How eight terms fly! Joanie K, the queen of diner politics, chomping gum on her last day of City Council service, said in her Port Richmond gravel, "Time to turn the gavel over to the young ones."

Only in Council, where incumbency grants lifetime tenure, can Krajewski, 77, characterize people in their 40s and 50s as "young ones."

Six veteran Council members retired Thursday, the largest turnover in two decades, representing 128 years of service and $2,028,366.99 in Deferred Retirement Option Plan payments.

But what the city giveth, the taxpaying voter taketh away. Many Council members are not returning because of those payouts.

As Mayor Nutter distributed large wrapped, framed tributes, departing Frank DiCicco joked, "Are those blowups of our DROP checks?"

Council President Anna Verna received three standing ovations on her retirement. She's city employee No. 1 of 27,000, with the longest service in government, six decades. Verna, now 80, began her career - the Bulletin then noted - "a pretty working girl" employed as secretary to District Attorney Richardson Dilworth, an icon of reform.

But progress has come at a sluglike pace. Last week, Council approved a desperately needed new zoning code that required more than four years of work, replacing regulations enacted a half century ago during, ironically, the Dilworth-Clark reform era.

DiCicco spent much of his tenure dealing with casinos, particularly the unbuilt Foxwoods, which during countless legal challenges enriched only lawyers.

Our Council has the longest summer recess of any major city's legislative body and the nation's longest average tenure (15.5 years), the former ensuring the latter.

Representatives deliver constituent service during their three-month break from legislating, guaranteeing reelection. Krajewski has handled half a million constituent calls, while Brian O'Neill has attended thousands of zoning meetings.

Which, alone, might drive an elected official into retirement, especially with such munificent pensions.

Silent Jack Kelly, Councilman Critter, who advocated more frequently for the webbed and pawed than the voting bipeds, will enjoy an almost $8,000 monthly pension, on top of nearly $400,000 in DROP tidings of comfort and joy. 'Tis the season!

Donna Reed Miller, who makes Kelly appear verbose, was absent from Council's ornate marble chambers when she was called to be honored. If that isn't a metaphor for her four terms in Council, what is?

I take Miller's crushing mediocrity personally, since she's my councilperson. Kelly may be a great person to share a drink with, as some have said, and Miller may be nice, but that's not nearly enough. Kelly and Miller share the distinction of having their chiefs of staff sent to prison on corruption charges - yet no one even thought the bosses cognizant enough to be involved.

Besides the pomp, zoning ordinances ripped through Council at tweet-like speed to make deadline. Incoming president Darrell Clarke introduced two symbolic bills - they die with the calendar year - to get his ideas "out there in a formal way." One proposal? Advertising on city property, but only if "tastefully done."

Right, because Philadelphia is so known for its taste.

Council had just voted for huge "wall-wrap" advertisements in the Callowhill neighborhood, which Nutter promptly vetoed. Clarke's second proposal is more encouraging: Create geographic zones and development incentives to rehabilitate the city's more than 6,300 vacant lots.

As for reform in the new year, most of Council's six incoming members were anointed by the existing power structure. The city's two most independent new officials - Stephanie Singer and Al Schmidt - are headed to the board of city commissioners, not Council.

On her 60 years in government, 36 in Council, Verna wistfully observed, "I spent more time in City Hall than home, and I wonder if that's a very good thing to do."

Contact columnist Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or kheller@phillynews.com or @kheller on Twitter.

Read her past columns at www.philly.com/KarenHeller.