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.”

Ways to Connect

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.

Criminal street gangs in King County are starting to recruit younger members. That's one of the trends the Sheriff's Office says it's seeing. During a briefing, a gang detective told the King County Council that there are now 116 active street gangs operating in the county with 15,000 members.

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

King County Public Health officials are contacting needle exchange programs, treatment clinics and emergency rooms to alert people to the dangers of fentanyl. They say the deadly narcotic is largely responsible for an increase in overdose deaths in the county.

A worker at Buyken Metal Products during the manufacturing bus tour in 2018.
Courtesy of Assocation of Washington Business

When you think of manufacturing in Washington, you probably think of Boeing airplanes. But you’ll also find factories in the state that make leather work gloves and music stands sold around the world. For the third year in a row, the Association of Washington Business is putting a spotlight on manufacturing with a statewide bus tour. 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

UPDATE, Sept. 25: Kaiser Permanente has reached a tentative agreement with its employee unions, averting what could have been one of the largest strikes in decades, according to a report by Oregon Public Broadcasting. The agreement covers 85,000 workers across seven states and Washington, D.C. In Oregon and Washington, about 8,300 workers were involved. The agreement will now go to union members, who are expected to ratify it by the end of October.


KNKX occupies the historic C.N. Gardner building at 930 Broadway in Tacoma's theater district, a neighborhood with a storied past.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

If you were in Tacoma in the early 1900s, you might have been able to score a ticket to hear opera singer Enrico Caruso. Or see a famous choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky, dancing on stage with the Ballet Russe. 

When the historic C.N. Gardner Building was built in 1906 — KNKX’s new home at 930 Broadway — downtown Tacoma was at the heart of a thriving music and theater scene.

Paula Wissel / KNKX

This story originally aired Feb. 25, 2017.

In the late 1960s and early '70s, all sorts of underground newspapers had emerged from the counterculture and antiwar movements. Most of them weren’t actually all that underground, since there wasn’t much risk involved in publishing or distributing them.

But if you were in the military and you wanted to publish stories that strayed from the company line, you could get in serious trouble. That led in part to something called the GI underground movement.

Seattle Public Library in downtown Seattle.
Shauna Sowersby / KNKX

Public libraries are facing a digital content crisis because publishers are changing the licenses for downloadable audio and e-books. Librarians say the result will be fewer titles to choose from and longer wait times for library patrons. They say the new restrictions are a blow to the idea of equal and open access.

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

Wildfire smoke is causing hazy skies in the region. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency says smoke from wildfires started moving into the Puget Sound area late Friday. Phil Swartzenbruder, an air quality scientist with the agency, says it’s difficult to determine which fires are sending the smoke here.

Seattle Public Library Green Lake branch, seen on Oct. 10, 2018.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Seattle voters will decide whether to renew a seven-year library levy in the Aug. 6 primary election. The $219 million property tax measure is $100 million more than the one approved in 2012.

Rattlesnake Mountain in the Issaquah Alps is a popular destination for hikers. The King County Parks levy would pay for improvements to the parking lot at the trailhead.
David de Graaf

King County maintains 175 miles of hiking trails, including in the popular Issaquah Alps. Money to keep up the trails, as well as the county's 200 parks and thousands of miles of open space, comes from a property tax levy. King County voters will decide whether to renew the six-year levy in the Aug. 6 primary election.