Paula Wissel

Law & Justice Reporter

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KPLU since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KPLU, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.

Paula's most memorable moment at KPLU: “Interviewing NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr about his ability to put current events in historical context. It’s something I aspire to.”

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City of Seattle

Seattle is suing Total Outdoor, a national advertising company, over the giant ads the company puts on the sides of buildings in the city. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes says the signs are a flagrant violation of a long-standing Seattle ordinance meant to limit billboards in the city.

Chris Campbell / Flickr

Secretly-recorded phone calls are not protected under law even when done in the course of gathering evidence for a lawsuit, law firms were told in a state court ruling.

The Court of Appeals case grew out of the surreptitious recording of a former executive with a technology-engineering firm by lawyers at the Seattle law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine.

Some streets in Tacoma will be in the dark for at least another six weeks, maybe longer. Thieves have been stealing copper wire from street lamps and city workers haven’t been able to keep up with repairs.

The theft of copper wire is nothing new. But this winter, Tacoma has been especially hard hit. Curtis Kingsolver, director of public works for the city of Tacoma, says for the first 10 months of the year, the city had about one copper wire theft-related street light outage a month.

“But, in the last two months of 2013, we had 56 outages, so we just had this huge rash of occurances that it’s been very demanding for us,” he said.

Matilde Campodonico / AP Photo

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says cities and counties can block licensed marijuana businesses from operating.

In a long-awaited opinion Thursday, Ferguson says the state's legal marijuana law, Initiative 502, leaves local governments the option of adopting moratoriums or bans that prohibit licensed grow operations, processing facilities or retail shops from their jurisdictions.

Paula Wissel

One Seattle man says he’s on a quest to expose why the Seattle Center blocked off use of power outlets in public spaces, and he is arguing his case before the Washington state Appeals Court today.

In September of 2012, Howard Gale noticed Seattle Center staff putting covers and padlocks on all of the electrical outlets, not long after the center had been remodeled and the outlets had been installed. 

Paula Wissel

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has appointed retired assistant police chief Harry Bailey as the new interim chief for the Seattle Police Department.

Murray said Bailey, a 35-year veteran of the force who retired in 2007, will help implement the court-ordered consent decree while the hiring process for a permanent chief moves forward.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Seattle’s new Mayor Ed Murray and city council member Kshama Sawant promised to work to improve the city as they took their oaths of office on Monday.

Hundreds gathered to watch the city’s first gay mayor and first modern-day Socialist council member, who were among several city leaders sworn into office during a public ceremony.

AP Photo

As many as 2,000 people are expected to attend the inauguration of the city's first gay mayor and its first modern-day socialist council member at City Hall today.

Both candidates were officially sworn in during a private ceremony on Jan. 1. Today's ceremonial event is open to the public, and takes place in the City Hall lobby at 3:30 p.m.

Mel Evans / AP Photo

If you’re caught with cocaine, meth or heroin, you can be charged with a felony and face up to five years in prison. But there’s a proposal in Washington, prefiled HB 2116, to make possession of hard drugs a misdemeanor if they are for the defendant's personal use. It would also reduce the penalty for the possession of more than 40 grams of cannabis from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Seattle’s newly-elected Socialist city council member Kshama Sawant isn’t wasting any time. At a news conference Tuesday, Sawant boldly promised “2014 will be the year of the $15-an-hour minimum wage.”

Sawant, who won’t be sworn in until January, has already been meeting with council members and labor leaders. But she says she’s also looking for support from ordinary people on the street.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

There’s no question more and more people are using Skype and FaceTime to connect with family and friends. And businesses are finding the technology to be a convenient way to interview job candidates to connecting with clients.

But what about how we look staring into those tiny computer and phone cameras? It seems everyone I talk to has a story about looking at themselves on Skype or FaceTime and thinking, “I look terrible.”

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Human rights advocates rallied in front of the Mexican consulate in Seattle on Tuesday on behalf of a Renton woman being held in a Mexican prison.

Nestora Salgado, who was the commander of a community police force, was arrested in the Mexican state of Guerrero in August and charged with kidnapping. Her family in the Seattle area say the charges are trumped up in retaliation for her efforts to combat corruption in Mexico.

Courtesy MOHAI

It was 80 years ago on Dec. 5 that Prohibition ended. But in Washington state, restrictions on alcohol were around long after Prohibition was repealed, and some remain in effect even today.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Two workers are suing BNSF, one of the nation's largest rail companies, saying their same-sex spouses have repeatedly been denied health benefits even though gay marriage is legal in Washington state.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle states BNSF refused to add the spouses of locomotive engineer Michael Hall and conductor Amie Garrand to their plans.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

University of Washington head football coach Steve Sarkisian has accepted a coaching job at the University of Southern California, USC announced on Monday.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the news "wasn't a surprise."

“I believe I wrote when he was hired five years ago that he would last in this job until USC has a head-coaching vacancy,” said Art. 

Michael Dwyer / Associated Press

A worsening unemployment rate in Washington state is leading to extended unemployment benefits for some.

