AN AWARD honoring distinguished public service in Philadelphia? It could be the punchline of a joke - but a new award launched by Mayor Nutter is actually well-timed.

Given this year's very undistinguished performance of so many public servants, it's good to be reminded that there are also dedicated people on the front lines of government. City Hall is accepting nominees for the newly created Richardson Dilworth Award for Distinguished Public Service. The winner, chosen by private citizens, gets $5,000, and nominations can be made from the public. (The award's sponsor, Dilworth Paxson LLP, provides the funds.) See details and rules at www.dilworthaward.org. Deadline is Dec. 31.