Last week, I wrote a column for The Philadelphia Daily News about my view of the Chick-fil-A controversy.
I have no problem with people objecting to Chick-fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy expressing his personal opinions on gay marriage.
I have no problem with people voting with their wallet and choosing to take their business elsewhere.
I have no problem with people organizing boycotts of the restaurant.
That is what a free society is all about. You are free to voice your personal opinion and express your religious beliefs. You are not immune, however, from public opinion. Your reputation and business could suffer from a backlash. To me, that’s the “checks and balances” of free speech.
What I do have a big problem with is when elected officials jump in with their rhetoric and thinly-veiled threats. Across the country, high-ranking elected officials started to express in harsh and hostile tones that Chick-fil-A was not welcome in their city.
Chick-fil-A, to the best of my knowledge, has broken now laws. It is in compliance with all local and federal laws and regulations. Yet, compliance is forced to take a back seat to publicity and political gain.
In my column and on my radio show, I was critical of my own local City Councilman in Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, for jumping into the fray and proclaiming Chick-fil-A Public Enemy #1. He issued a very harsh letter to Cathy and promised to introduce a resolution when City Council convenes in September to condemn the chain.
I wondered on the air why Councilman Kenney finds it necessary to threaten a business, which creates jobs and generates tax revenues, solely on the basis that he disagrees with the personal opinion of the business owner. I rarely see such vocal theatrics from him on nuisance bars, neighborhood crime, education or dozens more quality of life issues.
After the column was published, I received a couple of e-mails attacking me for daring to criticize Councilman Kenney. The Daily News published several more.
Each of these e-mails followed a common theme: how could I be critical of Councilman Kenney and claim he was a do-nothing politician when he has done so many wonderful things for his constituents?
After that, they would list things that Kenney and his Council office had done.
Which raises the topic of this blog post…
Isn’t serving the public what our public servants (and their staffs) are paid to do?
An elected official’s job description is pretty simple to me. Once elected, you are paid (pretty well, if I might add) to serve your constituents.
You do that by making, maintaining and enforcing laws. You encourage businesses to come to the city because they bring jobs to citizens and tax dollars to support needed city services.
You are also a steward of the taxpayer’s money. You spend it responsibly.
Of course, I might have hit a nerve when I called him “Councilman Chatterblast,” a nod to the fact that the media exposed he paid a social media firm called Chatterblast $29,000 of taxpayer money to manage his Twitter account. I am not making this up.
You might be interested to know that right after my column was published and I discussed it on the air, I was dropped as one of the Councilman’s Twitter followers. I wonder how much taxpayer money was paid to Chatterblast to do that.
Councilman Chatterblast and his supporters have taken an unusual method to block my requests to discuss why he felt it necessary to condemn Chick-fil-A. Instead of answering that, all I have heard is the following:
- The many constituent requests he has responded to, from getting potholes filled to supporting local youth sport programs
- He did not participate in some of Philadelphia’s controversial and lucrative pension shenanigans, like the DROP program
I do not believe that we should have low standards for our lawmakers and elected officials. When they say something outrageous or beyond the bounds of their elected office, we have a right and a responsibility to question and challenge them.
In response to this, all I have heard is that the Councilman responds to a wide range of requests from the citizens he was elected to represent.
Isn’t that the same as rewarding kids for simply showing up for school and disregarding the most important thing- their actual grades?