Public Health, State Politics, and Pike Place Market


If the cow that tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was a dairy cow, how about its milk? Have Washingtonians been imbibing bent brain proteins every time they crack a carton of 2 percent? Nothing’s certain in the mad, mad world of Mad Cow (see “Ground-Beef Zero,”), but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cites experiments showing that the prion proteins, which cause the symptoms of Mad Cow (or its human relative, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), aren’t transmitted through milk to calves or humans. In fact, there’s no known case of “vertical transmission” of BSE from cow to calf, though Japanese researchers have found that calves fed “milk substitute” made from previously owned animal protein did transmit the disease. This ought to mean that animals raised organically (on mother’s milk until weaned, then grass or grain) should be utterly safe to eatexcept when, by a million-to-one shot, the deviant protein that clots the brains of Mad Cow animals appears spontaneously. ROGER DOWNEY


The state’s recent big Boeing giveaway might be fresh impetus for Tim Eyman‘s new initiative. Unveiled this week, it calls for a 25 percent cut in property taxes. Instead of targeting the state’s tax share, as originally envisioned, Eyman is targeting property taxes raised by cities, counties, ports, cemetery boards, etc. The cuts won’t affect school levies or voter-approved tax measures, but everything else is fair game. There are some 1,700 taxing districts statewide that account for the lion’s share of the property tax “burden.” Eyman argues that, if passed, his tax cuts will provide a $550 million stimulus to the local economy. The pitch comes in the wake of the recent $3.2 billion tax break and benefits package for Boeing, pushed by many politicians who previously have criticized Eyman’s tax-cut initiatives. Hey, argues Eyman, if such a deal is “good enough for Boeing, it should be good enough for everyone else.” If the measure makes the November ballot, voters will be able to vote for their own bailout. KNUTE BERGER


A new audit finds a “stressful and contentious” atmosphere and “severe organizational dysfunction” at the Pike Place Market. What’s next? Are they going to tell us they sell veggies there? At the venerable market, dysfunction is a way of life. Ruled by the quasi-public Preservation and Development Authority (PDA), the place broke into warring factions long before the Soviet Union did, and no one has had the heart to end the fun. Executive Director Daniel Lieberman recently resigned after four years, and he leaves to the next director the internal squabbling that predecessor Shelly Yapp left to him. With a special ardor, merchants, vendors, residents, supporters, and the PDA have long fought over fees, regulations, and the Market’s integrity. The flash point is always the future: How to compete in a changing world, yet stay grounded in the past as a farmer’s market. It’s not the funky, free-spirited, living relic it once was, but neither has it become the QFC some hoped it would be. All sides passionately want the same thingfor the Market to thrive and at that it’s succeeding, by the only process imaginable: a stressful and contentious exchange of ideas and overripe tomatoes. Really, don’t sweat the organizational dysfunction too much. It just needs to be more organized. RICK ANDERSON