Community United for a Bigger and Better Tacoma Float

Published on October 4th, 2013 | by Timothy Thomas McNeely


Results! from the Just One More Thing Survey

We all sit at our tables, at our corner of the bar, now and then, and discuss these things with friends: what’s great about this; what’s terrible about that.

In a sense Post Defiance is one extended meditation on this discussion. So we wanted to invite you to the table and see a bit more what your opinions might be.

United for a Bigger and Better Tacoma Float

United for a Bigger and Better Tacoma – Federal Improvement Club Float, July 4, 1924

More than a month ago, we asked you, our readers, a few simple questions regarding what you thought of Tacoma, best and worst. Over the coming months, we’ll be focusing some articles on topics you identified as especially of interest to you.

Who Are You?

Seventy percent of our respondents are 25 to 44 years old. You respondents are slightly more male than female (58 to 42 percent) – we chose, for the record, to go with gender identity on this question, rather than provide more options, and we got called racist for not asking your race (live and learn). You are educated, with 20 percent of you completing some college, 40 percent of you having graduated, and 27 percent of you even completing graduate school.

Given all that, you respondents are not representative of Tacoma as a whole. That’s okay. You care enough to fill out a survey. so I think it’s safe to assume that you are the passionate sort.

A Few of Your Favorite Things

You really enjoy the beauty surrounding and within Tacoma.

As Tom Baier put it, “Being surrounded by The Big Water brings me a sense of spiritual peace that I cannot abandon. Though I don’t live where I can see it, nor do I travel through view corridors every day, the knowledge and images of our inland sea are part of me.”

Even when we don’t see the natural beauty around Tacoma, it informs how we think of our city. “Trees and parks are everywhere,” Elizabeth Hallberg reminds us.

You love Tacoma’s history. “I love that throughout its history, residents of Tacoma have seen it as a special place, destined for greatness. Though we have stumbled throughout the years, the desire for greatness has never left the city, and I know it will reach it one day,” said John Hines.

Zach Powers likes the mashup of arts and culture in the city: “DIY venues that combine art/expression mediums. Concerts in art galleries, dances in bookstores, film screenings in urban gardens, etc.”

More than anything, you love that Tacoma has a small town feel, and because of that atmosphere you experience vital community and micro-cultures that include you, and give you a sense of home.

Weyland Duir declared that “Tacoma is the largest small town in America! … I love the fact that our landscape is not dominated by high-rise buildings and skyscrapers. I like that air and sun can move through downtown. I love that downtown has a comfortable feel. I love Tacoma’s friendliness.”

Adam McKinney told us that, “In general, I find people in Tacoma to be very genuine (perhaps to a fault). People tend to speak their minds and are not shy about vocalizing complaints or heaping praise or coldly shunning things.”

When you praised community in Tacoma, you spoke about support of local businesses, the arts scene in Tacoma, the diversity that we have in our city as a whole, and the feeling of specialness that pervades your experience of Tacoma, counterbalancing some of those less popular features.

An anonymous woman wrote that she liked “how much the community cares about the community. They have heart and they support their own.”

And a second anonymous woman wrote: “I enjoy that it’s a large city but still feels like a small town. I love running into people around town and feeling like I have a community.”

For his part, an anonymous man said, “It’s the kind of place I wish I had grown up in.”

What Could Be Better? Lots!

A few key themes emerged in your responses to this question: what one change would make Tacoma better?

One such theme is that you would like more music venue options.

Michael Garrity stated that he’d like “A quality indie music venue on 6th Ave that would compete with or draw acts that play the Tractor, Neumos, Sunset, Neptune, etc. Similarly, better, more daring programming at the Broadway Center is needed.”

Zach Powers added that such a venue should be, “A real no-seats music venue that holds 200-400 people. RIP the original Hell’s Kitchen.”

You want to see Tacoma step out of the shadow of Seattle and other cities.

“I would have it stop competing with Seattle, which we will never be, and make ourselves into a great city of our own image,” wrote John Hines. “We need to stop thinking of ourselves as a second class city, competing for attention, and instead as a first class city in our own right.”

More than that, you want to promote how awesome Tacoma is.

Melissa R. said, “I would like to see a concerted effort to promote what’s great about life in T-Town and the South Sound in general with area media… I just think it’s a great town, but you’d never know unless you spent any real time here. I am disappointed that we don’t have a broad campaign among city leaders to attract local tourism to our treasures like the museums and Point Defiance Park. I personally think its 2nd in beauty to Central Park in NYC and rivals Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Still, many have never heard of it.”

One part of promoting Tacoma is making sure that there is something to promote.

