Monday, November 5, 2012

Is Privatization Dead? Not at all!

The Legislative session is effectively over, and the privatization bill has died with it. No one's doing anything till after the election, at which point privatization would have to be re-introduced. Mike Turzai, the vocal champion of privatization in the State House, damaged himself badly with a gaffe about voter ID, and by failing to bring privatization to a vote. Governor Corbett has said recently that privatization is still a top priority, and that he will present a proposal next year, but the Legislature may change hands, and his approval ratings are low.

We're screwed, it appears.

Oh, shut up. That's just what the PLCB partisans want you to believe! The truth is that the PLCB's incompetence is the gift that keeps on giving. As long as they keep screwing up, privatization is going to be in the Legislature's face, and the Internet makes it even easier to keep up the pressure.

Don't believe me? Take a look at this recent Philadelphia Inquirer poll. "The poll found that 55 percent of respondents supported privatization, 28 percent opposed it, and 17 percent either did not know or did not answer." That's almost 2 to 1 in favor among those who have an opinion. It gets better: "61 percent of respondents in the bipartisan survey said they supported allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine." Even the clueless Legislature can't ignore numbers like that forever (except they will, because the unions that represent the State Store workers continue to get right in their faces and remind them that they vote and that they give lots of juicy campaign donations).

The PLCB stepped in it again during Sandy last week, when they shut down the entire State Store System for two days. Now, some of the stores were without power, and some were in areas where it was dangerous to drive...but the PLCB drove home the problem with a stupid state-wide monopoly by shutting down every single store, regardless of local conditions. Even some of the employees admitted it was a stupid thing to do.

Want more? How about even more bad press for the goofballs who run the PLCB and the State Store System? That's right, Joe Da CEO was in the news again, and it wasn't because he's a great humanitarian. It's about that dopey Tableleaf in-house wine brand they shoved down the throats of Pennsylvanians. The Legislature wanted to know how and why this lowball wine brand came to be on the State Store System Shelves in (unfair) competition with other brands, and Conti told them that vendors approached the PLCB with wine samples. But that's not the story PLCB marketing director Jim Short tells: he says he went to the wine companies looking for cheap wine to put under the Tableleaf label. Hmmm...a falling out between two of the people at the PLCB under investigation for corruption with vendors? 

It gets worse, according to a story on the TribLive website:
Conti told the House committee that the Wine and Spirits Advisory Council, a group of consumers and liquor license holders empaneled by the LCB, tasted samples of wine submitted for consideration by a number of vendors competing for the TableLeaf brand, transcripts show. But those council members deny being involved.
In later interviews with the Trib, Conti changed his story again, stating that an LCB wine educator and outside sommelier tasted samples submitted by vendors.
But Judy Carroll, a wine educator for the central region of the state, said educators don’t play a role in choosing products. “I do classes and seminars with the people who work in the (state) stores,” Carroll said.She said her six counterparts elsewhere in the state all do the same thing: conduct classes to educate state store workers.
And Melissa Monosoff, the sommelier under contract with the LCB from December 2007 through November 2011, said she was not involved in the development or selection of TableLeaf wines “in the slightest” and had “no idea who was.”

Conti, once again, has apparently misspoken. That's the arrogance of the PLCB for you.

Want more? How about this: The LCB, the Board itself, is making a dumb show of its obligation to meet publicly. Check this out, again from the TribLive website:

A Tribune-Review analysis of nearly three years of LCB meeting records, along with attendance at meetings, shows many of the board’s twice-monthly meetings lasted just 15 to 20 minutes with little or no public discussion before votes. Critics speculate the lack of discussion means the bulk of the agency’s decision-making occurs out of public view.
“It appears that ... the staff and the board members have developed a way of doing business that is difficult, if not impossible, for an average citizen to follow,” said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, an advocate for increased government openness.
“Certainly, these issues of how the board operates will be given a fresh look as we work through the legislation for changing the way citizens are able to buy alcohol,” Pileggi said.
Unfortunately, what Pileggi means here is that the Legislature is still considering the ill-advised "Modernization" program that the PLCB is advising! Does this make sense? Here's an agency that is crippled by incompetency, riddled with corruption, consumed with its own arrogance...and you think it's a good idea to let them tell you what's needed to fix their problems?! 

We have a big job ahead of us in 2013. We need to remind Governor Corbett of his promises. We need to remind the Legislature and Senator Pileggi that we want privatization, not some crappy "modernization." We need to get a good, fair bill that gives us privatization that makes sense, not the cock-eyed greedfest that got passed in Washington (that people still seem to prefer to the old state store system). And we need to get serious about it. 

Get started now. If you're in the Philadelphia area, please come out this Thursday to Yards brewing for our second beer laws forum: if you WANT it to cover privatization, I'm willing to expand the conversation. We had 100 people at the last one, I'd love to have an overflow crowd. We're going to be talking about how to take action. It's time to get rolling.


Anonymous said...

The PLCB does make mistakes but the order to close the stores (and all other non-essential State offices) came from the Governors office. I realize essential means different things to different people.

Lew Bryson said...

Common misinterpretation of what actually happened (at least, it's common among PLCB partisans). Here's what actually happened:

Gov. Tom Corbett has ordered state employees in Harrisburg and other offices to stay home again on Tuesday.

"Gov. Tom Corbett has ordered state employees in Harrisburg and other offices to stay home again on Tuesday. Corbett's order applies to non-essential employees under the governor's jurisdiction who work in the Capitol Complex, Harrisburg Area, Pittsburgh, Reading, Scranton and Philadelphia state office buildings."

Any State Stores in those state office buildings? No, didn't think so. The PLCB made this decision on their own, and has used the governor's order to other state workers as cover. They are a highly independent state agency, which is part of the problem. A large part.

And as to your clever "BTW, you must be an alcoholic" insinuation in the last sentence of your comment...gosh, I've never ever heard anyone say that because I'd like to buy wine and spirits like normal people in normal states do, I must be an addict. Tired, and offensive. Find new material.

Lew Bryson said...

And another thing, "Anonymous." Learn how moderated comments work. When your comment that you submitted at 4:15 AM doesn't show up's because it has to be approved to appear. Don't post another identical comment that I then have to delete, please.

I have turned on the moderation function to eliminate spam posts (a more common problem), not to censor comments. I have used it to censor one or two completely incivil posts, and I do refuse to post repetitive comments, but otherwise, anything of substance that comes in, goes up.

Anonymous said...

Check the blue pages (Gov. Offices) of your phone book under Pennsylvania to find the address and phone # of your local State store.

Lew Bryson said...

If you're trying to say that because they're under Pennsylvania that they're "state office buildings," you're desperately clutching. If you're trying to be helpful, don't bother. I buy all my booze out of state now.

Anonymous said...

Also ..I just have to tell you that the industry(Malt,Wine,and Spirits)look at you just as we look at the homeless crazy person who is fighting a pigeon over a french fry in the park.

Lew Bryson said...

Anything else you want to get off your chest?

Anonymous said...

Naw just that

Lew Bryson said...

Good. In reply, you do realize that posting as "Anonymous" ruins what tiny credibility you have, right?