Friends, since Mayor Charm is out of office and Philadelphia's City Council appears an extension of LOVE Park, don't you yearn for the storied days of civic combat?
Then look no further than the circus that is the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, an entity so soaked in emnity it's a wonder any governance occurs.
There are people who do not like each other. And then there are Jim Matthews, Joe Hoeffel and Bruce Castor, an axis of political ambition that can hardly be contained in a county, let alone at a solitary dais.
Thursday night, in a first, the commission took the show on the road, decamping from Norristown to Upper Dublin's Marriott-like municipal building for a night meeting.
The trip, unlike a second honeymoon, did not mend relations.
While approving the minutes is a mere formality at most meetings, not so here. Pretty Boy Bruce held up a fresh copy of Robert's Rules of Order to question whether seconding the motion was necessary in a panel of three.
Jim withheld eye contact, clenching his granite jaw. Joe and Bruce hurled "Commissioner" at each other as though it were an invective. Joe's head, doubling as a Homeland Security color threat chart, soared from elevated to high to severe. Things went downhill from there.
Jim has accused Bruce of "intemperance, badgering and childishness." He said Bruce's ego is so big "it could float the Titanic." Bruce has called himself "the only Republican sitting up here."
For the record, they're both Republicans.
In December, Democrat Joe and GOP Jim eloped. They forged a historic alliance for the county, long a Republican stronghold that is increasingly drifting Democratic. As political animals, Joe and Jim bonded not so much over philosophy and vision as shared hostility toward Bruce, who received the most votes in the election.
"It's apparent the two of them intend to run the show and leave me in the dark," Bruce said in January, showing considerable prescience. Since then, Jim and Joe have barely left a light on.
It's a pinstripe-and-yellow-tie version of Gossip Girl, in which Jim and Joe are Blair and Serena, and poor Bruce, once so cool, is exiled Jenny. Prior to Thursday's meeting, Joe, Jim and county solicitor Barry Miller stood outside, kibitzing, leaving Bruce inside in the cold.
On the agenda were the three most dreaded words in county history: "Save the Barnes," the Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce of the arts world.
Bruce, who had never been to the Barnes Foundation in Merion before last week, has made keeping it from moving to Philadelphia his new cause, winning fans while stoking anger from Jim and Joe. He offered to cover costs should the county be sanctioned for an appeal to state Superior Court.
Joe countered, "That's a grandiose gesture on your part." He added, repeatedly, as though Bruce were a slow child, "This case was settled four years ago," and "we're in a very poor legal situation here." Buddies of the Barnes murmured, "Shut up, Joe." In the back, a woman in a straw hat knitted like Madame Defarge.
Colleagues had warned Castor not to leave the District Attorney's Office, where he was the pinstripe prince, a nightly news constant.
Now, in terms of power, he's simply the lesser of three egos.
Maybe if the county faced real crises, the commissioners might actually have to get along.
Instead, Bruce, Joe and Jim are engaged for the foreseeable future in the least swinging three-way in the suburbs.
"We are, the three of us, the government of Montgomery County, as scary as that is," Bruce said.
"Is that a collective fear?" Joe parried. Jim sighed. Eyes rolled.
Next showtime's at 9:30 a.m. June 25, 1 Montgomery Plaza in Norristown. Admission, as always, is free, though performers are not responsible for any damage inflicted on patrons.