编辑/Editor: 李 蓓
校对/Proofreader: Eric Rosenfeld
On February 13, 2023, the temperature in Philadelphia climbed to 20C (68F). The warm weather made Philadelphians feel a little better after the Eagles lost the Super Bowl the night before. However, at around 10 AM in the morning that day, a SEPTA bus carrying 25 passengers was shot at in Germantown, which cast a decidedly dark shadow on a topic that has plagued the community.
On this cloudy early spring day, Korean-American and former Philadelphia City Councilor David Oh announced that he would run for Mayor of Philadelphia.
Photo credit to WHYY
David Oh 宣布参选费城第 100 届市长，这不足为奇。他此前曾被列为唯一可能的共和党候选人。然而，鉴于费城市压倒性的民主党选民优势，他的命运是否从一开始就已经注定？和以共和党人的身份竞选市议会的一般席位相比，与一长串民主党市长候选人正面交锋是一项更加艰巨的任务。
It is unsurprising that David Oh announced his candidacy for the 100th Mayor election of Philadelphia. He had previously been listed as the only potential Republican candidate. However, given the city’s overwhelming Democratic party registration edge, is his candidacy doomed from the start? Running as a Republican for an at-large seat on City Council is one thing. Running head-to-head with the Democratic nominee in a long line of Mayoral candidate juggernauts is a Herculean task.
Photo credits to phlcouncil.com
Who is David Oh? What gives him such courage to run for mayor? What is he focusing on? What ambitions does he have to make Philadelphia better? Will his “Asian” label win him more votes in Chinatown? With these questions in mind, “Metro Chinese Weekly” conducted an exclusive interview with David Oh to help readers learn more about him.
Who is David Oh?
Why is he running for Mayor of Philadelphia?
This was our first question for Mr. Oh. In our interview, Oh talked about how his dad came to the U.S. during the Korean War and, in 1953, founded the first Korean-American church in Philadelphia. He was born, raised, and attended public school in Southwest Philadelphia, a “poor, African-American section with a lot of crime.” He says he still lives there to this day and that his experience living in this community has made him “quite familiar with crime, with illegal dumping, with drug addiction, with all those things that people talk about.”
David Oh grew up wanting to be a lawyer and eventually achieved this goal, starting out as a law school student by providing free legal services, mainly for Asian immigrants, because of the unfriendliness existing community legal service organizations had towards Asians. Oh claims many such groups had “very negative attitudes towards the Chinese” and did not serve Asian immigrants or students. Oh then went on to work in the District Attorney’s office as a prosecutor who “focused on [helping] victims” instead of criminals.
In 1988, David Oh resigned from his position to join the U.S. Army because he didn’t think that there were enough Asian-Americans in the military. He is the only veteran among this cycle’s mayoral candidates. After his service in the Army and as a 2nd Lieutenant in the National Guard, he started his own law firm.
Councilman David Oh speaks during a hearing about DHS at City Hall, in Philadelphia, February 12, 2019.
图片来源：the Inquirer Photo credit to the Inquirer
In 2003, David Oh got involved in politics because he felt like he could create more societal impact as a politician than as a lawyer. After two failed attempts to get elected to City Council, Oh succeeded in 2011, winning election to one of the two City Council seats reserved for minority-party members.
然而，欧大卫认为自己在费城市议会做得还远远不够，他说：“我已经服务了11年，但是我所做的十分有限。所以我想在今年11月为选民们提供一个与5月初选时截然不同的选择”。（11 月是指举行大选的时间，5 月初是指举行两党党内初选的时间）。欧大卫还谈到，“尽管民主党是费城的主导党，但是他们忽视了这个城市很多人的视角、观点和经历；忽视了大家努力争取和希望得到的东西，这个城市里的很多人，想法完全不同。”
However, David Oh did not think he could get enough done in City Council, saying that “I have served for 11 years, and I feel very limited there. I’d like to offer the voters a very different choice in November than the one that they’re going to have in May.” (November refers to when the general election is held and May refers to when the Democratic Primary is held.) Oh also talked about how even though Democrats are the dominant party in Philadelphia, their vision does not take into account the “perspective, the opinions and experiences, the struggles, the hopes of many, many people in this city who think completely differently.”
