Sunday, April 19, 2009

Whose Money Is It To Spend?

The latest bone-headed idea from the PLCB? Change the name of the State Stores. Steve Twedt, at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reported on this over the weekend. This is part of the $3.7 million "rebranding" boondoggle the PLCB has engaged in, for truly questionable reasons.

Happily, there is at least one person in Harrisburg who sees this for the worthless idea it is: Governor Ed Rendell. According the ever-spinning Chuck Ardo,

"The governor expressed his opinion that the PLCB stores as currently named were recognizable and had a brand value of their own and he strongly discouraged PLCB from attempting to change the names of the stores... The governor was vocal in making his opinion known."
However, as we're frequently reminded, the PLCB is an independent agency. Accordingly, Joe "CEO" Conti was not concerned about the governor's opinion. Indeed, it sounds like they may not have been at the same meeting:

[Conti] described the meeting with Mr. Rendell as "more a directional discussion" covering a wide range of topics. "The governor was delighted with everything he saw," said Mr. Conti.
Pardon my French, but one of these two guys is clearly full of crap. If you know Governor Rendell, you know what "strongly discouraged" and "vocal in making his opinion known" means. I'm pretty sure I know what "delighted with everything" means. I'm guessing the Governor is looking at Conti and feeling a bit like Victor Frankenstein.

But that's all silliness and name-calling. What this is really about is wasting your money. When this contract comes up, when the courtesy contract comes up, whenever the PLCB spends on consultants or signage or harassment of former Board members, the stock answer is always that it's not the taxpayer's money, they're a self-supporting agency and that their 'expenses' come out of the money they 'make' selling booze.

Could we cut the bull? The PLCB's real main argument for existence, the only reason they still have the monopoly on liquor and wine sales in Pennsylvania, is because of the money they funnel into the state's coffers. Three-quarters of that money is taxes, and we'll close our eyes and pretend that's a straight push-through. But a quarter of it is 'profits,' going into the general fund to be spent on programs to benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth. If this 'independent agency' is spending some of its gross on questionable stuff like changing the name of their monopoly stores, it is the taxpayer's money that is not going into the general fund.

Just how independent is the PLCB? Who exercises oversight on this agency? It's not the governor, clearly, as his "opinion" doesn't count for spit. Is it the Legislature? Don't know, although Conti and Stapleton were quick to dump most of the criticism of the PLCB's practices in their laps, as being responsible for The Almighty Liquor Code.

At least the PLCB is acting like a proper monopoly: high-handed, unaccountable, and arrogant.

1 comment:

Thomas Licisyn said...

Hey Lew,

I think you might like this article:

Help support Senator Rob Wonderling in this cause!