Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse, KPLU’s and N3’s Regional Correspondent, roves the Northwest to report on broad themes and telling details. His topics run the gamut from business to the environment and human interest. Home base is in Olympia, a legacy of a previously held state government beat from 1991-2003. Although he grew up in Seattle, Tom's radio career began by chance in Minnesota at Carleton College’s student radio station. Tom's memorable moment in public radio: "I am indebted to many people for tips and tutelage, but certainly some of the bluntest -- at times unprintable -- guidance came from NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg. I interned at NPR in 1989 and was privileged to keep Nina's chair warm at the U-S Supreme Court or at the high-octane Iran-Contra trial of Oliver North, wherever she wasn't at the time. Heady stuff for a tenderfoot reporter."

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Emergency Responders
4:27 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Text-to-911 Coming, But Dispatchers Much Prefer Voice Calls

Toby Talbot AP Photo

This week, the four biggest mobile carriers met a voluntary deadline to be ready to allow consumers to send text messages to 911. But don't try that in an emergency just yet. Dispatchers in the Northwest don't yet have the capability to receive texts for help.

The Federal Communications Commission has been pressing cellular companies and emergency communication centers to accelerate text-to-911 rollout. Recently departed agency chairman Julius Genachowski argued, “Access to 911 must catch up with how consumers communicate in the 21st century."

But even when the technology arrives, voice will still be the best choice, according to Washington state E911 coordinator Ziggy Dahl.

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Feeding Wildlife
10:40 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Ilwaco Retiree Could Be First Charged Under New Law Banning Feeding Of Bears

File image
Dam421 Wikimedia Commons

Washington Fish and Wildlife officials are recommending that an Ilwaco woman face charges for allegedly feeding wild bears.

Wildlife agents have removed seven problematic black bears from the woman’s neighborhood and had to euthanize five of them since last fall.

The 70-year-old retiree could be the first person charged under a new law that bans the feeding of large wild carnivores. The Washington Legislature made that a misdemeanor in 2012.

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Jobless Rate
12:19 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Steady Job Gains Chip Away At Jobless Rate In Wash. State

Steady job gains are chipping away at the unemployment rate in Washington state. New numbers released by the Employment Department Wednesday show the statewide jobless rate dropped to 6.1 percent in April, down from 6.3 percent in March. 

The vast majority of new jobs are being created in the Seattle metro area. In the last reporting month, the jobless rate in 87 percent of Washington counties was higher than the national average.

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Oso Slide
9:28 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Oso Slide Prompts Board To 'Take Stock' Of Logging Rules Around Unstable Slopes

A destroyed vehicle and a flag, at half staff, are seen from a one-lane road around the Highway 530 slide area Tuesday, April 29, 2014, near Oso, Wash.
The Seattle Times, Ellen M. Banner, Pool

Washington State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark repeated Monday that "it's still too early to tell" if there is a connection between logging and this spring's deadly landslide near Oso, Washington. Even so, a state panel that sets timber harvest rules decided it was worthwhile to take an all-day look at landslide hazards.

Deborah Durnell, 50, was at work when the huge landslide crashed down on the rural enclave where she lived with her husband. He was at home and died. She hopes the tragedy motivates the state to better protect people.

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Oso Slide
11:51 am
Mon May 12, 2014

USGS Geologist Doubts Cause Of Oso Landslide Will Ever Be Pinned Down

Courtesy of the Washington Governor's Office.

A federal geologist doubts the cause of the deadly landslide near Oso, Washington will ever be fully pinned down.

During testimony in Olympia Monday, USGS scientist Jonathan Godt said heavy rains in February and March certainly contributed to the slide. Geologists have also ruled out an earthquake as a trigger. But Godt says a big missing piece is groundwater flows, for which there's no data.

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Cruise Ship Season
8:00 am
Sat May 10, 2014

Large Cruise Ships Call On Small Northwest Ports To Fill Out Itineraries

FILE - A cruise ship sits moored at a pier in downtown Seattle Friday, April 15, 2011.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Cruise season has begun in the Pacific Northwest with the arrival of gleaming cruise ships. They'll be steaming back and forth to Alaska all summer from Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle. At the beginning and end of the cruise season, those large cruise ships also call on smaller Northwest ports such as Astoria, Port Angeles and Nanaimo, B.C.

