Matt Driscoll

A $58,000 fine against the Rainiers? Columnist answers critics, but still thinks it’s way too much

Breaking down “the wall” regarding illegal immigration

In this January edition of the "You rip, I respond" reaction to reader emails, columnist Matt Driscoll recalls a recent meeting with a Trump supporter where commonality was found by discussing the hot-button issue face-to-face.
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In this January edition of the "You rip, I respond" reaction to reader emails, columnist Matt Driscoll recalls a recent meeting with a Trump supporter where commonality was found by discussing the hot-button issue face-to-face.

It’s time, once again, for my monthly, “You rip, I respond,” column.

You know how it works: Folks write or call, and I respond. Then hilarity and an occasional expletive ensues.

I hope you enjoy.

There is a lot of fuss over the illegal migrations from South America. Some agree there is a problem and want a fence or wall. Others say there is not a problem and want no fence or wall. It boils down to what kind of country we want to evolve to. I know my answer. — Daniel

Thanks for the note, Daniel.

First, I respectfully disagree with your premise. I don’t believe the divide is as simple as you make it out to be.

In reality, it’s far more complicated. For years, going back to the Obama administration and beyond, border security has been identified as one of many issues that needs to be addressed in comprehensive immigration reform. In the past, there have been bipartisan efforts to do this. Unfortunately, they haven’t gone anywhere.

I’m reminded of a recent experience I had reporting on the impact of the partial government shutdown on small business owners near Mount Rainier National Park.

Sitting at a small table inside an unoccupied rental cabin, I discussed the situation with two of these business owners. One described himself as a former Trump supporter. The other did not. My work for The News Tribune should make it abundantly clear where I stand on the matter.

And you know what? When it came to immigration, including the need for border security to be part of a broader plan to reform a broken system, we largely agreed on most of the key points. These are the same key points that often get portrayed as massive ideological wedges in the immigration debate, particularly online.

That’s because, when people talk face-to-face — outside of the internet echo chamber and the stereotypes — there’s often a lot of room for agreement.

Lastly, I also know what kind of country I want to live in. It’s one where immigrants in search of the American Dream aren’t vilified and broad-brushed as animals, rapists and deviants, and one where citizens and politicians work together toward comprehensive immigration reform while denouncing the divisive, dangerous and racist rhetoric that Donald Trump relies on.

Maybe I read a tone that wasn’t intended in your column. It seemed that you were belittling L&I for doing their job and using the paper for score settling. … Nowhere in the column did you take responsibility for your own action, doing something incredibly stupid and then sending it forth into the world. — James

Hi James,

First, I want to acknowledge that I edited your email for length. Originally, it included several additional questions regarding my recent column on the fines that the state Department of Labor and Industries levied against The News Tribune and the Tacoma Rainiers.

You wondered when I filed my public records requests, suggesting that they might have been made in an attempt to intimidate investigators. They were not. The investigation was completed by the time I filed them.

Similarly, you wondered whether I included the investigator’s name in an attempt to get back at her. I did not. Her name, readily available in the public documents, is Taylor Slaughter, which — given the circumstances — is kind of funny.

I guess that’s the thing, James. A number of facts can be true at the same time. The state Department of Labor of Industries has a very necessary job. Workplace safety is supremely important. Investigators working for the department do good, valuable work. The investigation into The News Tribune was conducted professionally and by the book.

And, all of this is funny. It just is. We’re talking about a gorilla playing a saxophone on a roof here.

If it makes you feel better, I readily admit it was stupid — particularly in retrospect.

I also appreciate you sticking up for L&I. It was not my intention to belittle the agency or those involved with the investigation. They had a job to do.

At the same time, I believe the nearly $60,000 fine handed down to the Rainiers was an overreaction to an unintentional infraction. I believe it could have easily been handled far differently — and far more appropriately, given the reality of what transpired.

Again, all of this can be true at the same time.

You did an article about two years ago about the noise/tone that we’re hearing in Tacoma (though I’m in University Place). Do you have an update or any more information about it? That sound is driving me crazy! — Eric

Ah, yes, Eric. Thanks for remembering my early 2017 investigative expose on a mysterious noise coming from the Port of Tacoma. Certainly, the column serves as one of the high points of my career. Strangely, I never received a Pulitzer call. I’m sure it was an oversight.

Anyway, a brief refresher for the handful of folks who don’t have the column hanging on their refrigerators:

The noise in question — which, at the time, was being discussed online and by at least one keen-eared symphony director — was described as a rhythmic “pinging.” It was audible from early morning until late at night and was so incessant, strange and captivating that it led some to suspect some sort of “nefarious government mind-control experiment.”

In reality, the noise was coming from an ongoing construction project at Pier 4 in the Port of Tacoma. The work, which was part of an effort to allow the Port to serve increasingly larger vessels, involved driving 1,241 piles into the ground.

Admittedly, it’s been a while since I heard a similar sound, at home or The News Tribune building. Still, in the service of journalism (and possibly mild entertainment), I reached out to Port of Tacoma and Northwest Seaport Alliance Communications Director Katie Whittier to see if there’s any current projects that might explain it.

Whittier told me that, currently, there are no projects on Port of Tacoma land that involve pile driving. She did acknowledge that the port only owns about half of the land on the Tideflats, so it’s possible that there’s work elsewhere that might be causing a noise, but it’s unlikely.

However, work that’s underway near Freighthouse Square — for a Sound Transit operations and maintenance facility — seems like a more likely culprit.

According to Sound Transit spokesman Scott Thompson, the project included pile driving, though that portion of the work — which lasted a couple months — recently was completed.

Short of that, the only other potential answer, of course, is the obvious.

A nefarious government mind-control experiment.

Glad we got to the bottom of that.

Matt Driscoll is a reporter and The News Tribune’s metro news columnist. A McClatchy President’s Award winner, Driscoll lives in Central Tacoma with his wife and three children. He’s passionate about the City of Destiny and strives to tell stories that might otherwise go untold.