Insurance crisis affects many aspects of state's economy

Letters to the Editor
Published August 16, 2006

Re: Empty seats are surprise to schools, Aug. 11.

Your article about the surprising "excess" capacity at some area schools suggested that the cause was the conversion of apartments into condos (and that population moving away because they can't afford the high price of housing here).

A few days earlier, there was another article about Coldwell Banker not being able to close on home sales because buyers can't get affordable insurance (Broker packages insurance, home sale, Aug. 4).

Put the two articles together and school officials may be able to better project student enrollment for the coming years. Schools can expect that more and more empty seats based on more and more empty "new" homes/condos.

As I heard one local analyst say on TV recently, the failure to do anything about the insurance problem could severely damage the state's economy for the next decade. School officials should keep that in their plans.

William Boyd, Apollo Beach

Concern for the future

I do not understand how insurance companies, oil companies, power companies and the like charge us sky-high fees but complain they are losing money when their bottom lines show gross - and I mean gross - profits. I believe the term is "windfall profits." There needs to be some sort of balance here. I'm not an economist, but I sure know when a fish stinks.

I'm very scared for the future. I'm on the way out. I'm 57 years old, but my only grandchild is 4½ years old. If I don't leave him a six-figure inheritance, he'll be a pauper.

Charles H. Eure, St. Petersburg

Insurance options

Re: Why not just cover the mortgage? letter, Aug. 12.

I agree that we should be able to purchase homeowners insurance commensurate with our needs. I personally would like the option to purchase fire and liability only. However, the insurance companies have it all their own way, forcing the insured to pay for coverage that they may not need or want. This is called "having the lawmakers in your pocket."

The claim that "the law does not allow that" is a self-serving lie by insurance companies to line their pockets. There is no such law. In the case of flood insurance, the mortgage companies will tell you that must have 100 percent coverage, but in fact they cannot force you carry more then the outstanding mortgage. That's the law.

In the letter writer's case, there may be another option. He could check with his mortgage company to see how much they will charge him for insurance should he drop his current policy. Typically, the insurance they provide is higher in cost, but they will insure only to the amount of the outstanding mortgage and of course it would not include contents or liability.

Bill Denegar, Spring Hill

So it goes ...

So, if no hurricanes hit Florida this year, where will all the extra millions upon millions of increased insurance dollars go? Oh yeah, $400-million to this CEO, $200-million to that CEO, and $100-million to the other CEO. And CEO it goes.

Garret Maunula, Spring Hill

Where there's drilling, there are spills

Re: BP cuts corners; consumers suffer.

Opponents of offshore drilling often say there is no such thing as "clean," "safe," or "environmentally gentle" oil drilling. Now oil giant British Petroleum, with its recent shutdown of oil fields in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay, is saying it for us.

Even while making record profits at consumers' expense, it's come to light that BP hasn't even performed basic maintenance on the Alaska Pipeline for the last 14 years.

The Aug. 10 editorial, BP cuts corners; consumers suffer details stark and irrefutable proof that opening our coastal waters to drilling is a colossal mistake.

An industry with such an abysmal track record cannot be trusted to drill off our beaches. Where there is drilling, there are spills. In 2005, the National Response Center, which compiles reports from all federal agencies about oil and hazardous material spills, reported 1,896 incidents from pipelines and 1,395 incidents from platforms.

Hurricanes are another consideration. The Incident Summary from NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration estimates an actual release of 7-million gallons of oil into the gulf during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Why would we risk our $60-billion tourism industry, which creates a million jobs, when we have simple alternatives? Let's raise gas mileage standards for vehicles and develop clean fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.

The only way to meet our demand for oil is to embrace real solutions that promise a cleaner, faster, cheaper and more reliable energy future.

Susan Glickman, Indian Rocks Beach

Gulf drilling not worth the risk

Sunday's front-page story about a shift in support for offshore oil drilling demonstrates one sure thing. More Floridians - already under the multiple burdens of rising insurance rates, taxes, utility bills and gas prices - are falling for the lie that drilling will lower gas prices.

In the story, U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez repeats the propaganda and says, "This is about $3 gas at the pump." What we need to ask is, Why are politicians pushing the interests of oil companies and putting our coastal economies at risk?

The idea that drilling in the Gulf of Mexico will lower gas prices is an outright falsehood. The United States sits atop less than 3 percent of oil reserves. Despite that, we are already producing 8 percent of the world's oil - even that simple math shows what we are doing is not sustainable.

The good news is that despite all the propaganda, a majority of Tampa Bay residents still oppose lifting the 25 years of protections that have served us well. It appears to me the people who live here know better than those who claim to represent us. We enjoy some of the most pristine and beautiful beaches in the United States. How senseless and tragic if we allow shortsighted thinkers to spoil them for future generations.

Mary Wilkerson, Indian Rocks Beach

A blind drive for votes

What's wrong with common sense? When it comes to drivers' licenses, common sense doesn't apply. The only thing that matters is making sure the blind and elderly vote for you.

I had a friend with macular degeneration who was able to renew his license by mail for six years. He was in his 80s and blind as a bat. Every day he drove to the post office for his mail. He said the car knew the way.

I'm 67, and the last time I was tested, I was turned down. I got a note from my eye doctor and got my license. I had cataracts and couldn't tell if the light was red or green until I got to it.

I just got a renewal notice where I can renew online. No test! No nothing! How do they know I can see? How do they know I can move my foot from the gas pedal to the brake?

They don't! And they don't care. What are a few lives compared to a bunch of votes?

Herbert Graham, Chiefland

We need a new party

Re: Clowns to the left, jokers to the right, Aug. 11.

David Brooks seemed to be suggesting that there is a need for a new political party. I'm for it! Let's call it "The American Party" - John McCain for president, Joseph Lieberman for vice president.

Let's all join in. We need change!

Leon H. Sellers, St. Petersburg

Happy returns

Re: Bill Maxwell and Jan Glidewell.

When both of these writers were gone, I thought about canceling my subscription to the Times, but having Bill Maxwell back and seeing Jan Glidewell's column on occasion has restored my senses, and it keeps your paper at the top of the list of great newspapers. Thanks to whoever is responsible for getting both of these writers back to your paper.

Vern Russell, Ridge Manor