Members of the powerhouse Neumann-Goretti boys basketball team, the three-time defending state champs and pride of South Philadelphia, went to Council on Thursday to be honored for their accomplishments.

As is the custom, a handful of Council members went to the microphone to take turns reading from a proclamation, in this case sponsored by Councilman Mark Squilla, a graduate of St. John Neumann, which later became merged with St. Maria Goretti to become Neumann-Goretti.

One of Neumann-Goretti's fiercest rivals, on and off the court, is St. Joseph's Prep, the North Philadelphia school noted for churning out future leaders and politicians, including Mayor Nutter and Council members Brian O'Neill and James F. Kenney.

That rivalry, it seems, extends into middle age and even reaches City Council chambers.

O'Neill, taking the podium Thursday, could not resist a jab.

"I was just telling Councilman Squilla that Prep guys are up here because we heard there were some difficult words" in the proclamation, he said.

A little later, Kenney was reading from the document and stumbled over the word championship. That was all the opening Squilla needed.

"See," he said, "the Prep guy had a hard time saying 'championship.' "

- Troy Graham

Making reputations

Since joining Council in January, the six freshman members have been carving out their reputations in City Hall.

It's still early, but Councilman Kenyatta Johnson has established himself as the most upbeat of the newbies - heck, the most positive on the entire Council.

Perhaps he'll be worn down after years of tough votes and cynical political calculations, but for now he exudes the presence of a man who knows how to stop and smell the roses - and finds them pleasing, indeed.

During the caucus meetings that precede each Council session, members are asked if they have any bills or resolutions to introduce.

Most fall into the habit of sputtering pro forma answers, seemingly eager to complete the exercise.

Johnson, by contrast, looks around the table with a wide grin and, in his deep baritone, greets the room.

"Good morning, Mr. President. Good morning, colleagues," he booms.

This habit has begun drawing a few appreciative laughs in recent weeks. On Thursday, Johnson added that he would like his colleagues to remember to smile "because we look better when we smile."

Councilman Dennis O'Brien, who sits next to Johnson in the caucus room and is known for his own brand of near-manic enthusiasm, has been following suit lately.

"Good morning, Mr. President, colleagues," O'Brien said Thursday. "I just want to acknowledge Councilman Johnson's pathological optimism."

- Troy Graham