Letters to the editor

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Insurance changes

Drivers renewing their auto insurance policies after July 1 will have a very different policy than is currently the case. Aspects of coverage that were mandatory and automatic under Colorado's "no-fault" system for personal injury protection are no longer part of policies under the return to a "tort" system of responsibility. Under no-fault, this coverage was automatic and provided payment to health care providers up to policy limits. Covered services were dictated by the state. Elimination of this coverage is where most of the auto premium savings will come from.

While PIP is not being replaced, you will be offered the option of purchasing "medical payments coverage". Medical payments coverage is in addition to basic policy coverages. The services and dollar limits covered by medical payments coverage may vary by insurance carrier. You should check with your automobile insurance agent and health insurance representative to be sure you have the coverage you may need.

If you do not have medical payments coverage through your auto insurance policy and are injured in an accident, payment must come through the "at fault" driver's insurance company, from legal actions against the other driver if they are uninsured or do not have enough coverage, from your health insurance policy or from your personal resources.

Not including medical payments coverage with your auto insurance may result in an immediate savings, but may present a significant burden if you are hospitalized or need medical or other restorative care resulting from an accident. You also should be aware that if you receive services at Yampa Valley Medical Center and must wait for legal action to resolve payment issues, you are responsible for the timely payment of bills whether or not you have received payment from the other party.

At YVMC, we studied charges for patients seen between June 2001 and July 2002 who had been involved in traffic accidents. The average cost for those admitted as an inpatient following an accident was $19,975. For those who were treated and released from the emergency department, the average charge was $1021. These amounts are for hospital services only and do not include fees for physicians and other professional provided services to these patients. Because of the significant possible financial impact on families, I encourage everyone to consider carrying medical payments coverage as part of auto insurance plans.

Karl B. Gills, CEO

Yampa Valley Medical Center

Debating 'debates'

Sometimes the debate at public forums is pretty superficial, and sometimes this results in stories and headlines that can be misleading.

This was the case in the "debate" between Frank Gray and Mark Goldberg on big box stores at the Economic Summit. This breakout session was supposed to look at the pros and cons of Big Box stores and enlighten the participant. Instead, the audience was presented with a lovefest by these gentlemen who left the impression that we should embrace big box stores for the good of our community and our economy.

They maintained that big box stores bring in customers from outlying areas that will fill up our local merchant's shops, even though we already have a customer base of 10,000 people.

Little was said about taking the business away from outlying areas like Oak Creek and Hayden, or about competition with local Steamboat businesses. Gray and Goldberg mentioned that 50 percent of sales tax from the big box stores could be dedicated to mitigating the impact to local businesses. They didn't mention that the big box stores do not pay this amount, but the locals pay for this mitigation with their sales tax dollars.

Also, where does the money come from to support the infrastructure needs of the big box stores if 50 percent of its sale tax dollars are not available? They didn't mention that local owners participate in and relate to their community better than a big box store manager.

They didn't mention that the receipts of a big box store leave our town the next day instead of recirculating 3 to 7 times more in the community if a product is purchased at locally-owned businesses.

They commented that people who own and run big box corporations are not bad people implying that they wouldn't do anything knowingly to harm us locals.

Sounds like the often-used phrase we hear,"Trust us." They reveled in the fact that they were able to find an architect to design a big box that didn't look like a big box store, and at a much lower cost per square foot.

That reminds me of the quote during our Wal-Mart debate, "you can put pink panties on a pig, but it still is a pig (no offense Babe)."

They mentioned that the vertical supply line controlled by the big box stores makes their prices very low. But why are the prices so cheap? Big box stores pressure the suppliers to sell to them at the lowest price possible or lose their contract with big box stores. Nor did they mention conditions that workers who manufacture and assemble products for big box stores are subjected to around the world. They receive low wages, work in unhealthy conditions for long hours; many are children and women. There are no air, water or environmental health protections and the local culture and social communities are degraded.

If you would like to learn about conditions that big box store products are manufactured under, read "Earth Odyssey" by Mark Hertsgaard.

This book is available in the Colorado Mountain College library.

If we had a global health, welfare and safety treaty similar to the WTO and NAFTA, all of those workers, including many in the United States, would receive a living wage and most businesses would play by the same rules. There would be a level playing field so American jobs and businesses could be competitive, and that would protect everybody's community, environment and economy.

The City Council supposedly was looking to the Economic Summit for some guidance to Bud Romberg's question, "When is enough, enough?"

All they got from the Gray-Goldberg breakout session was two guys worshipping at the altar of big box stores. I sure hope the City Council does not look to this breakout session for guidance and answers to their questions on big box stores. Sometime ago, the City Council received a small book titled, "The Home Town Advantage," by Stacey Mitchell which explains the impacts of big box stores and what other towns have done to deal with them.

I would suggest that the City Council review this book. The Home Town Advantage has a Web site (www.newrules.org) with track records of big box stores, examples of how other cities have dealt with them and where to order this book.

The Today printed the headlines "Big Box stores Can Be Community Boon."

This was misleading and continued the myth perpertrated by this breakout session.

Even if there was no time for some investigative depth to this article, at least the other breakout session by Lyman Orton and Ron Rypkema could have been given equal coverage to balance out the coverage of big box stores.

I was happy to see a few days later in the Sunday Pilot "Our View," an attempt was made to somewhat balance the first article with comments that presented both sides of the big box stores debate.

In the Pilot's article the hidden culprit, sales tax chasing, raised its ugly head, and it was suggested that we need the big box stores to fill our government coffers.

Doesn't this suggest that we need an alternative to sales tax? Hayden has both a property tax and a sales tax.

Frank Gray, who was supposed to talk about the problems of big box stores, mentioned at least one revealing fact, "The pursuit of sales tax has led to a lot of bad land use decisions."

Instead of sticking our heads in a big box Sand Box and hoping the big box corporation will answer our prayers, maybe its time to develop our plan for our economy, community and landscape.

Lyman Orton, during his breakout session with Don Rykema, suggested that our community craft a definitive strategy for dealing with big box stores, commercial development and a way to remain who we are rather than becoming "Generica."

This was a term describing a condition where our physical landscape, local economy and the social fabric of our community look like any town in America.

One might call this overall strategy a community plan.

It could diversify our economy, promote businesses by locals for local consumers, protect our historical buildings, develop affordable business and housing areas, reduce commuting and support mass transit and alternate forms of transportation, infill and redevelop our inner core, prevent sprawl, reduce demands on our physical infrastructure and social support system, plan our commercial and residential growth and find an alternative to sales tax.

That sounds like what we are undertaking with our Community Plan Update process.

Maybe it's time to plan our future instead of letting outside forces plan it for us.

If we wait and leave the door wide open and uncontrolled, we will be caught with our heads in the big sand box.

John Spezia

Steamboat Springs

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