Study separates friends, enemies

Wiley A. Hall 3rd

September 18, 1990|By Wiley A. Hall 3rd

If you own a car in the city, if you pay the exorbitant auto insurance rates many city drivers are called upon to pay, then you already know who your enemies are.

City drivers, even those with spotless driving records, often are forced to pay two to three times more than their suburban counterparts.

Many drivers feel compelled to drive without insurance at all, despite stiff penalties levied by the state.

Low-and medium-income people who try to obey the law can get insurance only through special financing, which means they have to pay finance charges and interest rates in addition to the extra high premiums.

And although this inequity has continued for decades, nobody in authority seems to care. Maryland, as I've said many times before, is an automobile insurance executive's heaven.

So there's no need to name names: Just refer to your enemies as the guardians of the system. The fat. The smug. The powerful and the rich.

But now might be a good time to learn the names of your friends.

A group called the Citywide Insurance Coalition has tried to do just that, and let me warn you -- the results haven't been pretty.

The group believes a non-profit, municipal insurance agency could cut the cost of the average driver's policy by at least 25 percent, plus create a pool of investment capital that could be used to help city development projects.

CWIC is trying to raise $27,000 toward funding of a feasibility study and it has issued a citywide plea for help. The city will pay for the balance.

Early this summer, the group sent letters to each of the roughly 250 candidates who either hold or had filed for elective office in the city.

They explained their needs, outlined their goals, and asked each candidate to pledge a minimum of $50 toward the cause.

Only two officials responded: state Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-City, and City Council member Jody T. Landers, D-3rd.

Lapides, ever blunt, included a note with his check that read, "I trust the rest will put their money where their mouths are."

The rest haven't. Now you know who your friends are among the hoi poloi and the wannabes.

Meanwhile, the group made the rounds of the various local private foundations that often fund support studies of this kind. They talked to fraternal organizations, political action committees, and businessmen. But the VIPs they talked to were very skeptical, and in some cases, alarmed, at the idea of a non-profit insurance agency run by little people for the benefit of little people.

Now, you know who your friends are among the civic community.

Remember, CWIC's immediate goal is very modest. It simply wants an independent consultant to study the idea. See if it could work. See how it could work. Suggest alternatives if ther are problems.

But apparently in a state such as this-- in an automobile insurance executive's heaven -- even a proposed study is too frightening for the guardians of the system to consider.

"So," said A. Robert Kaufman, CWIC's president, rhetorically, "why aren't I in despair? I'm not in despair because this thing is going to happen anyway. As far as I'm concerned, all we have to do is continue to do what we've been doing and we can't lose."

This is what CWIC has done. CWIC representatives have spoken to 170 different organizations. They have held numerous community forums. They have appeared on any radio or television talk show that will have them.

And slowly, groups and individuals are responding. Last week, CWIC announced it had raised $8,000 in pledges, so far. Sixty-one different organizations had joined the coalition.

So who are your friends?

Not surprisingly, support has come from those groups that are furthest away from the powers that be and closest to individual citizens who are most affected.

Individual church and synagogue congregations, for instance.

Unions that have large numbers of city residents, including the locals representing bus drivers, postal workers, and government employees, also want to help.

Finally, support has come from neighborhood organizations from every corner of the city.

In other words, you or people like you. You are your own best friend.

The guardians of the system aren't going to help you on this one, guys. You'll have to continue to do it for yourself.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.