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Today So Far Blog

News, factoids, and insights from KUOW's newsroom. And maybe some peeks behind-the-scenes. Check back daily for updates. And read the Today So Far newsletter here.

Have any leads or feedback for the KUOW Blog? Contact Dyer Oxley at dyer@kuow.org.

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  • Minimum wage vs your neighbors vs inflation: Today So Far

    Today So Far Blog
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    • Western Washington city aims to up its minimum wage to compete with neighboring towns.
    • Will Seattle teachers stick around?
    • Who leaked SPD info to the media?

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for June 30, 2022.

    After KUOW and The Seattle Times revealed that the Seattle Police Department's sexual assault unit was understaffed amid the recent loss of officers and detectives, an investigation was launched into who at SPD leaked the info. The Office of Police Accountability is looking into how an internal memo was leaked to the media. KUOW Reporter Ashley Hiruko is not divulging where and how she received any information. Watching her work up close, I doubt she ever will (frankly, I'm a little afraid of her).

    Read the full story here.

    Tukwila is considering an initiative that will raise the city's minimum wage by about $3. This would match the surrounding areas' wages, and hopefully draw in more workers. That's the argument put forward by initiative organizers. I would also put forth the notion that inflation is changing our financial landscape, which is something employers throughout our region are going to have to deal with. I'm no economic rocket surgeon, but even I can add up the fact that inflation has generally wavered between 1-ish and 2-ish percent, but we are now experiencing up to 6-ish percent. This means food is costing more and gas prices are way up there. Rent is always going higher. And Washington families who say they have a "very difficult time" meeting household expenses have gone from 4% to 10% within a year. If I was a Western Washington employer right now, I'd start thinking about worker retention and pay.

    It's been pretty busy in the Today So Far Blog lately. Police caught a Bothell man mailing hard drives to people in the U.S. and overseas. What's wrong with that? Nothing ... except for when the hard drives are filled with meth. Also, the King County Council wants to change when you vote. One problem election officials have noticed is that fewer voters participate in odd-year elections — when there aren't any presidential, gubernatorial, or other high-profile races. So the county wants to move less popular elections to even-numbered years with the hope that more people will pay attention and vote. The idea has some naysayers, however, and ultimately you're going to decide on this issue.

    And a third of Seattle teachers say they don't plan to stick around town in five years. The teachers' union surveyed its members (while it's engaged in negotiations), and among the takeaways is that many teachers don't see themselves in Seattle after that amount of time. Some indicate that they will leave the education field altogether.


    AS SEEN ON KUOW

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  • Initiative to boost Tukwila's minimum wage moves forward

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: FILE: A stretch of Highway 99 is shown in 2018.
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    FILE: A stretch of Highway 99 is shown in 2018.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    There is a new initiative to increase Tukwila's minimum wage by over $3.

    The Tukwila City Council can pass the initiative, or voters will get to decide in the November election.

    Katie Wilson is the campaign organizer of Raise The Wage Tukwila. Wilson said many who signed the initiative thought it was reasonable for Tukwila workers to make similar wages as surrounding cities.

    "A lot of people in Tukwila commute to Seatac or Seattle for jobs," Wilson said. "Partly because minimum wage is higher in those cities. Maybe, they would like to work closer to home. But, the jobs in Tukwila don't pay as much."

    Tukwila currently pays Washington state's minimum wage of $14.49. If the initiative passes the wage will be boosted to rates matching Seatac's minimum pay for hospitality and transportation workers. That's $17.54. Larger employers, 501 or more employees, in Seattle pay a minimum of $17.27.

    Wilson says the initiative will go after low-paying jobs at the Westfield South Center mall, transportation and airport-related jobs, warehouse jobs and more.

    If the initiative passes, large businesses with 501 or more worldwide employees will pay the new rate beginning July 2023. Businesses with less employees will have three years to adjust to the proposed wage. The smallest businesses, less than 15 employees, will be exempt and continue to follow the state's minimum wage.

