FROM THE JUMP, the top mayoral campaign issue has been how to reduce crime and violence.

Often it's a tried and true political campaign chestnut: "I'll be tough on crime, blah, blah, blah."

Well, who wouldn't make such a promise and still expect to win?

But this year in Philadelphia, the political rhetoric is rooted in the blood- soaked soil of reality - 406 murders in 2006, the highest number in 10 years. And 2007 looks no better. As of Jan. 26, there had been 28 homicides, four more than the same period last year.

Understandably, the topic is foremost in most voters' minds.

But the Next Great City Coalition, with the release of its report and survey results last week, has opened the door to what should be another important campaign issue: The environment of the city's neighborhoods.

We commend the report and are glad the group has raised the profile of the environment, which actually encompasses several ongoing concerns about the city. The group lists 10 actions that can "provide renewed energy and strength to our neighborhoods and city."

Some are already part of separate, protracted battles in City Hall: adopting modern zoning laws, maintaining healthy parks, and creating public river fronts

But also listed: Stop sewer backups and flooding, which until now might've been considered more nuisance than environmental threat. These problems can lead to health risks. Also, replant trees to replace the 23,000 that the city has cut down. Trees decrease flooding, clean the air and provide shade, reducing energy costs.

Another area is improving recycling. The group says $17 million a year can be saved in landfill and incineration fees with an effective program throughout the city. In two neighborhoods, 90 percent of the residents in a pilot project recycle.

Interestingly, asthma is also a concern. It notes one in three households has someone with the respiratory disease. Pollution filters should be put on old city trucks, it says.

And it also calls for the city to require that at least 5 percent of city energy come from clean, local sources and for buildings to meet national energy efficiency standards.

The value of this report is in the clear, achievable goals that the group has established, as well as the implication that it's not just the big stuff that makes a city great, but the right focus on the details that impact quailty of life.

Between now and the elections, the Next Great City will present its recommendations to community groups. And there will be a candidates' forum Feb. 15 at the Academy of Natural Sciences, moderated by Daily News editorial board member Flavia Colgan.

The next mayor must take these goals seriously, and act on them once in office. *