Paula Wissel

Law & Justice Reporter

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.

Paula's most memorable moment at KNKX: “Interviewing NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr about his ability to put current events in historical context. It’s something I aspire to.”

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Jonathan Klapel / KPLU

If an NBA team comes to Seattle, what guarantees are there that it won’t leave again? That’s one of the questions King County Council members are asking.

As a proposal for a privately built basketball and hockey arena works its way through the political process, both Seattle City Council and King County Councils are mulling it over.

For nearly 40 years, riding the bus in downtown Seattle has been free. Now, with Metro Transit set to end the free ride zone in September as a cost saving measure, officials are wrestling with how best to serve people who won’t be able to afford the new fares of $2.25 to $2.50.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Was a Seattle police stop of two African American men in February just a coincidence or, as some are suggesting, "retaliation" for the publicity surrounding a previous stop. 

The NAACP says it wants answers from Seattle Police.

Rik_C / Flickr

You pull up to a stop light, look over and the windows on the SUV next to you are so dark you can’t see in. Why are we hiding behind tinted automobile windows here in the Pacific Northwest?

Read more on I Wonder Why ... ?

Jonathan Caves / Flickr

Could the Millennial Generation transform law enforcement, making it more focused on communication skills than physical force? Sue Rahr, the new director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, thinks so.

Rahr, the former King County Sheriff, says people who are part of what's come to be called the millennial generation are different than baby boomers or even Gen Xers.

David Prasad / Flickr

If you  threaten to blow up an airport, you'll  face jail time. According to the Washington State Court of Appeals, that's true even if you're mentally ill and the threat is not considered credible.

Back in 2009, James S. Ballew called 911 and, after asking to speak with a specific officer with the Port of Seattle Police, told the dispatcher he had five friends who had placed bombs in and around Sea-Tac Airport.

The call was traced to Harborview Medical Center’s psychiatric ward. 

Cris Pierry

Finding a place to rent can be a hassle.  If you don’t have much money,  it’s even more difficult.

Now, a new website, HousingSearchNW.org,  provides help in locating reasonably priced housing  in King County. The website is a free service for tenants and landlords. It's been in operation a little over a month and is averaging about 12,000 searches a week.

yelahneb / flickr

"We, in our 20’s and 30’s, took over the city from the old men who were sitting in the Rainier Club playing dominoes all day."

There are thousands of manhole covers on the streets of Seattle. Some of them, 115 to be exact, are official works of art. Artists are commissioned by the city to create them. It’s one of those little quirks that set the city apart.

Why the city decided to decorate these "personnel hatch covers," as the city now refers to them, harks back to a time when the city was full of creative energy and lots of city activists were looking for ways to improve the quality of urban life.

Read more on I Wonder Why ... ?

The Associated Press

The Washington Supreme Court says voters do not have the right to vote on the use of red light cameras for traffic enforcement.  In a 5 to 4 ruling on a case involved a proposition on the ballot in the city of Mukilteo, the justices held that:

“Because the legislature expressly granted authority to the governing body of the city of Mukilteo to enact ordinances on the use of automated traffic safety cameras, the subject of Proposition 1 is not within the initiative power.”

In November 2010, Mukilteo voters approved Proposition 1 by a 70 percent margin. The Proposition had the backing of anti-tax activist Tim Eyman.

(Video of incoming PLU president Thomas Krise by journalists at PLU's The Mooring Mast student newspaper.)

Pacific Lutheran University has a new president. Thomas W. Krise takes the helm at the private university this June.  He replaces Loren Anderson, who’s retiring.  

Krise comes to PLU from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., where he’s been the dean of the school of arts and sciences. Krise, an Episcopalian, is the first non-Lutheran to head PLU since it was founded in 1890.

KPLU Photo

Kids start joining gangs in middle school, according to a year long assessment of gang activity in Tacoma. The  gang assessment report was presented to the Tacoma City Council on Tuesday.

Four members of a Renton family have pleaded guilty to fraud for pretending to be disabled and collecting more than $350,000 in Social Security and Washington state disability benefits.  The scheme to defraud the government went on for 30 years.

Laurel Mercury / Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation

During the January snow and ice storm,  Seattle officials told commuters to stay off the roadways.  But the message caused confusion among the city’s own employees.

Erin Hennessey / KPLU

A 34-foot totem pole honoring slain First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams was carried from the Seattle Waterfront to Seattle Center and raised by some 90 people on Sunday. The pole was carried to its final destination with traditional singing, drumming, and dancing. 