    Organizers of the initiative collected more than 3,000 signatures, nearly double the required amount, to bring the minimum wage issue to the Tukwila City Council for consideration.

    The Council is expected to discuss the initiative in July. If council members don't pass it, then voters will get to decide via the November ballot.

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  • King County council members want to change when you vote

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: King County drop box.
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    King County drop box.
    Credit: Juan Pablo Chiquiza / KUOW

    The King County Council has approved a plan that calls for switching elections to even numbered years. But the ultimate decision is not theirs — voters will give the final approval or denial.

    Council Chair Claudia Balducci is hoping voters will sign off on the idea when they vote on the measure this November.

    “Our democracy is strongest when the people who are elected to represent the electorate are elected by most of the electorate," Balducci said.

    Records show that voter turnout in odd-numbered years drops to an average of 47%, compared to 77% in even years. Even numbered years are when presidential, gubernatorial, and congressional elections happen, and voters are more likely to turn in their ballots for those races. That's why Balducci supports the switch.

    But Councilmember Reagan Dun does not like the idea.

    “My worry here is we get into a situation here where the voters are working on these presidential and congressional and gubernatorial races, forgetting about the local, county council members and execs," Dunn said.

    Dunn and Pete von Reichbauer both voted against the measure. Still, it's going to the voters in November.

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  • The slow coup: Today So Far

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: An image of a mock gallows on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is shown at a House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol hearing.
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    An image of a mock gallows on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is shown at a House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol hearing.
    Credit: AP
    • While speaking with KUOW's "Soundside," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee comments on the "continuing coup effort" following Jan. 6.
    • Washington's proposed carbon pollution plan is garnering some criticism because not everybody would have to follow the new rules.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for June 29, 2022.

    The congressional hearings into the January 6 riot continue to reveal more and more about that day, and provide further evidence that it was indeed an insurrection (as I've said before in this newsletter, just because they were bad at it, doesn't mean it wasn't an insurrection).

    If you ask Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, it was a coup — an attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power by someone who lost an election. It was deterred by Americans who not only did their jobs, they stood their ground as patriots. People like Vice President Mike Pence, who kept America's process on track.

    "This is a continuing coup effort. It is not finished," Inslee told KUOW, shortly after hearing Tuesday's testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aid to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

    "I think the most important thing of this testimony is to understand the depravity, number one, of Donald Trump," Inslee said. "But number two, to understand how democracy is continuing under a threat. Now it's under threat from multiple sources — the filibuster, gerrymandering, the court packing that gave us these (recent Supreme Court) decisions."

    It's also under threat from people who have taken their ideology to the ballot, whether because of misinformation, a dedication to a culture war, or other (take your pick). Here in Washington, conspiracy theory-driven candidates have run for office, and have been elected to office. And more are coming in November's election. Candidates like Washington's Loren Culp and Joe Kent, and a handful of hopefuls in smaller races, have promoted the unproven, and disproven, notion that the 2020 election was stolen.

    Such ideological camps have always existed in our region. But there has been a modern movement to achieve legitimacy and influence through the ballot. And perhaps now, this movement is a slow coup in the wake of Jan. 6, 2021. Gov. Inslee's conversation with KUOW's "Soundside" covered a lot more than Jan. 6, such as removing local dams, and abortion rights. Hear/read more of that discussion here.

    AS SEEN ON KUOW

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  • Councilmember wants King County to come up with a plan to clean homeless encampments

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: Reagan Dunn is running for Washington's 8th Congressional District
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    Reagan Dunn is running for Washington's 8th Congressional District
    Credit: Dunn campaign

    King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn wants the county to come up with a plan to clear homeless encampments. He's targeting an encampment along the Green River for the first job.

    He says that King County currently does not clear such encampments in unincorporated areas, and doesn't have any procedures in place to do so.

    That's why he's introducing legislation that he says would create an interagency task force to handle that work.

