Word on the Street

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

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Category: Farther afield


Gig Harbor graduate sets up legal defense fund for much-publicized flight attendant

A 2005 graduate of Gig Harbor High School has set up the “Steven Slater Legal Defense Fund” for a famous JetBlue flight attendant.

Gary Baumgardner, 23, who works as an airline pilot on the East Coast, said Thursday that the fund had surpassed $3,000 since he started the account Tuesday morning. He said all the money raised will go to Slater. After a confrontation with a passenger, Slater is accused of cursing out the passenger on the plane’s public-address system, grabbing some beer

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Washington still No. 1 bicycle-friendly state

For the third consecutive year, Washington ranked as the most bicycle-friendly state in the nation. The ratings of all 50 states, released today, come from the League of American Bicyclists to coincide with the end of Bike to Work Week. Wisconsin was No. 2. Finishing last was Alabama (figuratively pedaling a rusty Huffy with broken spokes and a flat tire).

Eight Washington areas earned mention as Bicycle Friendly Communities, but Tacoma wasn’t on the list. They were: Bainbridge Island, Bellingham, Olympia, Port Townsend, Redmond, Seattle, Spokane and Vancouver.

Here’s the news release from the state Department of Transportation: Read more »


Homeless survey results are in

Pierce County’s Department of Community Services released the results of its 2009 Homeless Survey today.

The results show that on Jan. 29 and 30, 2,083 men, women and children identified themselves as being without permanent housing.

The total is up 19 percent over last year’s survey. That means an added 336 people, most of whom are living in transitional housing.

The number of families also is up by 111, or 43 percent, over 2008. Included in those families are 113 children, a rise of 21 percent.
The survey is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. By H.U.D.’s definition, people who sleep outside or in shelters or live in emergency or transitional housing are counted among the homeless.

The people who fan out through the county with brief questionnaires are the first to say that this survey is just a snapshot. They are missing families who are bunking with relatives, or living in recreational vehicles, cars and tents and trying not to be noticed. They are missing

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Roy gleaning effort draws volunteers from Seattle

The orchard is just past the Roy, up a hill, past a graveyard and behind a group of five new homes sitting on a cul-de-sac.

For 10 young professionals from Seattle, it was the perfect place to spend a Saturday.

"The weather is great, I’m with friends and, most of all, we’re helping people," said Thomas Buford, a 29-year-old attorney for the Department of Justice.

The group spent much of the day among the 3-year-old apple and prune trees. They donned canvas bibs with giant pockets, filled them with dozens of apples and transported them to cardboard boxes. The fruit is destined for the Emergency Food Network, which will distribute them this week to area charities.

"I want to make a positive impact. That’s why I’m here," said 28-year-old Greg Chiarella, part of the group from a nonprofit called Seattle Works that helps link men and women in their 20s and 30s with various charity efforts. The group meets one Saturday each month for a different task; previous assignments include sorting donations at Goodwill and cleaning a homeless shelter.

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Northwest Trek’s oldest resident dies

A bald eagle which has been at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park since 1976 died Thursday, the park announced.

Park zoologists believe the bird was 35 years old. A bald eagle can live up to 40 years in the wild and longer in captivity, according to the American Eagle Foundation.

The eagle first arrived at Northwest Trek with a gunshot injury. He recovered at the Eatonville-area park but couldn’t be released into the wild because of the injuries.

A necropsy to determine cause of death hasn’t been completed.

He was the park’s oldest animal. That title now

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Sure, NASA’s great. But does it have Jügderdemidiin?

Sure, cities around the state are hosting American heroes today. But only one, Port Orchard, can boast the honor of hosting the only Mongolian in space.

Jügderdemidiin Gürragchaa — or, for my legions of Mongolian speakers, ——“�—�—�–�–�—�–�—�—�—�—�—�—� —�“�–�–�—�—�–�—�—� — will be at Orchard Heights Elementary School this evening. According to his Wikipedia page, Gürragchaa is an aerospace engineer, a major general in the Mongolian Air Force and the defense minister from 2000-04. He was selected through the Intercosmos program and spent almost eight days in orbit in 1978. In 1981, he received the Hero of

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Picketers march during first day of Boeing strike

Allen van Houck’s shift at The Boeing Co.’s Renton plant ended promptly at midnight Saturday morning. One minute later, he and 27,000 other union Machinists went on strike.

And the 52-year-old team lead inspector from Renton isn’t sure when he’ll return to work.

"I was saddened. It really bothered me walking out like that," he said. "The mood on the floor wasn’t happy with Boeing’s offer. I hope the executives don’t say this was a surprise. How could they not know?"

"Look, we don’t want to strike. We’d all rather be working."

The strike follows the collapse of last-minute negotiations between the company and union representatives in Orlando, Fla. It halts all commercial airline production at the Renton and Everett assembly plants as well as parts production in Auburn and Frederickson.

The union rejected Boeing’s latest contract offer Wednesday, but leaders agreed to hold off on striking by 48 hours while both sides met with a mediator. Talks were unsuccessful, and at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, workers throughout the Puget Sound region, Portland and Wichita, Kan., began picketing.

About 20 union members and supporters held signs near the gate of the aerospace corporation’s largely empty Renton plant by mid-morning. Drivers – including a few in Boeing security cars – honked horns as they drove by. Picketers said the response from the community has been largely positive.

"It’s encouraging. Absolutely, it is," said Renton’s Linda Herrmann, who works as a sealer. She and others said Boeing’s latest contract offer was rife with problems, and the most worrisome for many picketers were the outsourcing of jobs, retirement benefits and raising the minimum pay.

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A perfect day for a leisurely game of polo

Tom and René Skaggs moved to a 10-acre farm in Eatonville for weekends like this: Bright sunshine. Fresh air. A day of polo with his friends.

"You can’t really ask for more, can you?" Tom asked Saturday.

Skaggs, wearing white pants, a striped shirt and boots, wrapped the legs of his horses as he prepared to umpire the first match of the Piper Classic 2008 polo tournament in Roy – one of three competitions the Tacoma Polo Club hosts this season.

Polo has become a weekend staple for the Skaggs.

René was a collegiate polo player at Texas A&M University. When she and Tom looked for places to move after graduation in 1995, their decision hinged on whether a polo club was within a reasonable difference. They chose Eatonville.

"I played for the first time when we moved out here," he said. "Now it’s in my system."

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