Between the Republican Party and the...

CONTINUING CONFLICT

August 10, 1996

CONTINUING CONFLICT between the Republican Party and the nation's trial lawyers is assured following GOP presidential contender Robert Dole's attack on "predatory, ambulance-chasing" attorneys and his promise to enact laws curbing huge damage awards linked with big legal fees.

Mr. Dole also introduced into the presidential campaign what one report described as a "sleeper issue" by calling for automobile insurance reform that could save motorists an estimated $221 per car and restrict one of the more lucrative sectors of the legal business.

Earlier this year, President Clinton vetoed bills limiting product liability (his veto prevailed) and securities liability (his veto was overridden). On these subjects, he deserves Mr. Dole's criticism.

Tort reform should be on the presidential election agenda this year. Excessive jury awards undercut American competitiveness and inhibit innovation.

SLOW DOWN the traffic! No more rushing through town to get somewhere else!

So say a number of upstart traffic engineers.

Countering the prevailing wisdom that attempts to move cars through downtown as rapidly as possible, these contrarians say that the ideal speed for potential shoppers, diners and sightseers is about that of a horse and buggy -- somewhere around 15 mph.

At that pace, motorists can take notice of their surroundings, and on-street parking makes it somewhat easier to stop and browse or buy.

Speeding traffic is not the only drag on ailing downtowns. But the "traffic calming" school of thought says it is a contributor -- and an easily fixable one. As Toronto urban planner Ken Greenberg told the Wall Street Journal recently, "Anywhere that doesn't have congestion, you probably wouldn't want to be there."

Would Baltimore's elegant but struggling Charles Street corridor more inviting at slower speeds? The idea of allowing two-way traffic there has been floated before, only to fall victim to conventional thinking about traffic flow. Maybe this idea needs a fresh look.

TOO MUCH was made of the United States winning the Olympics in Atlanta. True, it beat the runner-up, Russia, in gold medals, 44 to 26, and total medals, 101 to 63. But the old Soviet Union is a different story.

The 11 former republics of the Soviet Union that won medals (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakstan, Armenia, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Latvia and Lithuania) had, in the aggregate, 40 gold medals, still four fewer than the United States.

But they had 123 total medals, 22 more than the United States. That's deep depth. The old Soviet sports machine isn't dead yet. Dismembered, yes, but all the parts are still wriggling.

Pub Date: 8/10/96

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