Thursday, October 13, 2016

Questions that should be asked

Since the PLCB never faces any real questions, or a press corps with the tough ones, we thought we'd provide a look at how that might go. It's all fictional, but hey, the PLCB says they're a "business," so we're on solid ground.

Chairman Holden, board member Negra, and board member Newsome: welcome to Face the Citizens.

   (Holden) Glad to be here Al.

Glad to have you here, gentlemen. As you know, this program is dedicated to helping the Citizens of Pennsylvania understand exactly what the Board does, and the why and wherefore behind some of your decisions. We'll start with your experience for the job. Have any of you been a director-level executive — or higher — in a $2 billion revenue company? Anyone? A $1 Billion company? A $200 Million company? No? Well, do any of you have any experience in the liquor industry? Ahh, yes Member Negra!
Chairman Holden did not actually say these things.
   (Negra) I have a bottle of wine with dinner sometimes.
   (Holden) We used to get pretty hammered after some of the caucus meetings, so I have tried a lot of different spirits.
   (Newsome) No.

Okay, do you know anything about the three tier system? I see a few heads nodding. Could you explain it for the readers?

   (Negra) Well Al, it would take far too much time to properly get across the complexities of the three tier system. We'd need a whole program just for that.

Fine with me, when can you do it?

   (Negra) I'd have to check my schedule and get back to you about that. You know the PLCB keeps us pretty busy; it's at least two or three days a month. It barely leaves time for our other work.

Board member Negra did not actually say these things.
Do any of you have experience with such common business tools as sales price variance analysis, proximity analysis or inter-type agglomeration analysis?

   (Holden) Wait a minute,  there is math involved?  Nobody told me there would be math.

Surely Member Newsome, you used these tools at Wolf Cabinets?

   (Newsome) Not to any great extent. You see, the market for cabinets isn't at all like the market for wine and spirits. The wine and spirits market is a police-enforced monopoly, as God intended. People can buy cabinets anywhere, based on price and quality and outlet convenience. It's quite different.

Board member Newsome did not actually say these things.
Of course. Let's move on to beer regulation. Chairman Holden, you had been voting for giving gas stations licenses that met the café space and register separation requirements up until Member Skip Brion left, then you suddenly started voting against those licenses, saying that your reason was that you wanted to see what the State Supreme Court was going to do. However, they didn't even agree to take the case until three months AFTER you started voting no. Then when Governor Wolf asked the Board to "Free The Sixpack," you just as suddenly started voting for them again. Care to explain?

   (Holden) That's in the past Al, nobody wants to hear that ancient history. What's done is done is what I always say. Especially at legislative hearings.

I see.  How about your new Executive Director? You went from somebody that had a firm grasp of how real retail works — John Metzger — to Charlie Mooney, who has no real world experience. This, at a time when some of the ways the PLCB does things are actually shifting toward how a real business would run. Any comments?

   (Holden) Charlie is a great guy, he's been here forever and knows how we do things.

But isn't how you do things the reason that things are changing? If you were better at how you did things, like say New Hampshire, there wouldn't be all these pushes for change.

   (Negra) Oh, we're not changing, we're modernizing. Think of it like new math. The numbers didn't change, just how you used them. That's the PLCB!

I guess that's another whole program. Moving on again... Last year you had record sales for the umpteenth year in a row. You also claimed record "profits." Let's talk about costs, specifically, why did the pension debt the PLCB owes only decrease by $550,000 in a year when you had all these record sales?

   (Newsome)  That is easy, Al. We spent the money on other things!

What other things? 

   (Newsome)  Other other things. Look, we don't have to pay any interest on the pension debt, so there is no hurry to pay it off. As a state agency, we can't go bankrupt, so it just isn't that important. With all the consultants and relatives we'll have to hire because nobody in house can deal with Act 39, I doubt it will go down much next year either.

But doesn't the state have to pay interest on the money they borrow to cover that shortage?

   (Newsome) Of course the state does, but WE, the PLCB, don't. So...not on our balance sheet!

Thanks for being so upfront about that. It looks like we are just about out of time. Thank you for being on Face The Citizens. I look forward to you coming back again.

(Hot mic catches...)
   (Newsome) Nope,
   (Holden) Not gonna happen.
   (Negra) Don't bet on it.

Do I need to say it? PRIVATIZE. 


Anonymous said...

(Holden) Charlie is a great guy, he's been here forever and knows how we do things.

Albert, that is a great line and more accurate than you could imagine. You hit on the two most important qualifications needed to be promoted; great guy and been here forever. Knowing how we do things is just an added to bonus.

Albert Brooks said...

Thanks for the compliment but it was an obvious requirement based on how they do things.