Archives for February 26, 2013

Release the Drug Patents

Dean Baker:

Drugs are expensive to develop, but once they have been developed the cost of producing another dose is almost always very low. In the economists’ dream world, cancer drugs would sell at their cheap marginal cost.

Of course we would need an alternative mechanism for financing the research. Such alternatives do exist. We could have direct public funding similar to the $30 billion that we spend each year to finance research at National Institutes of Health. (That funding could even go through private drug companies, as long as all the research was fully public.)

We could also go the route of a patent buyout system, where patents would be purchased by the government and then put in the public domain. This method has been suggested by Nobel Laureate Joe Stiglitz and actually proposed in a bill by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately it is difficult to get information on such proposals in Washington.

Why Would You Locate a Business Inside Main Street Commons?

It’s true that parking kiosks are confusing and horrible, but people should also consider that maybe the inside of Main Street Commons is just a sucky location for a business. The key advantage to locating on Main Street in Bethlehem is the foot traffic. People like strolling around the nice downtown and window shopping. They don’t want to go inside the mini-mall, that’s a buzzkill. Unless your business is about selling fried food to drunk people exiting the Brewworks, you want your storefront to be visible from the street.

Lehigh County Election Board: Allentown Water Lease Referendum Not Going on the May Ballot

Huge news from Colin McEvoy:

The city deemed the signatures valid in December, which appeared to clear the way for the May and November referendum questions.
But Tim Benyo, chief clerk of the Lehigh County Election Board, notified the city on Feb. 21 that the referendum requirements had not been met, according to a letter obtained by The Express-Times.

The county election office had not received any petitions by Feb. 19, the required 13th Tuesday before the election deadline, according to the letter.

Benyo said while the city directed the county to place the referendum question on the ballot, he could not do so because requirements under the Pennsylvania Constitution and Election Code had not been met.

“While the Lehigh County Election Board wishes to honor any obligation to the City under its Home Rule Charter, that charter cannot change superseding state law governing this office,” the letter reads.

This is game over for the ballot strategy. The lease could get approved in April, long before the next opportunity to put it on the ballot for the November elections. A looming May ballot initiative could possibly have persuaded the city to hold off until after the vote, but now the referendum will come long after the vote on the lease.

I think the best option now seems to be to persuade the Lehigh County Commissioners to extend the Lehigh County Authority’s charter so it can submit a bid for Allentown’s water system. In my view, this is not even a second-best option, it’s the first-best option. This is an opportunity to regionalize Lehigh County’s water infrastructure – a technocratic good policy goal that could save tens of millions of dollars a year, and which has enjoyed support from both Democrats and Republicans. The Lehigh County Authority is the only bidder than is both local and a non-profit. Advocates who don’t want any changes might not be happy with this, but as long as some kind of change is about to happen, this is definitely the least objectionable option, and it’s the one political organizers would be wise to rally around now that the ballot strategy won’t work.

Will John Callahan’s Dust-Up With Wrestling Ref Help Him Win the Sports Dad Vote?

My #slatepitch take on John Callahan’s dust-up with a wrestling ref is that it will actually end up endearing him more to man voters. He’s a sports dad! Sometimes he gets heated about this stuff just like other dads with kids in high school sports!:

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan issued an apology for yelling at an official during the District 11 Class AAA wrestling tournament on Saturday, saying, “I should have handled this incident better.”

In the prepared statement, which was emailed to reporters early Monday evening, Callahan said he had personally apologized to the referee, Dennis Buchman of Drums, Pa., for the incident, which resulted in him being ejected from the stands at Liberty High School, where the tournament was held.

“We’ve both been involved in wrestling for decades and had a warm conversation reflecting on the great passion that we have for the sport,” Callahan said.

Anyway obviously this has zero bearing on the issues the next County Exec will decide. If Team Callahan wants to get this story out of the news soon (and again, I’m not even sure that’s a good idea) maybe they should roll out a policy speech Monday highlighting some differences with Glenn Reibman and Lamont McClure, to remind people that the Democrats disagree about stuff.

For instance, would the Lehigh Valley be getting more Obamacare money if Lamont McClure hadn’t helped the Republicans screw up the Bi-County Health Department vote? Who knows? But Democratic primary voters care about national health care issues, and there’s a big pot of money for preventive care services that local governments and hospitals could probably take a big handful of. But Lamont McClure had to go and be the only Democrat who’s stupid on this issue, and now Northampton County’s going to lag behind the competition for those dollars since the institutional infrastructure isn’t ready to roll.