David Oh also mentioned “common sense,” saying that “the wisdom of all the people together, not just one portion, not 10%, not 50%, but 100% of the people who know what they want, but politics being so particular really excludes a mass majority of people in terms of what they want, you know, for their family, for their future for their community. And that’s why we oftentimes end up with what people say is a government that has no common sense.”
What is David Oh’s vision?
Can he make Philadelphia a better place?
In our interview, David Oh clearly put forward his campaign platform. There are many things he wants to achieve, many of which are a continuation of his work in City Council. David Oh hopes to practice his political vision on a larger stage, and use the “correct” way to make Philadelphia better and make Philadelphians live better.
Violent Crime and Public Safety
Like most mayoral candidates, David Oh’s top concerns are gun violence, crime, and public safety in Philadelphia. “You must stop crime in order to bring people out. Let them enjoy their lives, reduce stress, reduce depression, reduce drug addiction, come to work, and have people come back into our city.”
When answering what he would do about Philadelphia’s public safety crisis, specifically crime and gun violence, David Oh answered bluntly, claiming that the “only way to handle gun violence is policing.” He criticized what he believes is too tepid a response to gun violence. “People who have guns that want to shoot people, you cannot give him a library book. You cannot give him a guitar. They’re out there to kill people.”
欧大卫与第 16 区警察队长Chanta Herder在2022年8月的一次活动中讨论急救人员与社区之间的关系
David Oh with 16th District Police Captain Chanta Herder at an August 2022 event discussing relationships between first responders and communities
Photo credits to Billy Penn
David Oh said that the two major causes of crime are drug dealing and “social media beefing” (“beefing” or “beef” is a slang term when people have a conflict with each other. In this context, it would be over social media). Oh says that in “certain neighborhoods” there are teenagers “getting in cars driving around looking for other kids to shoot, ambushing them with semi-automatic weapons, extended magazines.” These teenagers, according to him, have no judgment and “if they cannot find the person they want to shoot, they shoot their mother, they shoot their sister, they shoot their little brother, they may see someone and they simply see that this person appears to be the best friend of somebody they’re looking for (to shoot).” Coming back to his take of policing being the solution, he asks “how come we’re not stopping them? Why aren’t we arresting them?”
But “beef” isn’t the only cause of crime David Oh talked about. He also mentioned drugs and the current state of Philadelphia’s policing, saying that “the police are instructed not to stop drug dealers and the drug dealers know it” and that “the mayor of this city has instructed the police not to do many things. Not to chase people, not to arrest certain types of people, not to intervene.”
But why do we need to arrest drug dealers? It sounds like a question with an obvious answer, but it is more than the fact that they are breaking the law by selling drugs. Oh says the city needs to arrest drug dealers, especially in areas like Kensington, because dealers are “murdering each other to be able to sell to the drug addicts that are coming from all over,” lives would be saved.
Another thing David Oh would do related to policing to improve public safety would be to increase the police presence in “communities that want them.” He says that these communities “want police. They want uniformed police. They want police in patrol cars.” He used the slow 911 response times as an example, saying that when he’s mayor, “when you call 911, you will get an answer, it’ll be picked up like in three or four rings. And then we will send a patrol car, a patrol car will come to your residence or your place of business or on the street corner, wherever you are.”
David Oh also would like to address some root causes of crime once “you stop the bleeding.” He believes some of the root causes are “atrocious” schools, the high cost of living, and the lack of well-paying jobs with health benefits, especially for workers that haven’t graduated from high school or college.
David Oh also believes that Philadelphia lacks something that makes young people fulfilled and happy, and needs to develop a “creative arts economy.” He thinks community colleges should provide young people with opportunities that they want to learn about in “graphic arts, in fashion, in music, film and television, journalism, writing spoken word,” which he argues is not done enough. As Mayor, David Oh says, he would support increasing funding for community colleges.
“The Philadelphia School District is in the bottom quarter of our state….You’re not getting a good education in this city, and in many places, there is a high dropout rate and the kids just feel like school is prison… That is something the city just has ignored this entire time. And there has to not be tweaking, there has to be a dramatic change in that system.”
