Website lets homeowners compare insurance rates – South Florida Business Journal

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Website lets homeowners compare insurance rates

South Florida Business Journal

Date: Tuesday, July 26, 2011, 2:43pm EDT

A predecessor to Florida’s new HomeOwners Insurance Comparison Electronic System (CHOICES) had nearly 10,000 hits a month.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has relaunched an online system that allows consumers to compare pricing on homeowner insurance.

The new system, called the Consumer HomeOwners Insurance Comparison Electronic System (CHOICES), allows consumers to select between two standard risks, and pick any of Florida’s 67 counties. The system generates a window with rankings for the rates of the leading insurers in that county.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said the system is designed to encourage Floridians to shop for a better rate; the system also illustrates the competitiveness of the homeowners’ insurance market in Florida and the benefits of shopping for insurance.”

CHOICES was originally released in 2007 as shopandcomparerates.com. At its peak, the website received nearly 10,000 hits a month.

The rate quotes reflect the most recent rate filings OIR accepted. The rates do not reflect surcharges or discounts, and OIR encourages consumers to contact their insurance agent, or the company directly to obtain an official premium quote, according to OIR’s statement about the relaunch of the program.

via Website lets homeowners compare insurance rates – South Florida Business Journal.

Volsky on “Coral Gables Expects to Sue Biltmore”

GEORGE VOLSKY

CORAL GABLES EXPECTS TO SUE BILTMORE

After almost three years of secret and apparently unsuccessful discussions with the Biltmore’s  managing company over its failure to pay Coral Gables the hotel’s rent, the city attorney’s office says, for the first time, that the city is “in anticipation” of litigating the thorny multimillion debt.

According to incomplete city records, the Seaway Corporation, which has been operating the Biltmore for decades, owes Coral Gables more than $6 million, not counting interests customary charged in prolonged non-payment cases. Seaway disputes that total stating that it had spent more than twice on the hotel’s historic preservation, the work it contends was supposed to have been done by the city. Coral Gables, in turn, states that under its management contract with Seaway, that company is obliged to fund hotel preservation.

The tactical option of taking Seaway to court was mentioned in a letter  dated July 12, 2011. Singed by Assistant City Attorney Lourdes Alsonsin, it  was in response to my June 21, 2011 freedom of information request  for documents and emails pertaining to the city-Seaway discussions. These talks, privy to the five members of the City Commission, the city manager and the city attorney, have been kept secret from the residents and taxpayers of Coral Gables.

“On June 21, 2001, you requested a document written by Elizabeth Hernandez (who resigned Dec. 20, 2009 as city attorney but continues to be paid by Coral Gables as its legal consultant) regarding the public not being informed of discussions by the Commissioners regarding the Biltmore or an audit by Price Waterhouse Coopers, LLP. There is correspondence from Ms. Hernandez dated March 10, 2011 which discusses a report. This correspondence is exempt from release at this time pursuant to the Public Record Act. In particular, Florida Statutes, Section 119.07 (1)(d) provides that documents reflecting a mental impression, conclusion, litigation strategy or legal theory prepared by the attorney or the agency and was prepared exclusively… in anticipation of litigation is exempt from disclosure until the conclusion of the litigation. As such, the correspondence dated March 10, 2011 shall be available to the public upon termination of any possible litigation,” Alfonsin wrote.  (The  last sentence of the letter is odd, one legal expert said, explaining that in filing a lawsuit against Seaway, the city would have to disclose its legal arguments for financial redress.)

City Attorney Craig Leen, stating that so far he has not asked the commission’s ascent to initiate a lawsuit against Seaway, said that   Alfonsin’s use of the words “in anticipation of litigation” meant that his office “expected” the Biltmore case be decided by the courts. (According to various dictionaries, “in anticipation” also means “looking forward to.”)

Asked for comments, City Manager Patrick Salerno replied he was not authorized, presumably by the city legal office, to speak about the Coral Gables-Biltmore discussions.  The same was the answer of Mayor James Cases. During his election campaign, Cason had publicly  chided former mayor Don Slesnick for not acknowledging  that the Biltmore managers  were not paying their rent and for doing  nothing about it.

