Earlier this week, many news outlets (including PennLive) reported that a State House Rep was reintroducing the idea of registration stickers on our vehicles. Faster than one can say “wait a minute, didn’t we already remove that?” – we did, and we’ve been losing money on the plan because people frankly didn’t care to get a new sticker.
I’d like to remind our citizens about the law of unintended consequences.
You see, an idea starts out as what is perceptibly a good one. In an ideal world protected by a vacuum, these ideas beget policies that should make life better, that should streamline something, and should reduce costs or increase dividends. Right?
Take Harrisburg’s recent change in parking. In 2014, the city (in)famously increased its hourly rate from $1.50 / hr to $3 hourly by leasing the program to a company for 40 years. They also increased the hours of parking, extending them to 7 p.m. This plan was supposed to be brilliant – raising at least $900,000 for the city’s hurting finances. Sounds great, right?
Failure became its fashion; most of all, it failed the businesses that rely upon patrons parking.
A year later, the city, to its credit, admitted the failure of the policy and bought back happy hour parking (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) at a $285,000 loss, not a gain.
In a similar vein, New York was the second state in the nation to ban plastic bags. Many other counties and municipalities have joined suit. Why? It sounds like a good idea. Plastic bags are made from petrochemicals (bad) and end up in landfills (also bad) when folks can just use their cotton bags (good). Ideals again entered a vacuum. But, as NPR’s Planet Money reports, banning bags is “garbage” policy because it increases the demand for thicker bags people will buy off the shelf so they can still line a trash can in one’s room or scoop dog poop on a walk. You know – things they used to do with a free bag.
What’s better than a plastic ban is a minimal fee, like the $0.05 Aldi’s charges, to encourage people to use their own bags. But New York’s going to have to endure some pain – including that impacting the environment – to come to what’s right.
Why do I bring these things to our attention? Because I’m a candidate who tries to see policies in the long-term. Sometimes we only get one shot to make a change for the “better” – when we have it, we best define it. We also better have a person who’s not just looking at what paid lobbyists are showing to him.
I will be the treasurer who’s able to see that ever-present law of unintended consequences.