Virginia’s Gov. Bob McDonnell, privatizing the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control

Time for an Intervention

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- Michael R. Shannon  Thursday, January 27, 2011
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I’m concerned about Virginia’s Gov. Bob McDonnell. He seems to be embarking on a white–whale situation involving his obsession with privatizing the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). This unnatural focus is a damaging, negative influence on his administration.

McDonnell wants to sell all 332 retail ABC stores to private owners and allow another 668 to open, bringing the total retail outlets to an even 1,000 — finally putting us ahead of the District of Columbia’s 500.

It goes without saying that government has no business selling booze and any conservative worth the name supports the governor in the abstract. But in Virginia the reality gets in the way.

The Commonwealth makes $220 million a year in taxes and profits off Demon Rum and none of the governor’s many privatization proposals will replace the revenue. Even the most optimistic plan falls $47 million short, which is quite a premium to pay for ideological purity.

Equally troubling is the way the privatization plan appears to be affecting the administration’s judgment with regard to legislative relations and even personnel policies.

There have been stories alleging the governor’s political staff threatened Republican members of the General Assembly if they fail to support his unpopular privatization plan.

Even Gov. McDonnell’s Reform and Restructuring Commission is getting into the act. It has recommended selected government agencies switch to a four–day workweek. The ostensible justification is saving money and employee morale, but I’m thinking three–day weekends leave more time for drinking privatized booze with additional tax revenue that might make up some of the $47 million shortfall.

This is why it’s time for an intervention.

Our governor is not alone. Others have been hobbled by unpopular privatization programs and received help. There is no shame or stigma in admitting your need to change.

Which is why — as a public service to our otherwise fine governor — I’ve contacted the good people at Privatization Anonymous. They were kind enough to share this advice:

”We who are in Privatization Anonymous came because we finally gave up trying to impose our privatizing on the public. We still hated to admit that we could never privatize safely.

We found out that many officeholders suffered from the same feelings of ostracism, loneliness and hopelessness that we did. We found out that we had these feelings because we had privatized prematurely and become fixated on privatization in spite of the inadequacies of our program.

We decided to try and face up to what privatization had done to us. If you answer YES to four or more of the following questions, you are in deep trouble with privatization.

Remember, there is no disgrace in facing up to the fact that you have a problem with privatization.

  1. Have you ever decided to stop privatizing for a week or so, but only lasted for a couple of days?
  2. Do you wish legislators would mind their own business regarding your privatizing and stop giving advice?
  3. Have you ever switched from one type of privatization to another in the hope that this would make you more popular?
  4. Do you envy governors who can privatize without getting into trouble with the legislature?
  5. Have you had political problems connected with privatizing during the past year?
  6. Has your privatizing caused trouble with your political base?
  7. Do you tell yourself you can stop privatizing any time you want to?
  8. Have you postponed meetings or canceled gatherings because of privatizing?
  9. Do you have “news blackouts” in regard to privatizing?
  10. Have you ever felt that your term of office would be better if you had never started to privatize?

If you answered YES four or more times, you are probably in trouble with privatization. Why do we say this? Because thousands of politicians have said so for many years and have the legislative bruises to show for it.

They found out the truth about themselves — the hard way. But again, only you can decide whether you think P.A. is for you. Try to keep an open mind on the subject. If the answer is YES, we will be glad to show you how we stopped privatizing.

P.A. does not promise to solve all your political problems. But we can show you how others are learning to live without privatization initiatives “one day at a time.”

We stay away from that “first privatizing proposal.” If there is no first one, there cannot be a tenth one. And when we got rid of privatization, we found that politics became much more manageable.”

This is good advice governor. Please take it. I’m here to help, just email and I’ll be there.



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Michael R. Shannon is a Virginia-based public relations and media consultant with MANDATE: Message, Media & Public Relations who has worked in over 75 elections on three continents and a handful of islands.

Michael’s site is called: “The Whole Shebang (mostly)”.

Michael can be reached at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)






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