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City Commissioners silent when it comes to reelection bids

Add this to the many reasons there is bad blood between the Committee of Seventy and the City Commissioners Office:

Add this to the many reasons there is bad blood between the Committee of Seventy and the City Commissioners Office:

Seventy, the nonpartisan government watchdog group, has asked each of the three city commissioners, who oversee Philadelphia elections, to state whether they intend to seek reelection in the May primary, and, if so, whether they would reduce their salaries while campaigning.


The premise is that under state law, a panel of judges - none is paid - is appointed every four years to fulfill the jobs of sitting city commissioners who are running again for office. That's the case in most other Pennsylvania counties as well.

"To continue to earn your full salary, while not even working, would be a slap in the face to residents whose property taxes have been hiked by nearly 10 percent - not to mention the thousands of Philadelphians who are unemployed and receiving no salary or benefits," Seventy's president, Zach Stalberg, wrote in nearly identical letters last week to the commissioners.

Commissioners Chairwoman Marge Tartaglione, first elected in 1975, is paid $126,418 a year. Commissioners Joseph Duda, elected in 1995, and Anthony Clark, elected in 2007, are paid $117,991 each.

They have not yet said whether they will run and they did not return calls seeking comment last week.

The Inquirer reported in June that the three were the only elected officials in the city not to give back any part of their salaries in light of the recession and the city's dwindling tax revenue.

"If this is accurate, we hope you will change your mind if it turns out that you must be replaced because you are seeking reelection," Stalberg wrote them. He asked them to cut their pay "by a reasonable amount during the time you are not performing your job."

That time generally begins in March, when the submission of nominating petitions triggers formal announcements of candidacies.

Tick-tock. - Marcia Gelbart

The sound of Marge

Personalized ring tones can be annoying. The world has heard enough of "Super Freak" and "Bad to the Bone."

But one ring overheard in City Hall recently is a true original - the unmistakable rasp of Marge Tartaglione threatening to hit a reporter for questioning whether her office, which runs city elections, was corrupt.

Dare we call it a TartagliTone?

"You say that, and I can jump over this table and punch you out. This is not corrupt," Tartaglione says on the recording. Her remarks followed revelations that her daughter, Renee Tartaglione, had stepped down from her job in her mother's office for violating city ethics rules.

If you, too, would like a ring tone that is both edgy and entertaining, you can download this audio file by going to WHYY's website,

Type "Tartaglione" into the search engine and click on the Dec. 8 entry headlined "Tartaglione the elder threatens reporter." - Miriam Hill

No-news conference

The most impressive nonevent of the week was a news conference Wednesday to proclaim the death of the business-tax reform bill pushed by City Council members Maria Quiñones Sánchez and Bill Green.

Ostensibly, the event was a forum for Mayor Nutter and the Council duo to proclaim they would work together to craft legislation that would preserve some aspects of the bill that they agreed on.

But that information was already out, and the news conference was announced Tuesday night, called off Wednesday morning, then back on. Half of Council, City Controller Alan Butkovitz, and business leaders were there.

It felt like a wake, as Nutter somberly thanked the Council members for raising the level of debate and praised aspects of the departed proposal. Or a peace conference, where leaders save face while surrendering.

Nutter supporters, meanwhile, privately pumped their fists that Nutter had won a face-off with two Council members who had beaten him on budget-cutting proposals - library closures (Green) and city funding for parades (Sánchez).

Also in the air was a tacit acknowledgment that Nutter is unlikely to face serious competition in the 2011 election. Green, who has still not ruled out a run for mayor, would have made a more attractive candidate with a revolutionary tax policy victory under his belt.

"Heard in the Hall" wasn't the only one bemused by the event. One Council member, seeking enlightenment from a credible source, mistakenly approached "Heard in the Hall" for an answer: "Off the record," the member said, "what did we just do?" - Jeff Shields