One of the great joys of being a columnist for The News Tribune — besides the prime cubicle spot, with a view of Peter Callaghan Hill — is the interaction with readers.
You call. You write emails. You tweet at me. And, from time to time, one of you even puts pen to paper and sends a handwritten letter.
It’s all good.
Or, if I’m being honest, mostly good. (Looking at you, guy who regularly makes fun of my glasses.)
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Sometimes, if I’ve received a solid batch of surprisingly expletive-free emails or letters, I like to respond in print. It’s fun, and I like to think it fosters a better relationship with the community.
Plus, during a recent performance review, an editor encouraged me to experiment with “alternative column formats.” I don’t think the editor meant cat videos. (Right? Right?)
So, let’s take a trip inside my inbox.
Regarding my April 11 column on the impending demolition of the Tacoma Bible Presbyterian Church, Dave Singing wrote:
Thank you for your article concerning the Tacoma Bible Presbyterian Church. … I have worshipped there since I was born in 1943.
I opposed the sale of the building, but was overruled by the rest of the congregation. I think the building is attractive from the outside, but very few people other than the church adherents have seen the rather dramatic and beautiful art deco interior. I still hold out hope that it can be saved.
Write about enough historic buildings, and you quickly learn beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As my column mentioned, some in Tacoma view the old Scottish Rite Cathedral as something of an eyesore.
Of course, others disagree. Vehemently. As Bon Von Wheelie, drummer for the ageless Tacoma band Girl Trouble told me, “I’m really sick of hearing about how it’s not pretty as church buildings should be. This building was not built to be ornate or pretty. ... It was meant to look impressive and commanding, and that building has that quality in spades.”
I’m really sick of hearing about how it’s not pretty as church buildings should be. This building was not built to be ornate or pretty. … It was meant to look impressive and commanding, and that building has that quality in spades.
Girl Trouble drummer Bon Von Wheelie, on Tacoma’s old Scottish Rite Cathedral
Or, as architectural historian Susan Johnson, offered, “Everyone loves a different kind of building. ... From my perspective, I think it’s pretty cool.”
What’s perhaps less than cool, at least for those hoping to save the old Scottish Rite Cathedral, is that Reuben McKnight, the city of Tacoma’s historic preservation officer, tells me the commercial demolition permit is still in the review process, and things are proceeding.
“There’s no change,” he said.
In response to my April 9 follow-up column about the future of Tacoma’s North 21st Street, Chase Nordlund wrote:
Longtime resident of Tacoma and always felt North 21st Street had some great potential for development. Two ideas not mentioned:
Has TPU (Tacoma Public Utilities) considered putting the power lines underground? I picture a small “tunnel” that maintains access to the cables for maintenance, etc.
(Also), I envision many of the houses along North 21st being rezoned for commercial, especially with the growing popularity of the Proctor District. That district has nowhere else to grow, and I see North 21st Street as the natural place for things to creep towards.
I can confirm that “undergrounding” of power lines — that’s what city folks like to call it — is a subject frequently broached during these types of conversations, whether it’s North 21st or the Lincoln neighborhood revitalization project that will see South 38th Street get a makeover.
Typically, the answer from Tacoma Public Utilities relates to cost. As in, “That’d be way more expensive.”
When it comes to North 21st Street, City Councilman Ryan Mello says “undergrounding” power lines could add $10 million to the project — a project unfunded as it stands.
So, for the time being, that sounds like a pretty solid “no.”
As for potential rezoning, Mello’s answer was even more definitive: “That is not the current vision of the city,” he told me. “The city is purposefully placing growth in mixed-use centers.”
Finally, regarding my April 4 column on Puyallup’s Dr. Ovidio Penalver, Jeff Goulden wrote:
I really appreciated the story you wrote about Dr. Penalver. … You touched on Ovidio’s medical career and practice in a most positive way. One thing you didn’t mention is what a wonderful family Ovidio and (his wife) Meg raised.
Their five children were not only extremely bright individuals who were taught to excel at everything they did, they were also taught to have a sense of social conscience and justice.
It’s true. Ovidio and Meg Penalver’s brood is a story all its own.
In fact, former News Tribune columnist Larry LaRue documented the family back in 2014, not long after the Penalvers’ oldest boy, Eduardo, was named the first Latino dean of Cornell Law School.
As Mario Penalver, a teacher in Tacoma, told LaRue at the time, “My parents had values that could set them apart, so we were not conformists.”
My parents had values that could set them apart, so we were not conformists.
Mario Penalver, in a Larry LaRue column from 2014
For those playing at home, in addition to Eduardo and Mario:
The Penalvers’ oldest daughter, Laura, is a psychologist.
Son Josiah is a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Hospital.
And son Andre Penalver attended Harvard and now works in Tacoma for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Washington.
Talk about parenting!
For perspective, my kids enjoy talking about bodily functions and viciously debating the lyrics to “Wheels on the Bus.”
But they’re young.