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

Dozens of Republicans rose to their feet with a scream. Donald Trump's victory was unfolding on giant screens beaming Fox News into a Bellevue ballroom.

At a Democratic gathering across Lake Washington, news of Hillary Clinton's concession scrolled across a TV with CNN on mute. Stragglers at the hotel bar moaned, cursed, cried out in disbelief.

"She was supposed to win," said Brittany Silvas, a Clinton supporter from Seattle.

More than 60 Renton families who rely on rental assistance are getting a reprieve weeks after landlords told them they would have to vacate their apartments.

Tenants of the Renton Woods and Grammercy complexes have faced displacement since the summer, when landlords said they would no longer accept Section 8 vouchers, according to advocates with the Tenants Union of Washington State.

September unemployment data released this week seems to show a widening economic gap between struggling small-town Washington and the booming Seattle area.

But there are signs rising unemployment in rural Washington is a result of more people joining the workforce rather than a loss of jobs.

Leaders of a Tacoma-based health system have launched a new unit for teenagers in psychiatric crisis, calling it a more peaceful alternative to the emergency room. 

The 27-bed Mary Bridge Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit opened its doors Tuesday at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital. 

As Pierce Transit rebuilds from deep recession-era cuts, agency leaders hope free car rides to the bus stop could expand ridership. 

Pierce Transit, Washington's second-largest transit agency, received a $205,000 federal grant this month to cover rides from app services like Uber or Lyft -- or conventional taxi companies -- to and from certain transit centers. 

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

In January, Kathy Bertsch was laid off from her job of 10 years at an engineering and manufacturing company. It was a desk job, and she had grown a bit restless there, but it was the job she had planned to retire from.

Bertsch had three months of severance pay, then was left with unemployment benefits and the task of rebuilding a career.

She went to a Seattle job fair, where she began talking with representatives of a group called ANEW, or Apprenticeship & Nontraditional Employment for Women.

A conservative think tank claims in a class-action lawsuit that some home caregivers paid by Washington state want to leave their union but can't.

The Freedom Foundation, based in Olympia, filed the lawsuit Thursday in federal court in Tacoma.

The group claims some caregivers have written to Service Employees International Union 775 and the state expressing a desire to leave the union -- but the state keeps taking union dues from their paychecks. 

Courtesy of Pierce County

More than half of Washington's 39 counties have a special sales tax funding mental health and substance abuse programs. 

Among the state's urban counties, Pierce County is the exception. Leaders there have resisted enacting tax the one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax for years. 

But with homelessness and addiction on the rise, some county leaders are looking to change that.

ELAINE THOMPSON / AP PHOTO

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on Thursday unveiled what he called a more "balanced" approach to managing the city's unauthorized homeless encampments, entering a debate that has simmered for weeks.

Murray said at a news conference that city workers would tolerate encampments in some public spaces -- but not parks, sidewalks, or school grounds. 

Will James / knkx

Seattle lawmakers are stepping back to revise a law that would effectively allow people without homes to camp in some public spaces.

Since the City Council took up the proposal Sept. 6, a growing number of residents have expressed fear it would make tents fixed features of parks and sidewalks.

Four years ago, Tacoma City leaders gazed into a $60 million budget hole and cut 200 jobs through layoffs, early retirements, and by leaving vacancies unfilled.

Now an improving economy could allow the city to restore some of its police force and even fix up the Tacoma Dome. 

Courtesy of the New Hope Resource Center

Operators of Puyallup's only drop-in center serving homeless people say proposed security regulations could force them to shut down, following months of tension with neighbors.

Some residents say homeless people seeking help at the New Hope Resource Center have brought drugs and crime to downtown Puyallup. 

In September, city officials proposed a list of security requirements they may impose as a condition of the center's 2017 license. 

Authors of Initiative 1501 say its central aim is to protect seniors from scammers. But detractors argue the initiative itself has a hidden purpose.

Initiative 1501, on the ballot in Washington state this election, would impose harsher criminal and civil penalties on identity thieves and fraudsters who target seniors and other vulnerable people.

Will James / knkx

Corrected on October 11, 2016 - An earlier version of this post said Washington has the nation's 42nd-highest unemployment rate. In fact, Washington has the eighth-highest.

An initiative on the ballot this election would set Washington state on the path to having one of the nation's highest minimum wages: $13.50 per hour. 

Few, if any, detractors have argued that Washington workers don't deserve a raise. But a debate has focused on whether a jump in the minimum wage would be wind drag or jet fuel for the state's uneven economy. 