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Obituary
12:40 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Tribal Treaty Rights Champion Billy Frank Jr. Dead At Age 83

Billy Frank Jr., a Nisqually tribal elder who was arrested dozens of times while trying to assert his native fishing rights during the Fish Wars of the 1960s and '70s, poses for a photo Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, near Frank's Landing on the Nisqually River in
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

A legendary champion of tribal treaty rights and Northwest salmon restoration died Monday. Billy Frank Jr. was 83 years old.

The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission announced Frank's passing. The message did not give a cause of death.

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Cyber-Currency
2:19 pm
Sat May 3, 2014

Seattle Home To First Bitcoin ATM In U.S. Northwest

Rae Ellen Bichell

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated the ATM was the first in the U.S. 

Seattle has just become home to the first bitcoin ATM in the U.S. Northwest.

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Better Baseball Bat?
11:00 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Axe Bat Wins Converts, But Has To Overcome Baseball Traditionalists

Axe Bat on top versus traditional bat at bottom.
Tom Banse

A family-owned sporting goods company in suburban Seattle is confronting the tension between honoring tradition and embracing innovation in the sport of baseball.

The company is going to market with what it calls a "better" baseball bat.

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Volcanic Activity
10:02 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Magma Rising Beneath Mount St. Helens, But No Eruption Imminent

File image
Don Ryan AP Photo

Scientists monitoring Mount St. Helens confirmed Wednesday that magma is on the rise and "re-pressurizing" the volcano in southwest Washington.

However, they also stress there are no signs of an imminent eruption.

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Rewinding Time
5:00 am
Tue April 29, 2014

Japanese Retrace Path of History-Making Castaways To Wash. Coast, 180 Years Later

Japanese Boy Scouts donated this replica of the ill-fated junk to the Makah Museum.
Courtesy of Friends of MacDonald

It’s not too late to say thank you, even after 180 years. That’s what a Japanese delegation did last week as it retraced the history-making path of three castaways to the Makah Indian Reservation on the Washington coast.

The story starts when a typhoon disabled a coastal trading vessel off central Japan. Three survivors drifted all the way across the Pacific Ocean until their boat wrecked on the Olympic Peninsula coast in early 1834. That made them the first Japanese to set foot in the Pacific Northwest.

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Business
2:25 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Alaska Air CEO 'Confident' As Delta Spreads Wings On Home Turf

Ted S. Warren AP Photo

The parent company of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air announced strong earnings for the first quarter of the year on Friday.

The airline group's CEO said he expects good results for the rest of 2014 as well, notwithstanding growing competition from Delta Air Lines on Alaska's home turf. Delta is dramatically ramping up its Seattle operations to build a new hub city oriented toward the Pacific Rim. 

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Northwest Salmon
9:59 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Tribes Optimistic About Returning Salmon To Upper Columbia Basin

A tribal fisherman hauls in a salmon with a gill-net Wednesday,, Sept. 7, 2011, along the Columbia River, near Hood River, Ore.
Rick Bowmer AP Photo

Hydropower dams built without fish ladders have blocked migratory fish from the upper reaches of the Columbia and Snake Rivers for decades. Tribal leaders from across the region gathered this week in Portland to strategize how to return salmon to their full historic range.

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Oil Trains
2:03 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Wash. State Sen. Ericksen: Controversial Oil Trains 'Going To Be With Us For A While'

AP Photo

Washington state environmental regulators are expecting a lively crowd in the coastal city of Hoquiam on Thursday when the public will get a chance to weigh in about increased crude oil train traffic. But one powerful state senator says the controversial oil trains are needed.

Developers are proposing side-by-side marine terminal expansions on Grays Harbor along the Washington coast. They would receive crude oil by rail from the Northern Plains and send it out by barge and tanker to West Coast refineries.

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Salmon vs. Sea Lions
11:49 am
Sat April 19, 2014

First Nuisance Sea Lions Of 2014 Killed At Bonneville Dam

This file photo shows a California sea lion consuming a salmon just below the Columbia River's Bonneville Dam.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

 

State wildlife officers trapped and killed six salmon-chomping sea lions at Bonneville Dam earlier this week.

It's part of a renewed campaign against nuisance predators who follow the spring salmon run.

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