A hurricane model for wildfires

With the help of University of Oregon’s Ben DeJarnette, we’re investigating forestry issues in Oregon, including the problem of potentially catastrophic wildfire. This month in SIDEBAR, an exclusive monthly dispatch from inside our newsroom just for InvestigateWest members, Robert McClure shares a story from his reporting. Spring has just sprung, and yet this summer’s fire outlook already is ominous across the Northwest. Snowpack in Washington’s Olympic Mountains is at something like 7 percent of normal. In the drier climes of southwestern Oregon conditions are even more parched.

Fundamental, or on the Chopping Block?

Our state’s Public Records Act, long a point of pride for Washingtonians, opens with a flourish: “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them.” This month in SIDEBAR, an exclusive monthly dispatch from inside our newsroom just for InvestigateWest members, Kim Drury calls up the folks in charge of that Act:

For decades, the Public Records Act has protected Washingtonians’ right to know and the Public Disclosure Commission has been there to ensure that the law’s provisions are met. The Records Act, along with the Washington State Open Public Meetings Act, has long been a point of pride in the state. In 2001, then Attorney General and later two-term Governor Christine Gregoire said that “… people are entitled to pretty much any document that comes to my mind.” From 2004 through 2008 Washington was ranked first in the nation for its campaign finance disclosure rules. Today, Kim Abel, President of the League of Women Voters of Washington is still willing to say that Washington is at the forefront in the nation for open government.

Reporting B.F. (Before Ferguson)

We just published our first SIDEBAR of 2015 — an exclusive monthly dispatch from inside our newsroom just for InvestigateWest members. Have you ever wondered how a story goes from an idea in a reporter’s head to a published piece? This month, reporter Lee van der Voo gives an insider’s look at how our latest investigation came to be. Maybe a decade ago, my husband served on a felony grand jury. For 30 days in Multnomah County, he and six other people presided over person-to-person crimes, one of three sitting grand juries convened at all times. 

His tales of kidnappings and busted eyeballs horrified us both.

Member Exclusive: Fishing for answers in Duwamish River records

We just published our latest SIDEBAR — an exclusive monthly dispatch from inside our newsroom just for InvestigateWest members.For August we have a piece by Executive Director Robert McClure about getting, and not getting, government records into the public eye:State and federal freedom-of-information laws give investigative journalists a look behind the curtain at the internal workings of government. An essential tool, they allow us to help the public better understand what government is doing and saying on its behalf.The people can better govern their governors, in other words.So we were recently taken aback by how many documents the City of Seattle and King County withheld in one of our latest rounds of Freedom Of Information requests. The sheer volume of records withheld suggests an epic legal battle brewing over the Duwamish River cleanup.To read the rest…

Member Exclusive: Seattle’s historic minimum wage

Every month we send InvestigateWest members an exclusive dispatch from inside our newsroom.We call it SIDEBAR. Tucked inside is an essay from one of our reporters, a follow-up report on something we published, previews of investigations-in-progress, or other original content. If that sounds like the kind of thing you like, we invite you to join InvestigateWest and support independent, consequential journalism in the Pacific Northwest.This month, reporter Allegra Abramo introduces a project she’s been working on this summer:Worker advocates applauded last month when the Seattle City Council voted to phase in a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour. But some worry the law won’t be vigorously enforced. They’ve seen too many workers struggle for justice after being cheated out of their wages. It’s a topic Diego Rondón Ichikawa knows well. He is a staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project and founder of the Wage Justice Project. “What Seattle did was historic,” he told me in an interview last month, “but it’s also important to make sure these workers are getting what they deserve under the law…”To keep reading…