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Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh’s clumsy post a reminder: Elections matter | Editorial

A Facebook post provides a Philly city councilman with far more than he bargained for.

Councilman David Oh speaks during a hearing about DHS at City Hall, in Philadelphia, February 12, 2019.
Councilman David Oh speaks during a hearing about DHS at City Hall, in Philadelphia, February 12, 2019.Read more / File Photograph

City Councilman David Oh said he expected to spark “a very insightful discussion” when he Facebook-posted a story about presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren’s support for so-called “taxpayer-funded” gender confirmation surgery.

Instead, Oh ended up shedding more heat than insight with his link to, a website associated with the American Family Association — which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The AFA and its affiliates are well-funded and implacably if not obsessively opposed to all matters LGBTQ.

Oh, one of the two at-large Republicans on Council, explained to Inquirer reporter Sean Collins Walsh that he noticed the story (which is making the conservative media rounds) on his feed, found it interesting, and wanted to share it. An opponent himself of “taxpayer-funded” gender confirmation surgery, Oh said he hit delete after the comments got way too hot. We’ll take him at his word while pointing out that to expect a “very insightful discussion” about any sort of contentious topic on Facebook in 2019 is overly idealistic, if not naive.

Oh’s action had the unanticipated benefit of reminding voters that the Nov. 5 City Council election does matter. The May primary served to flush out some new faces contending for at-large seats. Unlike the array of shoo-ins on the Democratic side of the ballot in this overwhelmingly Democratic city, there’s noteworthy competition for the two at-large seats Philly’s Home Rule Charter sets aside for representatives of nonmajority political parties. The charter does not name the party, although the seats have traditionally been held by Republicans.

GOP incumbents Oh and Al Taubenberger face a field that includes two candidates — Nicolas O’Rourke and Kendra Brooks — endorsed by the Working Families Party. Brooks is a longtime Democrat who has been endorsed by none other than ... Elizabeth Warren, who also has been endorsed by Working Families.

It is not an endorsement of any of these candidates to suggest that voters in Philly, accustomed for too long to the too-familiar faces beholden to the entrenched interests, will have varied choices available to them, for a change, on Nov. 5. How refreshing.

Perhaps without intending to, Oh also has sparked our interest in why certain medical treatments, or any medical treatment, sought by private individuals, somehow become of public interest merely because the medical insurance involved is part of a benefits package for municipal employees. Idealistically or naively, but also wrongly, the councilman seems to believe that simply being a taxpayer (or an elected officeholder) confers upon one a veto power over someone else’s health coverage. Just because that someone is someone they dislike? A preposterous notion like this is best left to sci-fi, or to the apparently feverish imaginations of some writers at far-right sites like OneNewsNow, where accounts of the supposedly malevolent machinations of LGBTQ Americans and their allies are a crowd-pleasing staple.

Oh’s deleted Facebook post might also have unwittingly served as a reminder that 18 transwomen, most of them of color, have been murdered so far this year in the United States. Like the notion of public oversight of private health care decisions, these killings warrant serious and, let’s hope, insightful discussion.

A previous version of this editorial said that David Oh is one of two Republicans on City Council. He is one of three Republicans on Council. The editorial has been updated to reflect this change.