Our annual contest featuring the Worst Ideas in Government – the WIGGY Awards – was flooded with nominations in 2010, perhaps the start of a trend. It’s too soon to tell.
Right now, the first Corbett administration is looking like a third season of Tom Ridge. Yeah, well-organized. The smart money is on an early budget passage, say April.
One problem: the lingering, bitter taste of Bonusgate. We’ll have to see if the unindicted co-conspirators in the Legislature are really unhappy about Corbett’s investigations, or incredibly relieved they’re not the ones going to jail. Either sentiment could be a Petri dish for bad ideas.
But that’s the future. Today, we’re all about the 2010 Wiggies.
The top-notch panel of experts convened for the Wiggy judging was so impressed with the quality of the nominations that it could not declare an outright winner. So the official Worst Idea in Government for 2010 is … a tie! That’s a tie between the Liquor Control Board’s amazingly clunky wine machines, and the Turnpike Commission’s cowardly decision to not show the massive fare increases for cash customers on the tickets.
Both are off the table for now. The wine machines are on the disabled list and the invisible fare hikes will be posted, eventually. Still, you have to be amazed at the dumbness.
It’s hard to say what they’re smoking over at the PLCB, but they seem stuck in the Stoner Age. Imagining where this wine machine idea came from is like watching a Cheech-and-Chong routine.
“Hey, man, here’s something … what if we like invented a talking machine that could sell wine and stuff?”
“Okay, wait, what about that nice wine guy at the state store in Lemoyne? I can’t remember his name, man. Wouldn’t that like decimate his job? You know …. Kurt? Kirt?”
“Yeah, Kirt, he’s great. Really helped me out for New Year’s, but Kirt can’t be everywhere.”
“Why not, man? Santa Claus is. That dude can book.”
“Yeah, sweet. But he only works one night a year. See what I’m sayin’?”
“Oh yeah, man. Okay. I get it. So what’s with these machines?”
“Okay, we get somebody to build some machines that sell wine. Like, you put in a credit card and get a bottle of red, okay?”
“Suppose I can’t remember what I want, man? My brain ain’t what it used to be, know what I mean?”
“That’s the really cool part. You can ask the machine.”
“Well yeah, I could ask my VW too.”
“No, man, the machines can talk. They help you, like Kirt. Like if you want champagne but you’re broke and you can’t afford it, and you sorta remember that other stuff …”
“Yeah, man, you got it! The machine can tell you stuff like that!”
“Okay, but what if it breaks down, man? Kirt doesn’t break down.”
“No, listen dude, these machines are smart, like computers. Computers never break down.”
This scenario or something like popped into my head last time I was at Wegman’s. I was in the cheese department looking for free samples when I heard this woman talking to herself. I looked up and she was talking to a machine. It wasn’t going well. After a minute or so she took her credit card back and huffed away, snorting.
Why, I wondered, would anyone at the LCB think giving less personal service is a good idea? I mean, really, if you want to sell wine at Wegmans, put a little store in and staff it with some Kirts. It is that simple.
Our other 2010 Wiggy winner is the Turnpike Commission. That agency has come a long way from the days when girlfriends of major politicians Xeroxed their asses and sent the results as Christmas cards.
Let’s listen in on an executive session.
“Jeez, I don’t know what we’re gonna do. This new rate increase is pretty freaking high.”
“Ah-ite. What if we let the E-Z Pass rate stay pretty much the same? That takes care of all the lawyers and lobbyists and anyone who could make a fuss. Then we dump the whole increase on the chump commuters who get tickets at the interchange.”
“You know it, Peter. Here’s the beauty part. We stop printing the rates on the tickets.”
“Can we do that? Ya know, legally?”
“Hey, we still own the Turnpike. These are our tickets. Who’s gonna stop us?”
Good question. The answer was Jack Wagner, Auditor General. Maybe he’ll agree to serve on our panel of experts for 2011.
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