Indeed, many residents baffled why Hernandez invoked a Florida law to throw a mantle on secrecy over the Biltmore case, which is  similar to others being dealt with by the city in full sunshine.  For decades, Coral Gables as a landlord has confronted tenants who, like Seaway, had failed to fulfill their financial and other obligations under mutually agreed contacts. All landlord-tenant problems – except the Biltmore’s – have been and are being dealt with and resolved in open, documented negotiations. Following the accepted real estate sector legal procedure, delinquent tenants are given a written notice to pay or vacate the premises. Those who refuse to do so, regardless of the reason, are taken to court to be evicted, a legal action previously authorized by the city commission in an open session.

Thus on the face of it, the city-Seaway discussions do not concern “litigation strategy or legal theory,” or national security; they are only about money, in the simple Shakespearean phrase: “to pay or not to pay that is the question.” And PriceWaterhouseCoopers was retained, on January 25, 2010, at a very high fee,  to inform the city and its taxpayers about the state of the Biltmore operations, not what to do about the debt, let alone whether to litigate it.

Therefore, some knowledgeable residents are expressing concern about the Biltmore-Coral Gables secrecy that Hernandez in effect has only recommended  – and which Leen does not have to agree to. They believe that the secrecy’s real reason could be keep hidden some still undisclosed aspects of business and personal relations between Seaway on the one hand and Slesnick, former city manager David Brown and their close ally Hernandez on the other.

It appears, for examples, that the Slesnick-Brown administration strangely lacked alacrity in confronting the Biltmore’s non-payment issue. Prior to the last April election, a mayoral candidate, Coral Gables attorney Tom Korge challenged Slesnick to explain why he, Brown and Hernandez for months did not respond to urgent entreaties for a meeting by the Seaway attorney Danny Ponce. While Biltmore was still paying its rent, Ponce asked the trio to consider a revision of the hotel rent contract  because Seaway had difficulty fulfilling it.

Only after Slesnick, Brown and Hernandez  showed no interest to talk to Seaway, the Biltmore managing company stopped paying rent. Korge repeated his charge, which he said was based on a statement by Ponce,  during two pre-lection debates with Slesnick. The former mayor  ignored Korge’s challenge; he neither denied nor explained his inaction.

More On Debt And Taxes

The Republican got a good deal–take it says the Economist.

And the closer you look, the more unprincipled the Republicans look. Earlier this year House Republicans produced a report noting that an 85%-15% split between spending cuts and tax rises was the average for successful fiscal consolidations, according to historical evidence. The White House is offering an 83%-17% split (hardly a huge distance) and a promise that none of the revenue increase will come from higher marginal rates, only from eliminating loopholes. If the Republicans were real tax reformers, they would seize this offer.

via America’s debt: Shame on them | The Economist.

America’s Debt And The Economically Illiterate

From the best and seriously conservative Economist, it is embarrassing to our nation that the US is led by people who haven’t the slightest idea about basic economics, or have chosen to ignore economics for personal advantage.  Either way we are stuck in a stagnant economy, huge unemployment and nothing happening to reverse course.

The sticking-point is not on the spending side. It is because the vast majority of Republicans, driven on by the wilder-eyed members of their party and the cacophony of conservative media, are clinging to the position that not a single cent of deficit reduction must come from a higher tax take. This is economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical.

via America’s debt: Shame on them | The Economist.

Is Bad Job Report Good Or Bad For Coral Gables

It is bad for Coral Gables if you think that sales on Miracle Mile are important, if you agree that sales taxes are important, if real estate is to come back, if you think that businesses depend fundamentally on consumer spending directly or indirectly, if we depend on our ability to finance good infrastructure, if you think that UM needs a prosperous economy to pay it way…

In May, the unemployment rate for Miami-Dade rose from 13.1 percent to 13.4 percent, matching a record set in 2010. In Broward, it crept back up to 9 percent. Adjusting for seasonal hiccups in hiring, Miami-Dade payrolls shrunk by 3,500 between April and May while in Broward they stayed flat. May ended a string of monthly gains in South Florida jobs in 2011, just as the national May employment report of 54,000 new jobs was the first lackluster gain of 2011.

via Dismal jobs report for June doesn’t bode well for South Florida numbers – Business Breaking News – MiamiHerald.com.

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