Monday, July 29, 2019

Carlisle AlcoAutoFest! Drive Yourself To Drink!

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT) in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) are proud to bring you the first Carlisle AlcoAutofest! Due to the special relationship the PLCB has with PENNDOT, you will be able to drive to the Festival even in cars not sold or ever sold in Pennsylvania!(*1) Cars made before 1933 get in free!

Numerous vendors will be providing samples of drinks you can only "win" (the chance to purchase at variable pricing) by lottery in Pennsylvania. The PLCB will have two on-site stores selling the same things you can buy in every state store at prices only slightly to obscenely above list price. Taste the latest bottlings of Jim Beam White, Jack Daniel's Black, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, and many other standard brands (that all cost less in Maryland, only 42 miles away) straight from the well-known PLCB overstock trailers sitting in the sun behind the fenced-in area near the porta-potties! It will be an experience you won't find anywhere else in the country!
It's only 5 days. How hot can it get?
PENNDOT will have convenient mandatory breathalyzer stops all along the main drag and at all exit points. They'll be using the same technology as the Wine Kiosks - Amazing, and fun! Safety is  always the PLCB's number one concern (the safety of PLCB jobs, that is). The PLCB's number two concern is money, "profits" (hoho, what a funny joke), so for the first time, the BLCE will be working with the Department of Revenue to collect taxes on bottles "won" by happy participants.(*2)

At checkpoint, show ID, face camera and blow
See your government in action and your tax dollars at work! Take a virtual tour of the PLCB luxury tasting room. Learn how people with minimal qualifications decide what the entire state will be allowed to buy. See how knowing about Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry can get you an executive position with the PLCB! Visit the Career Desk and find out how a career with the PLCB is right for you. None of that product knowledge or RAMP training required, like in the private sector.

If you're in a grumpy mood, the PLCB has just the thing. Take a seat in the Courtesy Training tent (supplied by a real company owned by the real husband of a real PLCB regional manager...which really was nepotism!), and see how PLCB clerks deal with stress like JFK did during the Cuban Missile Crisis (*3)! Ask the PLCB staff why bottles favored by alcoholics are cheaper in Pennsylvania. You'll be amazed at the answer they give.

Souvenirs will be available in the PENNDOT tent. Just take a number and have a seat while you decide what commemorative item your Aunt Martha really wants. Maybe she'd like the "You've got a friend at AlcoAutoFest" plate (shown above in classic Pennsylvania license plate blue and gold), or the "10 Bootleggers per Year" BLCE flag. (I like the "After 85 years only $1,000,000,000 in Debt" picture frame myself.)

See you there!

(*1) You just have to prove that all PA taxes were paid the year of importation into the state.
(*2) Taxes based on what the PLCB would have charged if they had any product, not on list price.
(*3) That was a real lesson in the original Courtesy Training contract.
The Carlisle AlcoAutoFest is not a real event. But it's about dumb enough for the PLCB to try it. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Don't We Deserve a Better Board?

If we have to play by the PLCB rules...could we at least get a better set of players?

Back in 2015 in the Annual Report (page 2), the vision of the PLCB was stated as: "Be recognized as the best-in-class wine and spirits retailer, distributor and regulator in the United States."

Which meant that they wanted to be better than Utah, the only other wine and spirits retailer, distributor, and regulator in the United States. Not a high bar, considering Utah is practically an anti-alcohol theocracy. Four years later, how are they doing? Let's start at the top and go from there.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has three members, none of which over the past 85 years has any previous knowledge of the liquor industry or about running a 2 billion dollar enterprise.

We have a Chairman who has no experience with even a million dollar business, let along something the size of the PLCB. He did make it to Congress, and served on the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry subcommittee, and Transportation and Infrastructure committee, before the citizens decided that he wasn't doing the job they wanted and voted him out. Since there isn't much call for somebody who's chummy with with politicians, and knows a little about Livestock, Dairy & Poultry, the PLCB was a perfect place to put somebody who was owed a couple of favors.

Governor Corbett appointed Republican benefactor Mike Negra to the board. Mr. Negra does have a history of being involved in multiple successful businesses, so at least he has a concept of what is going on, but no actual hands on with the liquor business, or anything the size of the PLCB.

Lastly we have the newest member and first woman ever to serve on the board, Mary IsenhourAlthough you wouldn't know it by looking at the PLCB website. Here it is, over a MONTH after her confirmation, and the PLCB still hasn't decided if she rates being included with the other board members. (Let's see how long it takes for them to include her once this is published.)*

Keeping the public informed through transparency is sadly not the way the PLCB works.  Remember that it took over 100 days before they removed Michael Newsome, and that was only after I poked them with a stick again. Newsome might still be there if I hadn't said anything.

What are Isenhour's qualifications? She was Gov. Wolf's Chief of Staff and a campaign aide. Her business experience is like the others, desperately lacking in knowledge and size. She replaced Michael Newsome, who was Gov. Wolf's CFO in the furniture business -- can't get more qualified to sell liquor than that...or can we?

Remember how we were comparing the PLCB to Utah's State Store System of Stores? So how does the Utah DABC stack up? They have a seven member board that's appointed, but there is also an advisory board of seven members...who must come from defined specific areas of expertise. The Governor can't just willy nilly pick his favorite dog walker to sit on the Advisory Board. Utah specifies that the advisory board members are selected from the following areas of expertise.

Retail Alcohol Industry — Wholesaler Industry — Manufacturing Industry — Restaurant Industry — Utah Substance Use and Mental Health Advisory Council — Alcohol or Drug Related Enforcement — Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health — Alcohol or Drug Abuse Prevention and Education
The Utah version of a Superstore
Another view. Pretty nice, right? 
It is almost certain that since this system was adopted every Utah DABC Advisory member is far more qualified than any that have ever been appointed to the PLCB. This doesn't mean that Utah hasn't had their share of people of limited competence on the Liquor Board. The Governor selects the seven members of the Liquor Board, so it can be and likely is as full of hacks and cronies as Pennsylvania. The difference is that the Utah board can't go off the rails making arbitrary decisions without an adult from the Advisory Board watching them. No deciding that 12 packs are cases, no robot wine armies, no variably price screwing the citizens, and no being over a Billion in debt. Oh, and they have had women on the Boards for years already.

End the PLCB jobs program - PRIVATIZE

*True to form it only took the PLCB 42 days to finally put up a picture.  Not quite as bad as the 102 days it took to take down the board member she replaced.