Editor's note: This week's column is dedicated to the Tartaglione family political dynasty, a constant source of controversy, wisdom, and entertainment.
Instead of criticizing Marge Tartaglione for threatening to knock out a reporter last week, "Heard in the Hall" would like to congratulate the 77-year-old city commissioner on learning restraint.
To review, Tartaglione on Wednesday took offense when Philadelphia Weekly's Aaron Kase questioned whether Philadelphians could maintain confidence in the office, given the revelations about ethical violations by her chief deputy and daughter, Renee, earlier in the week.
"You say that [we are] corrupt and I'll jump over this table and punch you out!" Tartaglione warned before her staff and common sense intervened.
Tartaglione has not always been so easily pacified.
On Sept. 4, 1980, she and City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski famously brawled in the bathroom of Masters Restaurant in the Northeast. The Philadelphia Daily News described it then as "an honest-to-bare knuckles fistfight." Krajewski accused Tartaglione, who was recovering from a fractured hip, of menacing her with a cane. The two have since made up.
In February 1999, Tartaglione nearly went at it with Carol Ann Campbell, Democratic City Committee secretary and power broker, at a meeting of the committee.
That was the night after Tartaglione smacked an impudent young politico at Chevy's Pizza Cafe in the Northeast.
According to a Daily News account, Ken Boggi, an aide to Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Gordon, accused Tartaglione of sending a goon to rough him up in the bathroom. After a heated exchange, Tartaglione punched Boggi in the face, as many as four times. Boggi lost his job.
Tartaglione has apparently learned the way of the peaceful warrior. But we have to wonder, Marge: Where is your fire? - Jeff Shields
Sound of one hand clapping
The Tartaglione family's adventure last week began when Renee Tartaglione, longtime chief deputy of Philadelphia's Board of Elections, admitted blatantly participating in city political affairs, triggering criticism that she had jeopardized the integrity and impartiality of the office, where she had worked for 26 years.
She conceded that she had collected Election Day "street money" from the Democratic Party six times on behalf of her mother, Marge, and her husband, Carlos Matos, both ward leaders. Matos has been on the party's payroll since his 2009 release from prison on a bribery conviction.
But, really, who cares?
It's hard to say. Elected and political officials remained mostly silent on the matter.
That may be unsurprising given that Marge Tartaglione chairs the Board of Elections. There seemed to be little interest in antagonizing her or her office.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of Philadelphia's Democratic Party, twice last week declined to comment on the issue.
Michael Meehan, leader of the city's Republican Party and a frequent attendee at Board of Elections meetings, likewise had nothing to say.
None of City Council's 17 members - including six who are ward leaders - volunteered their thoughts, either.
Then there was Mayor Nutter, who campaigned on cleaning up City Hall.
He, or his spokesman, declined several times last week to comment directly on Renee Tartaglione - until Friday.
"The mayor believes her behavior was obviously wrong," spokesman Mark McDonald said.
So what's Nutter going to do about it?
McDonald said Nutter, who in 2008 called for an evaluation of all row offices, would favor a "serious analysis" of the functions and budget of the elections office.
But that is difficult unless Council is on board, since it would take legislation to change or abolish the elections office, he said. "The mayor," McDonald said, "needs some kind of indication from Council that we can move forward."
Good luck with that, Mr. Mayor. - Marcia Gelbart
'We're the experts'
Renee Tartaglione hasn't had a lot to say lately.
But at the city commissioners' meeting the day after the Nov. 2 election, she shared these thoughts on the Committee of Seventy, the watchdog group that has frequently criticized the commissioners office, which oversees the Board of Elections.
Voters who have problems on Election Day should call the Board of Elections, not the Committee of Seventy, because the board has more staff, she said.
"We appreciate the Committee of Seventy and the fact that they want to help voters and they want to help elections," she said. "But when it comes to the elections, we're the experts." - Miriam Hill