    Dunn says he hopes the encampment along the Green River between Auburn and Kent can be used as a pilot project for the proposed plan. He's targeting it because he says it's the largest in the region, and has been active for years. He says neighbors have complained about the camp for three years.

    “The conditions we are seeing at the Green River encampment are deplorable and inhumane — littered with human feces, infested with pests, and filled with stolen goods,” Dunn said. “This is no way for anyone to live, and certainly not fair to the surrounding community that deserves a neighborhood that is safe and clean. To make progress, we must start setting boundaries on what is acceptable, address the root causes of homelessness head on and get folks into shelters and into treatment. This legislation gives us the opportunity to learn the best way to do that.”

    The proposal comes amid Dunn's run for Congress. He is challenging incumbent Democrat Kim Schrier for Washington's 8th Congressional District seat. Dunn is the most high-profile Republican attempting to take the district back from Democrats after it flipped.

    Dunn has therefore made headlines on recent hot topics, such as high gas prices or abortion.

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  • Bothell man sentenced for mail order meth crime

    Today So Far Blog
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    A Bothell man accused of using computer hard drives and the U.S. Postal Service to distribute methamphetamine around the world has been sentenced to five years in federal prison.

    The dru- dealing endeavor rivals a plot from a "Breaking Bad" script. Ryan Kane, 34, was using hard drives to hide meth, which he then mailed inside the United States and across the globe.

    Law enforcement agents intercepted two packages Kane sent to Australia. The packages contained computer hard drives. But upon closer inspection, those hard drives were filled with drugs.

    “Mr. Kane was distributing nearly pure and addictive methamphetamine across the world, concealed in computer hard drives,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. "He used the Dark Web to conceal his identity and make dangerous drugs available as far away as Australia and New Zealand.”

    Kane pleaded guilty to a charge of Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute in March.

    Law enforcement became aware of Kane after noticing his online vendor account on the Dark Web. Kane was using the account to sell mail order meth. Detectives searched his Bothell home in July 2021 and found more hard drives, containing what added up to three kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride. They also found artwork that related to his Dark Web vendor account.

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  • 1/3 of Seattle teachers say they're not sticking around in 5 years

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: Third grade teacher Lucero Heredia-Valdovinos talks with students about masks during the first day of school at Mount View Elementary school on Thursday, September 2, 2021, in Seattle.
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    Third grade teacher Lucero Heredia-Valdovinos talks with students about masks during the first day of school at Mount View Elementary school on Thursday, September 2, 2021, in Seattle.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    Only 1/3 of Seattle Public School teachers say they see themselves still working for the school district in five years, according to a new study from the Seattle Education Association.

    The association, which serves as the teacher's union, also found that a third of educators said they plan to leave the district, or get out of education altogether in five years.

    The union says these findings show the district needs to "take action if it's going to retain experienced educators."

    This summer, the Union and the district will negotiate what's being described as the first full contract opening since the pandemic. The current contract expires on August 31.

    The survey of union members also found that:

    • 93% are working beyond contract hours
    • 25% are working 10+ additional hours per week
    • 77% don’t get the support they need from the superintendent and other district leadership to be successful in their jobs.
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  • Are the drones finally upon us?: Today So Far

    Today So Far Newsletter
    caption: An Amazon package is tested with a vertical compression tester on Tuesday, October 22, 2019, at an Amazon Packaging Lab in Seattle.
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    An Amazon package is tested with a vertical compression tester on Tuesday, October 22, 2019, at an Amazon Packaging Lab in Seattle.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
    • Amazon says it's ready to fly its delivery drones.
    • Answering common questions in the wake of overturning Roe v Wade.
    • Congress says it has new evidence for today's hearing on the January 6 insurrection.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for June 28, 2022.

    It seems like every year that goes by, there's a story about how Amazon has a grand plan to deliver packages via drones. And we keep waiting. Well, it finally seems like this is the year it happens.

