Last week, after I spoke out against NJ Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan publicly dissing his own wine-buying constituents, I received quite a bit of feedback (comments and e-mail) about something I wasn’t talking about. Namely, not reporting from the battlefield of the wine shipping fracas taking place among the rolling hills of my home state, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (one of – if not the – worst control states in our fair Union).
In response, I can offer two tidbits as potential justification:
1) Blogger Lew Bryson is doing a fine job of detailing all of the latest PLCB debacles and on-again/off-again satutus of PA’s move towards Privitization, and I’ve little to offer above-and-beyond Lew’s excellent and opinionated coverage. For a pertinent example, check out Lew’s tirade about the state’s failed automated wine kiosks – turns out the PLCB knew that the kiosks had little chance of succeeding before they deployed them (I had a similar view of their potential success published around the same time).
2) I’m anticipating the potential for a lot more insider coverage coming soon on the PLCB and the drama of the changing state of alcohol distribution in PA, since I’ve agreed to be on a focus group for a PLCB Wine Advisory Council member.
Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve been hand-picked by a member of the PLCB’s Eastern PA Regional Advisory Panel to join a cabinet/focus group, which has as one of its priorities advancing the pace of change to improve the currently (very) sad state of wine distribution affairs in the Commonwealth…
My first meeting with the Wine Advisory Council will be in downtown Philly in a few days time, the agenda of which is “To discuss matters of concern for both consumer and licensee stakeholders regarding the PLCB system.”
Don’t think that I’m on the slippery-slope to the spiked (pronounced “spike-ED!”) pit of the sold-out, though.
Since I’ve been very, very clear about my feelings towards the PLCB, I don’t expect the session to go all that well for me. In fact, I won’t be surprised if it takes less than one hour before I’m thrown out. But there’s no question in my mind that the Council will know exactly how I feel: PA needs to privatize the sale and distribution of alcohol, disband the PLCB, and open up to the free market system to encourage the increases in service/convenience and price-reduction that can only result from real competition.
When it comes to the PLCB and any other state-controlled monopolies of commerce that is otherwise free and open in other states, my going-in thinking is To Hell With The Devil, baby (anyone out there remember Stryper?).
For all of my passionate rhetoric, I’m a bit of a pragmatist at heart, and I’m not going to do anything stupid that would purposefully get me thrown out of the upcoming meeting or the focus group. But I’m not prepared to back down in voicing my honest views, either. Here’s an opportunity to at least try to make a difference for PA wine consumers in a direct way, with a more-or-less straight line through to the PLCB itself; I’m not gonna screw that up, folks.
At least, not intentionally!
So… more to come… hopefully much more, if the Council and PLCB keep enough of an open mind to keep me on board for a while; if not, then there will be more to come, just not a lot more to come…
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, ‘cause I think we might be in for a bumpy – but fascinating – ride!