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Today So Far Blog

News, factoids, and insights from KUOW's newsroom. And maybe some peeks behind-the-scenes. Check back daily for updates. And read the Today So Far newsletter here.

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  • Why Seattle Humane is seeing more and more pets at its shelter

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    Seattle Humane has noticed more and more pets coming into its shelter, and it wants people to know that it is not because people are starting to return to the office.

    It's because they don't have housing. While there are many reasons why a person would turn in their pets, Seattle Humane believes current financial hardships and housing insecurity is prompting a spike in drop offs.

    According to a statement from Seattle Humane:

    "In 2022, we are seeing an increase in pet owners seeking to rehome their pets and shelters across the country are seeing this same trend. However, we don’t believe that this increase is because people are going back to the office. In fact, downtown Seattle’s office occupancy rate is currently below 40%. From our perspective, this trend is instead being driven by increasing levels of financial and housing insecurity."

    For a pet to have a home, its human family also has to have one. Or at least, it has to find a living situation that allows for pets.

    There are a range of factors that Seattle Humane sees when people drop off their pets. Generally, a third of adoptable pets at Seattle Humane are surrendered by their owners.

    The shelter says that in January, nationally, Humane Society locations saw 34,579 pets turned in. In May, that number went up to 43,249. More than 4,300 pets were surrendered by their owners in Washington state alone this year, so far. Seattle Humane says that it, and other shelters across the Northwest, have experienced a spike in requests for pet assistance and foster services.

    According to its statement: "Seattle Humane received more than 2,400 owner surrender requests in 2021. For the first 6-months of 2022, we have received nearly 1,500 owner surrender requests. The number of pets we’ve accepted due to housing insecurity in 2022 has nearly reached the total intakes due to housing concerns in all of 2021. At this rate, we can project the number of pets surrendered this year related to housing issues will far exceed our total in 2021."

    Read Seattle Humane's full statement here.

    More updates on KUOW's Today So Far Blog!

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  • See an orca in Puget Sound — stay away

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: Newborn orca calf J59 swimming next to its mother J37, March 1, 2022.
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    Newborn orca calf J59 swimming next to its mother J37, March 1, 2022.
    Credit: Dave Ellifrit / Center for Whale Research

    Today may mark the start of the southern-resident orca watching season, but Washington wildlife officials are asking everyone to stay away from the region's endangered whales.

    "The southern residents do really poorly with a lot of boats around," said Julie Watson with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. "It affects their ability to find food, and so we're asking the public to voluntarily give them a little bit more space so that especially these vulnerable whales can bounce back."

    In addition to asking recreational boaters to stay away, Fish and Wildlife officials want whale watching tour boats to stay half a nautical mile from 13 vulnerable orcas.

    These orcas were just categorized as "vulnerable" by the Sealife Response Rehabilitation and Research Group. They have poor health. And one is pregnant.

    There are 74 southern resident orcas left. Boats are not allowed to approach them outside of the summer months.

    More updates in KUOW's Today So Far Blog!

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  • Inslee orders WSP to not help out-of-state abortion investigations

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    Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has issued a directive that prohibits state troopers from cooperating with out-of-state abortion investigations. This comes in response to last week's Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade.

    "We will use every resource under the law to defend the rights to choice, to defend privacy rights, to defend the safety of citizens, including those that come from other states," Inslee said.

    Under the governor's directive, the Washington State Patrol is barred from assisting outside agencies from investigating people who come to Washington for an abortion. WSP also cannot help investigate those who provide abortion services to people from states where it is outlawed. That could mean the patrol refuses to cooperate with an out-of-state subpoena, search warrant or court order.

    In his strongly worded directive, Inslee warns the state patrol to be watchful for requests for information from other states that may hide the fact they’re investigating someone who came to Washington for an abortion.

    The order also requires the patrol to work with the state Attorney General’s Office to scrutinize all requests for cooperation from states where abortion is banned or restricted.

    More updates in KUOW's Today So Far Blog!

