State Farm bails on us | Jan. 28, story
Let coastal states work together
So State Farm is not making money in Florida. Now it's time to pull out. I thought that insurance was about spreading the risk among millions of policies, not just in Florida.
It is time for all the coastal states to band together and create their own property insurance company (you would have enough policies and income to make rates reasonable) and tell the private companies to take a hike.
We have been insured by State Farm for more than 20 years and never had a claim. We also carry our auto insurance with them. If they cancel all of their home policies, I for one will look elsewhere for my auto insurance and would encourage anyone else who has a State Farm policy to look for an alternative.
Money is the only thing that the insurance companies understand, and if they don't want to insure our properties, why let them insure anything else?
Jim Byers, St. Petersburg
Companies can set rates
The proper thing to do with regard to insurance rates is to let the companies set rates.
I happen to be a State Farm customer and their not being able to set rates makes absolutely no sense. Look, if they were allowed to raise their rates the 47 percent that was not allowed by the Insurance Commission, I would either pay their price or look for another company. It is that simple. If, as the governor thinks, there are plenty of others from whom to buy coverage at better prices, then my shopping would find this. If not I would stay with State Farm.
Another thing: Anyone can sell insurance for less. The problem is collecting after the catastrophe. The state will have to pick up the tab if smaller insurers go bankrupt. Why not take your chances with a large, established company like State Farm that just might be able to pay the claims when needed?
James A. Nannen, St. Petersburg
Consider corporate greed
More often than not, I agree with Howard Troxler and his insight into the issues he opines on. His assessment of the insurance crisis (The state's hocus will come back to pocus, Jan. 29), including State Farm's withdrawal from Florida, is a "not."
Oh, I'm sure he has his facts and numbers right and I'm sure his fear of catastrophic financial consequences of a major hurricane are true, but I disagree with his idee fixe.
The real problem is and always has been corporate greed. You see, somewhere along the line insurance companies seemed to forget they were dealing in the business of risk. Instead of saving huge cash reserves for the hundred-year storm and all the lesser ones in between, they took the billions of dollars of policyholders' premiums and built huge monuments to their greed such as the Prudential building and the Sears (Allstate) Tower and all the malls, shopping centers, sports arenas and blimps. Then they paid obscene salaries and bonuses to their executives and gave them even more obscene retirement benefits. Sound familiar? Like the banks and auto manufacturers, now they are crying poor. And like the others, we are being asked to bear the burden of their greed. A 47 percent increase in property insurance rates — never!
I have lived in Florida for the last 10 years. Every year my insurance rates have gone up, presumably the result of increased property values and cost of replacement. But this year my property value has dropped nearly 50 percent. Did the insurance company reduce my premium by half? No! Instead they wanted to raise it by 47 percent. How did this happen? And why didn't somebody do something about it?
Citizens has the chance to step up to the plate and they should be able to pull it off. Why? Because they have no tall buildings, no bloated executive perks and they should keep their corporate eyes on the ball, the business of risk.
Before the day comes when every Floridian takes a hit in the wallet, how about taxing the insurance companies who drop property insurance and keep writing auto and other less risky policies (cherry picking) and put that tax money into Citizens' "cat" fund. Adios, State Farm! Don't forget to turn the lights out in those empty buildings.
Everett Melnick, St. Petersburg
Shut State Farm out
In 1999, after the "new" State Farm Florida was created, State Farm wrote to us with the good news, saying we were a "valued policyholder" and that we "will continue to receive 'good neighbor' protection and service."
Within 24 hours of making its announcement to discontinue property insurance in Florida, State Farm wrote us again and offered their "sincere thanks for your business and the trust you have placed in our agents and in our people" (can you believe their shamelessness?).
The letter also said that State Farm "and its affiliated companies will continue to provide — as they have for decades — automobile insurance, life insurance, health insurance and other financial products and services in Florida."
As a soon to be former "valued policyholder," I plead with the governor and our legislators to do all that is necessary to preclude our "good neighbor" and its affiliates from doing any further business in Florida.
Robert T. Loos, Tarpon Springs
Florida prepares for Iraqi refugee influx Jan. 29
U.S. shouldn't have to bear this refugee burden
Isn't this just great? In the middle of a horrendous recession with people losing jobs, their homes and with all the jobs that are being cut, here come 42,000 Iraqis. Who will support them?
I understand they are displaced due to the U.S.-led war, but come on — there should be somewhere else to send them. This just seems like an unthinkable situation. And don't you think that they will arrive with just a little bit of hatred against what the United States has done to their country? I see a huge problem on the horizon. I truly hope that I am wrong.
Carol Levey, St. Petersburg
Florida prepares for Iraqi refugee influx Jan. 29
Assimilation is essential
As a political exile, received with open arms by America and its people, I commend this humanitarian decision, which again speaks to the greatness of this country. However, as a savvy immigrant, I must caution that America's charitable resettlement policy must be tempered with a concerted effort to integrate and assimilate these new exiles into our open society. The continuity of our democracy (all Western democracies) hangs in the balance if we don't.
Though Cuban by birth, I'm American by nurture and conviction. After an orphanage stint in Montana, I grew up in South Florida and saw the consequences of political correctness and liberal pandering: a rigid immigrant enclave inclined to censorship, to doublespeak and, at times, to even defying U.S. law, as in the case of Elian Gonzalez. This phenomenon is equally visible in parts of England, France and Spain where particular areas are now fiefdoms wherein the light of democracy has been replaced by the dictates of an imam or some other authoritarian figure.
