1,000 new tiny homes could soon be built in Seattle – at possible $10M cost

Published on kiro7.com November 2017; more than 3,000 engagements on social

Three tiny house villages and three sites (which includes tiny homes and tents) operate in Seattle under the Low Income Housing Institute. See photos in this slideshow. This image from the Central District Tiny Village. Image via LIHI.

With Jenny Durkan elected as Seattle mayor, she’s expected to start fulfilling her campaign promises: one aspiring to build 1,000 more tiny homes for the homeless at an estimated $10 million cost.

The concept is not new, but here’s where Seattle is now and how Durkan wants to evolve it.

A look at the tiny-home villages currently in Seattle

Hundreds of community members – from colleges to the Tulalip Tribe – have built tiny homes for years to scatter throughout sanctioned tent cities.

Seattle made national headlines when it opened that village in January 2016, opening 14 spaces to homeless residents. Donors funded the 8-by-12-foot spaces – costing about $2,200.

Each adult living in the Central District village pays $90 per month to cover the utilities.

With the goal of moving people from tents to secure housing, Sharon Lee executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute – the organization that oversees the village – calls it a good crisis response. Tiny houses can help hundreds of people with short-term housing as they find jobs and feel safe in their space,

“We must stop the public health crisis of deaths, illness and misery caused by the lack of sufficient shelter,” Lee told KIRO 7.

So in under two years’ time, LIHI opened three more villages, housing between 40 to 60 people per site.

Some tiny home villages – like the one in the Central District – include plumbed toilets, rather than portable ones, and the spaces are insulated.

Three tiny house villages and three sites (which includes tiny homes and tents) operate in Seattle under LIHI. The below interactive is based on a public list of locations published on The Low Income Housing Institute website. Scroll down under interactive to keep reading this article. 

The City of Seattle does not cover the cost of building tiny homes, but it does pay for some operation and staffing. Funding and the creation of the spaces came largely from LIHI, private donors and volunteers.

As LIHI is responsible for the villages, they are managed by Nickelsville, a self-managed community of homeless people. Workers monitor for criminal activity and clean up debris in the village.

Continue reading 1,000 new tiny homes could soon be built in Seattle – at possible $10M cost

What we can learn from these unearthed mugshots from the 1940s

Published on kiro7.com November 2017

Nearly 75 years after their incarceration, a stack of inmates’ mugshots surfaced in a box of forgotten vintage black-and-white photographs at a cluttered Centralia antique store.

Underneath each card’s punch hole, once thread through something like an office binder or filing cabinet, a man stands with a sign around his neck that reads, “Washington State Reformatory.” The crimes the men committed are typed on the back of each mugshot.

>> See all the mugshots here

When taking a look at the back of the photographs, some sentences for what could now be considered petty crimes seem quite long — digging for clams, entering a laundromat while drunk — while others seem too short for crimes that could now possibly fit under class A felonies.

A trip to Seattle ended in arrest 

When the two young men traveled the west coast from Los Angles to Seattle in 1940, they paid their way by cashing a series of worthless checks totaling $1,200 — a value of nearly $20,000 today.

Herbet Ratliff, 23 at the time, and his partner bought three cars with their trail of checks, but their journey came to a screeching halt at a resort near Lake Sammamish when they were arrested.

When facing a King County judge, Ratliff was handed a 20-year sentence in Washington State Reformatory (WSR) in Monroe.

During Ratliff’s time, Washington State Reformatory — currently operating under the name Monroe Correctional Complex — housed felons with the intention of providing industrial training and military discipline. But idleness among inmates became a huge problem during this decade, mostly due to inadequately trained employees.

A supervisor talked to The Seattle Times in 1942, acknowledging that these difficulties were negatively impacting their roughly 3,000 inmates.

“Five or six years of enforced idleness will ruin any individual,” Dr. Richard McGee said in the article. “They soon fall into lethargy that damages them and makes it difficult for them to work when work is offered.”

It’s unclear what Ratliff worked on, or didn’t work on, while serving time. But what we do know is that Ratliff received 15 years more than what the maximum sentence for a forgery charge under current Washington State law currently lists.

Other mugshots reveals more unbalanced penalties

Other inmates found in this stack of unearthed mugshots also served more time, or less, before the laws were revised.

  • For example, grand larceny, now theft, could come with a 15-year sentence. Many people served time for property crimes that now rarely result in jail time.


  • Public intoxication, now treated under behavioral health services, could get someone arrested if they were using profanity under the influence.


