David Oh, At-Large

Age: 50 (March 8, 1960)
Residence: Cobbs Creek, Southwest Philadelphia
Hometown: Philadelphia
•Central High School
•Dickinson College, B.A., political science
•Rutgers University School of Law-Camden, J.D.
Occupation: Attorney, Zarwin Baum in Center City
•Heesun, wife, 33 years old
•Hannah, 3 years old
•Joshua, 7 months
•Reverend Ki Hang Oh, late father, founded Philadelphia’s first Korean-American church in 1953
Career highlights:
•Worked as an Assistant D.A. with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office for three years, eventually handling jury trials as a member of the Habitual Offenders’ Unit.
•Served on the boards of Community College of Philadelphia, Nazareth Hospital, Crime Prevention Association, First Commercial Bank of Philadelphia, Hahnemann University (PHEC), Nazareth Academy High School, Walnut Street Theater, MiND Independent Television (formerly, WYBE Public Television), Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition, Monte Jade Science and Technology Association, Christian Street YMCA, Educational Nominating Panel for the Board of Education, Federal Judicial Nominating Committee for the Eastern District of PA, and Philadelphia Bar Foundation. David is Chairman of the 82nd Airborne Division Association: Hajdak-Mokan (Philadelphia) Chapter.
•Served as a 2nd Lieutenant with the U.S. Army 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Called to active duty during the first Gulf War but the war ended before David was deployed overseas.
•Started own private law practice in 1990 and merged with Zarwin Baum in 2008.
•Received numerous awards, including: Human Rights Award from Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, Humanitarian Award from National Conference of Christians and Jews, The Young Leader Award from Philadelphia Chapter of the U.S. Jaycees, Public Service Award from Fraternal Oder of Police Lodge 106, Special Recognition Award from 6ABC, Outstanding Service Award from Pan Asian Council of Greater Philadelphia.
Political experience:
•Served as 3rd Ward Republican Leader for the past six years.
•Served on Mayor Ed Rendell’s Transition Team in 1992 and appointed by Ed Rendell to serve on the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy and the Police Advisory Commission.
•Ran for City Council At-Large in 2003 and 2007. In 2007, David won on Election Day by 7 votes. The next day, the Election Board informed him that it did not distribute or count the absentee ballots as required by state law. A few weeks later, he lost by 122 absentee ballot votes.
•Handled Governor Tom Ridge’s trade mission to Korea.

Why did you get into politics?

“I found that I had a very board background and wanted to see Philadelphia’s problems addressed from a more holistic and comprehensive manner. I wanted to advocate on behalf of innovative and practical ideas that would create good jobs, offer fresh opportunities, reform our tax structure, reduce crime, improve quality of life in our neighborhoods and restructure our public schools around practical education and parent choice. I wanted to see Philadelphia enter the global economy in a much more serious and planned manner. I believed that technology would allow our city to improve efficiency, increase service, and create greater accountability. I believe the people of our city deserve better."

What would your most urgent legislative priority be in office?

“To create jobs and have a growing economy to help businesses and encourage entrepreneurialism. That will allow us to stabilize and grow our population. It will make school more meaningful and reduce the number of young people involved in crime and winding up in our prisons. That will help make our city safer. With a solid tax base, good workforce, creative population and attractive business environment, I believe we can make our city a very special place to live, work and raise a family.”

What most needs improvement in the city?

“Most urgently we need jobs, good schools and a better quality of life. Quality of life has to do with all the things that cause a person to either enjoy living in their neighborhood or want to move out. There’s frustration in dealing with a poorly run city. We are in a financial crisis and our city is cutting services. Our city seeks more money from our residents and workers. That is driving people out of the city and that compounds our problems. I want to revive our underutilized economic engines which will immediately improve our economy.”

What do you love about Philadelphia?

“I love the people of Philadelphia – they are our best asset. We have a diverse population and we have a set of distinct neighborhoods which offer a lifestyle to many different types of people. Our neighborhoods have certain characteristics and come with a deep history. We’re a city of fighters who don’t quit and believe we can do better. We have a lot of great assets that has attracted many people to be a part of our city including university students and empty-nesters who wish to enjoy all that a big city has to offer.”

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

“I’m not a big fan of council’s old traditions that make us less open to new ideas and solutions. For example, councilmatic privilege is overdone. I understand that we have 10 districts and that District Councilpersons are the best representatives of issues with their districts because that is what their residents elected them to do. However, on issues that affect the whole city, such as Philadelphia’s ability to be an international, world class city, that’s where a councilperson at-large needs to step up. I believe an at-large councilperson should look at the city’s interests in a holistic manner and not favor one district over another. That is what I intend to do. However, in order to be effective, an at-large councilperson should know how to work productively with the other members of Council.”

Do you support term limits?

“I’m not generally in favor of limiting the voter’s authority. However, I am fine with it if it is a referendum item. I think we should balance the desire for change with the benefit of having long term oversight and experience. With short term limits, councilpersons may become geared towards short-term projects at the cost to critical long term projects such as rebuilding or updating our infrastructure. Ultimately, I believe we need to focus on engaging our voters.”

What is your position on DROP?

“I’m against DROP for elected officials. It was not capable of carrying nonessential city employees. DROP also should have had a floating interest rate. At its inception, DROP offered an innovative use of pension benefits to manage essential workforce needs, specifically for police and fire. Whatever its value, it has been lost due to excessive abuse. However, we still have the same problems and so, re-crafting a good tool should not be out of the question."

Why should the voters entrust you with a Council seat?

“I’m qualified, I’m honest and I care. I take this responsibility very seriously and I have an existing history of public service which required self-sacrifice. I know this city and our people. I know our problems. I’m not a new candidate. I’ve run and lost and I’m back to keep on fighting for a better future. I’m asking people to vote for me and support the ideas that I advocate to benefit the people of our city. Voters know the problems and they have a pretty good idea about the solutions. What they are seeking is leadership… strong, honest and smart leadership. That is what I have to offer.”

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

“I don’t have much that’s interesting. I am happy to live a drama-free, home life. I enjoy martial arts. Other that that, I am willing to take a public beating for my values. I will make personal sacrifices and take on incredible odds. I believe God wants us to take on incredible odds for the good. That way, we will live our faith and rely on Him.”

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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