Another carnival of buncombe

Another carnival of buncombe

The Post-Gazette reports that some promoters are questioning the wisdom of building yet another concert facility in Pittsburgh because, among other things, it will duplicate what already exists and, at the same time, possibly drive up what music acts are paid and, thus,  increase ticket prices.

The Penguins, recipient of a sweetheart deal to develop tracts of land once home to the Civic Arena, are teaming with one promoter to build a concert facility on the old arena site, across the street from the new house of hockey, PPG Paints Arena.

But the folks behind Stage AE, a Steelers facility and adjacent to Heinz Field, fear the new concert hall will lead to “an all-out competition” that will jack up prices. Other promoters agree.

Now, competition is a good thing. However, not broached in this debate is the perverted nature of this burgeoning “competition.”

Not only are both facilities the product of sweetheart development deals but, in one form or another, subsidized (or to be subsidized) by taxpayers.

Whether Stage AE would have been built without a bolus of public money and freebie development rights remains a question mark. And whether the new Lower Hill District facility would have even been considered without similar development rights and proposed taxpayer help is just as serious a question.

The old Chiffon Margarine TV commercial of the 1970s reminded that “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” Neither is it wise to fool with the nature of free markets by thinking we can butter our way to prosperity by forcing taxpayers to bear capital costs that should be borne alone by private developers.

The Pennsylvania House, stung by the media exposing its fallacious claim of state constitutional immunity from releasing details of how it spends hundreds of millions of public dollars, has reversed course.

Or so it says.

After The Caucus and Spotlight PA reported the abuse – and make no mistake, such action was and remains an abuse – House leaders reversed course and vowed that, henceforth, they “are open and transparent about our expenditures.”

But only when caught attempting to not be.

Of course, this incident (and even worse attempts to hide public spending by the state Senate) raises two issues:

First, it’s obvious that those in elected and appointed positions of power have forgotten, yet again, who’s the boss. Hint: It’s the people, not the pols.

Second, it affirms the evergreen need for the press to be aggressive, on behalf of the public, in demanding accountability from “leaders” who, too often, as no better than unscrupulous carnival operators.

Pittsburgh’s mandatory sick time law, upheld by the tortuous illogic of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, goes into effect on Sunday.

Sick time will be earned based on hours worked and the number of employees. The law applies to employers in the city or who have employees working within city limits.

Never mind that offering sick time should be the sole purview of private business owners, the high court decided the Pittsburgh law is right and proper as a matter of public health.

Sick time will start accruing for workers next week but city officials say fines will not be levied against any non-compliant business for the first year.

Compliance costs, of course, will be a bear for many businesses. Take, for instance, just this one scenario, as reported by the P-G:

“As for transient workers who spend part of their time in city limits – including delivery drivers — work performed within city limits is (according to the law) ‘required to be included in the computation of accrued sick time.’”

What a mess on the latest on-ramp to bureaucratic buncombe.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).