State Politics, Monorail, Quote

State Politics

The Washington State Republican Party is not just licking its wounds after losing a legal challenge to the election of Gov. Christine Gregoire. It also has to retire an enormous debt of $1.8 million. In July filings with the state Public Disclosure Commission, the state GOP reported obligations to lawyers, including a whopping bill owed Davis Wright Tremaine of $1.6 million. Considering the quality of the case that firm presented, the Republicans might consider asking for a discount. GOP Chair Chris Vance says this month's report will show a much-reduced debt, thanks to an event with Vice President Dick Cheney. Meanwhile, the Washington State Democratic Party is in much better shape financially, although Democratic lawyers aren't cheap, either. The Dems owe $672,313—all but $25,000 for defending the guv. As Democratic Chair Paul Berendt points out, it's a lot easier to raise money when you control the governor's mansion. Plus, one of the winning litigators, Jenny Durkan, gave a deep discount. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

Monorail

What does it say about the Seattle Monorail Project (SMP) that, for now at least, its board no longer holds finance committee meetings? The agency's one and only financial plan was sacked because it would have cost $1 billion a mile, and SMP's lack of options are clearly defined: "We need to figure out whether we can build the monorail with the money we have available," concedes acting board Chair Kristina Hill, "or whether we should ask [the public] to determine its future with a new vote." Though a revote would likely fail and the money plan's an enigmatic mess, SMP plods blithely onward. The agency continues to collect and spend an average of $1 million weekly to pay for loans, staff, overhead, attorneys, and consultants. Officials seem focused on hiring a new director, preparing for board elections, and "moving forward"—seemingly forgetting the historic vow: If the monorail can't be built as first proposed, the project shuts down. The Building Owners and Managers Association, joining a death chorus that includes the daily papers, civic groups, and lawmakers, last week said SMP faces "an unsolvable financial situation." Nonetheless, since the agency announced June 20 what should have been its demise— $9 billion to $12 billion to finance the $2.1 billion line from Ballard to West Seattle—it has spent another $7 million in public funds. RICK ANDERSON

Quote

"It pains me to say some work of people I know and respect is a load of crap, but it has to be said in this instance. It is widely reported . . . that a bird-flu pandemic is stoppable 'if governments work together.' Whether a pandemic with H5N1 (as opposed to another influenza A subtype) happens or not is no longer within the control of any government (if it ever was). I (and others, notably Henry Niman) have said this before, but it must be said again: Once this virus gains the capability of being transmitted from person to person like other influenza subtypes that circulate in human populations, there will be no way to prevent its global spread. The contrary idea, as reported in this week's scientific journals Nature and Science, is so heavily qualified it might as well have never been made in the first place."—An anonymous poster to the blog Effect Measure (effectmeasure.blogspot.com), where "senior public health scientists and practitioners" speak frankly about health news. (See "Fatal Flu," July 27.)

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