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  • Washington's Missing Indigenous People Alert system goes live

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    caption: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women group members including Earth-Feather Sovereign, right, lead the march during the 'Cancel Kavanaugh - We Believe Survivors' march and rally on Thursday, October 4, 2018, in Seattle
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    Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women group members including Earth-Feather Sovereign, right, lead the march during the 'Cancel Kavanaugh - We Believe Survivors' march and rally on Thursday, October 4, 2018, in Seattle
    Credit: KUOW photo/Megan Farmer

    The first Missing Indigenous People Alert system in the United States was activated in Washington today.

    “Hopefully, like our other alerts, the system will not be needed very often," said Carrie Gordon, director of WSP's Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit. "But when it is needed and used, we feel it can be a very helpful tool in recovery.”

    Indigenous people go missing at a significantly higher rate compared to the general population, according to a news release from the Washington State Patrol.

    “This is a significant step for our state and agency,” Gordon said. “We know that indigenous people go missing at a significantly higher rate than the general population. WSP currently has two full time tribal liaisons that work with tribal law enforcement and advocacy groups to coordinate state communications and response to this issue. The new M.I.P.A. system will be one more tool in rapid response by the state that will hopefully allow us to find and assist indigenous people who are in danger.”

    The new system is designed to help find indigenous people who go missing and bring them home. All law enforcement agencies in Washington will be notified about the missing person, and subscribers to the system will also get a message.

    You can subscribe to missing indigenous persons list here.

    More updates in KUOW's Today So Far Blog!

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  • Tunnel tolls going up in Seattle

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    caption: A toll sign on a ramp leading to the tunnel that replaced the Alaskan Way Viaduct is shown Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, in Seattle.
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    A toll sign on a ramp leading to the tunnel that replaced the Alaskan Way Viaduct is shown Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, in Seattle.
    Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

    It will now cost you more to use the Highway 99 tunnel under Seattle.

    Tunnel tolls are increasing by 3%, which means drivers will Pay between 5 to 10 cents more per trip, depending on the time of day.

    Peak morning travel tolls are between 7-9 a.m. Tolls during that time will go up to $1.80. The price between 3-6 p.m. goes up to $2.60 to $2.70 per trip.

    Drivers who don't have Good to Go passes will pay $2 more than those who do have them.

    The recent toll hikes begin July 1, 2022, and will go up every three years after that.

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  • ERs brace for firework injuries ahead of Fourth of July

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    Don't be a Larry.

    When I was an infant, my family lived in Kirkland. My older brother was very into fireworks and my parents obliged each Fourth of July. My brother's friend Larry would come over during this time. Our house was where the fireworks were happening.

    At one point my brother figured out that he could light a firecracker and throw it into the air. It was small, but it was like his own fireworks show. Light the fuse, throw the firecracker. Light the fuse, throw the firecracker. Larry noticed. He wanted to try. So he lit the fuse, and threw the lighter.

    Ever since the trip to the ER that year, our family was never as into fireworks. No one was going to be a Larry at our house (other than being startled, Larry was fine).

    Every year, I think about that story when hospitals like Harborview Medical Center starts bracing for the annual increase of firework-related injuries. Harborview gets about 40 to 50 a year.

    Medical experts are reminding everyone that fireworks can lead to losing body parts, like your hand. They can also injure others.

    “I remember many really tragic patients who lost body parts, hands, other things because of misadventures with fireworks,” said Dr. Michael Sayre, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “The best strategy is not to get injured in the first place. So don't play with fireworks. Don't hold them in your hands, don't use them around children, and then you won't get hurt.”

    The best way to prevent injuries is to not play with them. And don't hold them in your hands. Avoid using them around children. If you really want to see some pretty lights and hear some big bangs, there are public firework displays going on this weekend.

    Natalie Newcomb contributed to this article.

    More updates in KUOW's Today So Far Blog!

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  • Don't call 911 to report fireworks unless it's a true emergency

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    King County and Pierce County officials are have a special Fourth of July message: Don't call 911 to report illegal uses of fireworks.

    Only call 911 in the event of injury, fire, or emergency.

    For the first time, fireworks are now banned in unincorporated parts of King County. They've already been banned in Seattle.

    Seattle's 911 call center typically gets about 2,000 calls a day. On July 4th alone, calls jump by about 50%. That's according to Bill Schrier, a strategic advisor for Seattle's 911 call center.

    Schrier says they want to keep 911 call lines clear for serious emergencies as people inappropriately use alcohol, drugs, and drive under the influence.