  • The crime of seduction, under 1909 criminal code in Washington, largely involved men having sex with chaste women. Some court cases show that men were engaging in non-consensual sex; sometimes, it involved teen girls.


The bulk of these sentences and laws were changed in a state criminal code overhaul in 1976.
With unbalanced penalties, lawmakers, justices and prosecutors wrote about the need for change in a review journal years before the code was enacted.

“The inadequacies in the existing criminal code have had profound detrimental effects on the quality and reputation of law enforcement and criminal justice in Washington,” former state Senator Perry Woodall wrote.

“The glaring inadequacies in the present criminal code create a critical lack of public confidence not only in the code itself, but also in the police, prosecutors and courts.”

So how did this change impact incarceration leading up to today?

As state laws evolved from the overhaul over the last 40 years, incarceration in Washington state only increased. Washington’s up-tick coincides with national numbers, such as when an emphasis on drug crimes began in the 1980s, dramatically increasing the prison population for decades. It’s stabilized over the last few years.

According to the latest Department of Corrections numbers, 17,500 people make up the prison population today; among those are mostly middle-aged white men serving for violent crimes. But reform advocates point out that the state — in line with national trends — still has racial disparities in its inmate population. While nearly 70 percent of Washington state’s inmates are white, the imprisonment rate for black people is higher when looking at arrests per 100,000 people.

Most of those serving in state receive a sentence for over ten years. Washington state saw a decrease in inmates in 2010 after a decade of reducing sentences for drug crimes, but this also coincides with nearly 3,200 inmates being set free erroneously.

But in this shift, the emphasis of crimes committed turned to violent crimes, such as murder, rape and assault.


With the amount of violent offenders incarcerated, Tom McBride, a spokesman for the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, has said, “It’s hard to find anybody who doesn’t deserve to be there.”

How do reform advocates want to move forward?

Even with some of the lowest incarceration numbers in the country, housing inmates comes at a high cost: $36,000 for each inmate annually. To relieve that fiscal burden, that’s where advocates – and some state and city leaders – argue a different approach in putting more money in prevention and treatment versus paying for a lengthy sentence.

Members of criminal justice reform group The Sentencing Project say large prison population mostly comes down to the time given to inmates.

When asked if another criminal code re-write — like the one in 1976 — is due, executive director Mark Mauer said probably not.

“I think it’s unlikely a new code would reverse the trends we’re seeing,” Mark Mauer said. “It may or may not be a good time to review and think about a re-write, amending parts of it, but I think that should be determined on its own merits.”

Mauer says that change, in part, comes from rethinking the amount of time given to inmates.

To change the trends, Mauer’s group believes it largely comes down substantial revisions in how people are sentenced. His group advocates for the elimination of minimum sentences and cutting back on excessive lengthy sentences.

Passport to fly domestically? What Washington residents need to know

Published October 2017 on kiro7.com; more than 2,000 engagements on social 

Standard license; Washington DOL file photo

For years, Washington residents have expressed confusion over whether their driver’s licenses will get them through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in the near future.

The concerns stem from a complicated federal law passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to bring better security at airports, and Washington state is still working to get into compliance. So what does this mean for residents?

Simply, read the first four answers to learn exactly what you need to get on a plane. Then continue reading the Q&A about the REAL ID act and how Washington is working toward a fix.

1. I’m a Washington resident with a Washington state license, what do I need to get on a domestic flight right now? 

Just your driver’s license, either standard or enhanced.

2. What do I need to get on a domestic flight next year? 

Again, just your driver’s license, either standard or enhanced.

3. When do rules change?

Enforcement for the new law starts in 2020, according to an extension granted to the Washington State Department of Licensing on Wednesday.

After enforcement starts in 2020, the state’s standard licenses will not be accepted by TSA. Read why below.

However, TSA will accept Washington’s enhanced driver’s licenses. Many residents in state already have these. If you need one, here’s how to apply

If you’re not interested in an enhanced license you, you can still board with other documentation — such as a passport, permanent resident card or military ID.

4. Will people be turned away after October 2020?

People using a standard licenses without additional documentation will not be allowed to pass TSA. Enhanced driver’s licenses will be permitted to enter.

Continue reading Passport to fly domestically? What Washington residents need to know

Where did ash fall in Western Washington? This map will show you

Published Sept. 2017 on kiro7.com

Throughout the Puget Sound region on Tuesday morning, residents found ash on their cars and around their homes as wildfires burned more than 150,000 acres in Washington state.

KIRO 7 asked people to submit zip codes for areas in which they saw ash falling. Our digital team took hundreds of submitted zip codes and put them in the below map to give an idea on which areas saw the most ash fall.

