Word on the Street

The latest news in and around Tacoma, Pierce County and South Puget Sound

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Archives: Aug. 2008


Sidewalks: Tacoma’s $97 million problem

Tacoma’s streets are in bad shape. Its sidewalks might be worse.

And that’s troubling for local disability activists.

The city identified 17,754 locations where ramps need to be installed during a December 2006 study, said public works’ Jim Parvey. Since then, they’ve installed 324.

And it will cost the city $97 million to get every sidewalk in full compliance with the federal American Disabilities Act, which was passed in 1992.

Washington law requires three curb ramps at intersections in private developments. City-funded projects must provide ramps to all four intersections.

John Briehl, Tacoma’s director of human rights and human services director, calls it an "enormous undertaking."

Michael Corsini, the director of advocacy group Access-ADA, has harsher words.

"It’s pandemic," he said, adding the lack of a curb ramping isn’t just an inconvenience for some; it can be dangerous when it forces someone in a wheelchair to ride in the traffic lane because the curb is too high.

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McChord crews prepare as Gustav looms

A C-17 Globemaster from McChord Air Force Base ferried response teams to Louisiana on Saturday ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Gustav.

The massive jet left shortly after midnight, picked up members and cargo from the 615th Contingency Response Wing at Travis Air Force Base in California and then landed at Louis Armstrong International Airport in suburban New Orleans.

It returned to McChord by mid-afternoon. The aircraft commander expects his crew will be sent to the Gulf Coast again, as early as today.

"It’ll be a matter of whether we can get in and out before the hurricane hits, or if we have to wait until after it hits," said Maj. Michael Maguire of the 10th Airlift Squadron, 62nd Airlift Wing.

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A backpack full of help for military kids

Four-year-old Joseph Diepeveen wore a wide smile and a brand-new backpack almost taller than he.

"He’s loving it right now," said Joseph’s father, Sean. "I think they’re all really excited right now."

Joseph’s siblings, 8-year-old Isabelle and 6-year-old Sophia, all sported new backpacks full of papers, folders, pencils, markers, crayons and other school supplies. They received them as part of Operation Back2School, an event put on by Operation Homefront Washington.

"This shows the community really cares about the military," said Sean Diepeveen, a staff sergeant with the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis.

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Ruston Way memorial honors service members killed in Iraq

Each marker carried the name of a service member killed in Iraq, like Spc. Dominic Rodriguez of Klamath Falls, Ore., who died last June in Baghdad from non-combat-related injuries.

Or Spc. Rasheed Sahib of Brooklyn, N.Y., was killed in May 2003 when another soldier’s weapon misfired, striking Sahib in the chest.

Or 2nd Lt. John Vaughan of Edwards, Colo., who fatally wounded during a patrol in June 2006.

Row after row of markers bearing the names of soldiers killed in Iraq fill Marine Park on Tacoma’s Ruston Way this weekend. The markers, made of whiteboard and resembling gravestones, are part of the Arlington Memorial Northwest, a memorial that travels around the state.

"This is a memorial for all the dead and wounded service members who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Ray Nacanaynay of Veterans for Peace Tacoma Chapter 134, which organized the event. "We’ve got more than 4,000 markers, but I’m not sure if we’ll have enough room."

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Please, bring the fridge. But leave the carcass

Residents of Tacoma’s East Side are encouraged to clear out their clutter during a community cleanup Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The drop-off location is the parking lot behind the Tacoma Church of Christ at 9201 Pacific Avenue. You must live between McKinley Avenue and South Yakima Avenue and between South 84th and South 96 streets to participate. You will need to show a driver’s license to verify residency.

There are a few exceptions of what they’ll accept: Large items can not be longer than 9 feet and must weigh less than 300 pounds. Freezers and

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A new era at Pioneer Middle School

Outside the new Pioneer Middle School in DuPont, a weather-aged bell sits atop a wooden stand.

But the bell – which called classes to order when Pioneer first opened in 1892 – and the name are about the only holdovers from Pioneer’s Steilacoom digs. A 106,000 square-foot, $34.6 million building opened for classes to its 650 students Thursday, and students and faculty alike were buzzing before the first day of school was half finished.

It’s obvious even before one steps into the building that it’s a vast upgrade: Bose speakers mounted to the walls play classical music and kid-friendly rock. Inside, the school seems open and inviting.

"When I came in, I said, ‘Wow, this is beautiful,’" eighth-grader Ashley Connors said. "I think the building is going to be nicer than our high school."

Her classmate, Jazmyn Winegar, was impressed with the new second-floor library, which principal Kristi Webster calls "our tree of learning." Eighth-grader Matt Stillings, was eager to see the new SMART Boards in action.

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