Punching up a dull story

    A study in public relations she isn’t.

    City Commission chair Marge Tartaglione yesterday managed to re-ignite an embarrassing story that was finally dying about an ethics complaint against her daughter, former deputy commissioner Renee Tartaglione.

    At a public meeting of the City Commission, which supervises elections, Marge told a reporter from the Philadelphia Weekly she could leap over a table and punch him out.

    (It’s worth hearing her exact words, in this report by Tom MacDonald).

    As much as I cherish a free press, I just can’t work up a lot of righteous anger at Marge. I’ve known her for 25 years, and any reporter has to have a soft spot for somebody as recklessly candid as she can be.

    I’ll add that if she threatened to punch me, I’d be ready to duck. Local pols still talk about the day she allegedly punched Norman Loudenslager, a fellow ward leader at a Democratic State Committee and sent his glasses flying.

    But I must note that Renee Tartaglione, who resigned her job in her mom’s office and admitted political activity that violated the city charter, had managed to avoid stoking the story for the last two days by staying quiet.

    By lashing out at a reporter, Marge gave the story new life.

    She also gave a wonderful sound  bite to anybody who might want to challenge her in next year’s primary election.

    Marge has never had any problem getting re-elected, because contests for city commissioner are typically low-interest affairs decided by ward leaders, and she’s a master of ward politics.

    But there’s been some movement among reformers in recent years to abolish low level offices like Marge’s as elected posts. If someone were to run on a platform of de-politicizing the election machinery, the primary could get interesting.

    With Marge running in a competitive election, it would have to be.

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