Yet another issue David Oh says should be an agreed-upon issue among Philadelphia politicians is the problem with our public schools. He highlighted specifics of the “bad schools in Philadelphia, undrinkable water, no toilet paper in the bathroom, all that stuff that’s been around for decades. Who is fighting back? I fight that. I’m a Republican.”
PHL LIVE Music Initiative
Photo credits to davidoh.com
When answering what he would do about the public education situation if he were elected Mayor，David Oh mentioned that the Mayor doesn’t have much control over Philadelphia’s public schools. Instead, he outlined what he would do with the limited power over public schools that comes with the mayoral office. “The Mayor can ask for the resignation of all nine school board members, which I would do first. The Mayor appoints nine members to the school board. If the Mayor appoints qualified people, you get a good education. If the Mayor appoints unqualified people in education, you get a poorly performing school district. If you appoint people who are not focused on improving education, careers, and outcomes, you end up with poor performance and inequity as we have had these many decades.”
How would David Oh choose school board appointees? He stated he would introduce a system where there are five different zones, based on the council’s districts, that elect someone to represent them on the school board. The third thing he would do is “take the school board and get them out of the school (administration) building. Do you know that the school administration building has offices for each one of the school board members? They should not be in that building. What are they doing in that building? They are not the superintendent. They are not running schools day to day. They are a board. They should do board functions and not meddle in education.”
The fourth thing David Oh would do is start paying school board members directly. There is too much risk for a conflict of interest when school board members earn income outside of city government. The fifth thing Oh would do is to make the Chair of the School Board a deputy mayor. The sixth thing on the agenda would be to “take the 10 worst buildings, and build new schools.” He also mentioned that he’s “not opposed to charter schools” and that if “there is a community with bad (public) schools, and you have a good performing charter school, we shall keep that charter school.”
David Oh then talked about how kids who go to better schools have more access to extracurricular activities and school supplies than kids who go to lower-performing schools. As the seventh task on his plan for improving public schools, he would address this issue of lack of access to extracurricular activities and supplies by asking teachers “to volunteer in our worst schools in our worst neighborhoods to spend a lot more time in school to provide more academic programs and languages and arts and music. I would ensure that every school has an equal amount of resources. Not that one school has an orchestra and the other one doesn’t. One has a swimming pool, the other one doesn’t. One has science equipment, the other one doesn’t. We will even that out.
David Oh, who grew up in a poor community, further addressed the experience of children who grow up poor. “Poor neighborhoods need more education, more time in school, and then during the summer, we’ll have summer enrichment.” He also stressed the need for lower-income students to have more career training in school. His eighth step would be to “take all the libraries and re-outfit them.” He talked about the unavailability of school libraries to the schools’ own students, calling it “disturbing” and that “some are not available at all, they’ve been turned into teachers’ lounges.”
JOBS AND ECONOMIC PROSPERITY
“A lot of people don’t talk about jobs and opportunities. But that is the basis of why we have an ongoing problem. People can’t find a good job and they don’t believe they have a better future. So they’re acting like there’s no reason to live tomorrow, right?”
As David Oh states on his campaign website, “Pennsylvania was one of the four states in the US most economically affected by COVID business impact. Governor Wolf’s business closure policy was applied inequitably and had a significant effect on our city, especially on small businesses. Increasing the economic activity of private industries in Philadelphia can have a significant, positive impact.”
Photo credits to davidoh.com
In addition, Daivd Oh states that taxes from business activity comprise a significant portion of the city’s revenue base. Increased business activity means more people working and increased business tax revenue. This allows the municipal government to lower the tax burden on the individual citizen.
In our interview, David Oh focused on his long standing support of Asian-owned Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Philadelphia. During his tenure on City Counsel, David Oh helped the owner of a Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia take the Philadelphia government to court to oppose the “eleven o’clock” curfew law then in place against the Chinese takeout restaurant in Philadelphia. The case was finally settled out of court, and the municipal government returned the fine of more than $260,000. The successful settlement of this case gave David Oh more supporters in the Chinese community.
