Public policy insanities

Public policy insanities

Imprudent – some would use the word “insane” — public policies remain on parade as 2021 prepares to bow out. And we are not encouraged that 2022 somehow will, magically, bring about an enlightenment among such policies’ misguided purveyors.

To wit:

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Erika Strassburger has temporarily put on hold her push to ban plastic shopping bags. But it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Never mind that supposedly “one-use” plastic bags — that invariably are employed for multiple uses – are not the public problem Strassburger and others purport them to be.

And never mind that such bans create a host of worse problem, such as forcing the use of unsanitary – and non-recyclable — reusable bags and the specter of Big Bag Brother.

And never mind that charging a fee for paper alternatives would be just the latest in a long line of government-fueled inflationary actions.

No, Strassburger sought the delay to, as she told the Post-Gazette, work out many issues with the city Law Department and to make the law “as air tight as possible.” She even joked that the bill should be as airtight as a Ziplock plastic bag.

Well, hardy-har-har.

Outstanding questions include those of enforcement and carving out special exemptions for “the poor.”

Oh, and then there’s this, per the Tribune-Review:

“Zachary Taylor, director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, said single-use plastic bags are ‘100 percent recyclable’ and many are made with recycl[ed] materials.”

The City of Pittsburgh has enough — and far more serious problems –without creating “solutions” in search of manufactured problems.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County will begin 2022 as it ends 2021 – a poster child for dysfunctional government-think.

With the help of Allegheny Institute research, WTAE-TV’s Paul Van Osdol – and in a few, concise and damning minutes – summed up the folly of a mass-transit agency out of touch with reality:

Though bus and trolley ridership has tanked during the pandemic (and there are serious questions how much it can recover), it has added more than two dozen administrative positions and not laid off any employees.

From WTAE’s report:

“Asked why [the Port Authority] is adding jobs when ridership is down, [CEO Katharine] Kelleman said, ‘Some of these functions, even if ridership is smaller, if we don’t support them we will not get the quality service that this community deserves.’”

Huh? So, you weren’t supporting them pre-pandemic?

Doubling-down on her dumbfounding illogic, Kelleman went on to say that many of the new administrative positions will be required to oversee a coming nearly $4 billion, 25-year plan to, among other things, expand light-rail service to the North Hills.

Never mind that light-rail is the absolute worst way to move people with any economical and operational efficiency in anything other than the most densely populated metropolitan areas.

And never mind that the Port Authority has no idea whence funding will come for such a boondoggle.

Yet, Kelleman told WTAE:

“It’s going to be a really interesting couple of years to see how we navigate these challenges when we don’t know what the end case is going to be, but we’re going to fight for every penny.”

And to continue to bloat-up an agency that makes the Son of Flubber look svelte.

And last, but not least ugliest, there’s Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS).

In a perverted Christmas gift for property tax payers, it adopted, on a 5-4 vote, a 3 percent property tax increase.

Never mind – as we’ve hammered and hammered the points home repeatedly – that PPS officials continue to spend extraordinary dollars per-pupil for extraordinarily putrid academic results, all the while maintaining personnel and bricks-and-mortar bloat.

It was Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, who famously wrote in 1886’s “Beyond Good and Evil” that “In individuals, insanity is rare, but in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule.”

As we sadly continue to witness as we ring out 2021 and ring in 2022 with Pittsburgh City Council, the Port Authority of Allegheny County and Pittsburgh Public Schools.

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

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