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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Environment
3:18 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Crude Oil Train Oversight Divides Lawmakers

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2013 file photo is a warning placard on a tank car carrying crude oil near a loading terminal in Trenton, N.D. U.S.
Matthew Brown AP Photo

State lawmakers in Olympia are going down divergent tracks in how to respond to the rapid increase of crude oil trains crossing the region. Timely public disclosure of train cargoes and safety risks is one point of contention.

Four recent derailments and explosions of crude oil trains in other parts of North America have raised alarm in city halls and state capitols in the Northwest. But state and local officials soon discovered their hands are largely tied because the feds have sole jurisdiction in this arena.

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Winter Olympics
7:00 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

What We Can Learn From Tacoma's Own Mental Skills Coach To U.S. Olympians

Team USA goaltender Molly Schaus is seen in action.
Sara Melikian Flickr

The Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks had one. Professional baseball teams have them. And the U.S. Olympic women's ice hockey team found one in Tacoma. We’re talking about a mental skills coach.

And some of this coach's advice to U.S. Olympians could help the average recreational athlete, too.

Professor Colleen Hacker is taking a break from teaching exercise science and sports psychology at Pacific Lutheran University to travel to Russia with the U.S. men's and women's hockey teams for the Winter Olympics. Hacker's job title is “mental skills coach.” And what is that exactly?

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Winter Olympics
10:51 am
Sat February 1, 2014

Departing Northwest Olympians Confident They'll Be Safe In Sochi

File photo of the Roza Khutor Alpine Resort, site of the alpine skiing events for the Sochi Games.
Sergei Kazantsev Wikimedia

 

The 2014 Winter Olympics begin next week amid persistent concerns about security.

Recent bombings in Russia have stoked worries, but local athletes and coaches are expressing confidence they'll be safe in Sochi. Not a single member of this year's U.S. Olympic Team has changed his or her mind about going to Sochi because of the terrorism threat. 

Still, as American athletes leave for Russia this weekend, some are leaving their families behind.

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On Determination
1:33 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Broken Ribs Can't Stop Seattle Skier's Drive To Compete In Winter Olympics

Roberto Carcelen of Seattle carried the Peruvian flag at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He is tabbed to be Peru's flag bearer again in Sochi.
Jude Freeman Wikimedia Commons

It's every Olympic athlete's worst nightmare. After years of preparing, training and fundraising, an accident just weeks before the Olympic Games derailed everything for Roberto Carcelen of Seattle.  

But the cross-country skier insists on competing at the Sochi Olympics despite a doctor's advice not to.

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Electric Cars
12:54 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Slow Uptake Of Electric Cars Prompts Calls To Extend Washington Tax Break

Nissan Leafs charge on the Washington state Capitol campus Tuesday.
Tom Banse

The slow uptake of electric cars by Northwest drivers is prompting calls to extend a tax break in Washington state for new vehicles powered by alternative fuels. A sales tax exemption is set to expire next year.

Washington and Oregon have been among the best sales markets in the country for plug-in cars. But still, the number of fully electric and other alternative fuel vehicles on the road remains a tiny fraction of total registrations.

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Winter Olympics
2:16 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Ski Coach From Oregon Guides Caribbean Island To 1st Winter Games

The landscape along Dominica's eastern coast is not a place you would expect to find many cross country skiers.
Dirk Heldmaier Wikimedia

The Northwest contribution to U.S. Olympic team goes beyond athletes. A bunch of top coaches, ski tuners, wax technicians and physical therapists from here are Sochi-bound, too. And then there's the cross-country ski coach from Bend, Oregon who is heading to Russia, but not with Team USA.

J.D. Downing runs the XC Oregon race team and training camps in Bend. Now he's wearing several additional hats, including head coach and "chef de mission" for the 2014 Dominica Olympic Team. Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, Dominica is a former French and British colony in the Eastern Caribbean.

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Jobless Rate
12:27 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

State Unemployment Rate Lowest In 5 Years

FILE - A woman looks over a job information sheet Tuesday, June 16, 2009, at a job fair in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

The unemployment rate in Washington state has fallen to the lowest level in five years.

New numbers for December from the state Employment Department peg the current jobless rate at 6.6 percent. The figure hasn’t dipped lower since November 2008.

