Last month, some city residents received what looked like an eight-page campaign booklet about Mayor Greg Nickels, prepared and paid for at City Hall to the tune of $2,205. Not to worry, it's not an election mailing at all. The booklet, titled Mayor Greg Nickels, Three Years of Accomplishments, Making a Difference in People's Lives, is part of the mayor's regular outreach program, says mayoral communications director Marianne Bichsel. The mayor's office mailed the "accomplishments" letter to 3,100 households throughout the city. Bichsel says the mayor's lawyer, Regina LaBelle, had concerns about the tone of a draft of the letter because she didn't want anyone to think it was electioneering, which would be illegal. "Regina was expressing that we might want to change some language so as not to be misinterpreted," says Bichsel. There has been only one complaint to the mayor's office. Perhaps it's because this is an election year that we get suspicious about eight-page lists of incredible accomplishments from the best mayor Seattle has ever had—such accomplishments as "replacing the Viaduct and seawall," "creating a safer Seattle," "creating jobs," "restoring our waters," and "creating heaven and earth." (OK, we made up that last one.) GEORGE HOWLAND JR.
The Medical Examiner
About those brain sales: "We would never have entered into an agreement that provided an incentive tied to the number of brain tissue provided," King County Medical Examiner Richard Harruff said this week of the 186 brain samples sent to a research institute as part of a 1995-to-2004 grant worth up to $18,000 a month. The samples were taken from the dead who passed through the morgue beneath Harborview Medical Center—and were done with the documented approval of next of kin, Harruff says. "We took great effort and care to ensure that families understood the nature of the research" and that participation was voluntary, he says. What spurred this public reassurance from the ME's office? Two recent KIRO-TV reports to the contrary, claiming the ME sent complete brains and private medical records to the Stanley Medical Research Institute without relatives' legal consent other than, in some cases, oblique phone calls—as so described by next of kin in on-air interviews. KIRO also displayed an e-mail it obtained, apparently through Don Halberg, a former deputy ME who is suing the county (see "Death and Lapses," Jan. 14, 2004). The management e-mail congratulated staffers for collecting "40 brains" in the first six months of the year, when they expected only 50 for "the entire year! This is great work." Seattle/King County health director Alonzo Plough, in a letter to the county council this week, calls the reports "false and misleading." But KIRO says the county still won't turn over those 186 consent forms to prove its case. RICK ANDERSON
Daily newspapers tend to look down their noses at so-called alternative weeklies such as the Village Voice and Seattle Weekly. We write with a point of view, we question authority in ways they don't, and, well, it's just not news until the dailies print it, right? But on Monday, April 4, a measure of respect was earned by someone in the alt-weekly family when Portland's Willamette Week was awarded the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. The award went to Nigel Jaquiss for an article last May that proved that Neil Goldschmidt, the former Portland mayor, Oregon governor, and U.S. secretary of transportation—the Rudy Giuliani of Oregon—committed statutory rape involving a 14-year-old girl while he was mayor in the 1970s. It's not the first time an alt-weekly has won a Pulitzer. The Village Voice, whose parent, Village Voice Media, also owns Seattle Weekly, won in 2000, and the Boston Phoenix did it in 1994. But those were for international reporting and criticism, as opposed to the enormous effort involved in high-profile investigative reporting. In a small but crucial way, we played a role in Willamette Week's victory. Seattle Weekly writer Philip Dawdy, a former Willamette Week staffer, helped Jaquiss by scouring federal court records in Seattle, coming up with three key pieces of evidence linking Goldschmidt to a sexually abusive relationship with the girl—evidence that sealed Goldschmidt's doom. CHUCK TAYLOR