SOME RECENT headlines have inspired a few fervent wishes for the New Year.

Since this is my last column before then, here they are.

I hope Mayor Nutter immediately proposes to ban elected officials from doing what John Street did: collecting a taxpayer-funded windfall through the Deferred Retirement Option Program.

Mayor Street will collect more than $452,000 from the program that never officially excluded elected officials, but clearly wasn't designated for them.

Yes, it's legal for Street to collect the DROP money, and he isn't the only elected official who did.

But it's a shameless distortion of the intent of the law - which, by the way, Street once opposed as too expensive - and an obscene money grab that can't be morally justified.

DROP enables city employes to pick their retirement date four years in advance and start accumulating pension benefits. It's outrageous that elected officials whose "retirement" dates are pre-determined by the length of their terms in office are helping themselves to the benefit.

It's the kind of loophole that makes cynics of us all. Exploiting it is shameless behavior that corrodes our faith in politicians and government.

Street also tapped the city coffers for $111,000 in retroactive salary raises he previously declined to accept. It all reeks of hypocrisy.

Michael Nutter has pledged to scrub the sheen of sleaze off of City Hall.

Proposing to end DROP for elected officials, on the heels of Street's disgraceful exit, is a good place to start.

I hope the tragic death of a California teenager who was denied a liver transplant until it was too late will become the flash point for change in the health insurance industry.

Nataline Sarkisyan, 17, who had leukemia and whose liver failed after she received a bone marrow transplant, died last week at UCLA Medical Center.

But her family believes the real cause of death was the cruel decision by her Philadelphia health insurer, Cigna Corp., to deny coverage for the liver transplant, overruling her doctors' medical advice.

Cigna, which claimed the transplant was "experimental," reversed itself Thursday after an emotional protest by scores of nurses and others.

But it was too late for Nataline, who died later that day.

Her family is suing.

And her lawyer is asking the L.A. district attorney to consider filing manslaughter charges against Cigna. Wouldn't that be stunning? Wouldn't that jolt health insurers out of their cold calculations that deny clients a chance for survival?

The infuriating incident is giving more credence, as far as I'm concerned, to the presidential candidacy of John Edwards - who's vowed to overhaul the health-care system to prohibit insurers from committing such atrocities.

"We're gonna take their power away and we're not gonna have this kind of problem again," a visibly angry Edwards said at an Iowa rally.

I sure hope so.

My third wish is that Andy and Tammy Reid find respite from public censure, now that the details of their family crisis have been divulged in Philadelphia magazine.

I hope the smug critics who blamed Reid for his sons' problems and his team's troubles will read the family's story in the January issue and feel appropriately chagrined.

No, the Eagles didn't stumble in recent months because their coach was distracted. He's been dealing with son Garrett's drug problems since 2002, through "Super Bowls and championships," he said in the interview.

And no, his sons didn't go astray because Dad had a big, demanding job that stole attention from the family.

"He's a great dad," Tammy Reid said in the article.

"He will drop a meeting, he will drop whatever he's doing, if our kids need him. So it's not like we're ever competing with his job. Our kids get that."

The article makes clear that the family has done everything to help their sons - from tough love to intensive programs - and that sometimes, everything isn't enough.

You try what you think is best, Tammy Reid said, "and it doesn't always work. That's the bottom line, it doesn't always work."

I hope the Reids' decision to talk publicly about their family crisis will inspire compassion instead of criticism.

And I wish peace and hope for them - and for all of you, too - in the New Year. *

E-mail porterj@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5850. For recent columns: