Around the GO Zone in 60 Seconds: Drinking ‘Shroom juice at the Wall Street Journal, Cottages, Community, Warr and Wind Pool

I must be quick so I can get on the road to Buzzard Roost and there are several items that we need to cover so let’s start with the men and women on the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial board who evidently found a local source for psyclobin mushrooms (and consumed alot of tea) before they wrote this:

Mr. Crist’s behavior stands in contrast to that of Louisiana, of all places. Baton Rouge also established a Citizens insurer after Katrina but only as a “last resort.” Louisiana has a thriving private insurance market, in part because regulators have let companies adjust their rates. By law, Louisiana Citizens cannot offer competitive prices, save in a few high-risk coastal areas. From a peak of about 170,000 policies in 2007, it now holds about 130,000 (about what it had before Katrina) and is aiming to get below 100,000.

Note how these lit and hallucinating buffoons neglected to mention how many policies Louisiana Citizen’s had in 2004 and 2005 or the fact the guy running Louisiana Citizens (now under federal indictment) that entire time was paying his daughter’s prom bill with policyholder premiums.  Maybe next time they should check with Jim Brown before they have their combo mushroom binges/editorial board meetings. Since Bob Bartley died the only thing I can add about the remaining folks in opinion at the WSJ is that you guys really suck.

Watching the cottage controversy unfold from afar I shake my head at the utter uselessness of the approach taken by certain of the affordable housing advocates. Nowdy, who happens to know a thing or two about these type issues, contends in our internal Slabbed editorial board meetings very real issues are being obscured by the yet “another Thompson/Barbour pissing contest” and I’m inclined to agree and in this case I don’t blame our Gov.  It is simple economics; throwing money putting people without means into “affordable housing” does nothing to fix the larger problem.  Good paying jobs makes housing affordable. Meantime we have renters that actually work full time who are wondering where they will live when the FEMA rental assistance program ends this month. To the extent the renters work, received no grant and have no shot at a freebie cottage they have my sympathies. And since they work they can’t spend time raising cain at local City council meetings which brings us back to the “uselessness”. Solutions to thorny issues lie in the advancement of knowledge and awareness. People of goodwill can genuinely disagree but that doesn’t mean they can’t work together trying to find workable solutions to hard issues. Sometimes the politicians don’t make it easy but I’ve found both the Bay and Waveland the city councils are listening to a variety of opinions and genuinely want to do what is best for the community.

img00039Seeing this next to a new $300,000 house changes a lot of minds about the meaning of “modular” and beauty. Love her or hate her no one can say Connie Moran doesn’t have good taste. This brings us to cottages with restrictions and the work in progress that is the Bay St Louis cottage ordinance, which aims to set up regulations for permanent placement of certain units. Sun Herald reporter Michael Newsome frames the story around the premise the litigation in Waveland forced the reconsideration in Bay St  Louis but that is pure BS. In fact Judge Persons indicated (as the Sun Herald has reported) the Mississippi Center for Justice jumped the gun with their lawsuit. Here is a snippet from today’s story:

To qualify to keep their cottages, residents must comply with at least 16 provisions listed in the ordinance. The conditions range from who owns the land where the cottage is located and when it was purchased, to adherence to setbacks and code requirements and other issues.

The new law allows only homes that were built for MEMA for its cottage program by Lexington Homes, and bans other similar cottages that were not part of the MEMA program. After the public hearing is held, the issue will be returned to the City Council for final consideration on March 3.

Residents who can pass through the gauntlet of conditions, and can pay for separate building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical permits will have until May 1 to obtain them. The law prevents individual property owners from getting their own permits for the cottages, and requires that they be applied for by state-licensed contractors.

Certificates of occupancy for the cottages must be received from the city by June 30.

Next up is the Rotary club and the contribution of  almost three quarters of a million dollars to build a community center in the depot district of Bay St Louis. JR Welsh has the story:

The city can thank Rotarians for the project, which was conceived by Bob Warner, a Rotary Club member in Jonesboro, Ark. “Bob started the project. It was a vision he had,” Mayor Eddie Favre said at the outdoor signing ceremony.

The Jonesboro club partnered with city government and the Bay St. Louis Rotary Club, and had financial and moral support from about 100,000 Rotarians around the country. “It has been our intent all along to be a partner,” said Corky Hadden, who coordinated the project for the local Rotary Club.

At the ceremony, Favre signed a purchase agreement between Bay St. Louis and CSX Railroad, former owner of the property in the Depot District, off Blaize Avenue. Then, he and Rotarians signed a joint partnership agreement.

The complete center, including design, construction and furnishing, is expected to cost $4.8 million, City Operations Manager Buz Olsen said. Rotarians are contributing about $720,000 in private money and the city is receiving the balance through federal Community Development Block Grants, funneled through the Mississippi Development Authority.

Warner, who has visited Bay St. Louis on 24 occasions since Katrina in 2005, was on hand from Arkansas for the signing and celebration. He said the project bears testament to the courage and perseverance of city residents who are still struggling to recover from the disaster.

“This Katrina thing has a silver lining, I think, in a lot of ways,” Warner said

Silver lining indeed, especially for the depot district.

Next up is the latest Chapter in the budding USA v Warr saga as our own Gene Taylor once again registers some displeasure at how DOD handled the Armed Forces Retirement Home purchase and subsequent sale of the houses to the Warrs. Anita Lee filed the Sun Herald story:

U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor wants to know more about the sale of federal property to Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr and his father, he says in a letter written Tuesday to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

“I write to express my concerns about the acquisition and subsequent sale of real property of the Armed Forces Retirement Home at Gulfport, Miss., occurring in 2003,” Taylor’s letter begins.

