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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OSAMA BIN LADEN
9:41 am
Thu May 5, 2011

NW pilots praised for unconfirmed role in bin Laden mission

The U.S. Army’s “Night Stalkers” fly specially modified Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters.
US Navy Chief Intelligence Specialist Louis Fellerman

Washington state senators Wednesday praised Northwest chopper pilots for flying a celebrated mission that no one can confirm they were on. That would be the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

This much we know: Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma is home to a battalion of the U.S. Army's "Night Stalkers." That's an elite helicopter unit that flies commando and combat rescue missions.

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Environment
10:28 am
Fri April 29, 2011

Prospect of more coal trains raises concerns in NW Washington

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire puts one long running environmental controversy to bed Friday. She’s traveling to Centralia to sign into law a phase out of coal-fired electricity generation in the state. But meanwhile, another coal controversy is heating up in another part of Washington. It has to with a big new export terminal planned for north of Bellingham.

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Natural Disasters
6:25 am
Fri April 15, 2011

'Twilight' tribe seeks help to move out of tsunami zone

All of La Push’s lower village is in the tsunami inundation zone.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

After last month's Japanese tsunami, some coastal Northwest Indian tribes are expressing new urgency about the same danger they face. Two Washington tribes actually have plans to move parts of their villages to higher ground.

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Weather
2:15 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

La Niña turns out less severe in retrospect

A woman strides under snow-covered branches around Seattle's Greenlake following a snowfall of several inches there overnight in 2005., a non-La Niña year.
Elaine Thompson AP

The Washington State Climatologist is out with a report card on how the weather phenomenon La Niña treated the Northwest. If you thought it’s been wetter and colder than usual since November, you’re right. But overall, this La Niña was milder than predicted. KPLU's Tom Banse reports:

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Emergency Preparedness
11:49 am
Wed April 6, 2011

Japan tsunami heightens interest in elevated 'safe havens'

This is an artist's rendering of the proposed tsunami shelter/new city hall that officials hope to build in Cannon Beach, Ore.
Courtesy Ecola Architects, PC

If you’re near the coastline and a major earthquake strikes, the advice as always is to scramble for higher ground. But sometimes, high ground is far away. For example, if you’re in Ocean Shores or Seaside, Ore., the best option could be to head for the rooftop of a sturdy building, if there is one.

In Westport, and communities along the Northwest coast,  the horrible and gripping images of destruction from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami are still top-of-mind. In this fishing and beach resort town, retiree Linda Orgel is one of hundreds of coastal residents spurred to become better prepared. That interest is being channeled into planning and design meetings for a possible string of manmade refuge towers.

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Northwest Economy
10:11 am
Tue April 5, 2011

Earthquake rebuilding likely to benefit existing timber exporters

It's likely the big timber exporters, rather than small family-owned forest product businesses like this one in Centralia, that may benefit the most from anticipated timber exports to Japan for rebuilding after the quake.
Ted S. Warren AP

When disaster response in Japan turns to rebuilding, Northwest timber companies and sawmills should see an increase in exports. But an industry consultant says the slow pace of disaster recovery means those new orders may not come for months. 

Stock prices for some North American timber companies spiked in the immediate aftermath of the Japan disaster. Wall Street anticipates a surge in Japanese demand for logs, lumber and plywood to rebuild homes.

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Northwest Economy
2:01 pm
Fri April 1, 2011

Booming demand from China for Northwest logs & lumber

A logging truck passes the Weyerhaeuser Pulp Mill on Friday Oct. 21, 2005, in Cosmopolis, in Grays Harbor County.
Jim Bryant AP

There’s good news and bad news for logging and saw-milling jobs in the Northwest. The bad news is new figures out show construction spending dropped in February to the lowest level in more than a decade. The good news is that timber demand from China is soaring.

Russia has traditionally been China’s main wood supplier. An export tax by the Russians combined with the expanding Chinese economy has created an opening for exporters on the West Coast.

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JBLM Soldier
6:06 am
Fri April 1, 2011

Lone survivor of massive bomb in Afghanistan dies in car crash

Cpl. Roger Scherf Jr. was the sole survivor of a bomb blast in Afghanistan. He died in March in a car accident.
U.S. Army

He was the sole survivor of a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan that killed seven of his comrades and their interpreter. Now, Corporal Roger Scherf, Jr. has also died, the victim of a car accident on an icy highway.

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Public health
7:35 am
Thu March 31, 2011

Northwest states move to counter rise in child immunization waivers

Child immunization rates in the Northwest lag behind national rates. Some say it's too easy to opt out of vaccinations, creating a public health threat. Many parents disagree. This 4-year old is ready to get a shot in Littleton, Colorado.
AP

Record numbers of parents in the Northwest are seeking waivers from mandatory child immunization requirements. The trend alarms public health officials. They say it creates increased risk for disease outbreaks. Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are all moving to sway vaccine skeptics.

All U.S. states require parents to immunize their children before sending them to school.

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Business & Finance
6:03 am
Tue March 29, 2011

Retailer Harry & David file "pre-arranged" bankruptcy but stays open

Harry & David headquarters in Medford, Oregon.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Gourmet food company Harry & David hopes to make a quick trip through bankruptcy reorganization. The legendary Northwest retailer filed a “pre-arranged restructuring” plan with a Delaware court.

The struggling retailer will use the bankruptcy process to shed its heavy debt load and repair its balance sheet. The century-old Medford, Oregon icon filed papers saying the majority of its bond holders have agreed to swap their debt for equity in a restructured company.

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Seafood Business
6:59 am
Fri March 25, 2011

Eco-label pays quick dividend for Dungeness crab fishers

Crab pots on the docks at Newport, Oregon
Tom Banse N3

To consumers, the welter of eco-labels on various food products can be nebulous or confusing. But the first crab fishery on the West Coast to get a green friendly label says it is seeing a really quick payoff.

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Washington State Legislature
1:00 pm
Thu March 24, 2011

School buses could get traffic-ticket cameras

Automated traffic ticket cameras could soon show up in a new place. They’d be attached to school buses. Opponents of photo traffic enforcement are mounting a late effort to stop the idea in the sate Legislature.

Brenner Beck is a school bus driver in Gig Harbor. He says motorists go around his bus when the flashing stop sign paddle is out.

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Transportation
4:15 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Ferry riders face fare hikes under budget plans

Riders on the nation’s biggest ferry system, Washington State Ferries, should brace themselves for another round of fare increases. The only remaining question is how much. 

The state House and Senate have come out with competing spending blueprints for roads and ferries. One thing the budgets have in common is higher ferry fares. The  increase this fall ranges between 2.5% and 5% and another 2.5% coming next fall.

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Environment
3:25 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Group pushes for Northwest to ban bottled water

At events in Olympia and Salem Tuesday, an activist group called on Washington and Oregon's governors to stop spending taxpayer dollars on bottled water.

Organizer Sriram Madhusoodanan, with the group Corporate Accountability International, says those little plastic bottles, sometimes available at public meetings and events, create unnecessary waste and undermine confidence in the quality of public water supplies.

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Washington State Legislature
2:48 am
Tue March 22, 2011

Hoquiam senator single-handedly stops child rape bill

State lawmakers have heard tearful pleas this legislative session from victims of child rape who advocate the statute of limitations be eliminated. A bill with that provision passed unanimously in the state House recently. But it appears destined for oblivion because a state Senate chairman won’t hear the bill.

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