City Council's seemingly blind insistence on salvaging the costly deferred-retirement program known as DROP, instead of drop-kicking it to the curb, provides an important lesson in just who runs City Hall.
There is no way that any government body that puts the interests of taxpayers first would be wasting so much time trying to devise ways to keep DROP alive.
If Council actually votes to retain DROP in any shape, fashion, or form, it will be telling Philadelphians to drop dead.
It will be telling taxpayers that, despite overwhelming evidence that DROP is a bonanza for city employees, but an unnecessary expense for taxpayers, it wants to keep the program around because the municipal-employee unions like it.
And why should Council members be so concerned about what the unions think? Maybe they will say to boost employee morale, so city workers will work even harder. But the more likely answer in this city is that they are politicians who flinch at doing anything that might cost them union support.
Politicians in this town are so accustomed to genuflecting at labor's altar that even weeks after the Democratic primary, which is the decisive election in a city where Republicans are sheep, Council members are treading softly around the DROP issue lest they offend Fraternal Order of Police leader John McNesby or the other unions' chiefs.
There seems to be another dynamic at work with DROP, though. Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who won her primary race despite being soundly criticized for enrolling in the early-retirement program but running for reelection, now seems to want to rub it in that she was victorious.
In her zeal to find some way to modify DROP and continue it, Tasco comes across as wanting to use the salvation of DROP as evidence that the program is not the evil scheme it is depicted as being, which would mean all those who painted her as evil for being in DROP were wrong.
Tasco's quest for vindication is understandable, especially with her vying to become the next Council president (and if she saves DROP, that's a strong sign that she will win). But the rest of Council, especially the six lame ducks, has no reason to entertain the mistaken notion that DROP is good for Philadelphia.
A Boston College study commissioned by Mayor Nutter estimated DROP had cost the city $258 million since 1999. Council didn't believe that, so it had its own consultant compute DROP's cost, and he put it at $100 million. Remember, this is a program that is supposed to be saving the city money.
If DROP costs a dime, at a time when Council is considering tax hikes to help the School District climb out of a deficit, it's 10 cents too much. Yet, rather than killing DROP, Council has already taken a preliminary vote to keep it alive - at a reduced cost.