Ashley Gross

Business and Labor Reporter

Ashley Gross is KPLU's business and labor reporter, covering everything from Amazon.com and Boeing to garbage strikes. She joined the station in May 2012 after working for five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.

She studied history at Brown University and earned a master's in international affairs at Columbia University. She grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two sons.

One of Ashley's most memorable moments in radio happened several years ago in Northwest Alaska: "I was visiting an alcohol and drug rehab program in the tiny village of Selawik. It helps Alaska Natives recover by helping them get back in touch with their subsistence lifestyle. It was spring, which meant the river was still frozen - barely. We went out on snowmachines to go ice-fishing, but late in the day, as we headed back, the river had melted to the consistency of a Slurpee. It was a harrowing ride and a good lesson in trust - I rode with my eyes closed, clinging for dear life to the woman driving. A week later, three people drowned trying to ride a snowmachine over that river, and that's when I realized just how dangerous life in rural Alaska can be."

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Now that the election is over, Washington, D.C. has turned its focus to averting the so-called fiscal cliff. But Washington Senator Patty Murray says going over the cliff should be an option.

The fiscal cliff refers to the Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of the year and the deep spending cuts that will take place. Senator Murray has been saying for some time now that Democrats shouldn’t be too afraid of the fiscal cliff.

Bill Holmes

Nordstrom says profit and sales climbed in the most recent quarter, although earnings came in just below what analysts predicted.

Nordstrom says men’s shoes, men’s apparel and kids’ clothes did especially well. Morningstar analyst Paul Swinand says the company’s also doing well online. He says brick-and-mortar retailers like Nordstrom may have been late to the game but they’re reaping the benefits of e-commerce.

Nimataradji photography / Flickr

Foes of the same-sex marriage referendum in Washington have conceded the law will pass. The group that sponsored Referendum 74 declared victory yesterday.

Now that voters have legalized recreational marijuana in Washington state, the question is whether the federal government will sue to block it. One legal expert says he expects a court challenge.

Washington’s initiative 502 doesn’t just legalize possession of small quantities of marijuana. It sets up a system for licensing cultivation and sale of the drug and then imposes a tax system. Sam Kamin is a professor of law at the University of Denver. He says he thinks the federal government will determine that Washington’s law is going too far and will challenge it in court.

The Associated Press

Washington joined Colorado in voting to become the first states to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana for recreational use, but people shouldn't expect to be able to buy a bag of legitimate weed any time soon.

Nor should they expect the law to go into effect with out a fight with federal law agencies, said Sam Kamin, professor of law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

“My gut feeling is that the federal government won’t currently tolerate the commercial recreational sale of marijuana, that is they will not allow it to be regulated like alcohol. That just seems a bridge too far,” he said.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

People in Seattle City Hall live and breathe politics. For the past few months, they’ve also been able to eat politics. Obama and Romney sugar cookies have been selling well at the City Grind Espresso stand at Seattle City Hall, although owner Jon Streeter says there hasn't been quite the same hype as in 2008.

"They've been steady, and I think there are more places to get them, so I think overall they're probably  selling as well, but for us they're not nearly the big deal they were four years ago," Streeter said.

Big Dubya / Flickr

This is the first presidential election in which no one in Washington is voting in a voting booth. Lots of people prefer voting by mail – it’s convenient, they don’t have to rush from work to get to the polls before they close. But in downtown Seattle, KPLU found lots of people who wax nostalgic for the good old days of voting in person - among them, Terri Vail, Antonio Hicks, Brad Bloomquist, and Peter Orange.

All you political junkies with iPhones and Android devices … there’s an app waiting for you.

The election results mobile app from the Washington Secretary of State’s office will give you up-to-date results for all federal, state and local races. The secretary of state’s office released the iPhone app two years ago and added the Android one this year because of strong demand.

Konabish - Greg Bishop

A tentative contract between pilots and Horizon Air includes more rest time between flights. That reflects a federal rule that goes into effect by early 2014, one that may prompt many other airlines to renegotiate pilot contracts.

The new rule requiring longer rest times is aimed at reducing pilot fatigue. It came in the wake of a Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, New York, in 2009 – in which sleep-deprivation may have played a role.

John-Morgan

Taxes have loomed large this election season. Can we jumpstart the economy by changing the tax system? Should the rich pay more or less?

These are hotly debated issues and for perspective, we turned to two experts on opposite ends of the political spectrum. In an earlier interview, Robert Reich, who was President Clinton’s labor secretary, explained why he thinks the tax system needs to do more to redistribute wealth from the rich toward the poor and middle class.

imacgyv0r

Starbucks is continuing to thrive despite a lackluster economy. The coffee giant is raising its profit target for the coming fiscal year and says it plans to add 1,300 new stores around the world. 

People may be feeling strapped these days, but they’re still indulging in lattes at Starbucks. The company says sales climbed 11 percent in the most recent quarter, and Starbucks expects revenue to grow as much as 13 percent next year.

R.J. Hottovy is an analyst for Morningstar who covers Starbucks.

401(K) 2012

The middle class is struggling. The rich are growing richer.

Is there anything we can do to stem rising income inequality? Would changes to our tax system help?

In the final days before the election, KPLU asked two experts – one liberal, one conservative – to weigh in on what to do about income inequality and how to fix our tax system.

The funny people behind the web site I Can Has Cheezburger – known for its silly cat pictures – are getting their own TV show.

Atomic Taco

Bus riders in Pierce County face dramatic cuts to service if voters reject a ballot proposition to hike the sales tax. Opponents are fighting hard against the measure, saying it would make Pierce County’s sales tax the highest on the West Coast.

If you ask people in downtown Tacoma how they feel about paying more in sales tax, you hear a common refrain.