    "Don’t call 911 to report illegal fireworks unless it’s an emergency," said Schrier. "If its just illegal fireworks going off in the neighborhood that's not an emergency that's threatening life and property and people should not call 911".

    Schrier provided some examples of when you should pick up the phone regarding fireworks.

    “A firework that comes down on top of a house, or a roof, ignites bushes, fireworks that injure a person, ignites clothes on fire, all of those things threaten life and or property."

    Report illegal fireworks

    You can also report illegal uses of fireworks in King County and Pierce County online.

    If you want to report illegal fire works in King County, you can report them online here. Or you can call King County's non-emergency line: 206-296-3311.

    If you live in Pierce County's Fife, Orting, Roy, Sumner, Tacoma, or University Place, you can report illegal fireworks here. Or call 253-287-4455.

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  • Want an EV charging station at your Seattle home?

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    The city of Seattle has 30 EV charging stations ready to install across town. It's asking for homeowners and landlords to speak up if they want one along their street. With more than 300 people speaking up so far, the city is going to have to pick and choose.

    King5 reports that Seattle has been open to requests for level 2 EV charging stations since the start of June. The city will install the charging stations for free. Users will pay about 20 cents per kilowatt.

    The city aims to reduce transportation emissions 83% by 2030. It is hoped that the new EV charging stations will help achieve this goal.

    Seattle is accepting EV requests through the end of August.

    More updates in KUOW's Today So Far Blog!

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  • Why there's room for Seattle rents to rise further: Today So Far

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    • As the Seattle-area housing market cools, it's putting pressure on the rental market.
    • Western Washington is trying out safe lots, one more time, in an effort to address homelessness along the road.
    • Washington's new gun regulations kick in today. But there's some nuance involved.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for July 1, 2022.

    Our region is once again trying out the idea of safe lots for people living in their vehicles to park, and live, without running afoul of parking rules. King and Pierce counties are looking into setting up a few lots where RVs and other vehicles can be parked, supervised.

    If this sounds familiar, it's because it's already been tried locally, and it always ends up coming with a large price tag. You'd think that having people park in one spot wouldn't cost much. It's already happening on roadsides throughout the region. When Seattle tried a safe lot in 2016 in Ballard, it cost $25,000 to set up, and about $35,000 to operate each month. In 2018, there were three deaths in Seattle's SoDo safe lot (two were from long-term diseases).

    The latest proposals out of Pierce and King counties aim to succeed this time, but they still come with steep costs. The Low Income Housing Institute is getting $1.9 million to develop a new RV safe lot program in Seattle. It wants an additional $5 million for sites in Pierce County. Such costs are going to be considered against the fact that Seattle is already spending multiple millions on clearing encampments and other homeless programs. Seattle has slated $173 million for homelessness in 2022.

    "Soundside" has the full story here.

    The real estate market in the Seattle area has cooled down. That is having effects elsewhere in the region's housing. Redfin says that high mortgage rates are causing buyers to shy away from the market. That means they're more likely to shift into the rental market, placing more demand there. And according to Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather, while the housing market goes into "hibernation," there is more room for rents to rise. Read the full story here.

    A handful of new gun regulations go into effect today in Washington state. But there is some nuance to these new restrictions. It is now illegal to manufacture, assemble, purchase or sell an untraceable firearm, aka a "ghost gun." It is also illegal to sell or make a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds. Gun owners can still have such magazines that they already own, they just cannot buy them anymore in Washington state. There are a few more rules on the books. Read the full story here.


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  • Minimum wage vs your neighbors vs inflation: Today So Far

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    • Western Washington city aims to up its minimum wage to compete with neighboring towns.
    • Will Seattle teachers stick around?
    • Who leaked SPD info to the media?

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for June 30, 2022.

    After KUOW and The Seattle Times revealed that the Seattle Police Department's sexual assault unit was understaffed amid the recent loss of officers and detectives, an investigation was launched into who at SPD leaked the info. The Office of Police Accountability is looking into how an internal memo was leaked to the media. KUOW Reporter Ashley Hiruko is not divulging where and how she received any information. Watching her work up close, I doubt she ever will (frankly, I'm a little afraid of her).

    Read the full story here.