How to read this map: In dark red areas, the number of reports was as high as 78, and in lighter red areas, there were fewer reports. Click or tap on a zip code area to see the exact number of reports.

Scroll down to see the map and read specifics on how the data was collected. 

About the data in this map: This map is not based on a scientific measurement of ash falling. Unlike something such as rainfall, there is not a gauge in the state that measures ash.

Continue reading Where did ash fall in Western Washington? This map will show you

Live in Seattle and worried about North Korea? Read this

Published Sept. 2017 on kiro7.com

With North Korea testing missiles at an unprecedented rate, experts calculate the Seattle area could eventually be in range.

But is that a realistic worry for people on the West Coast? KIRO 7 News talked to scientists and government leaders, who explain below.

How did we get here?

Many West Coast residents feel unease with their homes being the closest in the United States to North Korea as tensions between the two countries build every week.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday again gave a doomsday warning to Kim Jong Un. And just last week, North Korea launched a missile that flew over the northern part of Japan.

File AP

2017 has been a rapid year of progress for North Korea, with its 22 missiles fired over 15 tests since February. That includes the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missile, launched over the summer.

North Korea, known for being a propaganda machine, has claimed that a missile could carry a nuclear warhead. Whether that could actually happen, physicists do not yet know.

What’s the real threat to the Seattle area, if there is one? 

After two ICBM launches, analysts calculated everything west of Chicago could be in range.

“The distance from North Korea to Seattle is about 5,100 miles (8,200 km),” said David Wright, a physicist and co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“We don’t know how heavy North Korea’s nuclear warheads are, and the weight affects how far a missile can carry them. However, most experts believe North Korea’s longest range missile, the Hwasong-14, may be able to carry a nuclear warhead as far as Seattle or will be able to in the near future.”


Missiles are highly inaccurate. Wright told KIRO 7 News that Kim would likely shoot at a city physically bigger than Seattle in an attempt of hitting a population center.

Continue reading Live in Seattle and worried about North Korea? Read this

Unseen photos of Mt. St. Helens eruption discovered in forgotten camera at Goodwill

Published on kiro7.com in June 2017; more than 10,000 engagements on social

A Portland woman, who finds old cameras and develops forgotten film, discovered unseen photos of the Mount St. Helen explosion. Image: Courtesy Kati Dimoff

A Portland woman who finds old cameras and develops forgotten film has discovered unseen photos of the Mount St. Helens eruption.

“I run into the big Goodwill in [Southeast Portland] and check all their film cameras for exposed, but undeveloped rolls of film,” said Kati Dimoff, who is a photographer herself. “[In May], I bought an Argus C2, which would have been produced around 1938, and it had a damaged roll of Kodachrome slide film in it.”

Dimoff dropped it off at a Portland shop that develops vintage film. When she picked it up, a message was left on her package of photographs.

“Is this from the Mount St. Helen eruption?” it read.

Thirty-seven years ago, 57 people lost their lives amid raining ash throughout Washington state in the wake of the Mount St. Helens explosion.

Journalists and residents alike captured moments of the volcano’s notorious eruption in 1980; thousands of people to this day still watch their surreal video and chilling photos the lateral blast that took out the north side of the mountain.

But Dimoff’s images show a new perspective of the plume cloud that haunted the northwest.

Continue reading Unseen photos of Mt. St. Helens eruption discovered in forgotten camera at Goodwill

Trump’s travel ban explained: Decision expected soon on Seattle judge’s ruling

NOTE: This story was first posted on kiro7.com in Feb. 2017.  It was published before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision on whether to reinstate President Donald Trump’s travel ban that was halted by a judge in Seattle. I wrote the majority of the copy and aggregated from previous team coverage to give our users a well-rounded look at the case before the appeals court decision. 

I’ve worked this story as breaking news on our digital platforms since Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit to invalidate key provisions in Trump’s executive order. Click here to see social media samples on this story. 

A Seattle judge’s ruling temporarily blocking President Donald Trump’s travel ban allows travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries once, barred under his executive order, to come into the United States.

Federal Judge James Robart’s decision remains in effect as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether the president’s executive order on immigration should be reinstated.

KIRO 7 News heard from a spokesman of the appeals court. We’re expecting a ruling in the coming days.

Here’s what we know now. Scroll down below for a timeline of events and then an expanded questions-and-answers section.

What is Trump’s travel ban?

The president signed an executive order on Jan. 27 that he said concerned “extreme vetting.”

It barred any non-U.S. citizen from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen from entering the United States.

