Inquirer Editorial: Elect new commission

Stephanie Singer
Stephanie Singer
Posted: May 04, 2011

While the debate continues on whether to abolish the Philadelphia row office that oversees city elections, voters can do the next best thing in the May 17 primary:

Clean house.

First, refuse to support the three incumbents currently running the problem-plagued City Commissioners' Office: Democrats Marge Tartaglione and Anthony Clark, and Republican Joseph J. Duda.

Second, avoid candidates with the endorsement of local party bosses. As elected officials, it's difficult for commissioners to be completely independent of the local parties, but the more distance the better. The party-endorsed candidates are the incumbents and Republican Marie Delany.

Third, think reform and vote for Democrats STEPHANIE SINGER and BERNARD BLAIR TALMADGE, and the GOP's AL SCHMIDT. All have solid credentials and recognize the desperate need for change.

How desperate?

Last year, Deputy Commissioner Renee Tartaglione (daughter of Chairwoman Marge Tartaglione) resigned after reaching a settlement agreement with the city's Ethics Board for engaging in politics - in violation of the City Charter.

The nonpartisan Committee of Seventy has criticized the commission's oversight of elections and polling places, the lack of information available for voters on its website, and the poor training of election workers. The Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority has pointed out administrative and financial problems. Both groups have called for abolishing the office.

Until that happens, Singer, Talmadge, and Schmidt offer the best shot at a new direction - with all three emphasizing transparency, accountability, and more technology to cut costs and make the office user-friendly to voters and candidates.

Singer, 47, a former math professor with extensive experience in election data analysis, is well-versed in the office's problems, having petitioned for years to put election data online. Too hard, too expensive, the commissioners said. So Singer obtained the information and posted it herself.

Talmadge, 48, a campaign consultant, spent three years as a deputy commissioner under his brother Alex, helping to ensure a smooth transition when the new voting machines came online.

Schmidt, 39, would bring years of experience as a federal auditor for the Government Accountability Office to the post. In recent years, he's helped lead the charge to reinvigorate a two-party system in Philadelphia.

The other candidates for city commissioner are Democrats Ivy Staten, Michael Bell, and Warren Bloom.

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