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By Times Staff
Published March 11, 2007


Panel sides with insurer in hefty rate hike request March 9

Leaders fail us on insurance

Where are our leaders?

We fought so hard during the special legislative session for needed relief from outrageous homeowners insurance rates and felt we had gotten our foot in the door. Now the backlash is seeping out. I realize that HomeWise had requested their rate increase prior to the special session, but can someone please explain how a "neutral" arbitrator could have possibly seen fit to give this company a 75 percent rate hike? Where did they get this "neutral" arbitrator? Was he the CEO for State Farm who just got a $5.26-million raise?

The relief that we received from the special session was so miniscule. Compared to the hundreds of percent increases that these companies have had in the past few years, it is almost absurd. So I ask, where are our leaders? How can they keep letting these companies bask in the millions of dollars they are making on us and continue to make on us? When will the hypocrisy end?

Each and every citizen of Florida needs to heed this warning. If you have not yet been affected by these outrageous increases, you will be. Each time an insurance company gets what they want from our legislators and leaders of this state, they just forge forward and ask for more. That is what the game is about in the world of insurance. It is take, take, take and give less, less, less. Yes, they will decrease your premiums, but please note that in most cases they lower your coverage. Example: Citizens Insurance sent out a memo to their agents telling them they no longer cover architect fees or general contractor fees. What this means is that if your home is destroyed, whether it be by fire, hurricane or other disaster, you have to dish the money out of your pocket to pay for these services.

You need to be informed about your coverage. For those with HomeWise Insurance, if your new premium is 25 percent higher than it would be at Citizens, you can switch back to Citizens. You may have a small fight on your hands explaining this to your agent, so if you get your HomeWise bill, do your homework before you pay it. Once it is paid for, you can change insurers, but you stand to lose 80 percent of the premium. It is a shame I have to give this information to you in a letter to the editor. Again, where are our leaders?

Ginny Stevans, New Port Richey, president, HAC Florida

Price abuse of gasoline

Gas companies profit unfairly

I am a little angry about how gasoline companies are gaining huge profits. I have watched the price of gas jump three or four times in less than eight hours. I had an understanding that it was not correct to raise the price on gas purchased by the vendor at a much lower price when it was sold to us at $2.20. Then they gain huge windfall profits. This seems a bit unfair to consumers.

John Thonen, St. Petersburg

Measure may give unions an edge March 1

Act gives workers a needed voice

What happened to employee free speech?

The National Labor Relations Act gives workers some basic rights, including the ability to elect representation in collective bargaining by a nonprofit, government-regulated labor union. If 30 percent of employees sign a representation card, the government will hold a secret election to decide whether a union of the employees choosing will represent them.

This sounds pretty simple to some. However, add in thousands of lawyers and decades of interpretations of the law, and the process slows down quite a bit. In this downtime waiting for the election, generally 30 days or longer, the employer can choose to launch an attack on the employee's right to bargain.

On the other hand, the Employee Free Choice Act gives workers a chance to voice their opinions about union representation before the company can threaten their livelihood. Simply sign a petition of your own free will. Once representation is established, the negotiation begins.

The articles in the editorial pages of the St. Petersburg Times of late concerning the Employee Free Choice Act are appalling to those of us who wear a blue collar. I have been involved in the workers' struggle to gain representation. I have seen the systematic attack on a small group of brave workers who were threatened, coerced and lost their jobs during a management attack to bust the union.

To speak against the Employee Free Choice Act is to speak against the rights of the average American citizen in the name of corporate domination of our lives. Those with money and power say this act is about unions losing membership. Those of us blue-collar working folk say this act is about exercising our rights as Americans to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Consider the source!

Jon Dehmel, Tampa


Service is knowing how to say you're sorry, column Feb. 26

Wachovia closing equals disservice

The St. Petersburg Times has been lavish its praise of Wachovia Bank and its success in Florida. It was cited in a Robert Trigaux column as being No. 1 in a ranking of customer satisfaction.

However, Wachovia has been responsible recently for serious customer dissatisfaction. I am writing on behalf of over 100 residents of College Harbor, a retirement residence in St. Petersburg. Wachovia Bank has had a small office in College Harbor for the convenience of residents, most of whom do not have cars. They must rely on friends or the limited transport service of College Harbor to go to an outside bank. Wachovia has maintained resident hours of service twice a week for four hours each day.

The bank officials notified us that they intend to suspend College Harbor on-site services as of April. This closing is more than an inconvenience. It is a hardship to many of our residents who are shut-ins and wheelchair-bound. We have tried to persuade Wachovia officials to continue reduced service. They have refused, stating that the income generated from College Harbor residents and employees does not warrant the expense of continuing this service, even though the bank pays no rent to College Harbor and has only the expense of one clerk for eight hours per week.

Bank officials have told me they are proud of their public service record. This failure to continue a much-needed service hardly qualifies them for such recognition.

Francis Bairstow, St. Petersburg, president, College Harbor Residents Association

Business programs reach out to younger audience in classrooms March 5

Kids need to learn about technology

I think kids should be taught about the changing technology in the retail industry nowadays, such as self-checkout counters, price-check kiosks, computer systems and software, etc. They should know about robotics the Japanese have perfected that relate to businesses. Children should learn about progressive business currents shaping American culture today, as outmoded, stale ideas cannot be tomorrow's pathfinders.

I owned and operated a motel in St. Augustine for years and later purchased a building with five businesses in Jacksonville. The bookkeeping courses I took in high school and the full year I took in business administration in college benefited me greatly.

Robert B. Fleming, St. Petersburg

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[Last modified March 9, 2007, 20:58:31]

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