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Winter Olympics
1:10 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Snow-Making Expert From Wenatchee On The Clock In Sochi, Preparing For Olympics

Wenatchee's Jon Wax climbs a snow making tower to perform maintenance ahead of the 2014 Sochi Olympics. In the background is the finish line for downhill ski racing at the Rosa Khutor venue.
Sam Morrison

In order for the Winter Olympics to take place in Sochi, Russia, there must be snow.

One Northwest snow-making expert has been working at the Russian resort zone for nearly two months now, helping ensure a snow-covered Olympics.

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Winter Olympics
11:27 am
Tue January 21, 2014

More Northwest Athletes Qualify For Sochi Olympics

Angeli VanLaanen of Bellingham was named to the U.S. Olympic Team in ski halfpipe.
Sarah Brunson U.S. Freeskiing

It's not just the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl that will make for an exciting February for Northwest sports fans. The Winter Olympics start just days later, and more Northwest athletes have punched their tickets to the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

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Equity Crowdfunding
11:03 am
Sat January 18, 2014

Olympia Mulls Crowdfunding Of Equity Shares In Biz Startups

FILE - Here are some examples of funding portals that could connect entrepreneurs with small investors.

Federal securities regulators recently cleared the way for small, Kickerstarter-style campaigns for startups to sell shares. But many entrepreneurs view the federal process as too cumbersome. Now, Washington state lawmakers are contemplating a state-only version to help small businesses raise capital more easily.

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Big Picture In Small Places
9:43 am
Thu January 16, 2014

Researchers Detect and 'Count' Fish From Just A Glass Of Water

Sardines, tuna and turtles are among the species in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Open Sea tank where scientists successfully used the latest DNA techniques as a new way to tally the fish in the tank.
Randy Wilder Monterey Bay Aquarium

It's not something we often think about, but as we go about daily life, we're constantly shedding little flakes of skin. So are animals and fish. This fact now makes it possible to estimate which species are most plentiful in a lake or bay.

University of Washington professor Ryan Kelly is jazzed.

"This is about the coolest project I have been involved in,” Kelly said.

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Winter Olympics
5:01 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Northwest Ski Towns Stock Olympic Teams Well Beyond USA

Jasmine Campbell, left, is most likely to receive the one slot in Sochi allocated to the U.S territory. Sun Valley Ski Academy graduate (2013) Veronica Gaspar is seen on right.
John Campbell

Next month, Sochi, Russia will host athletes from more than 85 nations at the Winter Olympics. Some of those countries might surprise you. They get no snow or have no mountains.

Remember the Disney movie "Cool Runnings?" It immortalized the Jamaican bobsled squad. Team Jamaica is coming back for more this year.

And so is the U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. territory will likely be represented by a Whitman College student who calls Sun Valley, Idaho home.

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Immigration & Emission
7:01 am
Sun January 12, 2014

Immigrant Investors Could Finance Green Trucks For Green Cards

FILE - Truck driver Earliest Madir inspects his truck while waiting for a load at a truck stop Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Atlanta.
David Goldman AP Photo

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has approved an unusual way for prospective immigrants to earn a U.S. green card and permanent residency. They can loan money to independent Northwest truckers who want to upgrade to less-polluting rigs.

The idea was the brainchild of Bellingham immigration attorney David Andersson and a cross-border association of state Legislatures and parliaments called the Pacific Northwest Economic Region.

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Olympic Hopefuls
11:29 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Cross-Country Ski Duo Bring Sibling Power To Winter Olympics

U.S. Ski Team teammates and siblings Sadie and Erik Bjornsen.
Robert Whitney

Athletes headed to next month's Winter Olympics in Russia can be expected to leverage any advantage that nature or nurture provides, though only a select few could bring the advantage of having a sibling teammate.

Siblings Erik and Sadie Bjornsen grew up in Washington’s Methow Valley, flanked by former Olympic skiers as neighbors. An enviable 120-mile Nordic trail system starts practically at their doorstep.  

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On Perseverence
4:29 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

A Modern Greek Saga: Sisyphus And The Ivy

Volunteer Kevin Head clears ivy in the pre-dawn darkness.
Tom Banse

Some causes just seem hopeless some days. Like world peace. Or ending poverty. Or in a different vein, getting rid of non-native plants.

But you've no doubt met people who insist on tackling intractable problems here locally and around the world. One particularly dedicated fellow wages a solo fight each weekday morning against English ivy.

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