David Oh stated that one of the major ways that COVID-19 negatively impacted businesses, particularly in the Chinatown neighborhood, is the lockdown that came with it. He reminded us that it is in the city charter where “the Mayor can have an emergency action, like shutting down the city for no more than four weeks. After that he has to come to city council and provide the reasons why he needs to extend. In order to get an extension, he has to show that what he has done is effective.”
David Oh declared that “we need to basically have a mayor that will not simply order things closed, that will comply with the charter and will provide reasons not just to the council, but to the public as well. Why did we close this? Why does it make sense? What’s the impact? What’s the improvement?” He said he would “comply with the (city) charter” because of the state of emergency Philadelphia is in, ensuring that Philadelphia always has “a level of transparency and checks and balances that you normally do.”
Another action David Oh would support is repealing the ban on bulletproof glass used to protect employees from customers, which is widely seen as targeting Asian-owned businesses. Next, Oh would work to overturn the Sugary Drinks Tax, calling it “unnecessary to begin with.” He called it out as a regressive tax that targets the poor. He also said that it’s bad for business and the economy, saying that “people who live on the edge of the city don’t pay the tax, they just go across the street and go to another county and eat at another restaurant.”
Another one of his priorities is to encourage people to start their own businesses and for consumers to have more money to spend, creating a “more business friendly environment.” This would be accomplished by “lowering the taxes and penalties on the poor,” including the property tax he mentioned earlier in the interview, as well as taking action to attract large employers.
Does David Oh support the 76ers’ new arena?
Recently, the 76ers’ plan to build a new arena in the Fashion District on the doorstep of Chinatown has become a hot topic in the Chinese community. We asked David Oh for his thoughts.
项目的支持者表示，由于人流量的增加，76人队的新球馆对费城唐人街的经济产生极其有益的促进作用。而项目的反对者则认为，这个新球馆的建设将使唐人街的房地产价格飙升，进而导致无法负担高昂租金的租户和小企业主搬离，同时，新球馆还会带来过多的噪音和堵车。华盛顿特区唐人街建造的篮球和曲棍球体育场Capital One Arena就是前车之鉴。
Proponents in Chinatown say the arena would provide an extremely useful boost to the economy because of the increased foot traffic. Opponents argue that the construction of the arena would cause property values in Chinatown to skyrocket, displacing current residential tenants and small business owners who would not be able to afford increased rents. Surging noise and traffic are also red flags. Opponents point to similar examples like the Capital One Arena, a basketball and hockey stadium, built in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown. The project, at a minimum, accelerated its gentrification. At worst, it sealed the fate of the neighborhood’s collapse.
Photo credits to davidoh.com
David Oh, however, argues that Philadelphia’s Chinatown is unique and that there aren’t similar projects in the past. Instead of looking at similar projects in the past to come to a conclusion about the proposed arena, Oh says that “you would have to look at the actual architectural design, you would look at, for example, the transportation flow, you would look at the parking study, you would look at the construction, you will look at the demographics of who’s coming. What’s the likelihood that they’re going to come to Chinatown and they’re going to purchase things? Are they going to disrupt? Will it be better or worse? Is it going to increase crime, decrease crime? Is the arena going to bring people in here to revitalize Chinatown or destroy Chinatown?
David Oh believes that data is the key. “We need to look at the data to make a judgment. You would need to look at the data. Has anybody provided data? The answer is no. So, basically, when people ask me about the Sixers arena, my thing is, until I see a study, I don’t even know if it’s real.”
Did you realize that David Oh is the only veteran of the thirteen mayoral candidates? Although he has been out of the barracks for decades, he is still a fighter. Just look at his mission against excessive taxation. The Philadelphia city government appraised the value of 150,000 properties at $300,000 each, and then doubled the tax. People who cannot pay the tax may be homeless. David Oh was the only one who objected to this assessment. Although his proposal was rejected, he has not given up.
David Oh and His Family
Photo credits to davidoh.com
From his experience in the military to the fact that he’s the only Republican candidate for mayor, David Oh is a unique politician. Whether this is good or bad is for you to decide. Whether you support him in his quest to become the 100th Mayor of Philadelphia is also for you to decide. This May (the primaries) and November (the general election), remember to get out the vote and let your voice be heard.
本篇报道是Every Voice, Every Vote项目的系列文章之一。
This story is part of the Every Voice, Every Vote series.