Brent Warr and his wife, Laura, have been indicted for Katrina fraud because the government contends they lied when they claimed a house on the property was their primary residence when Katrina hit. They received a $150,000 federal homeowners grant and $9,558 in FEMA relief for the damage.

AFRH bought the property on an unspecified date in 2003, according to the Under Secretary of Defense’s Office, but had decided to sell it to the Warrs by August 2003. Another document indicates AFRH bought the property in 2002.

In an August 2003 letter, Principal Deputy Charles S. Abell, in the Under Secretary’s Office, said the federal government bought 10.02 acres next to the Armed Forces Retirement Home for $5.692 million. Abell said the Warrs had offered to buy two beachfront parcels.

“The resale of the two smaller beachfront properties will result in $1 million, which will be deposited in the AFRH Trust Fund,” Abell wrote in the letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

Taylor, whose office has been looking into the property acquisitions since the Sun Herald published a story about them in October, enclosed the 2003 correspondence with his letter to Gates.

“We ought to know why something was bought and, if something was sold, for how much,” Taylor said Tuesday. “Did it at least turn a profit for the taxpayer? That’s something I want to know off the bat.”

Taylor made sure restrictions were placed on Veterans Affairs property recently deeded to the city so that it could not be sold in the same way.

“It’s very important that when we’re dealing with public resources, everything should be transparent and aboveboard,” he said.

Love him or hate him no one can say Gene Taylor isn’t genuinely concerned for how our tax dollars are spent. The original story Ryan LaFontaine did on this back in October 2008 painted a picture of bureaucratic incompetence that our own Sup would enjoy immensely. Mr LaFontaine certainly has a different vantage point as he now works for the City in it’s communications department. The Warrs will continue to dominate the news until their day in court.

We end with bad news for the Commish, as it appears lawmakers will not be putting any more taxpayer money into the wind pool for them to ship offshore to Bermuda as Michael Newsome reports for the Sun Herald:

Hurricane Katrina-related insurance reforms are dead and lawmakers say a funding boost for the state wind pool would be very difficult this year, given the budget crunch, which some called the worst they’ve seen.

There is a push to pump another $60 million over three years into the state wind pool, a government-backed insurer of last resort for those on the Coast who can’t get standard homeowner insurance that covers hurricane wind damage. This would bring the total the Legislature would have earmarked for the pool to $140 million over four years. But the general bill that would have directed more money into the program died under a deadline for it to be passed out of committee late Tuesday, leaving lawmakers supporting it to try to get the funds for it during the state budget process. Coast leaders, including the Gulf Coast Business Council, have asked for the additional funds in hopes of lowering premiums.

Senate President Pro Tempore Billy Hewes III, R-Gulfport, said the already-set-aside $20 million for this year, which is part of an $80 million allotment approved a few years ago, is currently still in the state budget, but securing any additional money, as asked for in the GCBC proposal, might be tough because of tight finances.

“This is as tight as I’ve ever seen it,” Hewes said of the budget.

The story continues with quotes from Eugene “Buck” Clarke, a GOP 30 percenter who steadfastly clings to his belief in the toothfairy and magical elves:

Sen. Eugene S. Clarke, R-Hollandale. Clarke says he believes the key to solving insurance problems here is increasing competition, rather than creating new regulations, to lower prices. Some insurance company representatives have told the committe they believe that new regulations might actually cause companies to leave the area.

“It’s price, price, price,” Clarke said.

Sen. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, filed several insurance measures again with Clarke’s committee, but they died when Clarke didn’t take them up. Clarke said Wednesday he believes that any strengthening of insurance regulation could be handled by the Mississippi Insurance Department.

But Baria wanted to end the “anti-concurrent causation” clause in insurance policies through Senate Bill 2073, which hasn’t been included in the MID’s new policyholders bill of rights. After the storm, some insurance companies used the clause to deny payment of wind damage claims in cases where they said water also played a role. Court cases and insurance law experts have said that the clauses don’t apply to hurricanes because the two weather events cause different kinds of damages. The insurance department has said court cases support the clause and any changes to it would have to come from the Legislature.

Notice the deception in the insurance department’s comment. Indeed courts have generally upheld the validity of anti concurrent causation but that misses the point as the concept does not apply (nor was it meant to apply) to the sequential damage one sees with a Hurricane. To the extent insurers cited it as a reason for denial of Katrina wind damage claims can only mean one of two things:

  1. Insurers didn’t understand their own contracts which means they are inherently ambigious. (See Corban v USAA)
  2. The did understand the meaning of the language, trumped up anti concurrent causation as a bullshit excuse to deny legitiment claims and then steamrolled policyholders with the help of Mr Chaney’s predecessor George Dale getting away with classic bad faith in every case resolved under the two MID settlement programs.

To the extent the ACC doesn’t apply and never applied we at Slabbed feel it is a red herring. Why fight for something that doesn’t apply when policyholders in Mississippi lack basic protections like having their undisputed claims adjusted and paid timely for instance and the codification of hundred of years of case law regarding an insurer’s burden of proof to prove excluded peril apply in order to deny a claim.

That doesn’t mean anti concurrent causation isn’t ambigious as it is clear it must be; Edith Jones, the chief judge at the Fifth Cirucit Court of Appeals slaughtered the concept in Leonard v Nationwidefor instance. Looking at the conduct of insurers here in the most favorable light illustrates even they must not have understood it.  I’m equally certain the Mississippi Supreme Court will find a way to overlook all of that however as they are wholly owned by insurance companies and the USeless Chamber of Commerce.

Nowdy and I will have more on anti concurrent causation in future posts.