Democracy is not invincible. As such, we cannot allow incompatible practices (such as censorship, animal fighting, denigration of females or disinheritance of women) to take hold under the guise of custom, culture or heritage.
Tony Gonzalez, Spring Hill
Are sports about discipline, or fun? | Jan. 25
Focus on raising children
I applaud the St. Petersburg Times for putting this article by Joey Knight and Erin Sullivan on the front page Sunday. Maybe it was on the front page because it had a sports connection, but the core of the story was fundamentally about how we raise and educate our children. I have been educating children in and out of the classroom for more than 15 years. I now run my own SAT test prep and tutoring company. Every week, I find myself having the same conversation with parents and students: What is wrong with our schools? What is wrong with our society? Why are we failing to raise and educate our children?
As a society, we are profoundly confused about the appropriate relationships between children, parents, adults, teachers and caregivers. I will not attempt to chronicle those problems and potential solutions here — the full discussion would fill many newspapers. Instead, I encourage the Times, and all its readers to continue to elevate this conversation to the front page of our lives.
Dan Roeder, Oldsmar
Are sports about discipline, or fun? | Jan. 25
A pat on the back to coach Greg O'Connell for instilling discipline in those who need it.
If the boy was one minute later for the last plane to leave Vietnam, he would still be there. If you arrived one minute late at an Army mess hall open from 1700 hours to 1800 hours, you would not be eating in that mess hall.
Roy Kentish, Largo
Think of the students | Jan. 24, letter
Let them see both sides
I am a parent of three older sons, and it's always good to hear from other parents concerned about the future and well-being of their sons and daughters. Unfortunately, I feel our society has become overprotective of its children. Children must grow. They are more flexible and resilient than what is generally perceived.
As parents, we must be careful not to transfer our own insecurities to our children. They will not like or respond to all their teachers and peers favorably. They need exposure with guidance to the positive and negative situations of a complex world — to learn to navigate it with a better degree of success.
Learning to deal with different degrees of disappointment as well as success is what builds character and self-esteem. Sometimes they'll fall down but they'll be okay because they'll learn to get back up.
The way our children develop and personally mature is all of our futures. Let's help them get there!
Bill Haisch Jr., St. Petersburg
Crist veto has some fuming | Jan. 28
Gov. Charlie Crist is to be lauded for preserving the Florida Forever program. While recognizing the need for budget cuts, the opportunity to acquire environmentally sensitive lands for long-term public enjoyment indicates his wisdom and foresight.
Generally, the GOP is the party of the land developers. That we the people of Florida have a governor who overrides the greed of such individuals is astounding. Large tracts of environmentally important land can be removed from such hands at the low prices common today.
John C. Miller, Tampa
Crist veto has some fuming | Jan. 28
Keeping teacher rewards
Congratulation to the citizens of Florida on the wise action taken by Gov. Charlie Crist. His veto protects the Dale Hickam Excellent Teaching Program, which provides for our teachers to be recognized for their dedication and commitment to student achievement.
The retention of qualified and motivated teachers is essential to a quality education program.
No one can influence, inspire and motivate teachers better than peers who have achieved higher degrees of education and National Board Certification. Their mentoring is invaluable and a driving factor in maintaining a quality school system. Please fight to maintain, in fact increase, rewards to teacher who reach higher levels of education and certification.
Tommy Duff, Clearwater
Bright students still bored | Jan. 25, story
Training is essential
Ron Matus' article on bored gifted students cites a St. Petersburg Times survey in which more than half of the teachers polled said their smart students were being short-changed because the teachers focus on lower-performing students.
So what are educators doing about it? Quality teacher training includes methods for meeting the needs of all students. We have ample research on how to engage gifted students, frameworks of rigorous and relevant gifted education standards, and very supportive parents. But if some teachers are uninformed and unsupervised, they will simply allow their brightest students to languish.
Many local gifted students are in classrooms where teachers have not earned the Gifted Education Endorsement and are unaware of the best teaching methods. It is time for the state and school districts to require and provide best-practices-based training for teachers of the gifted. Teachers must be rewarded, through merit pay and instructional resources, for being qualified to teach our brightest students. Districts must measure the teachers' effectiveness. Train them, reward them, and hold them accountable.
Linda F. Smith, Lutz
Flying tour takes public back in time Jan. 19
"I don't think they teach them about it (World War II) in school," said a U.S. Marine veteran quoted in the article.
My American Legion Post, Veterans Village Post 343, is taking steps to correct this a little. We take the "Four Chaplains" service to a middle school and to a Brownie troop. The "Four Chaplains" is about a troop ship that was torpedoed in the North Atlantic and about the four chaplains on board who gave up their life jackets so others could be saved.
After the program I have three Legionnaires who were in World War II tell the young people a little of what they did in the war. It is even more impressive because one of the gentlemen, who is not a member of the American Legion but a dear friend of the post, was in the Hungarian army, and he tells how he, his wife and his daughter escaped from Hungary and came to the United States.
These gentlemen work well with the young people and believe in what they are doing.
Kathryn L. Robinson, technical sergeant, U.S. Air Force (retired), New Port Richey