Kenyatta Johnson, Second District

Name: Kenyatta Johnson
Age: 37 (10/30/73)
Residence: South Philadelphia
Hometown: South Philadelphia
∙    Bok High School, ’91
∙    Mansfield University, ’96
∙    University of Pennsylvania, Fels School of Government, ‘00
∙    Public Servant
∙    State Representative, 186th Legislative District
Family: Single
Career highlights:
∙    Founder, Peace Not Guns, Inc. which was created to address public safety and random acts of violence. The organization teaches conflict resolution and has mentored over 1500 youth over the last 10 years.
∙    Created the Peace Not Guns Legislative Caucus
∙    Served as Flagship Project Manager of City Year Philadelphia
Political experience:
∙    Deputy Whip, House Democratic Caucus
∙    Vice Chairman, House Children and Youth Committee
∙    Chairman, Subcommittee on First Class Cities and Counties of the Urban Affairs Committee
∙    Member, House Human Services Committee and the House State Government Committee

Why did you get into politics?

“While attending Mansfield University, I took a political science course and began to understand the strategic and critical importance of political advocacy and public policy and how it could be used as a powerful tool in improving the conditions of urban neighborhoods. After serving as President of the Student Government Association, Chair of the Committee on Finance and Chair of the Board of Student Governors Presidents of the State System of Higher Education, I decided to return home and dedicate my life to public service.”

What would your most urgent legislative priority be in office?

“Jobs and economic development are my most urgent priorities. Philadelphia has a vast pool of talented individuals. Now, more than ever, we need to create an atmosphere where Philadelphians can use their skills. I will focus on making Philadelphia more hospitable to small businesses, providing job training to our citizens, and making sure residents know about emerging job opportunities.

“Philadelphia’s business taxes are among the highest in the entire country, far exceeding taxes in the suburban areas surrounding the city. Experts have consistently concluded that such a heavy tax burden deters economic growth. We need to make it easier for people to do business. Sensible tax reform will attract new businesses to Philadelphia while encouraging existing businesses to stay in the city and to thrive. Thriving businesses will generate revenue for the local economy and produce much needed employment opportunities in these tough economic times so that Philadelphians can get back to work.

“Furthermore, the tax structure must accommodate new start-ups and small businesses. We need to ease the burden on small businesses with modest profits so that we can attract job-creating start-up ventures.

“I will promote small business mentoring programs that offer low cost counseling to start-up businesses in areas such as job training, market research, advertising, legal advice, technology and government marketing. I will also promote business incubators that provide low cost access to facilities and technical support for start-ups.”

What most needs improvement in your district or in the city at-large?

“I conducted a listening tour that took me to every neighborhood in the 2nd Council District. During these tours, I heard from constituents who told me about their priorities. Top constituent concerns were: jobs, the business privilege tax, clean streets, and education.

“Jobs: A robust small business sector is essential to our city’s economy. Philadelphians deserve jobs, and small business growth will help provide those jobs. I will promote a hospitable environment for small businesses by lowering the business privilege tax. I will also promote job training opportunities so that Philadelphians can get the skills they need to succeed our economy.

“Clean Streets: Litter, vacant lots, and blighted buildings plague Philadelphia and the 2nd District. I will work to clean up our city and our district. I will determine how many vacant properties are within the 2nd Council District, and with community stakeholders, figure out what to do with them. I will also work with the UnLitter Us campaign to establish a comprehensive program to clean up our streets, discourage litter and establish more litter free zones throughout the city.

“Education: I will implement a comprehensive anti-bullying initiative to address violence and bullying in our public schools. As an alumnus and strong advocate of City Year, I am committed to reducing the dropout rate in the City. I will continue to advocate for Diplomas Now as a model to improve the graduation rate in our schools.”

What do you love about Philadelphia?

“I love the people of Philadelphia, especially south and southwest Philadelphia. Philadelphians have great resolve and hope, and they continue to work together to improve our city. I also love the diversity in the different neighborhoods of the 2nd district and the unique culture that each one represents. I love the culture, parks and architecture throughout the city – from the Liberty Bell, Constitution Hall, Art Museum, and Schuylkill River Trail; to the Sports Stadiums and shopping centers like Liberty One and Franklin Mills.

“I love our fighting spirit. This is the city where the movie Rocky epitomized the underdog achieving the American Dream. This is the city where Vince Papale walked onto the field and became a Philadelphia Eagle. This is the city that I am proud to call home and the city that made me the man I am today.”

What Council practice or custom would you most like to change?

“I would like to provide greater transparency and community input when it comes to creating and implementing new ordinances, policies and budget determinations.

For instance, I would like to see a few City Council hearings conducted in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia during the budget process. I think an attempt to move into the neighborhoods and allow people more access to hearings might lead to more educated decisions and an understanding of their impact on our neighborhoods by Council.”

Do you support term limits?

“No. I believe the people will determine the terms of elected officials based upon their merit, performance, and service to their constituents. Furthermore, I believe that experience and institutional knowledge are positive attributes.”

What is your position on DROP?

“DROP should not be allowed for elected officials, and in fact last year PA state law ended it for all newly elected officials – meaning anyone elected to their first term in Council this year cannot participate in DROP even if they wanted to. I would also support a review and study of the DROP program as it applies to firefighters, police officers and other civil services workers. I want to make sure just because elected officials brought attention and outrage to a loophole in this program that we are not harming city workers who may be using this program legitimately and where it may be serving as an actual employee management tool.”

Why should the voters entrust you with a Council seat?

“I am a public servant at heart and I clearly understand that I work, first and foremost, for the residents of south and southwest Philadelphia. As Councilman I will be committed to providing quality constituent services and will work to implement progressive public policy in an effort to improve the quality of life of the residents of the diverse 2nd Council District and the city of Philadelphia as a whole.”

What’s the most interesting non-political thing about you? What one thing would you like voters to know?

“I am very health conscious and a hybrid vegetarian. In order to be able to take care of each other and my community, it is important for all of us to take care of our health and ourselves.”

Written responses from the candidates are posted verbatim. Profiles compiled following telephone interviews are sent to the candidates for verification of their accuracy. The non-partisan Committee of Seventy does not endorse or oppose any candidate and is providing this information as an educational public service. Seventy reserves the right to edit candidate responses for length, clarity, and style.

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