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!
21 thoughts on “This Just In: I Join A PLCB Advisory Group. Also, Hell Freezes Over. Sort Of.”
Best of luck, bro! And yes, I ( … almost shamefully) used to rock the yellow and black back in the day, and I'm not talking about the Steelers. They picked you for a reason, so in the end, lets hope you go out thinking, " A Change Is Gonna Come" — (Sam Cooke). Cheers!
Dezel – anyone who can throw in Stryper AND Sam Cooke references in the same comment is AWESOME!!! :)
From a RAP member on the other side of the state, welcome to the WSAC process. None of us joined because we want to be PLCB "cheerleaders," but because we want the state store system to work for everyone. It's all we have at the moment.
The WSAC isn't really a forum for fomenting revolution; it's there to help guide the Board in its operations and policy-making. For example, when the Board recently decided to allow online store customers to receive orders at their homes or offices instead of picking them up at a PLCB location, they ran some options past the WSAC and we told them what we thought would work best for consumers. It's about incremental change within the existing system.
As to the "big" question of privatization, that's something the WSAC has declined to tackle directly, mainly because there's a lack of consensus within the membership. In particular, the flaws with HB11 were considered significant enough to prevent many of us from supporting it, especially for the distributors on the Council. But there are many members who would strongly prefer to privatize wine and spirits sales under saner legislation, so you're in good company.
I hope you find your upcoming meeting interesting and productive.
Thanks, Nathan! As I mentioned in the post, I don’t plan on going ballistic, but I felt it was worth making my stance known publicly so people are clear on where it is I am coming from in terms of my headspace when it comes to the PLCB. I am happy for the opportunity to try to make things incrementally better for PA residents while I also try to do my part to whittle away at the roadblocks en route to privatization. Cheers!
What particular sections of HB11 lead you to not support privatization?
To be clear, it's not privatization that I don't support, it's HB11 in its present form. In particular, the gallonage taxes and wholesale license fees, which will drive up prices and kill selection. See my analysis here:
Please bring your Flip camera to that committee meeting. We want the pay-per-view version! Fight the power!
Welcome back, Alder!
Sorry, but my new benevolent PLCB overlords will not permit filming… ;-)
A reader just sent me the following link – this is a pretty damning indictment of the PLCB at its most fiscally wasteful/irresponsible:
You want incremental change? Start with firing the entire board for their idiocy with the kiosks, Hire some people with actual business experience, not running a failed restaurant or fire Joe Conti for making an already poorly run organization even worse, your choice. Try having the people in charge of the Chairman's Selection program actually have some credentials in wine. (get some folks who know liquor in there too) Sorta like having the head of the accounting department be a CPA and not some guy who happened to just work for you. Perhaps hire a Sommelier since PA is the largest buyer of wine in the US if not the world.
Of course, it won't happen so let's just kill the PLCB off and start anew. Revenue neutral is not a requirement.
Hi Albert – while I surely sympathize with your sentiments here, I wouldn't describe those steps as incremental. :)
Compared to what I'd like to do, those are incremental to me. ;)
Albert – understood! :)
Sorry to report that due to hurricane Irene the meeting scheduled for this past weekend has been postponed and I do not yet have a rescheduled date. :-( Mother nature trumps all…
So anything happening on this Joe or did the PLCB find out you actually know something about wine and find that unacceptable?
Hey Albert – still waiting for the rescheduled date, it was cancelled due to the hurricane. :(
After 3 weeks plus I'm not amazed they can't get one meeting in. Typical PLCB service. it didn't rain every day after all.
6 weeks in and nada. Shows how serious the PLCB is about wine and or their customers.
Tell me about it :(
UPDATE: The meeting has been rescheduled to this coming Sunday, Oct. 16, and I CANNOT make it as I've got conflicts that I can't reschedule. :-(
So… will have to wait until the next one, whenever that may be…
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