The City, Education, Health Care, State Politics

The City

Mayor Greg Nickels is charging ahead to get his plan for taller skyscrapers downtown approved, but what's the hurry? Despite all the talk of boosting downtown jobs and density, there is no pent-up demand for downtown office space, according to a consultant's report prepared for the Seattle Downtown Association and paid for by a grant from the city. The "Seattle Central Business District Office Report 2005" shows that vacancy rates in the central business district actually increased in 2004 from 14.6 percent to 15.8 percent, in the range of vacancies during the office glut of the late 1980s and early '90s. During the peak of the dot-com boom, in 1999, vacancy rates dropped to 2.7 percent. Looking ahead, taking into account projected job growth ("less than spectacular," the report predicts) and new projects coming on line (like the new Washington Mutual Center), the downtown vacancy rate is projected to hit 12.2 percent in 2010, a recovery rate the report calls "somewhat lackluster." KNUTE BERGER


It is no longer correct to speak of a $20 million Seattle Public Schools deficit. The Legislature's unexpected generosity this year leaves the school district with a surplus for 2005–06 of $3.8 million. If the district maintains current budget cuts and holds onto that until the following year—and the School Board is indicating it will—we're looking at a $14 million deficit in 2006–07. That's $6 million knocked off the previous estimate—more money than Superintendent Raj Manhas' assailed downsizing plan would have saved. Projections show a deficit of between $13.7 million and $21.5 million for 2007–08, depending on how much the district is willing to cut. The district has been slow to release this information, and that was apparent to some even as Manhas' controversial and now-scaled-back plan was discussed. "I was just warming up to getting pissed," says board member Dick Lilly, who opposed school closures called for in the plan. "The [financial] need was getting significantly reduced because of legislative action, and no one was talking about it." NINA SHAPIRO

Health Care

On May 25, the state Department of Health summarily suspended the medical licenses of Barbara Loran, a Bellevue chiropractor and naturopath who is the longtime mistress of James King. King is head of the New Gnostic Church, which former members describe as a cult. (See "The God Life," May 4, and "'Washing of the Brain'," May 18.) And King, who allegedly provided chiropractic services to former church members without a medical license, was issued a temporary cease-and-desist order by authorities. Summary license suspension is a rare move. In this case, the state asserts in documents that Loran "may pose a serious danger to the health, safety and welfare of the public" and that the situation merited emergency action. According to the documents, Loran allegedly had sex with patients, one of them a minor, allowed the unlicensed King to perform chiropractic procedures on patients at her clinic and in her home office, was present when King propositioned a patient to have sex with him and Loran, and shared confidential medical information about patients with King without having the patient's permission. King and Loran could not be reached for comment. They also are subjects of a criminal investigation by the King County Sheriff's Office. PHILIP DAWDY

State Politics

State Senate financial-institution committee chair Darlene Fairley, D–Lake Forest Park, has a brain tumor. Displaying her razor wit, Fairley wrote in an e-mail on Friday, May 27: "Yeah, I know half of you just said, 'Suspicions confirmed.'" The noncancerous tumor is called acoustic neuroma and only strikes 10 in 1 million people, according to Fairley. The state senator, known for liberal politics and open-government philosophy, will receive treatment at the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles. Fairley has already lost hearing in her right ear as a result of the tumor and faces months of recuperation after a difficult surgery. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

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