Word on the Street

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

NOTICE: Word on the Street has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Word on the Street.
Visit the new section.

Archives: Aug. 2008


Similarities to past draw Stryker soldiers to Fort Steilacoom

American soldiers fighting a counterinsurgency. The enemy using hit-and-run tactics. Troops struggling at times to determine who was an ally or an enemy.

But we’re not talking about Iraq. Try a century and a half earlier, when soldiers fought off attacks by Indians at Fort Steilacoom.

The similarities between the two conflicts drew 30 members of the 402nd Brigade Support Battalion, a unit of Fort Lewis’ 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, to the grounds of the old fort – today Western State Hospital in Lakewood – on Thursday.

"Believe it or not, the stuff they’re using here – counterguerilla tactics – is not much different," said Lt. Col. Steve Allen. "It’s history, but we can take this and apply what we’ve learned here today to the conflicts we’re facing today."

Thursday’s trip off post began with a tour of the grounds and talks about the history of the fort and the tactics the soldiers used to combat the Indians.

The blurred line between friend and foe resonated with Capt. John Louch.

"There are some examples of how they had to deal with not necessarily knowing who the enemy is," he said. "Not all the Indians were enemies; many of them were friendly to them. You go over to Iraq, and it’s the exact same scenario."

Read more »


Why are Tacoma’s streets in this shape?

As part of our upcoming series on potholes and the state of Tacoma’s streets, I contacted public works environmental specialist Chris Ott. He’s written a book about Tacoma’s roadways, "The Pavements of Tacoma: A Historical Perspective."

The problem with Tacoma’s streets? They’re old. "Very, very old," as he puts it. He likened pavement to a roof – eventually it’ll leak. You can patch the leaks, but it will need to be replaced one day.

Maintenance can help, but eventually a road will give out.

"We’ve done maintenance to them, but many are at the point where they need to be reconstructed," he said. "I can’t say it’s all because of deferred maintenance – though I’m sure that’s played a role – but in general, they’re just very old."

The constant rainfall leads to the formation of potholes, he said.

"Every city will have a unique set of environmental problems, including Tacoma," he said. "If a road surface remains watertight, it’ll hold up for a long time. Once you lose that watertight integrity, it’ll deteriorate rapidly."

One way to help prevent that is through chipsealing, where crews will fill cracks in the road, lay down oil and place gravel chips on top of it to form a new surface.

Read more »


Morning report, Aug. 28

I’m going to be at the opening of the new Pioneer Middle School in DuPont this morning for a story that will run in next week’s Show&Tell.

Later, I’ll be on the grounds of Western State Hospital to watch some Stryker soldiers from Fort Lewis learn a thing or two from some experts on 19th-century artillery.


A Q&A with the new executive director of Centro Latino

Joy Gomez-Gonzalez didn’t enjoy working for just a paycheck during her career as an immigration lawyer. Many of her cases involved attempts to obtain extraordinary-abilities visas – not always grassroots stuff. "I don’t care if you’re the No. 1 beekeeper in Yugoslavia," she said. So she began defending some of South Florida’s neediest, but she wanted to do even more for the community. Two months ago, she joined Tacoma’s Centro Latino as its executive director.

The News Tribune sat down with Gomez-Gonzalez, 33, at the nonprofit’s offices this week. Here is an excerpt; the full interview is online at the Word on the Street blog at blogs.thenewstribune.com/street

Q: For readers who don’t know what Centro Latino does, can you give us a quick overview of your work?
A: Our mission statement is to empower the Latino community in Tacoma. We do that in a number of areas now: education, work development, ESL classes. We run the gamut right now. We have family support workers going into homes. We have teachers working on literacy programs, because a large number of our adults are illiterate in Spanish and English. We are targeting teens with dropout prevention and tutoring, job linkage, apprenticeship programs. And we’re going to start with younger children, hopefully to get them before they drop out or go into gangs.

Q: What’s the biggest problem in Tacoma’s Latino community?
A: Gangs, the dropout rate, an increasing number of AIDS cases – all these are results of the problem, but they’re not the problem itself. The problem is the lack of a sense of empowerment. If people feel they don’t have a voice, protection, a knowledge of resources and a way to access those resources, all these problems come into play.

Q: You were a successful lawyer in South Florida. Why move to Tacoma?
A: I want to set down roots. I want to be a part of a community and mold the community into what it could be. And Centro Latino has so much that it can be. This is such a community filled with resources and so rich in opportunity. We just haven’t reached our potential yet. But we will.

Read more »


Behold, the panda-pig

The drive down 22nd Avenue East in Spanaway is fairly typical for these parts: Houses surrounded by a yards, the occasional fence, entrances to subdivisions.

And then, with a bright flash of pink, something quite extraordinary stands out.

A large, plaster pig standing amid flowers atop a gothic stand.

Except one neighbor said it wasn’t always a pig. As of a few weeks ago, it was a panda – until someone doused it with hot pink paint.

It’s just the centerpiece of this

Read more »


City services less than anticipated for Tall Ships

The City of Tacoma’s expenses related to the Tall Ships Tacoma 2008 festival totaled $291,983.

The figure is lower than the $300,000 of in-kind services the city committed to the July event because lower attendance allowed the police department to reduce staffing, according to an internal memo released Tuesday.

Police services were estimated to cost about $250,000 but came in at $211,141.51. Other costs included staffing from the fire department, paramedics and public works employees.

The nonprofit Tacoma Tall Ships Organization will receive the remaining $8,017 in cash. The nonprofit is currently digging itself out

Read more »