Election 2005, Public Health

Election 2005

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, King County Executive Ron Sims nixed a proposal by Southwest Airlines to leave Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for King County International Airport, aka Boeing Field. Democrat Sims is in a tight race for re-election with County Council member David Irons, R-Issaquah, and spent the summer touting the move as a potential win for consumers. Then Alaska Airlines said it wanted to move, as well. Sims now says his staff found that noise, traffic, and public expense made the airlines' proposals impossible to accommodate. The result probably won't win Sims many friends. Neighborhoods in Seattle are peeved at him for considering the proposal as long as he did. Sims has a bad case of tin ear in an election year. The ongoing crisis with King County's elections division has already sapped voter confidence. Evidence of how all this is affecting his re-election bid turned up in an Oct. 3 Survey USA poll for KING-TV that showed the county exec at 50 percent and Irons at 45 percent, with an error margin of plus or minus 4.6 percent. King County is overwhelmingly Democratic, and Irons is a conservative who lacks charisma, so Sims should win. But an upset could be in the making. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

Meanwhile, as reported in The Seattle Times, the money raised on both sides of medical malpractice Initiative 330 has set a record. The yes and no campaigns have raised more than $10 million total. But the money isn't evenly divided. While supporters of I-330 talk about greedy trial lawyers, it is they who appear to have the money. The yes campaign, which seeks to set a cap on malpractice awards for noneconomic damages, has raised $7.6 million—more than twice the opposition. Pro-I-330 contributors include Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which has ponied up $500,000; insurance companies, including Premera Blue Cross and Regence Blue Shield; and scores of doctors, clinics, and hospitals. The donors to the no campaign, which has raised a healthy $3.3 million but is still comparatively impoverished, are virtually all lawyers. NINA SHAPIRO

Public Health

If you're concerned about the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, Public Health–Seattle & King County has lots of advice. Most important, get rid of standing water where mosquitoes can breed. But what if the mosquitoes are breeding on someone else's property? Apparently, you're out of luck. Recently, a downtown condo resident was being pestered by mosquitoes. Investigation found standing water on the roof. When he got in touch with health authorities, he received a letter stating that "it appears as if the properties in question are privately owned. At this time Public Health does not have any regulatory authority to require property owners to remove mosquito habitat." West Nile first appeared in the New York area in 1999. This summer, infected mosquitoes and a magpie dead from the disease turned up in Yakima. So far, no cases have been spotted in King County, but that's not evidence it's not here. Only about one infected person out of five shows symptoms—headaches, muscle pain, fever, and fatigue. One out of six of those may progress to the full-blown disease, in which the virus infects the nerves of the spinal cord and brain. In 2003, there were 10,000 cases of West Nile in the U.S. and 262 deaths. Health authorities are preparing for a flu epidemic that hasn't happened. Let's hope they're not neglecting a danger already here. ROGER DOWNEY


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