    Amazon will officially start delivering packages via drones straight to front doors, or back yards, in a small Northern California town. Lockeford has about 3,500 residents who will serve as guinea-pig customers for the drone deliveries. Though, I will point out that despite presenting a plan to test the drones in Lockeford, Amazon is still saying the small-town test will happen sometime later this year. So we're still waiting.

    As Northwest News Network's Tom Banse reports, it's been touch and go for Amazon leading up to this point ... as well as a few crashes. Amazon has been testing drone models in Eastern Oregon. They weigh about 85 pounds. Apparently, the drones have been crashing quite a bit during the testing process — on a monthly basis between May 2021 and last February. But now the company says it's ready. If this works, it really could change the whole buying/delivering lifestyle that continues to grow in our society.

    Folks are still processing the overturning of Roe v Wade. It was a big discussion during Pride weekend. And with that comes a lot of questions. So KUOW has compiled answers to some common questions about what will happen in Washington state following the decision.

    Washington state's top officials and lawmakers are now gearing up for battles ahead over abortion rights and more. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson is preparing for legal fights with states that implement abortion bans. Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal says that she is discussing a package of protections with colleagues. That package would not only address abortion rights, but also issues related to contraception and marriage equality. Passing such laws through Congress could protect such rights from later Supreme Court decisions. Of course, to do that, they're probably going to need some more Democrats in DC, and they know it.

    Washington Democrats are also planning on codifying abortion rights in the state Constitution. The state GOP is commenting, however, that Democrats are using the recent news to distract "from their record on public safety and affordability." Read more here.

    We have another hearing on the January 6 insurrection today. This time, Congress members say they have "recently obtained evidence" that they want to present. I don't know what that could be, but it sounds so cryptic and intriguing, like a sudden plot twist in a Perry Mason episode (or Matlock if that's more your thing ... or perhaps "My Cousin Vinny"). KUOW is streaming the live proceedings, which you can watch here.

    Want more updates? Check out the Today So Far Blog!

    AS SEEN ON KUOW

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  • Teatro ZinZanni is returning to Seattle

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: "That's Zintertainment!" at Teatro ZinZanni.
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    "That's Zintertainment!" at Teatro ZinZanni.
    Credit: Michael Craft

    Teatro ZinZanni is returning to the Seattle area this fall. The circus dinner theater will pop up in Sodo Park, from mid November through February 2023.

    An exclusive ticket presale begins in August.

    An announcement on its websites states:

    "SEATTLE, WE’RE COMING HOME. This holiday season, prepare to be ZinZanni’ed once again! In partnership with the incredible SODO Park venue and its award-winning catering team Herban Feast, audiences can look forward to nights of international cirque, comedy, cabaret, and fine dining – all in ZinZanni’s signature style."

    Teatro ZinZanni has been around for nearly 25 years and have performed at different locations. The troupe spent a considerable stretch of time at a spot in Lower Queen Anne, before moving to a temporary site in Marymoor Park. After that, it popped up in Woodinville. Financial hardships from the pandemic prompted that last location to close in September 2020.

    The Seattle Times reports many veteran and other key staff who were let go in 2020 will be hired back for the upcoming shows, which the owner hopes will serve as a prelude to a more permanent and full-time operation next year.

    More updates on KUOW's Today So Far Blog!

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  • Washington state's Democrats start planning in wake of Roe v Wade overturn

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
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    Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
    Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

    Local democratic leaders are laying out their strategy to secure abortion rights in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade.

    It involves new laws, more funding, and increasing the number of Democrats in power.

    U.S. representative Pramila Jayapal says she and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been texting back and forth about a package of new bills. But Jayapal says they’d have to get past the senate.

    “So what we must do is elect two more Democratic pro-choice senators who are willing to overturn the filibuster or at a minimum carve out important exceptions to protect our rights," Jayapal said.

    Jayapal said she wants to codify "rights" the Supreme Court may examine next, such as rights protecting contraceptives and same-sex marriage.

