John Ryan | KUOW News and Information

John Ryan

Reporter

Year started with KUOW: 2009

John welcomes story ideas and feedback from listeners. Email him at jryan@kuow.org or call him at 206-543-0637. For secure, confidential communication, he's at 1-401-405-1206 on the Signal messaging app, or you can send snail mail (but don't put your return address on the outside) to John Ryan, KUOW, 4518 Univ. Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105.

Good thing John was a clumsy traveler.

Otherwise his cheap microcassette recorder wouldn't have fallen out of his pocket in an Indonesian taxi, a generous BBC stringer wouldn't have lent him some professional recording gear, and he wouldn't have gotten the radio bug. But after pointing a mic at rare jungle songbirds and gong–playing grandmothers for his first radio story, there was no turning back.

In the past decade, he's freelanced for shows such as All Things Considered, Living on Earth, Marketplace and The World. He also continued his print career by reporting for newspapers including the Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times and Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce.

In 2009, John moved back to Seattle after two exciting years covering avalanches, political intrigue and just about everything in between for KTOO FM, the NPR station in Alaska's capital city.

John has won national awards for KUOW as a freelancer (check out "As the Sound Churns") and now as a staff reporter, including the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi awards for Public Service in Radio Journalism and for Investigative Reporting. He believes democracy only works when journalism holds the powerful accountable for their words and actions. 

In addition to the recent stories below, John's KUOW stories from September 2012 and before are archived here.

Ways to Connect

KUOW / John Ryan photo

Wind and heavy rain could make this weekend tough for Puget Sound dwellers.

The storm could be rough on the sound's underwater residents as well.


Sound Transit's Capitol Hill Station, prior to opening, 25 January 2016.
Flickr Photo/Don Wilson (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/Efv737

Money keeps pouring into the battle over the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, with Mass Transit Now, the campaign working to pass the $54 billion transit package, up to nearly $3 million in contributions.

Basler and Smith campaigns

Democrat Adam Smith of Bellevue is running to keep his seat in Congress, but most of his campaign cash comes not from Washington state but from Washington, D.C., and its suburbs.

J.J. Abrams and others give big in WA elections

Oct 4, 2016
Flickr user Nick Ares / Creative Commons

Campaign cash, often in six-figure chunks, is sloshing around the Washington elections as November draws near. 

If the figures reported by the Washington Public Disclosure Commission are any indicator, last week was a big one for the makers of oversized novelty checks. Last week saw 11 checks of $100,000 or more—including two of this year's biggest. 

Hackers target Washington election systems

Sep 30, 2016

Washington's voter registration system has been targeted by cyber attackers, state elections officials have told KUOW. Secretary of State Kim Wyman said Friday afternoon the attackers appeared to be the same people who targeted Arizona earlier this year.

KUOW Photo / John Ryan

Forty-four people lost their homes on Tuesday when a Seattle Housing Authority apartment building in West Seattle caught fire. Twenty-eight of them, mostly women and children, have been sleeping in a gymnasium at the Delridge Community Center, and wondering where they'll go next.

Grizz, the author's cat. This photo makes sense if you read the story.
KUOW Photo/Abraham Epton

Elections are big business, with consultants, campaign staffers, advertising firms and TV stations raking in big bucks. 

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Sound Transit's newest light rail station opened Saturday at Angle Lake, just south of Sea-Tac International Airport, to live music, dance troupes and protests.

Kitsap Transit

A Seattle-area transit initiative takes in money from real-estate interests who could profit if the initiative passes. Commuters would face higher taxes, but many could also get to work faster.

No, we’re not talking about the $54 billion proposal to expand Sound Transit service (that campaign has been largely funded by $1.1 million from the construction industry, with the real-estate sector coming in second.) 

Credit: Madrona Venture Group.

How to solve traffic problems on I-5? What about banning humans from driving on it? And replacing them with robots?

Screenshot of Mass Transit Now ad on Facebook

Construction firms and other big businesses have pumped more than $2 million into the campaign to pass a Sound Transit ballot measure this fall.

While Microsoft is the biggest single donor, at $300,000, the construction industry has the most invested in the transit measure passing: $1.1 million and counting.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg waves after speaking to delegates during the third day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 27, 2016.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg has waded a quarter-million dollars deeper into Washington state politics.

Bloomberg gave $248,000 to Washington Democrats on Sept. 7, according to the latest reports filed with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.

Habib and McClendon campaigns

The race for Washington's lieutenant governor is usually kind of a snooze, but not this year.

One candidate has raised a record sum ($723,000) in pursuit of that little-noticed post, with nearly half his campaign cash coming from outside Washington state.


Close to $100 million has gone into this year's elections in Washington state so far, all aiming to influence you and your neighbors' votes.

