Paula Wissel | KNKX

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 KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.

Paula's most memorable moment at KNKX: “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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Central Area Senior Center

Anyone over 60 is considered at high risk for the new coronavirus. As a result, a lot of community centers have cancelled activities for seniors. But, the Central Area Senior Center in Seattle, which primarily serves African Americans, is still offering meals and activities while working to keep members safe.

Protesters gather outside main gate of Ft. Lawton on March 15, 1970 after 78 were arrested.
The Associated Press

Fifty years ago, on March 8, 1970, Native American activists attempted a siege of Fort Lawton in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood. Like the Indian activists who were occupying Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay at the time, the Seattle contingent was staking claim to land the federal government was going to surplus.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Free-floating car shares aren't quite dead in Seattle. Last year, LimePod and ReachNow announced they were leaving. Car2Go will be gone by the end of this month. But AAA Washington, undeterred by the other companies' failures in the city, is launching GIG Car Share in Seattle this spring.

Jose Luis Magana / The Associated Press

The City of Olympia could soon ban the retail sale of commercially bred puppies and kittens. It's aimed at preventing pet stores from selling animals from so-called puppy mills and kitten factories.

In this 2012 file photo, George Washington's signature is seen on the president’s personal copy of the Acts of the first Congress (1789). Immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens must meet a long list of requirements, including passing a civics test.
Alex Brandon / The Associated Press

The Trump administration wants to make it more difficult for immigrants to get the $725 naturalization fee waived when they are applying for U.S. citizenship. But, applicants can still get a waiver under the old system while legal issues are resolved in the courts. 

This Jan. 28, 2016 photo shows a solitary confinement cell known all as "the bing," at New York's Rikers Island jail.
Bebeto Matthews / The Associated Press

Washington is considering banning solitary confinement of young people in detention. King County already has done away with the practice.

A law being considered by the Legislature would prevent all counties from detaining people 18 and under in total isolation.

One of the glass works hidden in this year's Monkeyshines event.
Paula Wissel / KNKX

In Tacoma this time of year, under cover of darkness, people sneak around parks, playfields and public right-of-ways hiding glass works of art, called Monkeyshines, for anyone to find. Everyone involved in the project is sworn to secrecy. They say their mission is about spreading a little joy. I recently went along on a hiding expedition.

Paula Wissel / KNKX

A new youth detention center opens later this month in King County. Although activists opposed to a youth jail protested and fought it in court, construction went forward on what is now the Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center. In 2012, voters approved a $210 million levy to build the facility as a replacement for the current juvenile justice center.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Immigrant rights activists say fare enforcement officers on public transit can cause fear if people worry they're working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A flier is being distributed in King County in English, Spanish and Chinese that aims to lessen those fears.

Jueqian Fang / Seattle Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum in Seattle’s Volunteer Park will reopen its doors this weekend after being closed for three years for a $56 million renovation. There’s a new glass-walled section that overlooks the park and the way the museum collections are being displayed is completely different than in the past.

Kiichiro Sato / The Associated Press

A plan by an obscure special taxing district in King County to let voters cast ballots by mobile phone is facing push back. Among the critics is Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who worries the plan by King Conservation District to allow mobile voting in its Feb. 11 election will leave it vulnerable to attack.

In this Aug. 13, 2019, file photo a worker gets ready to pass out instructions on how to fill out the 2020 census during a town hall meeting in Lithonia, Ga.
John Amis / The Associated Press

As the U.S. Census gears up for the 2020 count, groups in Washington are training volunteers to make sure communities that are traditionally undercounted are included.

Washington state allocated $15 million to community-based groups to make sure everyone gets counted. Traditionally, immigrants and people of color are undercounted.

Seattle poet J Mase III and Vashon artists Beka Economopoulos and Jason Jones will receive a $100,000 award from Creative Capital for the production of new projects

Being black and transgender is at the center of J Mase's work. The poet will collaborate with Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi, a Washington D.C.-based artist, on a book and documentary project called The Black Trans Prayer Book: A Performative Documentary.

As snow and wind are likely to linger in the city through Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan urges residents not to sled on closed roads.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

A new storm system packing more lowland snow is expected to move through our area tonight and tomorrow morning. But high winds could accompany this storm. The strongest gusts will be in areas near shorelines, especially Bellingham, Neah Bay, Port Townsend and Westport.

Paula Wissel / KNKX

According to the University of Washington, about 159 resident physicians, fellows and dental students at UW hospitals and clinics have called in sick for Friday.


The unionized residents are calling it a "wellness day" and say it's a chance for them to see their own doctors.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Negah Hekmati and her husband and two children were on their way home to Kirkland, Washington, after a ski trip to British Columbia Saturday night. They arrived at the U.S.-Canada border at Blaine around midnight. Although they had no idea at the time, they would be there for five hours.

Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki, left, stands with Debbie Warfield of Everett following a news conference about the state’s opioid lawsuit. Both women lost children to opioids and shared their stories Thursday.
Paula Wissel / KNKX

Washington is suing Johnson & Johnson over the opioid epidemic. The state says the company and its subsidiaries aided the epidemic by supplying the raw ingredients for making pain meds such as oxycodone.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson says Johnson & Johnson deceptively marketed the painkillers and increased use of the drugs. He says the human toll has been staggering.

A U.S. Marine helps a young Cuban child off one of the refugee boats that were pouring into Key West for weeks, May 10, 1980.
Fernando Yovera / The Associated Press

Author’s note: One of the delights of producing the six-part podcast Forgotten Prison was digging through abandoned boxes of photos, letters and other archives to uncover the unknown stories of McNeil Island prison, sometimes referred to as Washington’s Alcatraz. One of the more surprising things we discovered was that, back in 1980, McNeil Island played a role in the story of Cuban refugees fleeing to the U.S. in the Mariel boatlift. It was difficult to find out much information other than that hundreds of the refugees had been sent to McNeil. Then, after the podcast aired, I heard from a woman who remembered that time well and had quite a story to tell. (This story originally aired May 4.)  

Justin Steyer / KNKX

Workers in Washington have been paying into the state's Family and Medical Leave fund through payroll deductions for the past year. Now, beginning Jan. 2, 2020, they'll be able to use the benefits.

The Harlem Nutcracker premiered in New York in 1996.
Courtesy of Spectrum Dance Theater

In many traditional holiday “Nutcracker” ballets, Clara is a young girl who envisions a magical world where she meets a Prince and Sugarplum Fairy. But in choreographer Donald Byrd's version, Clara is a grandmother, the setting is Harlem and the visions are of her past.

Donald Byrd's “The Harlem Nutcracker” premiered in 1996 in New York. The dances are to the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's "Nutcracker Suite," with additional Ellington-inspired interpretations of Tchaikovsky's score by David Berger.

Seattle police use gas to push back World Trade Organization protesters in downtown Seattle on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 1999. The protests delayed the opening of the WTO third ministerial conference.
Eric Draper / The Associated Press (file)

Advocates for fair trade are gathering Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the WTO meeting that became known as the Battle in Seattle. The World Trade Organization gathering made front page news around the world, with scenes of police controlling protestors with tear gas and pepper spray.

NPR correspondent Aarti Shahani
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Because Aarti Shahani is a South Asian covering the tech industry for NPR, she says people assume she’s a model immigrant from a well-to-do family. But in her new book, “Here We Are, American Dreams, American Nightmares,” she challenges the notion of the so-called “good immigrant."

To become a naturalized citizen in the United States, you have to pay a $725 fee. The fee can be waived. But a new rule will make getting the waiver more difficult.

Applicants won't be able to simply show they're receiving federal assistance through a program. They'll have to jump through a lot more hoops. The City of Seattle and immigrant rights groups are suing the Trump administration over the change.

The cast of "The Falling and the Rising" in rehearsal at Seattle Opera.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

When you think of opera, you probably don’t imagine a contemporary story about wounded veterans — or untrained singers taking the stage. But both are aspects of Seattle Opera’s “The Falling and the Rising.”

Most of the production’s chorus have never been in an opera or even on stage before. The chorus members are all veterans.

Washington state ferries are docked on the north end of Vashon Island, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, near Seattle. There's no hospital or urgent care clinic on Vashon and the one primary care clinic is having trouble meeting making ends meet.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

On Vashon Island, voters are deciding whether to create a special hospital district. It wouldn’t be used to build an actual hospital, but rather to subsidize a primary care clinic on the island and possibly bring other health care services there. Like other rural areas, Vashon Island struggles to provide basic health care. 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Non-compete clauses in contracts can prevent a worker from getting a better paying job. It’s the reason Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and his Democratic counterparts in other states have worked to eliminate non-compete clauses.

Now, a congressional committee is taking up the issue.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

The number of properties being auctioned off for non-payment of taxes went down by a third in the past year in King County. The county credits its foreclosure prevention team.

The "Feel Just Like Home" exhibit features ordinary towels embroidered with Yelp reviews of a down and out motel.
Ruth Kazmerack

An exhibit at Gallery 4Culture in Seattle's Pioneer Square lets you touch and feel Yelp reviews. 

Artist Cicelia Ross-Gotta embroidered reviews written about a down and out motel along a roadside in Kansas onto hand towels she sewed from pieces of frayed towels and sheets. She said she hopes it helps shine a light on the people we don't often think about— those who are just one step up from living on the street.

Paula Wissel / KNKX


Hundreds of people turned out for a celebration in the Pierce County courthouse for the 25th anniversary of the county’s drug court.

When Pierce County started the drug diversion court, it was a relatively new concept, the idea of treating people for their addiction rather than sending them to jail for a drug crime. Now, drug courts and other therapeutic courts, such as mental health courts, have proliferated around the country.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Washington has released tsunami safety maps for Port Townsend, Ilwaco, Long Beach, Seaview and Westport. The maps indicate how much time you have to get to safety before a tsunami hits following a magnitude 9 earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone. Some of the maps indicate there is almost no chance of reaching safety in the necessary time.