If you live in Boston, Manhattan or Mumbai, the sounds of rush hour include the overwhelming sound of beeping and blaring car horns. But, that’s not the case in the Pacific Northwest.

Honking the horn just doesn’t seem to be part of our driving DNA.

Read more on I Wonder Why ... ?

Paula Wissel

Speaking in Everett in the massive building where Boeing 787's are assembled,  President Barack Obama praised the aerospace company for succeeding at keeping jobs in the United States.

Drunk drivers who cause deadly accidents in Washington rarely spend more than two years in prison. A bill working its way through the state legislature would increase the maximum sentence to eight years.

Prosecutors and people who've lost loved ones to accidents caused by drunk drivers say it's about time.

 A Bellingham man has been sentenced to prison for trying to sell a map showing the location of surveillance cameras along the U.S./Canada border.

According to federal court records,  Leif Rankin planned to sell the map to drug smugglers. 

In the Northwest, we share some unique attributes. But, like people everywhere, we disagree passionately when it comes to those things that tie us together. That came clear to us after sorting through the comments prompted by KPLU’s "I Wonder Why…?" series.

For instance, in combing through two of our most popular stories, no one could agree on just how friendly we are in the Northwest or whether men in skirts … er Utilikilts is a good idea.

Read more on I Wonder Why ... ?

Cellular Immunity / Flickr

The unemployment rate is at its lowest level in three years. The stock market is up.  But, are you feeling better about the economy? 

Maybe it was the economic news. Maybe it was the sun coming out for the first time in a while, but most people we talked to on the streets of downtown Seattle this afternoon said they were feeling positive.

Denise Walker

Did you find yourself in the dark, shivering under blankets, eating cold rations during the recent wind storm? Did it have you wondering why we are so dependent on overhead power poles to keep the lights on?

Could there be a better way?

Read more on I Wonder Why ... ?

Paula Wissel

Puget Sound Energy  crews working to restore power say they haven't slept much.  On Tuesday afternoon, Rob Brackman, who was redirecting traffic while other workers strung new power lines near Dash Point Road and Redondo Way, said he'd  had just 15 hours of sleep since Friday morning.  But, he says he's been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers.

"We get a lot of joyous people when we get into their neighborhood. They're so happy to see us. People have been bringing us coffee and donuts. It's been very nice," he said.

During the last major snow storm in the Seattle area, in 2008,  Metro Transit came in for a lot of criticism. Busses slid out of control on icy streets or got stuck in the snow.

This time, the transit agency has new plans it hopes will result in better bus service. For complete details, go to the King County Metro Transit website.

Image from YouTube video

Since 2008, four prisoners in Washington State have been exonerated through DNA testing and other evidence. Advocates for granting them compensation say it’s the right thing to do, even in tough budgetary times.

Of the four wrongfully convicted men, Alan Northrop did the most time behind bars. Now that he’s out, he’s trying to put the pieces of his life back together.

Photo by wanderflechten

The city of Seattle is revamping its rules regarding street trees. The rules clarify what homeowners can and cannot do to trees planted in parking strips and other city right-of-ways.

The ordinance under consideration is the first update of the city’s street tree rules since 1961.

There they sit. On the shelf in the KPLU newsroom. Two dozen of them. Each in their own day-of-the-week slot.

Seattle Post-Intelligencers from March 2009, the month the paper ceased publication after 146 years.

We wonder: Why haven’t we been able to toss those papers and relegate the printed P-I to the dark depths of the archive stacks at the public library?

Read More

Paula Wissel / KPLU

YAKIMA, Wash. — Eight Native Americans have filed suit against the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, claiming the agency placed them in a mission school where they were sexually abused by a Jesuit priest decades ago.

Associated Press

This is the first story in a new KPLU series called "I Wonder Why ... ?" Each Friday, we'll explore what makes our corner of the world special – unique attributes that amaze, irritate and sometimes just puzzle us.

In this first story, we tackle Seattle's reputation for having the loudest fans in the NFL. This isn’t a particularly noisy place ... after all, you can get a ticket for honking your horn here.

So, we wondered why we're so loud in the stadium and just how loud are we?

Check out the rest of the story at I Wonder Why ... ?

Tacoma is facing a $26 million dollar budget shortfall. That was the grim news Interim City Manager Ray Arellano delivered to the Tacoma City Council during a 2011-2012 budget update. 

Paula Wissel / KPLU

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg has brought felony theft charges against former Seattle Public Schools manager Silas Potter Jr. and two associates, David A. Johnson and Lorrie Sorensen.

Potter was at the center of a financial scandal that led to the firing last March of former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johsnon and Seattle Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Don Kennedy.

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