Austin Jenkins

Olympia Correspondent

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia–based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. He regularly files stories for NPR News. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin was a freelance general assignment reporter at KING–TV, the NBC affiliate in Seattle. He also worked as a freelance education reporter for KPLU–FM, the Tacoma–based NPR station. Austin spent 2001 in Washington, D.C. as a Knight Foundation/American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. Austin has also worked as a television reporter in Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; Casper, Wyoming; and Bozeman, Montana. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and has a B.A. in Government from Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Over the years Austin has won numerous professional awards for his reporting. He lives in Olympia with his wife Jennifer Huntley and their two children.

Read Austin's blog, "The Washington Ledge: Dispatches From Olympia."


Western Wind Storm
5:21 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Wind Storm Means Long Hours, Christmas Money For Power Crews

Mark Vosburg works for utility contractor Potelco. He said windstorms mean double time pay and extra money for Christmas.
Credit Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

The lights are back on for many of those who lost power during the windstorm that walloped western Oregon and Washington Thursday night. But repair crews are still hard at work across the region.

Mark Vosburg is a utility contractor for Potelco. He said he expects to work 39 hours, have six of them off, and then work another 18 hour shift.

“Once you’re out here and you’re out running around, you’re just awake,” Vosburg said.

Vosburg expressed he looks forward to this time of year in his line of business.

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Spy Proof Room
5:53 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Expert: Wash. Data Center Could Have Future As Foil-Wrapped Secret Room

File photo of one of the built out data halls in Washington's data center.
Credit Washington Consolidated Technology Services



A foil-wrapped secret room is a plausible use for unused portions of Washington’s new data center. That’s according to a national expert on what Time Magazine has dubbed “spy-proof rooms.”

You’ve likely never heard of a SCIF. Unless you’re a fan of the TV show Drop Dead Diva.

“Excuse me, what’s a SCIF? It is a Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility,” the show says.

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Gun Rights
5:54 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Washington Capitol Prepares For Gun-Rights Rally Saturday

File photo. Several hundred gun rights advocates rallying at the Washington Capitol in January 2013.
Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 5:37 pm

The state of Washington is preparing for as many as 6,000 gun-rights advocates to attend a rally at the Capitol on Saturday.

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Tax Proposal
4:31 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Washington Governor Likely To Propose Robust Tax Package

According to the governor’s budget director, Gov. Jay Inslee has planned to propose a mix of cuts and revenues to balance the upcoming two-year budget.
Credit Brianhe / Wikimedia

Washington Governor Jay Inslee is likely to propose a more than $1 billion revenue package when he unveils his proposed two-year budget next week.

That’s according to the governor’s budget director who briefed reporters Tuesday at the Capitol.

Washington is expected to take in nearly $3 billion more in taxes over the next two years. Even so, the governor’s budget office anticipated a nearly $2.5 billion shortfall. A school funding lawsuit and cost of living raises for state and K-12 employees are two big ticket items.

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Data Center Lease
5:17 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

As Data Center ‘Halls’ Sit Empty, Washington Casts Wider Net For Tenants

The search has widened for tenants to fill Washington’s overbuilt data center.
Credit Washington Consolidated Technology Services

Efforts to lease Washington’s overbuilt data center have so far been unsuccessful.

Picture an unfinished space about the size of an indoor soccer arena with 20 foot ceilings and a concrete floor. The state built four of these data center halls but now it only needs two of them. Servers are getting smaller and attempts to lease this surplus space to the private sector for data center use have been ineffective. Now the state is casting a wider net.

Rob St. John oversees the state data center.

“We’re open to almost any sort of alternate use,” St. John said. 

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Child Welfare Lawsuits
7:32 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Lawsuit Payouts Top $150 Million As Washington CPS Requests More Workers

CPS investigator Xyzlora Brownell says one of the hardest parts of her job is deciding to remove children from their parents.
Credit Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

The agency that oversees child welfare in Washington wants to hire nearly 100 more child protection workers.

But the budget request comes after years of lawsuits that cost the state more than $150 million. Now the question is whether Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services has taken adequate steps to learn from child welfare cases that went awry.

Part of the problem is fresh reports of child abuse and neglect keep pouring in – up 10,000 over the last two years.

'It truly is a crisis'

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Ferguson March
6:02 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

Ferguson Protesters March In Olympia, Block Rush Hour Traffic

Protesters marching in "solidarity" with Ferguson, Missouri block traffic near an I-5 on ramp in Olympia Friday evening.
Credit Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Protesters chanted the name of the Missouri teenager who was shot by police. They marched on the State Capitol in Olympia Friday afternoon. 

The group of about 50 protestors blocked a traffic circle leading from the Washington Capitol Campus out to Interstate 5.  They brought state employees leaving work to a complete halt.

Protestors surrounded a pick-up truck. They held a sign that said "Black Lives Matter".

There were drivers who were clearly frustrated, trying to do u-turns, and were honking.  It was absolute gridlock at the state capitol.

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Minimum Wage Rally
5:26 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Low Wage Workers Rally In Olympia

Activists rallied in support of a $15 per hour minimum wage on the steps of the Washington capitol building in Olympia on Thursday.
Credit Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Low wage workers picketed and rallied across the country Thursday in support of a $15 per hour minimum wage.

On the steps of the Washington state capitol, you could see a group of about 50 people. Some of them carried signs saying "Strike poverty." They called for a $15 an hour base wage in Washington state.

Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, a Democrat, indicated he would like to move a minimum wage bill in the upcoming 2015 legislative session. But with Republicans in charge of the Washington Senate, it seems likely that that effort would face roadblocks going forward.

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Washington Gun Initiatives
5:51 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

Gun Store Owner Wary Of Participating In Background Check Law

Don Teague of Private Sector Arms in Olympia says he doesn't want to profit on Washington's new background check requirement.
Credit Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington’s new background check law for person-to-person gun sales and transfers takes effect Thursday. The law puts federally-licensed gun dealers in the role of conducting the checks. But one Thurston County gun store owner says it’s not a role he’s comfortable with.

At Private Sector Arms owner Don Teague shows me some of the guns he has on display. “This right here in AR-15/M4, this is here is an AK-47 variant,” Teague said.

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Prison Deaths
4:41 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Washington DOC Will Try To Learn From Recent Suicides

The Washington Department of Corrections no longer disciplines inmates for acts of self-harm, including suicide attempts.
Credit AP Images

Two Washington prison inmates have committed suicide in recent weeks at the state’s main intake facility in Shelton. The first was in October. The most recent was just before Thanksgiving. The Department of Corrections hopes to learn from these deaths.

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