Colorful Madoff: With city council a riot, she was in fine form

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Brash. Loud. Outspoken. Michelle Madoff was all that during her decade and a half, 1978 to 1993, on Pittsburgh City Council.

But, back then, council was known as "The Circus." Shy and retiring types need not apply.

Around the table at different points, with different temperaments and different temperatures, were Tom Flaherty, Jim Ferlo, Sophie Masloff, Ben Woods, Jack Wagner and Bob O'Connor. Back in the day, political progressive Michelle Madoff-Scheske, who died Saturday at 85 in Arizona, was most prone to tangle with her older, more conventional colleague Eugene "Jeep" DePasquale.

Regardless of whether she did or did not tell Jeep he could kiss a certain part of her anatomy under Kaufmann's clock, as Grant Street legend had it, she was more than a collection of sound bites, sharp-tongued quotes and zingers to editorial writers.

She was a founder of GASP, the Group Against Smog and Pollution, years before she joined council. She advocated a ban on the sale and possession of assault weapons in the city. She tried to strengthen the city ethics law by protecting whistleblowers.

She sought to cut teen smoking. She pushed the one-bag recycling plan to make it easy for residents. And she was a crusader against loud music -- from outdoor stages and outsized radios -- that disrupted neighborhoods. In a 1991 letter to the editor, she wrote:

"I can only assume the authors of your snide editorial (June 7) who found my legislation on noise pollution frivolous have not been subject to such disturbances.

"If they care to provide their home address, I can find a car to repeatedly drive by at 2 a.m. with radio blaring as they do in other neighborhoods throughout the city."

Yes, Michelle Madoff was a lot of things and, above them all, she was a character.


First Published October 16, 2013 8:00 PM


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