Education, Elections, Mental Health

Education

Prominent city bureaucrat Mary Jean Ryan ran unsuccessfully for the Seattle School Board a few years back, but this year she will finally have a crucial say in the district. Last week, Superintendent Raj Manhas named the director of the city's Office of Policy and Management to a new 15-member advisory committee charged with helping solve the district's financial crisis. Manhas announced he would form the committee in May after backing down from a dramatic cost-cutting plan that stirred a public outcry. One parent who was a vocal opponent of the superintendent's plan, Andrew Kwatinetz, is also to serve on the new committee. Kwatinetz is a former Microsoft program manager and parent of a child at Montlake Elementary, which would have been closed under the scrapped plan. The committee also will have two people with Boeing connections: Sherry Carr, a senior Boeing finance manager and Seattle Council PTSA president, and John Warner, the company's former chief administrative officer who helped engineer the move of its headquarters to Chicago (maybe we could relocate the schools to the Windy City). Manhas chose from a pool of nearly 250 applicants. The committee is to submit its recommendations by Dec. 15. NINA SHAPIRO

Elections

After a King County elections task force said it is considering recommending an all-mail election as one solution to the county's 2004 ballot fiasco (see "Elections Solutions?" June 22), a hand quickly shot up from Bellevue: Yes, Mr. Mereckis? "The root cause of the problems in King County and elsewhere was that election officials simply did not have the tools to track ballots individually, due to privacy concerns," says Tom Mereckis, of VoteHere, a voter-technology company. "So they were forced to track ballots in batches of a few hundred to protect anonymity." The solution, Mereckis unabashedly suggests, is VoteHere's Mail-in Ballot Tracker, which allows election officials and voters to track individual ballots from start to finish and protects voter ID. It's done with a cryptographic shuffle that randomizes ballots at each step in the handling process. "No one can directly connect the ballot with the voter, but anyone can verify that a ballot had been processed through a particular step," says Mereckis. RICK ANDERSON

Mental Health

In late May, Karl Brimner quietly resigned as head of Washington State Department of Social and Health Services' Mental Health Division, which oversees the state's public mental-health system. During his tenure, mental-health advocates groused about Brimner's lack of vision and leadership in addressing a fragmented system of careā€”as well as for being in charge of the department during a period in which Western State Hospital was discharging patients to the streets of Tacoma. Late last month, DSHS hired Brimner to head the Child Treatment and Study Center, a facility for seriously mentally ill youth located on the grounds of Western State Hospital. PHILIP DAWDY

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