"The sales tax is pretty high as it is, and I think it will be hard for people to swallow," said Michele Anderson.

Population growth triggered changes to Washington’s political map. This week, KPLU is looking at two districts with the most dramatic changes - the new 10th Congressional district, which takes in Joint Base Lewis-McChord and our state capitol, and the first Congressional district, a seat Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee used to hold.

soumit

Amazon.com recently gobbled up more than $1 billion dollars’ worth of real estate in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. The company is growing like crazy – we’ll hear on Thursday how fast quarterly sales and profit are growing. 

It’s spread way beyond retailing – the latest is that Amazon is functioning like a bank – lending money to its third-party merchants. It's just one of the many ways in which Amazon is flexing its muscles. 

Washington state depends on exports – but the world’s many languages can be a barrier. Executives from 31 countries are gathering in Seattle this week to talk about translating everything from instruction manuals to smartphone apps.

To hear the complete story, click on the "listen" button above.

Andrew Buckingham

The Seattle-based coffee chain Tully’s says it’s going to reorganize under chapter 11 bankruptcy. Tully’s has long struggled to find a profitable niche amid fierce competition from its hometown rival Starbucks. A string of CEOs tried and failed to turn the company around.

Scott Pearson has been at the helm for a year and a half. He says expensive leases signed in the boom years have weighed the company down. Competition has also hurt.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Washington voters are weighing whether to become the first state to legalize marijuana. All this week in our series "If it’s legal: Five ways legal pot could affect your life," KPLU reporters have been imagining what the future could look like if it passes. Today, we check out the night-life scene, which could include a new version of BYOB – Bring Your Own Brownie. 

Say we fast-forward into the future. The legalization measure has just gone into effect. Where will people use marijuana? Will the guy you pass walking his dog be smoking a joint? Will you see people at a bar sharing their pot brownies?

Hawkins Multimedia

Trade is even more important to Washington state’s economy than previously thought. A new report says 40 percent of jobs in the state are connected to exports and imports.

A lot of that trade, of course, stems from very expensive airplanes produced and shipped from Washington. But the new report from two trade booster groups sheds light on other parts of our state’s economy connected to trade - like international tourism.

Joe Mabel

Update: A potential strike by longshoremen in the Pacific Northwest has been temporarily averted, according to a spokesman for the grain terminal operators.  The terminal operators have been trying to reach a new contract with longshoremen at six ports in Washington and Oregon.

Pat McCormick of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers' Association, which represents the terminal operators, says the two sides have agreed to continue talks into mid-October even though the contract expires this Sunday.

The Associated Press

Some Boeing retirees fear they could be in danger of losing their medical coverage under a new contract the company has proposed to its engineers' union, SPEEA.

Update 9-26 – Boeing sent out the following response this morning by email: "Boeing has no plans to eliminate retiree medical benefits for current retirees. If we’d had the opportunity to discuss our proposal with the union, we could have clarified that we did not intend to change the status quo with respect to retiree medical benefits. Regrettably, SPEEA has chosen to sensationalize the issue and cause unnecessary concern."

IsoSports

Now that the Seattle City Council has given the green light for a $490 million NBA arena, investor Chris Hansen has to find a team to play there.  We know Seattle's not getting the Lakers or the Heat. So which teams are likely prospects to move here?

Kurt Badenhausen, who covers the business of sports for Forbes, recently analyzed the NBA field to come up with a list of possibilities. Top among them is the Sacramento Kings.

New figures on poverty from the Census Bureau show big differences between counties in Washington state.

Counties in the Puget Sound region had a lower poverty rate than the nation as a whole in 2011. The rate for counties around Seattle didn’t change much compared with 2010.

It’s a different story in other parts of the state. Franklin County in eastern Washington had a 30 percent poverty rate – twice the national rate.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

One of the hardest things about starting a company is getting someone to bankroll your idea. Venture capitalists are only interested in companies they think will have explosive growth, like Google or Amazon in their infancy. And getting a bank loan these days can be tough.

Some pioneering Seattle investors have stepped into that void. They’ve come up with a new way of funding startups, and they’re helping to get some creative companies off the ground. 

Andrew W. Sieber / Flickr

An aviation analyst says some Boeing engineers and technical workers are preparing for a work slowdown amid increasingly contentious contract negotiations. The union, called SPEEA, is telling members to reject Boeing’s offer, saying the raises the company is offering are disrespectful.

The Associated Press

Boeing has delivered a contract proposal to its engineers, and an analyst says they may be disappointed. The long-awaited proposal offers pay increases that are less than half what the union wanted.

The city of Seattle wants to crack down on problem rental buildings by requiring landlords to register and get inspections of their units. Tenants’ advocates say they’re hopeful the new system will mean fewer people living in unhealthy or dangerous housing.

Jonathan Grant runs the non-profit group Tenants Union of Washington State. He says he hears from tenants all the time about the poor conditions of their apartments.

KPLU

Seattle has a new deal for a sports arena to house NBA and NHL teams. If the full council approves the agreement later this month, lead private investor Chris Hansen will then face the possibly tougher job of getting a deal for the teams.

The revised deal has been officially announced by members of the Seattle City Council and addresses concerns by the Port of Seattle and others that traffic generated by events there would clog up the SoDo area.

Seattle councilmembers Sally J. Clark, Tim Burgess and Mike O'Brien made the announcement.

Robert Scoble / Flickr

Overall, job growth remains disappointingly slow – the unemployment rate remains stuck above 8 percent. In computer-related fields, though, jobs are going unfilled.

Unemployment in computer and math jobs is a measly 3.4 percent. Companies like Microsoft and Expedia say one remedy is immigration reform, and they’re hopeful Congress will pass a new act to break the logjam.

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