    Meanwhile, the Washington state Democratic Party is also looking for ways to secure a two-thirds majority for their party so it can be large enough to amend the state constitution.

    But Washington's Republican Party says Democrats are "posturing ... and making abortion a central campaign issue to distract from their record on public safety and affordability."

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  • A year after the heat dome, King County wants an extreme heat plan

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: The sun radiates over Nevada.
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    The sun radiates over Nevada.

    It's been one year since instruments at the SeaTac Airport hit an all-time record high of 108 degrees for the day.

    The heat dome of 2021 resulted in more than 30 people dying in King County and more than 100 deaths statewide.

    Now, King County officials across multiple departments are developing the region's first strategy to combat extreme heat waves.

    “The goal is to strengthen short term actions to cope with heat during a heat wave," said Lara Whitely Binder. "Particularly in developed areas where pavement and other hard surfaces can amplify heat. This is also known as the urban heat island effect.”

    Whitely Binder oversees the extreme heat response plan. Details of that plan are expected to be released in 2023.

    Meanwhile, she and others are looking for ways to limit the so-called urban heat island effect by adding green spaces and other feature to keep cool.

    Some areas with lots of concrete and hard surfaces can be up to 23 degrees hotter than places with more natural landscapes.

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  • Pray to play — Supreme Court sides with Bremerton football coach: Today So Far

    Today So Far Newsletter
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    • Supreme Court sides with Bremerton's praying football coach.
    • What's up with the weather?
    • Washington aims to further protect abortion rights.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for June 27, 2022.

    Stay up to date with the Today So Far Blog!

    Another U.S. Supreme Court decision on a local case is likely to cause some friction. I think I hear some Satanists getting ready for a demonstration...

    After losing his case in lower courts, Bremerton Assistant Coach Joe Kennedy was victorious at the Supreme Court which has decided in his favor 6-3.

    You may recall back in 2015, Coach Kennedy refused to stop praying on the 50 yard line at the end of every football game. The school district fired him for it, arguing that as a public employee he was crossing a line that kept government and religion separate. The district worried that his prayers would be considered an endorsement of a religion. The Supreme Court disagreed and said that Kennedy's actions were individual and personal.

    RELATED: What does Kennedy v. Bremerton SD mean for how schools handle religious speech?

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion and said the majority ignored the fact that Kennedy was often joined by students and players in prayer, and that he incorporated his religion in his football speeches. Kennedy has always argued that he never required players to pray with him — it was their personal choice.

    Just like it is the choice of anyone under the thumb of an influential authority. It's a choice for children to be good for Santa Claus. It's a choice to pretend to like sports to suck up to your company's management. It's a choice to compliment a police officer who is deciding whether or not to give you a speeding ticket.

    And it's my personal choice to get KUOW News Director Gigi Douban her morning latte each day, ensuring that it is exactly 112 degrees when it reaches her hand. And when she throws it on the ground because it mistakenly had soy milk instead of oat milk, it is my choice to race five blocks away to get her a replacement ASAP.

    It's on the record that when Kennedy performed his post-game prayers, some students felt compelled to join despite not being religious. Court documents state that some felt that if they didn't pray, they wouldn't get to play. That is the influence of a coach, in this case, a coach taking a public employee paycheck, performing public employee duties. So like I said, this decision is going to cause some friction.

    Which brings me back to the Satanists. When Coach Kennedy made headlines in 2015, a local congregation of Satanists demanded equal time on the field. They got it. No word yet on if local Satan worshipers will have a response to the Supreme Court's latest decision.

    Speaking of Satan, it's getting hot around here (sorry, I needed some transition). It seems that the wonderfully dim and cool June weather has burned off and warmer temps have finally arrived. Despite the recent 80s/90s, temperatures are expected to drop into the 60s/70s over the coming week. Maybe even the 60s, and maybe even some rain, but I don't want to get my hopes up so let's move on.

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