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Leave insurance business to business

As a businessman whose company's services are sold worldwide, I've watched the media's coverage of the issues surrounding SAIF, the State Accident Insurance Fund, with interest (Spending questions aren't the first, Jan. 13).

A fair amount of energy has been expended defending the way SAIF has operated. The quid pro quo seems to be that we need to accept SAIF's abuses, including excessive compensation and hiding million-dollar consultant payouts, as the 'cost' of holding the line on workers' compensation rates in Oregon.

My perspective reflects a company that purchases workers' compensation insurance in the Oregon market, relies on free enterprise principles and open, fair competition, as opposed to activities that can lead to limited choices.

Accountability matters. It doesn't take a genius to understand something is wrong at SAIF. One example: If stockholders in a public company had learned that an individual was being paid $20,000 a month with no contract and no visible work product or accounting, heads would roll fairly quickly. Yet this practice went on for years, hidden from elected leaders who were attempting to provide oversight to this public corporation. I'm told it took years of legal action to pry open these activities.

Competition works. It is counterintuitive for any businessperson to believe that his or her business would benefit from fewer choices for workers' compensation insurance. Maintaining a system that discourages competition or that creates barriers to more firms entering the market is bad public policy and a disservice to Oregon's business community and employees.

Reform should focus on a fundamental question: Why is the state in the insurance business? It makes sense only if it helps businesses that can't get this vital insurance or those that can't afford it. But SAIF doesn't operate on this model.

SAIF provides a subsidy to companies that can otherwise obtain competitive rates in the private market. That anti-competitive practice can only hurt the market and one's ability to obtain competitive insurance in the long run.

Let's get started now. Oregonians are looking to government for reassurances that public funds are being used efficiently and are targeted to helping our economy, not hurting it. SAIF reform is an excellent opportunity to provide the example that this can be accomplished and that our elected leaders are up to the task.

Mike Fahey-President, Columbia Helicopter

Aurora

Super Bowl stunt-wastes time, money

Stop the world, I want to get off! Janet Jackson's breast was exposed on national TV at the Super Bowl. What a tragedy. It is now time for us to spend millions of dollars and enlist the assistance of Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Federal Communications Commission to investigate what happened.

Let us not spend this money on education, health care, social services or infrastructure Ñ let us spend it on Janet Jackson's boob.

Forget about the fact that we have lost more than 500 young American lives in a war that has yielded only factual inaccuracies (lies) from our present administration about weapons of mass destruction.

Forget about the fact that we have now turned a budget surplus into a $521 billion deficit.

Forget about the fact that we are now exporting gasoline to Iraq Ñ an OPEC country Ñ while the price of domestic fuel increases.

I remember when the Super Bowl was a football game and not a media circus. I remember when the game was more important than the commercials. I remember when touchdowns were more important than the halftime show.

Personally, I would like to see sports returned to the sports fans and not the corporations that try to benefit from a media blitz. Additionally, there are things going on in the world that merit more attention than Jackson's publicity stunt.

Jim McDonald

Southeast Portland

Closure of post office-leaves gap downtown

Thank you for the discussion of the Pioneer Courthouse debacle (Courthouse clash still simmers, Jan. 23). What a shame to lose that historic, aesthetic and just plain old wonderful post office, which was so convenient and made sense, right in the middle of downtown proper, right off the MAX line.

I used it often for stamps just before hopping the train for home, or to mail packages. It has been irritating and almost stupid to have to troop over to Southwest Fourth and Pine or up to University Station. Besides, those branches are busy in themselves, and don't have the history and wonderful old look that this one did.

There is something about having that tie to the past Ñ what a beautiful building and space it is. Should we destroy that for the sake of a parking garage that only a few will use? What strange thinking goes on in the minds of the greedy who destroy beauty and aesthetics for their own ends.

We heard some talk that a post office site might open in the old Gus Solomon Courthouse, which would be a great idea, though not as convenient or as beautiful as this historic branch. I truly miss something I used all the time!

Miriam Pearson

Southeast Portland