Jenny Curtiss thought that we could go farther, support businesses better, and generally improve everything. To fix up Tacoma, she said, requires, “Developing the Dome District and Hilltop area. Fix Freighthouse Square. It needs to have a brand, it needs to feel welcoming, it needs to have some anchor restaurants that people will go to. There are crowds of people who are coming to the Tacoma Dome for concerts and to the Car Museum. We are not taking advantage of that area of town. What if someone bought a block of the land down there and made it into a park? We also need more downtown parks that are bigger than a block long.”

“Less talk, more action,” Jackie Casella wrote. “There are plenty of folks who claim to love and support Tacoma, but I often wish more people were willing to invest themselves, their actions, their dollars, their time, their support.”

Daniel Gasper agreed with her. He wrote regarding the need for, “Increased investment (time, $, and community involvement) in our public schools… I have too many friends with young kids who are planning the move to Gig Harbor, UP, Puyallup, etc. solely for school districts. That’s a real loss for Tacoma.”

“Tacoma is driving out young families and our elders because it is becoming unfriendly and unaffordable to those with moderate incomes,” said Weyland Duir. “Also, Tacoma does not recognize the value of blue-collar jobs and the trades. Not everyone will make $100,000+ a year or go to college. It takes some of those dirty, ugly jobs to be a successful, desirable city.”

Overwhelmingly, the job you would like to see Tacoma take on is improvements to transportation.

Zach Powers put it bluntly: “People could stop bullshitting and pass a damn local transit tax so folks could get to school, healthcare, and vocations. This would also have a profound effect on arts and nightlife as most useful afterhours bus routes have had to be cut.” While the cuts that Proposition 1 would have alleviated were never made, the point is well-taken that proactively supporting local transit  seems difficult for the citizens of Tacoma (and the State of Washington) to support with any consistency and vigor.

Emily thought that, ““More partnership and communication between local government and citizens,” could be a path to this sort of change. “I feel like this would make it easier to improve things like public transit, transportation infrastructure, etc.”

What Else Do You Want to Know?

Our final question was regarding what more you might want to know about Tacoma. A full 30 percent of you want to know a great deal more about Tacoma history.

As Melissa R. put the request: “I would love to see profiles of things that got their start in Tacoma (old + new), Roman meal bread, Nalley Food products, Almond Roca, DRY Soda, the myriad of other world-famous candy, Baskin Robbins Ice Cream. Dale Chihuly, Bing Crosby. I just think it would be so cool to each week see a feature about some other Tacoma gem. I also would love to know what’s happening for kids and families. Free concerts, arts resources that we can do as a family.”

Mo Lewis was even more specific. He wished to know about, “The guy who used to sell flowers on the corner of pine and south tacoma way, and the guy who rides his bike on River Road.” If anyone knows about those two guys, please let Lewis know. We’re curious now, too.

Several of you wondered “Why Tacoma residents seem to fail to recognize the continuing harm smelly, polluting industry in the Tideflats has on our regional reputation and economic prospects. The aroma lives along I-5 and as one disembarks the Sounder,” that from Michael Garrity. And in a similar vein, Christine Diedrich wrote to ask “Why [Tacoma] keeps doing destructive things like putting an ugly hotel in front of a giant glass wall, thereby obstructing the view that the glass wall was (expensively) designed for.”

The above question was firmly connected to a question of who’s in charge around here?

What are the “economic, social, and political needs, issues, and desires” of some of our communities, as one anonymous man put it, and “who is responsible for finding out about them and seeing them met.” Full disclosure, that respondent thought it was the job of Exit 133 and Post Defiance, at least in part.

One anonymous woman shared what a few of you also felt, who are not as connected to Tacoma. She wrote: “I wish I knew how to befriend Tacomans! I see the same people out all of the time, but I have noticed people are not likely to be friendly with someone who is not already in their circle. Quit being too cool for school, Tacoma!”

We agree. Be friendly, Tacoma. Let’s work together to uphold our community as a whole, protect our arts, culture, and natural beauty, and work towards meaningful solutions to some of the problems our dear city faces. You deserve it.

In the weeks ahead, keep an eye out for content that responds to and elaborates on some of the themes present in your responses. We look forward to continuing this conversation.

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About the Author

Most days, Timothy Thomas McNeely leads federal and state education program reviews for the State of Washington. Born in Tacoma, he studied poetry and philosophy in Canada and the United Kingdom. He is editor of the Community and Literature sections for Post Defiance, and writes poetry and prose whenever he can. He and his family live in Tacoma. Find him on Twitter as @ttmcneely.

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