Six of Council's current members have at least one family member on staff. That means more than one-third of Council has decided to supplement the family income at the expense of taxpayers.
Councilmen David Cohen, Francis Rafferty and Lucien Blackwell pay their wives $37,779, $34,480 and $21,307 respectively. Councilwomen Augusta Clark and Ann Land have also hired family members. Rafferty has a second relative on staff, and Council President Joseph Coleman also has two family members on payroll.
Council usually comes up with two worn-out excuses for practicing the most blatant nepotism this side of Chicago. One is that Council members merely hired the most qualified people available - who just happen be relatives. The second is that putting family on the payroll is a time-honored Council tradition.
Anyone who believes six members of Council just coincidentally wound up with eight family members getting city paychecks probably also thinks that a long-standing local tradition like bad government deserves to be continued for the nostalgia of it all.
One relative might be a genuine merit hire; this many amounts to bad practice.
Council members wonder why they have such hassles when it comes time for labor negotiations, why there's such a negative reaction when they try to give themselves raises or sweetheart pension plans, and why no one on the planet seems to take them seriously.
A public official should avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. For the sake of personal reputations - not to mention the reputation of the Council or the city - this would seem like the common-sense way to conduct business.
But common sense must be in short supply.
Vignola did right by asking. The Board of Ethics should do right by not dodging the issue, and telling Council members to send their relatives to the state employment office. Council should realize this is an election year, and their own jobs are on the line.
WET AND WILD
The question is whether it's worth $58 million a year for the city to significantly reduce the odds that one person in every 10,000 will get cancer
from chloroform in the water.
The answer ought to be how to get the $58 million. But city officials are unsure whether it's affordable to save so few lives in a city whose impoverished residents might have a hard time paying the costs of the cleanup.
The Philadelphia Water Department is the same caring agency which has raised annual rates from $71 to $335 and increased shutoffs by more than 300 percent in four years.
With such a record in a city that pays the highest water rates in the nation, a little protection from chloroform is something people should expect.