Public policy dogs

Public policy dogs

The dog days of summer have arrived. And with them, a few matters of public policy that are barking up the wrong tree.

Thinking people know public policy obscenity when they see it. And make no mistake, the words of Allegheny County’s first assistant solicitor are just that.

During a Common Pleas Court hearing Thursday on the county’s continuing attempts to keep private the public’s business (and using tax dollars to do it), George Janocsko regurgitated the indefensible claim that the region’s bid for Amazon’s new headquarters involves proprietary matters.

Among those he cited were real estate appraisals and “trade secrets.”

Then, as the Post-Gazette reports it, he argued that the potential benefit of the Amazon headquarters to the region outweighs the “instant gratification” of making the proposal public now.

Transparency and public accountability in government affairs serve no purpose other than to sate the public’s desire for “instant gratification”?

How dare he.

Such unbridled arrogance has no place in public policy. And those who harbor such contempt for the people they are charged with representing only misrepresent sound public policy and disserve public purpose.

There’s word from the Allegheny County Airport Authority that Southwest Airlines will cut one of two daily nonstop flights to Los Angeles out of Pittsburgh International Airport.

The airline cites a “seasonal reduction in service to match customer demand.”

Which prompted authority spokesman Bob Kerlik to note that officials are working with Southwest “in seeing the daily flight return as the West Coast continues to be an important target for us.”

Uh-oh. That sounds as if the authority is ready once again to (as it has so many times before) pervert the market that Southwest has responded to by reducing service with – drum roll, please – public subsidies, does it not?

Then there’s word that the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) has allocated more than $10 million in tax credits to the producers of a forthcoming film on Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers” fame.

Never mind that study after study has panned such Hollywood wealthfare – for everything from these tax credits being sold to third parties, to dubious claims of job-creation, to multiplier effects, to questionable oversight by DCED.

As a matter of public policy, film tax credits are about as mangy as it gets.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are demanding a cut of the commonwealth’s take from newly U.S. Supreme Court-authorized sports betting.

After all, the already heavily publicly subsidized National League franchise argues, but for sports teams there would not be sports betting. The Buccos want a slice of the pie to help pay for PNC Park improvements.

But rather than seeking more public money, the Pirates might want to consider fielding a winning team that generates higher attendance that leads to higher income.

While that might be a novel concept to those who constantly seek to belly up to the bar of public subsidies, it’s not to a public long weary of professional barons of sport believing, with stunning hubris, that they deserve special alms simply because they exist.

Such incessant barking is unbecoming.

Certainly the summer heat got to the top dog at Pennsylvania American Water Co.

Utility president Jeffrey McIntyre told the Post-Gazette that it could limit sticker shock to customers of the badly ailing Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) by taking over the system and spreading the cost of fixing it statewide among its 722,000 customers.

Good grief.

Why should Pennsylvania American customers everywhere pay for decades of nonfeasance and political machinations that led the Pittsburgh system to the brink of disaster?

Simply put, they should not. And the state Public Utility Commission should take serious umbrage to such a mindset.

What’s next, some public policy guru taking off on this concept and pining anew for “regional tax base sharing?” Of course, that’s a dog that won’t hunt.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghneyinstitute.org).