In last week's grim aftermath of the shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz., politicians shared their own real stories of threats.
Among them was former City Controller Jonathan Saidel, who not only was the subject of threats while in office, but also learned the hard way to mind his own rhetoric.
During a fiery speech in support of the Delaware River dredging project at an International Longshoremen's Association rally in 2001, Saidel singled out Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey, who had spoken out against the project.
Saidel said he didn't remember his exact words. His old friend Philadelphia Rep. Bob Brady, however, recalled that Saidel suggested dumping the dredge spoil in Andrews' backyard, "with him in it."
Three days later, two FBI agents visited Saidel's office and asked him what he meant by that. Saidel said the agents accepted his assertion that as city controller, his policy was not to kill fellow politicians. They made him promise never to say it again and left. Saidel would later apologize to Andrews, and the two remain friends, he said.
"We ought to reflect on the speech we use," Saidel said in an interview last week. "It has an effect on people that's way beyond the meaning." - Jeff Shields
Fattah not running, but he's ahead
It's too early to say, but the real winner in this year's City Council races might be someone not even on the ballot: U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah.
Already, Council counts two members with close ties to Fattah: Blondell Reynolds Brown and Curtis Jones Jr., both early members of Fattah's political organization.
Now, with last week's news about the retirement of Eighth District Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, a third Fattah-friendly candidate stands to serve on Council.
That is Cindy Bass, a senior policy adviser to the West Philadelphia congressman.
Bass was the second-highest vote-getter in the Northwest Philadelphia district's 2007 five-way Council primary, garnering 8,170 votes to Miller's 9,735.
Add to the mix that another major Fattah ally, Pennsylvania Sen. Vincent Hughes, recently claimed a spot as Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Let's not forget, though, that Fattah himself was not able to deliver in the 2007 mayoral primary. Not only did the congressman come in fourth of five Democratic candidates, but with 44,301 votes, he was also somewhat upstaged by at-large Councilwoman Reynolds Brown. She drew 51,846 votes. - Marcia Gelbart
Deeley hands out badges of honor
There's a new sheriff in town - and, apparently, a whole bunch of newly deputized sheriffs as well.
Amid aggressive efforts to clean up the troubled agency, allegedly long mismanaged under former Sheriff John D. Green, acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley last Tuesday invited some friends over for a recognition ceremony of sorts.
They congregated in Deeley's office, raised a hand, recited an oath - and walked away with deputy sheriff's badges.
"That and $1 gets you any size coffee at Wawa," joked Chief Deputy Sheriff Joseph Vignola, referring to the lack of power the badges carry.
He compared the deputizing of Deeley's friends to the awarding of honorary degrees by colleges and universities.
"It is a symbol of your loyalty to the city," said Nancy Marinucci, a longtime Deeley friend and owner of Marinucci's Deli in Mayfair. "Someone called me and asked me to be there, and I was there. . . . It was short and sweet."
Among others deputized were Ryan Boyer, business manager of the Laborers' District Council of Philadelphia and Vicinity; Ken Smukler, a political consultant who frequently works with city Democratic Party chairman and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and is now working with Deeley; and Jonathan Saidel, a Deeley pal who as city controller issued scathing audits about the Sheriff's Office.
"The badge is very pretty, but it doesn't make you a law enforcement official," said Saidel, who expected to hand it over to his 2-year-old granddaughter.
Of the recognition ceremony, he said, "It spreads good will."
To be sure, with certified fraud specialists about to scour its books and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court possibly to remove its authority to handle sheriff's sales, good will is something the agency can use. - Marcia Gelbart