IT'S THAT time of year again. Summer is winding down and even PhillyClout feels like buying some school supplies to cover political action this fall.

You may remember that when summer started, PhillyClout began stopping by City Council offices to see what your elected legislators were working on during their three-month recess.

For five weeks, we made random weekly checks of Council offices to see who was on the job and what they were working on.

(And yes, for the record, we know that being at your desk isn't the only sign of productivity.)

Here are some of our findings:

_ The gold star for attendance goes to Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., whom we found in City Hall five out of five times. And a silver star goes to Jannie Blackwell, whom we saw four times. _ Most other members we found somewhere between one and three times in the building. But we never once saw Frank DiCicco, Darrell Clarke, Donna Reed Miller, Marian Tasco or Frank Rizzo, although they all called us at least once to update us on their work over the summer recess.

_ The reaction to our visits was mixed. We had to remind members that reporters used to do this a lot more often before e-mail. The most outraged council member was definitely William Greenlee, who was frequently available, but refused to chat about his work.

_ What were they working on? Most said that they were drafting legislation and meeting with constituents. A few highlights: W. Wilson Goode Jr. worked on enforcement legislation for a minimum-wage bill passed by Council last year. Jim Kenney drafted legislation to add requirements for rental-housing licenses. And Jones went door-to-door in his district to speak with his constituents.

_ And, in case you think we didn't take any heat, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady came by PhillyClout headquarters at least three times to check if we were working too. We were here two out of three times to greet him.

City Hall's house of cards

In these topsy-turvy fiscal times, you don't have to look too far around City Hall to find a dead-on analogy for Philadelphia's budget, due to start on July 1 but still awaiting action in the state General Assembly.

Meet Bruce Kravetz, an accomplished photographer given the nod by the marketing and promotions office of Fairmount Park to construct enormous houses of playing cards in a roving art installation on public property.

Kravetz yesterday set up three of the houses, each made from seven enormous cards, on Dilworth Plaza outside City Hall.

He had a good laugh when we noted the correlation between his art project and the city's fiscal crisis. He pondered taking the cards to Wall Street and Washington, D.C., to highlight the economy and the health-care debate.

"Politics, I'll tell you, it's so [insert a word here that starts with "f" and ends with "g" and our editors don't want to see in print] nuts," Kravetz concluded.

Kravetz made his playing cards from photos of a deck he picked up while cruising the Nile by boat in the Sudan in 1975. The deck was printed in the mid-1800 style common in Austria.

Our favorite card? The joker holding a bag with $1 million in it.

Really: The magnificent seven?

After the state Senate approved budget legislation that would prevent the city from making devastating cuts, Mayor Nutter referred to the seven Philadelphia senators as "the new Magnificent Seven."

The Magnificent Seven? The name comes from the John Sturges western - a remake of Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" - about seven gunslingers in battle with Mexican bandits. It's worth noting that only three of the seven make it out alive.

Does that make Sen. Shirley Kitchen, head of the Philly delegation, Chris, the leader of the pack played by Yul Brynner? Is freshman Sen. Larry Farnese the impulsive young gun, Chico? And, we suppose that makes Sen. Dominic Pileggi - the Republican senate majority leader - the Mexican bad guy, Calvera.

It all sounds a little too dashing for the ho-hum state Senate. Maybe we'd buy this comparison if they actually started dueling with pistols rather than facing off with dull news releases.

Quotable:

"The media's low-paid and high consumers." - Gov. Rendell, joking in a Harrisburg news conference this week about the state budget and the politics that determined that an increase in beer taxes would not find support.

Staff writer John Baer contributed to this report.

Have tips or suggestions? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or Catherine Lucey at 215-854-4712. Or e-mail

Have a news tip? Gossip? Suggestion? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or Catherine Lucey at 215-854-4712. Or e-mail phillyclout@phillynews.com.