Sunday, August 7, 2011

Is the PLCB on the ropes?

The efforts for privatization have gotten two major boosts recently (and yes, I am keeping track; it's just been really busy in my job, the money-making part of my booze-centered life -- my apologies for not keeping up here). One was related to the misbegotten wine kiosks (which I did predict would be a "public relations disaster for the PLCB", though that didn't take much brainpower), and I'll talk about that in a separate post; the other was a far-flying boomerang that came back and caught the PLCB in the back of the head.

Jonathan Newman, in favor of privatization
The boomerang, first: former PLCB Chairman Jonathan Newman, the Chairman for whom the original "Chairman's Selection" was named (because it was his program, and he picked the wines...ask PJ Stapleton how many of the "Chairman's Selections" he's selected), who brought the PLCB further into the 20th century (yes, while working in the 21st century, I know) than any other person, who was
Wine Enthusiast's 2003 Man of the Year because of his work at the PLCB, who resigned when Governor Rendell appointed* Joe Conti as "CEO" of the PLCB... Newman came out strongly in favor of privatization this past Tuesday. At a hastily-arranged press conference at The Wine School in Philadelphia, Newman was introduced by PA House Speaker Mike Turzai and stated his support for privatization of the State Stores. (Happily, "hastily-arranged" also meant that the speakers weren't harassed by scripted questions and chants from UFCW members and union president Wendell W. Young IV.)

I was there, and Newman sat me down at a table with Speaker Turzai, and we talked. Chances sound better than I'd been hoping; it looks like the votes are there for privatization in the House, the Senate is going to take more work. You may have heard that Senate Pro Tem Joe Scarnati questioned the need to privatize the State Stores right now. That came up, and while Turzai had nothing to say, others in the room nodded wisely when I brought up the Marcellus Swap Theory: is Scarnati signaling that he will support privatization if other legislators will support a Marcellus Shale tax/fee of some kind? I believe that's what's going on, and I say, that's a deal I'm willing to support.

I'm not nuts about Turzai's bill, and if some changes aren't made, I can't support it; I'm hopeful that it will get better. I did take the opportunity to ask if the bill takes away the Police-Enforced Monopoly. It does not, but Turzai said the Monopoly is not enforced (though he did admit that there are occasional instances when it is...usually having to do with personal issues with a local cop in a border town), and would not be enforced. I don't like that, I'd much rather see it formally done away with. That's one of the things I'll be pushing for. More to come on that, but about Newman...

The UFCW has, of course, already tried to tar Newman with doing this because of possible financial gain. First, Newman is doing this for the same reason we all are: the PLCB State Stores suck, and they've sucked more since Newman left. The PLCB has stepped in crap -- ethically, managerially -- so may times since Conti took over that it's hard not to link him to it. Second, if Newman stands to make some money off this -- he does have a wine wholesaling company -- well, so what? That's what private enterprise is all about! Of course he'll support it. Only the Union thinks making money is a problem. The Union thinks that the State should be collecting all profits, apparently. That is ridiculous, and one more reason we should privatize.

More soon. Things are rolling, and we've got to get loud in support -- and in making this a good bill.

*Rendell says he "hired" Conti, but that implies a regular hiring process applied to this $150,000 a year job, which it didn't -- which is why Newman resigned.


Albert Brooks said...

Why hasn't Corbett fired CEO Joe for cause already. I thought (hoped) he would go on day one.

hbgonlooker said...

Once Corbett's appointment is confirmed by the Senate Corbett needs to appoint him as Chairman and then the changes will occur. Would Stapleton stay on as just a member? Would a new CEO fit better for privatization?