    Tukwila is considering an initiative that will raise the city's minimum wage by about $3. This would match the surrounding areas' wages, and hopefully draw in more workers. That's the argument put forward by initiative organizers. I would also put forth the notion that inflation is changing our financial landscape, which is something employers throughout our region are going to have to deal with. I'm no economic rocket surgeon, but even I can add up the fact that inflation has generally wavered between 1-ish and 2-ish percent, but we are now experiencing up to 6-ish percent. This means food is costing more and gas prices are way up there. Rent is always going higher. And Washington families who say they have a "very difficult time" meeting household expenses have gone from 4% to 10% within a year. If I was a Western Washington employer right now, I'd start thinking about worker retention and pay.

    It's been pretty busy in the Today So Far Blog lately. Police caught a Bothell man mailing hard drives to people in the U.S. and overseas. What's wrong with that? Nothing ... except for when the hard drives are filled with meth. Also, the King County Council wants to change when you vote. One problem election officials have noticed is that fewer voters participate in odd-year elections — when there aren't any presidential, gubernatorial, or other high-profile races. So the county wants to move less popular elections to even-numbered years with the hope that more people will pay attention and vote. The idea has some naysayers, however, and ultimately you're going to decide on this issue.

    And a third of Seattle teachers say they don't plan to stick around town in five years. The teachers' union surveyed its members (while it's engaged in negotiations), and among the takeaways is that many teachers don't see themselves in Seattle after that amount of time. Some indicate that they will leave the education field altogether.


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  • Initiative to boost Tukwila's minimum wage moves forward

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: FILE: A stretch of Highway 99 is shown in 2018.
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    FILE: A stretch of Highway 99 is shown in 2018.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    There is a new initiative to increase Tukwila's minimum wage by over $3.

    The Tukwila City Council can pass the initiative, or voters will get to decide in the November election.

    Katie Wilson is the campaign organizer of Raise The Wage Tukwila. Wilson said many who signed the initiative thought it was reasonable for Tukwila workers to make similar wages as surrounding cities.

    "A lot of people in Tukwila commute to Seatac or Seattle for jobs," Wilson said. "Partly because minimum wage is higher in those cities. Maybe, they would like to work closer to home. But, the jobs in Tukwila don't pay as much."

    Tukwila currently pays Washington state's minimum wage of $14.49. If the initiative passes the wage will be boosted to rates matching Seatac's minimum pay for hospitality and transportation workers. That's $17.54. Larger employers, 501 or more employees, in Seattle pay a minimum of $17.27.

    Wilson says the initiative will go after low-paying jobs at the Westfield South Center mall, transportation and airport-related jobs, warehouse jobs and more.

    If the initiative passes, large businesses with 501 or more worldwide employees will pay the new rate beginning July 2023. Businesses with less employees will have three years to adjust to the proposed wage. The smallest businesses, less than 15 employees, will be exempt and continue to follow the state's minimum wage.

    Organizers of the initiative collected more than 3,000 signatures, nearly double the required amount, to bring the minimum wage issue to the Tukwila City Council for consideration.

    The Council is expected to discuss the initiative in July. If council members don't pass it, then voters will get to decide via the November ballot.

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  • King County council members want to change when you vote

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    caption: King County drop box.
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    King County drop box.
    Credit: Juan Pablo Chiquiza / KUOW

    The King County Council has approved a plan that calls for switching elections to even numbered years. But the ultimate decision is not theirs — voters will give the final approval or denial.

    Council Chair Claudia Balducci is hoping voters will sign off on the idea when they vote on the measure this November.

    “Our democracy is strongest when the people who are elected to represent the electorate are elected by most of the electorate," Balducci said.

    Records show that voter turnout in odd-numbered years drops to an average of 47%, compared to 77% in even years. Even numbered years are when presidential, gubernatorial, and congressional elections happen, and voters are more likely to turn in their ballots for those races. That's why Balducci supports the switch.

    But Councilmember Reagan Dun does not like the idea.

    “My worry here is we get into a situation here where the voters are working on these presidential and congressional and gubernatorial races, forgetting about the local, county council members and execs," Dunn said.

    Dunn and Pete von Reichbauer both voted against the measure. Still, it's going to the voters in November.

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