FUELED BY elected-official DROP greed, followed by voter anti-DROP fury, Philadelphia will have a refurbished City Council in January. A couple of love seats are new, but are the floorboards still rotten?
Today, the renominated members, plus the Living Dead (who were defeated or are voluntarily leaving their jobs in December) are to get a bill dealing with reforming the Deferred Retirement Option Plan.
Please, don't reform it.
The mayor and most citizens who are not nestled in a DROP program of their own hate it. Two recent studies have shown that it has cost our cash-strapped city anywhere from $100 million to $200 million.
Most on Council are munching on the idea of redrawing DROP to make it "cost-neutral." It was supposed to be cost-neutral in the first place.
Recent headlines tell us that our school district misspent millions in federal aid, that the Police Department miscalibrated Breathalyzer machines, that our city commissioners spent more per vote than any county in the state, that street repairs were redone because they were botched, that the city isn't collecting $582 million in owed taxes.
I hate to say it, but I don't trust the blockheads to get this right. We are in the icy embrace of leaders who are incompetent, beholden to special interests, larcenous or all three.
Judging by their official biographies, most Council members would be qualified for midlevel positions at a nonprofit. By their election, they join the executive class, they get a staff, some take a car and they all take in more than $100K.
How much do you make? How many weeks a year do you work? Council is in formal session about 40. (To be fair, work is done, by some, when Council is not in session.) About a half-dozen Council members have outside jobs, earning even more.
Even the majority who don't double-dip can afford caviar while their constituents snack on scrapple. It might be tolerable if they solved our problems and ran an efficient city, but they don't. No wonder citizens are furious when some Council members keep grasping for more, more, MORE.
One-third of Council - Anna Verna, Joan Krajewski, Jack Kelly, Donna Reed Miller, Frank DiCicco, Frank Rizzo Jr. - now, presumably, are free from political pressure and can vote their conscience. The six, yoked with the renominated five at-large Democratic councilmaniacs who face the general electorate in November, create a dynamic for great change. Or not.
Insiders leaked word that the councilmaniacs who would reform DROP think it can be done with three changes:
* Lower the interest rate on DROP accounts, now a ginormous 4.5 percent. Duh! (The interest rate is the chief engine of the over-the-top cost.)
* Require city workers to wait two years beyond the retirement age to enter the program. (Better idea: Wait 20 years!)
* Let retirees get the lump-sum pot 'o gold, but deduct it from future pension payments. (How does this alleviate the current cash crisis?)
Rubik invented an easier-to-solve cube.
In case the geniuses aren't hearing us: We, the people, don't want DROP. The mayor doesn't want it. It's complicated, it's costly and it's unnecessary.
Trusting Council to apply the right patch is like sending a squadron of squirrels in to fix a leaky nuclear reactor.
Kill DROP. Call it a mercy killing - mercy on the taxpayer.
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