Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse covers business, environment, public policy, human interest and national news across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be heard during "Morning Edition," "Weekday," and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Before taking his current beat, Tom covered state government and the Washington Legislature for 12 years. During the early 1990s, he worked in the Seattle bureau of United Press International. He got his start in radio at WCAL–FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Tom graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in American Studies. In 1996, he spent two months reporting from Bonn and Berlin, Germany on an Arthur F. Burns Fellowship. In 1999, he traversed the globe to cover the Pacific Rim (Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan) on a Jefferson Fellowship.

When not sifting through press releases, listening to lobbyists, or driving lonely highways, Tom enjoys exploring the Olympic Peninsula backcountry and cooking dinner with his wife and friends. Tom's secret ambition is to take six months off work and travel to a faraway place where there are no radios.

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Washington Liquor Privatization Upheld
4:32 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Divided Washington Supreme Court Upholds Liquor Privatization

Private liquor sales start Friday in Washington.
Photo credit: Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Private liquor sales start Friday in Washington. On the eve of the changeover, the state Supreme Court has upheld a voter-approved ballot measure to end the state's liquor monopoly.

The justices on the Washington Supreme Court reached a speedy decision on a challenge to the liquor privatization push. But the ruling was a close one. Five members of the high court upheld the voter-approved ballot measure, while four dissented.

At issue was whether the ballot measure violates the single subject rule. The liquor initiative includes provisions to privatize sales, raise the tax on spirits and earmark some revenues for public safety.

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Simple Majority For Taxes
4:31 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Judge Rules Wash. Supermajority Requirement For Taxes Unconstitutional

Supermajority initiative sponsor Tim Eyman is already circulating another petition for this November. A link to the full initiative can be found below.
State of Washington

A King County judge Wednesday ruled that Washington voters cannot impose a two thirds majority requirement to raise taxes on the state legislature. Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller found voter approved anti-tax Initiative 1053 to be unconstitutional. But the ruling is far from the last word on the matter.

A group of Democratic state lawmakers and their allies sued to overturn the requirement for a two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise taxes. Washingtonians have repeatedly approved that high threshold at the ballot.

But a county judge in Seattle accepted the plaintiffs' argument that the supermajority requirement conflicts with the state constitution. It says a simple majority is all it takes to pass a bill.

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Tsunami Buoys
6:19 am
Mon May 21, 2012

Pacific NW Tsunami Buoys Out Of Service

Ocean bound tsunami warning buoys like this are designed to provide early detection.
Photo courtesy of NOAA.

One quarter (12 of 39) of U.S.-operated tsunami warning buoys in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are out of service. That includes the two tsunami detection buoys directly off the Pacific Northwest coast. But as Correspondent Tom Banse reports, the warning system has some redundancy built in.

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Tsunami Debris
6:35 am
Fri May 18, 2012

Spy Satellites Used In Search For Tsunami Debris

A personal message on this soccer ball confirmed it washed to sea from a Japanese school during the 2011 tsunami. The ball drifted ashore at Middleton Island, Alaska.
Photo by David Baxter. Northwest News Network

Another piece of confirmed tsunami debris – part of a restaurant sign – has washed ashore in Alaska. But marine scientists can’t say how much other Japanese disaster debris is trailing behind. This problem surfaced at a U.S. Senate hearing Thursday. As correspondent Tom Banse reports, researchers are now getting some access to spy satellite imagery.

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Women's Olympic Basketball
6:15 am
Mon May 14, 2012

U.S. Olympic Women Train In Seattle; Beat China 100-62

The U.S. Women's Basketball Team
Photo by Tom Banse Northwest News Network

The U.S. women's basketball team dominated China in an exhibition game played in Seattle Saturday. Final score: 100 to 62. The prelude to an upcoming Summer Olympics showdown coincided with the U.S. squad's first team training camp. Correspondent Tom Banse reports on why that's in Seattle.

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Chinese Massacre Memorial
6:19 am
Wed May 9, 2012

Chopper Delivers Memorial Marker To Massacre Site

A memorial to Chinese gold miners massacred in Hells Canyon.
Photo by Lyle Wirtanen Northwest News Network

A granite memorial arrived by helicopter Tuesday at a remote cove in Hells Canyon on the Idaho-Oregon border. The stone will mark the site where a large group of Chinese gold miners was massacred way back in 1887. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

Private contributions paid for the engraving and transportation of the 1,100 pound granite marker. Memorial project treasurer Lyle Wirtanen says the stone was inscribed in English, Chinese and the native Nez Perce language.

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Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center Reopening
4:56 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Coldwater Ridge Center At Mount St. Helens Reopens With New Mission

View of Mount St. Helens from Coldwater Ridge.
Photo credit: Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Just in time for another anniversary of the catastrophic Mount St. Helens eruption, the U.S. Forest Service is reopening an architecturally striking visitor center. The Coldwater Ridge facility has been closed for the last four seasons. the center reopens next week with a new mission and purpose.

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Pollen Decrease
4:24 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

Don't Curse The Rain, It Depresses Allergens

Pollen from a variety of common plants. The image is magnified by about 500x, so the bean shaped grain in the bottom left corner is about 50 μm long.
Photo credit: Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility, Dartmouth College Northwest News Network

Here in the Northwest, you hear lots of complaints about the abundant rain. But this year's cool March weather and above normal rainfall in April may have eased the suffering of people with pollen allergies.

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Mountain Passes
4:37 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Snowy Wash. Mountain Pass Hwys To Open For Season Soon

spring snowstorm on Cayuse Pass (SR 123) dumped more than a half-foot of snow on the highway. Crews hoped to open the pass on Friday (May 4), but with snow predicted through the weekend, they've had to push it back.
Photo courtesy WSDOT

Fresh snow in the mountains has slightly delayed the reopening of one high mountain pass in the Washington Cascades. Highway crews are on track to reopen two other scenic cross state routes before Memorial Day. Correspondent Tom Banse reports the snowpack is deeper than average for this time of year in Washington, north Idaho and the northern Oregon Cascades.

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Tsunami Drill
6:38 am
Fri May 4, 2012

Coastal Schools Drill For Tsunami, Would Rather Relocate

Seaside High School students and staff flee to higher ground during a tsunami evacuation drill Wednesday.
Photo by Tom Banse Northwest News Network

A pair of U.S. Geological Survey studies counted 14 schools in Oregon and 48 in Washington that could be underwater after a major tsunami. Administrators and parents in some of those places are talking about relocating their vulnerable schools. The Seaside, Oregon school district has the largest number of students in the tsunami zone along the Oregon coast. Correspondent Tom Banse reports on a drill there that shows why some school districts want to rebuild on higher ground.

At 11 o'clock sharp, students at Seaside High School get the order to evacuate.

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