Will James / knkx

Bouquets, balloons, and hand-drawn posters piled up Monday at the grassy entryway of the Cascade Mall, the small-town shopping center that is the site of America's latest mass killing.

Residents of Burlington drifted by the makeshift memorial to pay respects to the five people fatally shot Friday - or simply to take stock of what had happened to their community of 8,000 people about an hour's drive north of Seattle.

Will James

High rates of diabetes and other health problems in Seattle's Chinatown-International District are due in part to a lack of safe outdoor space, a community organization says.

InterIm CDA, a housing and advocacy group, released a report Sept. 21 saying the district has less green space per person than any other Seattle neighborhood. 

ELAINE THOMPSON / AP

Seattle leaders unveiled a package of reports Sept. 8 filled with recommendations on how to solve the city's homelessness crisis. 

DANIEL X. O'NEIL VIA CREATIVE COMMONS

Seattle lawmakers Monday passed a law designed to give thousands of hourly workers more regular schedules, calling it a step in a fight against economic disparities in the city. 

The law, dubbed "secure scheduling" by activists and city officials, passed 9-0 over objections from managers at national retail and restaurant chains. The vote makes Seattle the second city in the country, after San Francisco, to pass scheduling protections for hourly workers.

Will James / knkx

Washington state has the fifth highest percentage of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in the country. But members of those communities say their full voting power isn't felt in the state.

That's why more than 1,500 people gathered at the Tacoma Dome on Thursday for a political summit organized by the statewide Asian Pacific Islander Coalition.

"We're the sleeping giant," said Lua Pritchard, chairwoman of the coalition's Pierce County chapter. 

Daniel X. O'Neil via Creative Commons

Seattle may be days away from passing what some activists consider the nation's strongest worker scheduling regulations. 

The City Council's Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee voted 5-0 Tuesday in favor of the secure scheduling proposal

The committee vote was the last step before the full nine-member City Council takes up the law, expected as soon as Monday. 

ELAINE THOMPSON / AP

The Seattle City Council is weighing new rights for homeless people living in camps along highways or deep in wooded parks.

On Tuesday, four council members introduced a law that would make it harder for city workers to disband the illegal clusters of tents and makeshift shelters that have grown as the region's homeless population has swelled.

SIMONE BOE

Activists say they're still ready to campaign for an income tax to fund college tuition in Olympia, despite a court ruling last week blocking the initiative from the ballot this Election Day.

The Opportunity for Olympia campaign has appealed the Aug. 24 decision, and leaders say they hope to get a hearing as early as Wednesday in the state's Court of Appeals. 

ELAINE THOMPSON / AP PHOTO

The median price for a single-family house in Washington state hit an all-time record of $317,500 in the second quarter of 2016.

That beats the prior record of $316,700 set in 2007, just before the housing market crashed, according to an analysis by the University of Washington's Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies.

Seattle City Council

A proposed Seattle law that aims to ease the city's housing crisis by encouraging homeowners to build cottages in their backyards has run into resistance.

The Queen Anne Community Council is trying to force the city to conduct an environmental review of the law. The nonprofit has brought a case before the city's hearing examiner and says it has raised $25,000 for legal fees.

"Aerial photo of area surrounding Chief Leschi School Administration" by D Coetzee is licensed by CC by 2.0

Pierce County leaders are exploring a way to save more farmland from the development sweeping the Puget Sound region. But they risk upsetting some key stakeholders: the farmers. 

Every county in Washington has to decide which farms count as "agricultural resource land" -- basically farmland that can't be developed. 

No county has stricter criteria, or less farmland preserved in this way, than Pierce County. It boasts some of the nation's best soils, but about two-thirds of its farmland has disappeared since 1950 as the county's population nearly tripled. 

Supporters of secure scheduling  march in downtown Seattle in April.
Working Washington

Businesses made their stand against Seattle's proposed "secure scheduling" law Tuesday evening.

Representatives from Home Depot, AutoZone, Target, Petco, Subway franchises, and other chains packed half the city council chamber at a public hearing to criticize proposed rules on how their companies schedule workers in the city.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders plan to gather in Tacoma, Seattle and elsewhere Friday to watch the presidential campaigns vie for their votes.

They’ll tune into a live stream of a Las Vegas forum featuring Bill Clinton, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

Puget Sound Energy

Plans for a terminal that would make and store liquefied natural gas at the Port of Tacoma are moving closer to reality.  But there’s still a question of how the costs should be divvied up. 

Puget Sound Energy, the private utility hoping to build the plant, is in talks with state regulators over how to structure the corporate entity that would run the facility — essentially a chilled steel tank wrapped in three feet of concrete. 

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