Media, Monorail, and Medicine

MEDIA

It's a trend. First the Seattle School Board, trying to restore stability after a series of fiascos, removed the "interim" from Superintendent Raj Manhas' title. Now troubled public KCTS-TV is dropping the "interim" from the title of President and CEO Bill Mohler. The former head of Bates Technical College in Tacoma came out of retirement last May to take the helm of a station plagued by financial mismanagement and staff discontent, replacing longtime KCTS chieftain Burnill Clark. Initially, the station's board vowed that Mohler would not be a candidate for the permanent position. "Once we saw what Bill was doing and what he brings to KCTS, we changed our minds," says board chair Doug Beighle. "We need stability," affirms head of production Enrique Cerna. "It's like a kid who's been pushed around in foster care. How much more can we go through?" Even KCTS's onetime critics seem to like Mohler, who has brought a new openness to the previously Kremlin-like station. What remains to be seen is how much the station can produce after drastically cutting its staff. NINA SHAPIRO

MONORAIL

A multimillion-dollar miscalculation, followed by a one-third shortfall in predicted revenue, followed, last week, by the sudden resignation of its finance directorjust routine, says the Seattle Monorail Project. Finance Director Daniel Malarkey quit because he just didn't like the long hours that went with his $150,000-a-year job. He's being replaced by a Cleveland attorney, Jonathan Buchter, whose bio says he "has extensive experience acting as business counsel for political subdivisions, particularly school districts." Buchter has been commuting to Seattle to act as one of the monorail's part-time ($70,000) attorneys and steps into a finance role that requires both innovation and, hopefully, accurate revenue projections. Because of its shortfall, which was due to overestimation of car-tab revenue by Malarkey and others, the $1.7 billion monorail voters approved will be more like a $1.4-billion-or-less system, with slower service, smaller stations, and fewer amenitiesbut still with that costly and contorted diversion through Seattle Center and down Fifth Avenue, where there already is a monorail. Cutting corners and scratching for savings, the monorail authority thinks it can complete its mission. But with actual revenue and costs far from confirmed, the monorail continues to be a hopeful whistle in the distant air. RICK ANDERSON

MEDICINE

Last week, an advisory committee of the federal Food and Drug Administration recommended approving so-called Plan B for distribution over the counter, just like aspirin. It's a type of emergency contraception taken after sex, and the decision might not have happened were it not for advocacy in Washington state. In 1997, the Seattle-based nonprofit Program for Appropriate Technology in Health sought to enable pharmacists to directly prescribe emergency contraception, rather than leaving it to be prescribed solely by a doctor. State law allows pharmacists to prescribe drugs if they have a "collaborative agreement" with a doctor. Washington was the first of five states nationwide to make emergency contraception available by pharmacist prescription, and it had a revolutionary impact. "People saw that you could take doctors out of the equation and the world wasn't going to fall in," says Kirsten Moore, president of the nonprofit Reproductive Health Technologies Project in Washington, D.C. Now the FDA, which is expected to issue a final decision on over-the-counter distribution by late February, looks likely to take that notion one step further. NINA SHAPIRO

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