One of the most frustrating things about covering politics here in Seattle is the almost total lack of colorful and/or corrupt politicians, a depressing fact I was reminded of recently when I received an unexpected phone call from a friend of friend, Stephanie Singer, informing me that she was running for Philadelphia City Commissioner.
"That's the elections office, isn't it?" I responded. "You mean Marge Tartaglione's old seat?"
"It is Marge Tartaglione's seat," Singer informed me. "She's my opponent."
Tartaglione was the acid tongued, 1970's-era, Frank Rizzo crony who administered Philadelphia elections with an iron fist—in my mind, a veritable icon of corrupt Democratic machine politics at its most mechanistically corrupt heights. Under Tartaglione's watch, the broken voting machines somehow always seemed to find their way into the black precincts, and voter rolls somehow seemed to purge themselves in curious ways.
I remembered Tartaglione as a cranky, old lady thirty years ago, and so I was surprised to learn she was still alive, let alone still in office. Yet there she is in this video above from the 2008 election, in classic Tartaglione fashion, just waving off concerns about broken voting machines and long lines at black precincts:
Tartaglione: "Did you see people waiting for baseball tickets, all night long outside? Did you see the line that they wanted a new iPod, they all waited overnight and waited in line? Do you go to the supermarket, do you see people waiting in line? They complain, they grumble, some of them. Some of them talk. So what is the difference?
Reporter: "I'm sorry, are you comparing voters who possibly have to work during the day to people who are standing in line for an iPod or Phillies ticket?"
Tartaglione: "It's the same people. Same people. Same people. Come on, you're mixing apples with... sit down!"
Oh God would my job be so much easier, and a helluva lot more fun, if Washingtonians would only elect a few politicians like Marge Tartaglione. Instead, during our big election "scandal," we were all left covering King County Elections Director Dean Logan, a colorless, nonpartisan technocrat so astoundingly dry, the mere sound of his voice could make your eardrums chap. Fuck... even our Republicans—stupid, selfish, and misguided as many of them might be—can't be counted on to produce a decent scandal beyond the occasional DUI or clichéd gay-bashing-lawmaker-caught-banging-gays story. (Yawn.)
Having grown up in Philadelphia during the Rizzo years, having watched sitting councilmen and congressmen hauled off to jail, having witnessed the Philadelphia police end a standoff by dropping a fire bomb on a house, ultimately burning down an entire residential block, and with no serious repercussions... I am constantly amazed at how little appreciation the locals here have for how clean (and sometimes even competent) our government officials are. You know... relatively.
And while I know I should be thankful, I can't help but being more than a little bit bored.