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.”

Ways To Connect

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.

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