The state's Employment Security Department said Monday that the state's three-month unemployment rate average has risen back to 7 percent. That means some additional federally-funded emergency unemployment compensation will restart Sunday, extending benefits for nine weeks.

Paula Wissel

The lack of actual cash in our pockets is putting the squeeze on vendors trying to sell the Seattle street newspaper Real Change.

Real Change founding Ddrector Tim Harris says vendors, who are homeless or low income, are hearing customers say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any money.”

“We think it’s more than people putting them off; we think people aren’t carrying cash with them," Harris said.

Real Change is turning to technology for a solution.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Children who live in homes with an unlocked gun are nine times more likely to commit suicide, according to data compiled by Public Health – Seattle & King County between 1999 and 2012. The same data, released Monday, shows more than 5,000 of the county’s children live in homes with an unlocked firearm.

In response to the new findings, King County has launched the Safe Storage Saves Lives campaign through which ten local and national retailers will offer discounts on secure lockboxes, the county announced Monday.

Peace Corps

The King County sheriff wants to make his police force more culturally aware. So he’s come up with a plan that includes putting former Peace Corps volunteers on the payroll.

Sheriff John Urquhart says the force is “becoming more male and more white every single year," and that's a problem because the force should better reflect the increasingly diverse community.

"And that means we need all colors, we need all races, we need all genders, and we need LGBT, you name it,” Urquhart said.

There’s the possibility of another election turnaround.

First there was Kshama Sawant’s dramatic post-election night come-from-behind win over Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin. Now, supporters of Seattle Proposition 1 hope it’s their turn.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Learning how to budget and save is something everyone can benefit from, even people who barely have a penny to their name.

That’s the idea behind so-called Financial Empowerment Centers Seattle is setting up with a $1.8 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

A Socialist candidate has taken the lead as an updated ballot count was released on Tuesday afternoon in a close Seattle City Council race.

Kshama Sawant initially trailed incumbent Richard Conlin by more than 6,000 votes, but is now leading by about 40 votes—79,751 to 79,710.

“I think the results that we got today confirm that people in Seattle and, indeed, everywhere in the country are actually eager and hungry for a big political shift,” Sawant said Tuesday.

Lawyers are finding themselves facing the same pressures recording artists and journalists have had to contend with: free content on the Internet. 

Technological changes and a DIY culture are also changing the legal profession in fundamental ways. And how to adapt has been a hot topic at law schools in Washington and at the Washington Bar Association.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

 

Seattle may soon have a new mayor.

State Sen. Ed Murray carried 56 percent of the vote in the first round of ballot counting Tuesday night, building a lead over incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn. Because Washington state votes entirely by mail, many ballots were not counted Tuesday.

City of Seattle

With the number of bike commuters up 78 percent since 2005, bike lanes in Seattle are packed. 

But not everyone feels safe riding in close proximity to cars, having to worry about distracted drivers or collisions with car doors.

So Seattle planners are in the midst of an experiment—one they hope will make anybody feel comfortable hopping on a bike to get around the city. Seattle is building what are called "cycle tracks" as a way of making riding on the street more attractive to the novice or reluctant rider.

It isn't always easy to pin down a politician. Most would prefer to list a range of issues they plan to address than choose just one top priority. But Tuesday night, during a debate on KCTS-TV, the candidates for mayor of Seattle, incumbent Mike McGinn and challenger state Senator Ed Murray, were forced to list everything, from housing to education in the order of importance.

David Kohl / AP Photo/File Image

Washington’s Supreme Court will decide whether employers must accommodate the religious practices of their employees.

Justices heard oral arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit that involves four men who makes meals for airline passengers. Because they are not allowed to bring their own food to work, their employer, Gate Gourmet, provides them lunch. The men allege the meal choices did not accommodate their religious dietary restrictions. 

Oran Viriyincy / Flickr

Have you ever been stuck in traffic or tried to get on an overcrowded bus, or had to dodge potholes in the bike lanes?

Sometimes, just getting from point A to point B can be an exercise in frustration, even if you live and work within the city limits of Seattle. The candidates for mayor of Seattle, incumbent Mike McGinn and challenger state Sen. Ed Murray both say they’ve experienced problems in getting around the city.

Not surprisingly, each candidate also says he is the best candidate to improve transportation in the city.

aidaneus / Flickr

Advocates for victims of domestic violence are praising a Washington Supreme Court decision that they say could help save lives.

The case concerns the serving of an anti-harassment order by the Federal Way Police Department on a man who later killed his girlfriend.

What if Seattle gets stuck with cost overruns on the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project?

That question sparked a lively exchange on KING-TV between the two candidates for mayor of Seattle during their first televised debate.

During the hour long debate sponsored by KING-TV, KIRO-FM and The Seattle Times, Mayor Mike McGinn and Sen. Ed Murray traded jabs on everything from leadership style to police reform.

But their discussion of the tunnel project raised one of the most interesting questions.

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