Philanthropy, The County, Technology, Quote

Philanthropy

Last week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation snubbed the Seattle School District when it announced that it didn't make the cut in the latest round of education grants. Tom Vander Ark, the foundation's education grants exec, said the district lacked leadership, a track record of improvement, and "a really good plan" for the future. As a result, the financially challenged district will lose about $4 million a year. The symbolic slap is a wake-up call to fix the district's chronic problems, but it also points up the pitfalls of relying on private donors to fund basic public services. Since 1994, the Gates Foundation says, it has donated $555.6 million to Northwest charities, much of it for homeless shelters, food banks, senior centers, and the like. While this has helped the safety net, it might have created a false sense of security. The Gateses are very generous and have unprecedented resources, but if you piss them off or waste their money, be prepared to pick up the tab. KNUTE BERGER

The County

A Maryland research lab being sued by families across the United States, including several from King County, has offered to return human brains to some surviving relatives. The brains were collected from the corpses of the mentally ill and furnished to the Stanley Medical Research Institute. (See Buzz, April 6.) According to four lawsuits recently filed by Tacoma attorney Steve Bulzomi, at least 200 brains were harvested by the King County Medical Examiner's Office under a contract with Stanley that earned the county about $1.5 million over 10 years, ending in 2004. Some of the brains were removed without the survivors' clear consent, Bulzomi claims, though the county denies that. There have been no settlement talks here, but the institute has offered to return the brains to a number of relatives suing in Maine. Frank Kelley, one of those, told The Boston Globe: "My daughter's been dead five years. I mean, what are we supposed to do with the brain?" RICK ANDERSON

Technology

Last week, Gov. Christine Gregoire campaigned in Seattle on behalf of alternative energy and conservation research and development. First, on Thursday, Oct. 20, at a joint legislative hearing, the guv appeared with a farmer who is doing innovative work on crops for bio-diesel. Then on Friday, Oct. 21, Gregoire got standing ovations at the Northwest Energy Coalition's conference, where she advocated for wind farms, anaerobic digesters, weatherization, and other wonky stuff. In light of the latest energy crisis, Gregoire wants Washington to take the lead with public policy that promotes new energy development. Says the guv: "We need to seize the crisis as an opportunity." GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

Quote

"Yes, I am an unabashed liberal blogger with no journalism training, who takes notes in a nearly illegible scrawl. But I take pride in getting my facts straight. The story I told is the story the Irons family told me—a story that is about much more than a single incident. And I stand by my decision to share their story with the public." —David Goldstein of HorsesAss.org, after he posted an unprovable, previously aired claim by the mother of David Irons Jr., a Republican running for King County executive, that Irons assaulted her in the early 1990s. His blog report was less than three weeks before the Nov. 8 election, with incumbent Democrat Ron Sims in a tight race.

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