Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ed Rendell, Captain of Cronyism

Ed Rendell and the PLCB[Editors’ note: Sorry for being somewhat MIA over the past few weeks… we'll resume posting regularly soon.]

We hate to admit it, after all Fast Eddie used to be our bra — hell, we used to campaign for the man — but we do, in fact, have to admit it: we’ve become entirely disillusioned with Ed Rendell.

Why? Because instead of becoming a more progressive, more enlightened, more inspiring political leader after making the jump from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, instead of reforming a political system in dire need of it, he has all too often allowed the ancient inept machine of Pennsylvania state politics dictate the way he governs.

Where’s the reform he promised? After the pay-raise scandal of 2005, Rendell had a golden opportunity. He could have stepped up and pushed a reform agenda through a rebuked, embarrassed and weakened legislature. He could have become the poster boy for a constituency desperate for a politician to embrace.

Unfortunately, we've yet to see any reform. In fact, we’re seeing just the opposite.

Rendell recently made a pouting, off-the-cuff remark about Philadelphia being "closed for business" because a neighborhood group didn't immediately vote to support an ill-planned development for W. Arch Street, proposed by a Rendell donor. Earth to Ed: that’s not how shit is supposed to work — you’re not in Philadelphia anymore. Developmania is not going to fly. Please. You’re breaking our hearts.

Obviously the more glaring example is the creation of “a new, never-before-needed top position for the state's Liquor Control Board” and handpicking former State Senator Joe Conti to fill it.

The problem is not that $150,000 salary is too high, or that
the CEO position at the LCB is unnecessary, or even that Joe Conti, a former state senator that decided to retire rather than run for reelection after voting for a pay raise and refusing to give it back, is unqualified.

Rather, the problem is that Rendell created the position in complete secrecy, in a move that is so obviously and brazenly a patronage/favoritism/bad-government orgy (Conti, a Republican, helped Rendell pass key legislation, including the slots bill, in 2004), that every resident of the state should be utterly offended.

Because this shit is just flat out offensive.
In Pennsylvania, old water heaters don't die. They don't even fade away.

They miraculously find new life in $150,000-a-year sweetheart jobs created just for them.
Gov. Rendell this week announced he was creating a new, never-before-needed top position for the state's Liquor Control Board, and handpicked Conti to fill it.

The appointment was a done deal before anyone knew it was coming. Incredibly, not even the chairman of the LCB's three-person board, the well-respected Jonathan Newman, was let in on the secret. Rendell broke the news to him Tuesday afternoon, just one day before Conti's coronation became official.

Newman felt bulldozed and called it "a fait accompli" that smacked of bad government. Ya think?

No public discussion. No public scrutiny. No national search for the best possible candidate. Not even a single want ad.
The smell of patronage

All for a political fixture who coincidentally found himself in need of a new job - a man with no previous experience running a multibillion-dollar corporation. His previous private-sector experience was operating two family-owned restaurants that happened to have liquor licenses.

That is like saying a guy who owned two gas stations is uniquely qualified to run Exxon.

Regardless, Conti is now CEO of the nation's largest wine and liquor monopoly. And he was shooed in without the chairman of the liquor board even knowing. What's that smell like?

It smells a lot like patronage of the worst kind, and it's just more of what has turned Pennsylvanians so cynical about their government.

Rendell should be ashamed of himself for this one.
To say the least.

With Jonathan Newman resigning, the whole ordeal has become the opposite of a win-win — it’s a fucking LOSE-LOSE.

You can read more about how this happened on PhilaFoodie. And there are a few pretty good editorials out there.

Basically, it’s just an all-around raw deal for the people of Pennsylvania. And there’s no reason for it. But even more, there’s no reason for Rendell to be behaving like he’s taking political lessons from Vinny fucking Fumo.

Because that’s just too fucking depressing and disheartening for us to swallow.

Conti gig smells like team spirits [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Ed Rendell is drunk on power [Pittsburgh Post Gazetter]
Ed Rendell is a slut [The Clog]
Sleazy LCB appointment shows nothing has changed in Harrisburg [Easton Express Times]
Newman deserved better [Delaware County Times]
Q & A with Jonathan Newman at Philly.com [Philly.com]
Jonathan Newman dishes to PhilaFoodie [PhilaFoodie]
Apologizing to Mr. Newman [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Pennsylvania's loss is Jonathan Newman's gain [Philadelphia Inquirer]

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