Matt Driscoll

Stop yelling and listen! Tacoma and Pierce County leaders hope for civility in 2018

In Tacoma and Pierce County, it’s time to not just look back on the previous year, but to look forward to the next one.
In Tacoma and Pierce County, it’s time to not just look back on the previous year, but to look forward to the next one. Getty Images

Ah, the holidays. A time for family. A time for tradition. For me, a time for eagerly awaiting the departure of that wretchedly tiresome Elf on the Shelf for one more year.

And, of course, a time for reflection.

In Tacoma and Pierce County, it’s been quite a year. We’ve had elections. We’ve chosen new leaders. We’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together.

We’ve yelled at each other, probably far too much, if we’re being honest.

Now, it’s time to not just look back on the previous year, but to look forward to the next one.

To mark the holiday season, I reached out to a handful of local leaders to get their take on what they’re hoping for in 2018. The answers were illuminating, punctuating a year that — nationally and locally — saw no shortage of division, bitter disagreements and fear about what the future will hold.

At the same time, in Tacoma and Pierce County, we’ve seen growth and important progress on many fronts. The answers you’ll find below reflect all of the above.

Here’s what they had to say …

Melissa Malot, executive director for Citizens for a Healthy Bay:

My holiday wish is for Tacoma to have better civic engagement — true listening, and, where there is disagreement, honest, impersonal conversation about the issues.

We all have so much in common and to agree on. We should be working together more and challenging each other to come up with better ideas. I hope we can move that way in 2018, especially with sub-area planning.

Shalisa Hayes, East Side activist and former Tacoma City Council candidate:

I would like to see the city work with the county to sufficiently fund the immigrant legal defense fund and not rely on donations.

The Tacoma community is already feeling a financial pinch with the rising housing costs in this area, so adding donations to support our immigrant friends can be a burden to some even though many support the cause.

I would also like to see the city’s gang reduction program expanded or improved. Particularly, helping to develop better community partnerships to foster collaboration instead of isolation among community groups.

Isolation is often seen when groups are forced to compete for very limited funding in order to thrive. It leads to a “my work” attitude instead of an “our work” attitude.

Erick Seelbach, executive director of the Pierce County AIDS Foundation:

My wish for Tacoma and Pierce County, on behalf of all the people living with or at-risk for HIV, is that our communities remember that HIV isn’t over, that racism, homophobia and stigmas related to HIV are still significant barriers, and that there is still a lot of work to be done to get information about HIV and sexual health into the communities most impacted by the epidemic.

Marilyn Strickland, outgoing Tacoma mayor:

Financial commitments to build more youth shelters throughout the entire county.

Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County executive:

That the two “nesting” construction tower cranes in Tacoma would breed, yielding another 10 in the county in 2018. Specifically, I am asking for economic growth resulting in a $5,000 increase to our citizens’ household incomes.

We would build on the initial successes and partnerships in behavioral health — including a new diversion center serving the Parkland/Spanaway community.

The successful collaborations in behavioral health would lead to expanded regional partnership on the opioid epidemic and homelessness — especially as we face a dark, cold winter.

Even stronger partnerships within Pierce County as we move forward in 2018. Looking forward to working with new mayors Victoria Woodward in Tacoma, Bill Pugh in Sumner, Josh Penner in Orting, Kit Kuhn in Gig Harbor, Shanna Sherrell in Milton and others.

My dog, Bosco, and I are very excited to enjoy the newly completed and expanded Foothills Trail.

Nathan Gibbs-Bowling, Lincoln High School teacher:

I wish for more understanding and less belligerence among progressive Tacomans. Well-intending activists are destroying good will and spoiling relationships with potential allies, through their public behavior and messaging. Purity politics is a tragic race to the bottom.

Paul Pastor, Pierce County sheriff:

As long as I get a wish, let’s make it bigger than Pierce County. But let’s keep it modest, nonetheless. So I wouldn’t wish for an end to world hunger or a cure for disease or peace in the Middle East.

How about an increase in civility in public discourse in America? How about public officials who demonstrate strong personal values plus a degree of humility?

OK, that’s a bit far-fetched. Let’s revisit peace in the Middle East.