Making a surprise visit to the City Council that he battled for most of his eight years in office, Mayor Street yesterday thanked Council members for their support of his agenda.
But Street also struck some odd notes as he riffed about his rise up the municipal ladder. The oddest comment came when he boasted about the lump sum pension payment he'll collect early next year to the tune of $452,700.
Street told the members that when he decided to run for Council in 1979, "I quickly found out that it took three four-year terms at that time to vest a pension and I was really going to be around here at least 12 years and then the lure of the Council presidency was more than I could resist and so here I am."
Saying he gave "some of the best years of my life to this government," Street confided, "I have no regrets and I have no complaints. It's just been a wonderful experience."
"I probably could have been a little bit more confident about all of this if I had known early on that there was going to be a DROP program," he said to tittering in the chambers.
Street was talking about a controversial pension program, the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, that gives qualifying city employees a lump-sum payment upon retirement.
In late 2003, his administration tried to get the city pension board to kill the program because of its cost, but the city unions and then- City Controller Jonathan Saidel overruled the Street administration.
In March 2004, Street himself signed up for DROP and some time early next year, the city will cut Street a check for about $452,700. He'll also start collecting on his regular pension, which will be about $115,700 per year.
"I didn't know anything about that [DROP] then - and there were times when I worried about how I was going to be able to survive and live and take care of myself after local government because you have a pretty decent pension - but this DROP thing is actually a pretty good thing," Street said.
Continuing on his theme, Street said, "So when I walk out of here, I actually feel financially secure because not only will I get my monthly pension, but I also will have the opportunity to get a DROP check, which as most of you know, including five or six who will be signing up for the DROP program, it is a very interesting proposition."
Gwendolyn Bell, executive director of the Board of Pensions and Retirement, said only Councilwoman Joan Krajewski is signed up and will collect slightly more than $297,000 and then start her next term.
Privacy laws prevent the city from identifying any other Council member who may have started the process but has not signed the final DROP documents, Bell said.
In 2004, then-Councilman Michael Nutter tried to amend DROP with a bill that would have excluded all elected officials who took office on or after Jan. 2, 2006, but the bill never advanced.*