Legal permanent residents — green card and visa-holders — from those seven countries who were out of the United States after Friday Jan. 27 could not return to the U.S. for 90 days.

The order also directed U.S. officials to review information as needed to fully vet foreigners asking to come to the U.S. and draft a list of countries that don’t provide that information. That left open the possibility that citizens of other countries could also face a travel ban.

How did the State of Washington get involved?

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a complaint that asked the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington to declare key provisions of the executive order unconstitutional and illegal.

Ferguson also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order seeking an immediate halt to the executive order’s implementation in the state and nationwide.

Read a full explainer on the lawsuit here.

KIRO 7 News’ Essex Porter was at the news conference on Jan. 30 when the attorney general argued that the executive order violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and the First Amendment’s establishment clause, infringes on individuals’ constitutional right to due process and contravenes the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.

Microsoft and Expedia are willing to testify in this case. Amazon is seeking its legal options.

What’s exactly did Robart’s ruling do?

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart of Seattle issued a ruling last week granting the restraining order brought by the state of Washington. This means Robart’s decision temporarily halted Trump’s travel ban.

Continue reading Trump’s travel ban explained: Decision expected soon on Seattle judge’s ruling

Breaking Facebook posts: Washington state’s fight against Trump’s travel ban

KIRO 7 News has been on watch since Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a lawsuit to invalidate key provisions in Trump’s executive ordered that barred travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. See some breaking Facebook posts I’ve worked on below.

To see an extensive timeline of this case, click here.

Posts from when Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the lawsuit 

Posts from when U.S. District Judge James Robart’s ruling came down in Seattle

Continue reading Breaking Facebook posts: Washington state’s fight against Trump’s travel ban

150,000 unauthorized immigrants live in Seattle area, Pew study finds

NOTE: First published on kiro7.com in Feb. 2017. More than 2,000 people reacted to this story on KIRO 7 News’ Facebook page.

An estimated 150,000 unauthorized immigrants live in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue – according to a list released by the Pew Research Center.

The list – released on Thursday – finds that most of the United States’ 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants live in just 20 major metropolitan areas.

Based on 2014 estimates, the analysis shows that unauthorized immigrants tend to live where other immigrants live. Among lawful immigrants – including naturalized citizens and noncitizens – 65 percent lived in those top metros, according to Pew.

20 U.S. metropolitan areas with the largest number of unauthorized immigrants

President Donald Trump ordered in January cuts in federal grants for cities that offer safe harbor for undocumented immigrants.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray made a promise that Seattle will remain a so-called sanctuary city even at the risk of millions of dollars in federal money.

Continue reading 150,000 unauthorized immigrants live in Seattle area, Pew study finds

Can the new attorney general change pot laws in Washington? Legal expert weighs in

NOTE: This was first published to kiro7.com before Jeff Sessions was confirmed as attorney general. 

As President Donald Trump’s attorney general pick to lead the Department of Justice nears confirmation, pot advocates in states that legalized the drug wonder if his leadership could turn to federal marijuana enforcement.

Alabama Sen.Jeff Sessions openly said during a Senate drug hearing last year that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” claiming the drug is dangerous. According to the Washington Post, Sessions’ former colleagues testified years ago that he used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana. ” Sessions denied the accusations.

>> Related: Read about how the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also made allegations in 1986 that Sessions used the power of his office as U.S. attorney to intimidate minority voters.

During a panel discussion presidential power in modern politics on Wednesday, criminal law expert and University of Washington professor Trevor Gardner explained to a room full of hundreds of people that he expects a clash between the federal government and high profile marijuana producers and distributors in states where voters approved its use.

“[Sessions has] taken the Obama administration to task by name and mentioned Obama, attorney generals — Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder — as well as FBI Director James Comey saying they have all [failed] to enforce federal marijuana prohibition in criminal decriminalization states,” Gardner said.

Twenty-one states have decriminalized marijuana. This means certain small, personal-consumption amounts are a civil or local infraction, not a state crime.

Washington state voters legalized marijuana nearly four years ago. When it passed, the U.S. Attorney General’s office promised to take a hands-off attitude, as long people in Washington State kept it away from children and kept locally grown marijuana from crossing state lines. Under a new attorney general that could change, as selling it still remains a crime under federal law.

“I do think the federal government, the Department of Justice, and Jeff Sessions are going to be very aggressive about prosecuting marijuana production, distribution, and decriminalization states,” Gardner said. “This is not going to be an easy task for the government.”

Continue reading Can the new attorney general change pot laws in Washington? Legal expert weighs in