Why On Earth Are We Still Talking About the DROP Program?

The arrogance of City Council is appalling

I thought after the demonstrative public rebuke Philadelphia City Council took in the media, on the streets and at the polls, Council would drop DROP faster than Congressman Anthony Weiner stopped tweeting. (His last tweet was June 1st.) Instead, this City Council that puts the lame in lame duck, voted 15-2 to make DROP slightly less costly to taxpayers. The arrogance of these men and woman is appalling.

DROP stands for Deferred Retirement Option Plan and it allows employees to collect pension payments four years before their announced retirement date. The money goes into an interest-bearing account that is paid in a lump sum when the employee retires.

But DROP was exposed as a boondoggle that siphons money out of an already strapped city pension fund. Six of the council members who voted for the “new and improved” DROP with 25 percent less stealing, are waiting to collect their own free money. Council President Anna Verna will get $584,777; Majority Leader Marian Tasco, $478,057; Frank DiCicco, $424,646; Donna Reed Miller, $195,782; Jack Kelly, $405,438; and Frank Rizzo, $194,517.

All but one of the DROP six have either been forced to resign or have been voted out. So now only Marian Tasco will commit the dastardly act of resigning for a day so she can take money from the pension fund and then go back to work. I do hope the Philadelphia media gives lead story coverage to the day she resigns. Hey, we should throw her a big resignation party! I’ll bring the banner that reads, “Good Luck in your Twilight Years” and then just cross out the word “Years.”

The latest proposal passed by Tasco and the gang continues the DROP program at a one-time cost to the city of $15 million to $20 million. It is important to remember that when Mayor Ed Rendell started DROP in 1999, he promised that it wouldn’t cost a cent. Since then it has cost more than $100 million.

There was another proposal that Council could have passed. Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposal, also known as the “Right Thing To Do, No Brainer” proposal, would have eliminated DROP altogether. It didn’t get out of committee.

Mayor Nutter has pledged that he will not sign the “Let Us Steal Just A Little” proposal, which shows real political courage on the Mayor’s part because DROP is popular with the union leaders. You know, the people who really run the city. To be fair, it is a shame that a program that, if run correctly, could have allowed police officers, firefighters and other city workers to retire with a nice nest egg at minimal cost to taxpayers, has been ruined by greed. Now the stink factor is too great for DROP to continue. City Council just hasn’t come to that realization yet because it is used to the smell.

Perhaps the most telling look inside the mind of a Philadelphia Council member came from Sam Katz, the man who was almost mayor and is now chairman of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, appointed to oversee “Philadelphia’s financial well being,” a glaring oxymoron.

Sam said, “We were told there was overwhelming support to retain the perk, and that there were no arguments that could be made, or financial information that could be supplied that would cause that conclusion to be different.”

Your reaction to that statement might be, “Overwhelming support?!? From who?” But that is only because you don’t speak Corrupt Philadelphia Politician. Let me give you a loose translation: “We don’t care what the voters want, what the mayor wants or even what makes sense. We are going to give the unions money because they give us money.”

Remember these two names in November: Jim Kenney and Jannie Blackwell. They are the only two council members who had the courage to vote NO to the “Steal a Little Less” proposal. (Hey I like that acronym – the STALL proposal.)

As for the rest, remember this: Ten Council members are still eligible to join DROP at a future date. Only new Council members elected this year are banned from the program.

I say we put as many of those new members in office as possible.

LARRY MENDTE writes for The Philly Post every Thursday. See his previous columns here. To watch his video commentaries, go to wpix.com.