That's just one of the things your official voters' guide won't tell you, but KUOW's new Field Guide to Influence will. The Field Guide lets you see the largely hidden actors trying to sway your vote behind the scenes.


Today President Trump called recent anti-Semitic incidents “horrible” and “painful”
Photo via Flickr creative commons Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Despite sagging support in Washington state, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is expected to make appearances here Tuesday at a rally in Everett and a fundraiser at an undisclosed location in the Seattle area.

Angelo Paparella, whose firm PCI, has organized signature gathering campaigns for many initiatives in Washington state.
Courtesy of Angelo Paparella

You may not have ever heard his name, but Angelo Paparella has had a hand in most of the initiatives on your November ballot.

Over the past 15 years, Paparella’s firm has made more money in Washington elections than initiative king Tim Eyman and his associates.

U.S. range of the mosquitoes that can spread Zika and other diseases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

It’s a low-tech approach to fighting the Zika virus: a mosquito trap made of a bucket, screens and a glue strip. The black, five-gallon trap uses water and the smell of hay to lure mosquitoes.

The technology comes from a firm in Woodinville, and researchers there say it works.


JZ Knight claims to channel a 35,000-year-old warrior-spirit named Ramtha.
Ramtha's School of Enlightenment

Donald Trump has been widely criticized for making offensive statements about Mexicans, but he is not the only politically active figure who has made such statements.


KUOW Photo/John Ryan

If you look at your voters' pamphlet and see page after page of candidates trying to win your vote, you might think democracy is strong in Washington state. KUOW looked at the money behind the candidates and found there's much less competition — much less democracy — than meets the eye.

Tesoro workers killed in a 2010 refinery explosion are commemorated outside city hall in Everett, Washington.
KUOW Photo / Bond Huberman

A nearly six-year-long legal battle drew to a close Thursday when attorneys made their final arguments on whether Texas oil company Tesoro is responsible for an explosion that killed seven workers at its refinery in Anacortes, Washington, in 2010.


KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Texas oil company Tesoro and the purchaser of one of its refineries have agreed to spend $403 million to reduce air pollution at oil refineries in six western states under an agreement announced by the Justice Department on Monday.

COASST / Cliff Brown

Seabirds have been washing up dead on beaches in Washington and British Columbia this summer, and scientists can't say why.

AP Photo/Rachel La Corte

The vast majority of money going into initiative campaigns this year in Washington state has come in lumps of $10,000 or more, from a small number of wealthy individuals and special interests, according to a KUOW analysis of state campaign-finance reports.

The campaigns have been fueled by $14 million in contributions to date, mostly from billionaires, unions and out-of-state interests.


Washington Secretary of State

Backers of I-1515, the initiative to restrict which bathrooms transgender people can use, have told Washington state officials they will not turn in signatures by the Friday midnight deadline. Even with that initiative falling by the wayside, a bumper crop of six initiatives appears headed for the November ballot statewide.


Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (holding giant scissors) and other officials celebrate the opening of a light-rail station on Capitol Hill.
Flickr Photo/Sound Transit

The launch party for the two light rail stations was, in hindsight, “too much.”

The consultants, tote bags, security and ads – it added up to $858,000 of taxpayer money.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray at Capitol Hill's light rail station.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Seattle-based Sound Transit has made its plan to expand regional transit slightly faster and slightly more expensive.


Sound Transit

Everett could get light rail in 20 years instead of 25 under a new plan discussed by the Sound Transit board Thursday afternoon.

Light rail would reach Ballard in 19 years instead of 22.


An air tanker drops red fire retardant on a wildfire near Twisp, Wash., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015.
FLICKR PHOTO/BEN BROOKS (CC BY-SA 2.0) HTTP://BIT.LY/1KSV09N

State officials are investigating the causes of two forest fires northeast of Seattle.

With no lightning reported in the Oso or Gold Bar areas where the fires started, officials suspect they were caused by humans, either accidentally or intentionally.

Ted Cruz raised the most money of any Republican presiddential candidate in Washington state.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Candidates who raise the most money tend to win elections.

But not always.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz was scheduled to speak at a rally in Spokane and a fundraiser in Redmond on Wednesday and at a rally in Bothell on Thursday.

But he dropped out of the presidential race Tuesday night after Donald Trump's big win in Indiana.

Thornton Place Apartments in Seattle's Northgate neighborhood has 56 apartments (out of 278) set aside for low wage earners. In exchange for keeping rents for those units low for 12 years, the developer got a tax break.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

This summer, Seattle voters will be asked to make property in the city a little less affordable to make housing for the poorest Seattleites more affordable.

On Monday, Seattle City Council unanimously approved putting a housing levy on the Aug. 2 primary ballot.


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