Public policy fails

Public policy fails

The Allegheny County Airport Authority is celebrating its 20th birthday with a self-laudatory article on its BlueSky public relations site (www.bluesky.com).

Conspicuously absent from the rah-rah-sis-boom-bah-ing piece is any mention of the troubling failures of using public dollars to subsidize airlines at Pittsburgh International Airport; writing contracts that incentivize failure; a board of directors that has given its CEO plenary powers to grant subsides of any amount; the same board of directors that featured three conflicted members who invested in one airline to which subsidies had been given (an airline that then failed in spectacular fashion) and a board solicitor who, initially, pooh-poohed any talk of a conflict of interest.

The 20th-anniversary piece also more than intimates that the authority board is devoid of politics — never mind that a politician and a political body nominate and approve board members, respectively.

If the “media relations” person who wrote the birthday article expects the public to believe that’s where the political influence ends, well, we have some ocean-front property in Moon Township to sell him.

Also not mentioned is the continuing dishonest practice – economically and intellectually – of using inflated economic impact studies with multiplier effects plucked from thin air to defend those dubious airline subsidies.

Sound public policy demands far better than slick public relations stories.

Here’s Argument No. 583,921 for the total privatization of alcohol sales in Pennsylvania, courtesy of a report in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

“The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has explicitly barred the state’s wineries from promoting volume discounts — such as 25 percent off a case of Cabernet Franc — because that amounts to an inducement.

“Wineries are, on the other hand, allowed to offer a list price for a case of wine that is lower than the per bottle price, as long as they don’t promote the discount, according to an advisory opinion published” recently.

The Inky says the opinion, which goes against long-standing practice at many Pennsylvania wineries, was designed to establish clear authority for law enforcement officials to issue citations for volume discounting.

Matthew B. Anderson, a lawyer with Norris McLaughlin P.A., says, per the newspaper, that wineries are allowed to do what breweries do. “Breweries might charge $4 for a single 16-ounce beer, but $12 for a 4-pack of 16-ounce cans. That amounts to 25 percent discount per ounce.

“Wineries can still discount a case of wine by 25 percent compared with the single-bottle price for 12 bottles,” but, Anderson said, they can’t say explicitly: ‘I’ll give you 25 percent off if you buy 12 bottles of wine.’”

Horrors, we can’t have wineries competing with state stores, now can we.

This is the kind of nonsensical poor public policy that government bureaucracy creates.

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