Will James

Business & Labor Reporter

Will James covers the South Sound region, as well as housing and immigration issues, for KNKX. He came to the station from Newsday in his home state of New York. 

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Will James / KNKX

Water and bathroom facilities are making life a little more bearable for people who live in one of Tacoma's largest encampments of homeless people.

City officials installed a water line and spigot last week, along with a row of portable toilets and sinks, near a few dozen tents and makeshift shelters in Tacoma's tideflats.

It represents a shift in the way Tacoma leaders manage a growing homeless population. Instead of forcing people off vacant lots like this, they say they are trying to make conditions cleaner and safer while they work toward longer-term solutions. 

Courtesy of the City of Tacoma

Tacoma's new poet laureate, Kellie Richardson,  says her writing is laced with explorations of identity, and how different identities intersect. Sometimes, that means exploring her identities as an African-American woman, a mother, an activist, and a Christian.

Lately, she's also been thinking a lot about the identity of the city where she was born and raised. That includes "what gentrification continues to do" but also "having kids, and being able to see their journey's in the city versus mine." 

Courtesy of city of Tacoma

After a nationwide search for a new city manager, Tacoma leaders chose someone close to home.

Courtesy of the Tacoma Public Library http://bit.ly/2pRsmhM

Tacoma was once home to vibrant Japanese-American neighborhood full of photo studios, barbershops, and families. That was before almost 900 people of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed from the city 75 years ago this week. 

"20040812 08 Tacoma, WA" by David Wilson is licensed under CC by 2.0. http://bit.ly/2qKMFkJ

The University of Washington is preparing to turn students into government consultants for the city of Tacoma.

That's the next subject of the university’s Livable City Year program, which pairs students with government officials for an academic year to help study and shape policy.

PAULA WISSEL / KNKX

Tacoma leaders are signaling a shift in strategy in their fight against homelessness.

City Council members passed a resolution Tuesday calling for an "emergency temporary aid and shelter program." They said it may involve providing trash pickup and sanitation services to homeless people living in encampments -- or even creating a sanctioned tent city for the homeless. 

"The School" by Eric Frommer is licensed under CC by 2.0 http://bit.ly/2p8KNRc

Tacoma Public Schools, once labeled "dropout factories," posted record-high graduation rates last year that beat statewide averages.

That's according to a report released Friday by the nonprofit Foundation for Tacoma Students. The group formed in 2010, the year a dismal 55 percent of the city's students finished high school in four years.

Washington State Patrol via AP, File

The man accused in September's mass shooting in a Burlington mall died in jail Sunday evening of what appears to be suicide, authorities said.

Arcan Cetin, 20, was found hanging in his Snohomish County jail cell shortly before 7 p.m.

Cetin was accused of killing five people with a hunting-style rifle in a Macy's store in the Cascade Mall on Sept. 23. Police captured him near his Oak Harbor apartment following a 24-hour manhunt. 

"House of Representatives chamber in Washington State Capitol" by SounderBruce is licensed under CC by 2.0 http://bit.ly/2oIa9Wh

Washington is one of the few states in the country where legislative power is split between two political parties.

That means getting things done comes down to the art of the deal.

Right now, Republicans and Democrats in Olympia are locked in negotiations over one of the most consequential issues facing the state: How to fund education

"Airborne - Auburn, Washington" by brewbooks is licensed under CC by 2.0 http://bit.ly/2nnpDPO

When Ali Modarres looks at a map, he doesn’t see a line dividing King County and Pierce County. Instead, the urban studies professor sees the booming area right around Seattle as one region and everything to the south, from SeaTac in King County down through Pierce County, as another.

That latter area is what he defines as the South Sound. Southern King County, he said, has more in common economically and demographically with Pierce County than it does with Seattle and Bellevue.

"Bobby Seale" by Peizes is licensed under CC by 2.0 bit.ly/2oL0AWK

More than 50 years have passed since Bobby Seale co-founded the Black Panther Party.

But the lessons of 1960s political movements still apply today, Seale said in an interview this week, before he delivered a lecture on activism at the University of Washington Tacoma. 

PAULA WISSEL / KNKX

Pierce County's social services seem to be keeping pace with a growing homelessness problem, but they aren’t making headway.

That’s one conclusion from the county’s annual census of homeless people, the results of which were released this week. 

Tess Colby, who oversees Pierce County’s homelessness programs, said the county is getting better at moving people into housing.  

"Tacoma SR509 bridge" by Cheryl Marland is licensed under CC by 2.0

Pierce County is growing, but some say it's not the right kind of growth. 

The population is surging. But much of that growth is driven by King County ex-pats seeking cheaper housing.

Nearly half of Pierce County's workers commute to jobs outside the county, many of them to Seattle.

The new Pierce County executive, Bruce Dammeier, says fighting that trend is his first order of business.

"Joe rises" by Jason Taellious is licensed under CC by 2.0

Bruce Dammeier ascended to the Pierce County Executive's Office just months after a report found the county lacked a well-connected and accessible mental health care system. 

