusco. Ori Feibush. Photo | Creative Commons SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39111166

Kenyatta Johnson. Photo | Jeff Fusco. Ori Feibush. Photo | Creative Commons SA 2.5

A jury determined on Wednesday that Councilman Kenyatta Johnson blocked the sale of two vacant lots in Point Breeze to developer Ori Feibush in an act of political retaliation.

The jury found in favor of Feibush, who filed suit against Johnson in the summer of 2014 in the midst of a campaign to take Johnson’s City Council seat. It awarded Feibush compensatory damages of $34,000. Feibush had sought damages of $275,000.

Read more »

Ori Feibush and Kenyatta Johnson Testify in Court Fight Over Point Breeze Properties

Kenyatta Johnson. Photo | Jeff Fusco. Ori Feibush. Photo | Creative Commons SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39111166

Kenyatta Johnson. Photo | Jeff Fusco. Ori Feibush. Photo | Creative Commons SA 2.5.

Trial hearings began Tuesday morning in a federal civil lawsuit filed by Point Breeze developer Ori Feibush, who claims that 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson refused to authorize the sale of two vacant lots on Cleveland Street as an act of political retaliation because Feibush was challenging him in a City Council race last year.

The case began as a suit filed by Feibush against Johnson, but it has effectively become a case between Feibush and the practice of Councilmanic Prerogative, the unwritten legislative tradition that gives Council members de facto control over land development in their districts. The court previously dismissed several complaints against Johnson specifically because he enjoys “legislative immunity,” which prevents lawmakers from being sued over law-making activity.

An eight-member jury heard testimony from four witnesses Tuesday. The trial is expected to conclude Wednesday, and the jury will likely need to consider a few key questions:  Read more »

Kenyatta Johnson Vs. Ori Feibush Starts Today. Here’s What You Need to Know

Kenyatta Johnson. Photo | Jeff Fusco. Ori Feibush. Photo | Creative Commons SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39111166

Kenyatta Johnson. Photo | Jeff Fusco. Ori Feibush. Photo | Creative Commons SA 2.5

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. The city-owned properties in question have not been sold. 

Jury selection starts this morning in developer Ori Feibush’s federal lawsuit against Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. The case is the second culmination of the years-long drama between the two Point Breeze residents; the first was Johnson’s decisive victory over Feibush in the 2nd District Council race last spring. Can he fight off another Feibush attack?  Read more »

Developer Says Cafe “Took a Crap” All Over Opportunity

Looks like this location will be available in 2016.

Looks like this location will be available in 2016.

On the eve of an election day, this wasn’t exactly the drama we were expecting out of Point Breeze but it does involve Ori Feibush of OCF Realty, so there is that. A Craigslist post went up offering Breezy’s Cafe location at 1200 Point Breeze Avenue for rent. The ad sets the availability of the space as October, 2016. This was a surprise to Point Breeze residents as the cafe was a welcome addition and seems to have a loyal following.

On Friday, October 30th, Breezy’s owner Kristin Wolack responded to an article about the spot’s potential closure saying that they are not closing but are looking for another location in Point Breeze. In her Facebook post, Wolack cites issues with heating and cooling in the building as well as issues with water leaks. Breezy’s landlord is Feibush.

Yesterday, Feibush went to Facebook to respond to questions he’s received about pushing Breezy’s out and why he couldn’t make things work out. According to Feibush, he put $150,000 into the building, provided a year of free rent and covered Breezy’s security deposit to get the cafe open. Feibush feels that,”rather than take that opportunity and run with it, they took a crap all over it.”

Read Feibush’s comments »

Ori Feibush Gets the Go-Ahead for Townhomes at 20th and Wharton

The warehouse at 20th and Wharton has since been demolished. | via Google Street View

The warehouse at 20th and Wharton has since been demolished. | via Google Street View

We know all about Ori Feibush’s failed run at Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s seat on City Council. We know all about the numerous heated meetings about his developments in Point Breeze. Yesterday, it looks like Feibush has received some good news about the long-planned project at 20th and Wharton.

Naked Philly, a real estate blog whose parent company is Feibush’s OCF Realty, announced the project at 2010 Wharton received the necessary approvals to move forward with construction of 22 townhomes.

We’ll leave it to Naked Philly to sum it up:

Last week the project went before the Zoning Board in a marathon two-hour session, and the project was held for discussion. Today, the ZBA voted in support of the project. When reached for comment, developer Ori Feibush simply said “Hallelujah.”

Read more »

Point Breeze Pop-Up Beer Garden “Concerns” Prompt Community Meeting Tonight

Flyer on left courtesy of Jordan Harris's office. Flyer on right via Facebook.

Flyer on left courtesy of Jordan Harris’s office. Flyer on right via Facebook.

The City Council race between Kenyatta Johnson and Ori Feibush may be over, but tensions in Philadelphia’s Point Breeze neighborhood aren’t going away anytime soon.

Last month, a pop-up beer garden opened in Point Breeze. Now, Democratic state Rep. Jordan Harris is set to host a community meeting tonight at 6 p.m. to discuss “community concerns about the pop-up.”

You’ll recall that state legislators expressed “grave concern” about beer gardens last year, but nothing really came of that after residents hounded them with phone calls in support of the operations. Of course, plenty of people aren’t fans of pop-up beer gardens. Read more »

After Losing the Election, Ori Feibush Is Out of the Development Game

Ori Feibush | Photo via OCF Realty

Ori Feibush | Photo via OCF Realty

Love him or hate him, Ori Feibush has been the best-known developer in South Philadelphia’s Point Breeze neighborhood in recent years.

But now he’s getting out the game.

Feibush, who lost last month’s race for the 2nd District City Council seat, said he is no longer going to develop new homes or commercial properties. He simply doesn’t have the money. Read more »

The Brief: 3 Reasons Jim Kenney Crushed His Opponents

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco

1. Jim Kenney won Philadelphia’s mayoral race by the biggest margin in modern history.

The gist: The former City Councilman defied the odds — he got off to a late start, he had “racial math” working against him, and his chief opponent’s super PAC allies dwarfed his in fundraising — and cinched the Democratic nomination for mayor Tuesday. It wasn’t even close. With 83 percent of precincts reporting, he trounced his primary foe, state Sen. Anthony Williams, by 32 percentage points. That’s bigger than any lead in a competitive mayoral primary since at least 1979. Read more »

Kenyatta Johnson Defeats Ori Feibush, Ending Long, Ugly Battle

Johnson: PA House of Representatives; Feibush: Jeff Fusco

Johnson: PA House of Representatives; Feibush: Jeff Fusco

On Tuesday night, incumbent Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson handily defeated challenger Ori Feibush in the 2nd District race, bringing to a close the most drawn-out and negative race that this primary season has seen. With 97% of the polls reporting, Johnson is on track for a decisive victory with 63% of the vote.

In an interview Tuesday night, Feibush said, “I was honored to have the opportunity. I was obviously disappointed for not being able to deliver for all the people who have been fighting day and night for us to be successful here.”

Of the results, Feibush said, “We won in so many wards, but unfortunately we lost significantly in Point Breeze and we could not overcome that.”  Read more »

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