Dammeier’s plan for improving the system starts with a pair of vans.

He wants the county to operate two specially-equipped vehicles carrying trained staff who would rush to help people in a mental health crisis. 

"Mount Rainier at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge" by Jonathan Miske is licensed under CC by 2.0.

Pierce and Snohomish counties are among the nation's top destinations for people moving within the United States, beating out even tech-infused King County, according to new U.S. Census data. 

The Census Bureau measures something called net domestic migration. It’s the balance of people who moved to and from a particular place.

Will James / KNKX

Sound Transit board members on Thursday met for the first time since anger erupted over a spike in car tabs tied to the transportation upgrades. 

Transit officials largely defended their formula for calculating the fees, which residents have criticized for inflating the values of vehicles.

"Aerial photo of Port of Tacoma" by D Coetzee is licensed under CC by 2.0

Tacoma has a decades-old reputation as an industrial city. But leaders say it’s time to rethink which specific industries are welcome. 

A City Council proposal would direct the Planning Commission to draft new land-use recommendations for Tacoma’s industrial tideflats area, which includes the Port of Tacoma.

U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT

The Trump administration is calling out cities and counties for their policies toward undocumented immigrants, and Washington state is well-represented on the list. 

Eleven Washington counties appear in a report the administration published Monday identifying jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

JSSWA WASHINGTON NATIONAL GUARD / FLICKR

A Washington congressman says the House Intelligence Committee may subpoena associates of President Donald Trump over ties to Russia. 

Democratic Rep. Denny Heck, who lives in Olympia, is the only Pacific Northwest representative on the committee. 

POOL / GETTY IMAGES

Our democracy limits the government’s executive branch to a largely administrative role. 

But that doesn’t stop mayors, governors, and presidents from making big campaign promises on policy. And sometimes they seek creative ways around the limitations of their office. 

Take Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Will James / KNKX

Treating homeless people takes special training, but it's not something doctors, nurses, and other health care providers typically learn in school.

That's according to Lois Thetford, a physician's assistant with decades of experience working with the homeless. 

"downtown" by Scott Hingst is licensed under CC by 2.0.

Ricardo Noguera isn't too proud to say that Tacoma is Seattle's "little brother." As Tacoma's economic development director, he's happy to capitalize on Seattle's booming economy.

But he has an obstacle: a lack of office space. 

Will James / KNKX

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says the federal government isn't going to step in and help solve the city's homelessness crisis.

November's election, he said, made it clear that Seattle is on its own.

That's why he's asking city voters to approve $275 million in new property taxes over five years to invest in homelessness programs. He made what amounted to an opening pitch for the tax levy at a news conference Wednesday.

Will James / KNKX

Washington state's attorney general led the charge against President Donald Trump's first executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. 

Now that Trump has revised the order, he's deciding whether to sue again. 

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson spoke at a news conference hours after Trump issued the new order Monday. He said his staff is reviewing it.

Inye Wokoma / Courtesy of "Shelf Life"

The Red Apple Market is a social hub of Seattle’s Central District.

When filmmaker Jill Freidberg heard the grocery store was going to be demolished this year, she saw it as a call to start telling the stories of her gentrifying neighborhood.

COURTESY OF KING COUNTY WASTEWATER DIVISION

Three weeks after floodwaters crippled a major Seattle sewage treatment plant, a clearer picture of the damage is emerging.

King County's wastewater treatment director, Mark Isaacson, said the flooding that occurred Feb. 9 is unlike anything the West Point Treatment Plant has seen in its 50-year history. 

"Outside NWDC" by Seattle Globalist is licensed under CC by 2.0

The Trump administration is signaling it will ramp up deportations of undocumented immigrants, which could put pressure on our country's system of holding and removing them. 

Before people are deported, federal authorities often hold them in detention centers. Our region's Northwest Detention Center, in Tacoma, has 1,575 beds.

But are those beds full? How much room is left for new detainees?

Will James / KNKX

The electronic data we use isn't as ephemeral as it seems. Our photos, videos, and email take up physical space in the world.

Patty Martin knows this. Some of it ends up outside her kitchen window. 

Martin lives in Quincy, a rural Washington town that happens to house vast chunks of the internet in gigantic data centers. 

Quincy, a town of about 7,000 people in a bowl of gentle hills, was known for food processing plants that turned potatoes into French fries.

Charles Reed / U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP

President Donald Trump’s promised crackdown on illegal immigration has ignited debate about civil rights, and who the government can and should deport.

But the rights of noncitizens were a messy realm of American law long before Trump's presidency.

Washington State Senate Democratic Caucus

As Seattle lawmakers discussed pulling the city’s money from Wells Fargo to protest the bank’s support of the Dakota Access Pipeline, one idea got some applause: What about creating a taxpayer-owned bank in Washington state?

City Councilman Mike O’Brien floated the idea at a committee meeting last Wednesday while wondering where the city should park its money if it divests from Wells Fargo.

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