Matt Driscoll

Matt Driscoll: Amanda Knox got more right about Tacoma than some will admit

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How could she?

That’s the sanitized, printable version of the online reaction many Tacomans seemed to have to Amanda Knox’s latest column for the West Seattle Herald.

If you have yet to read the column you must not have as many ardently pro-Tacoma friends on social media as I do. Because by the time I woke up Tuesday and prepared to make my way into the office after the long Labor Day weekend, Knox’s take on T-Town seemed to be all anyone was talking about.

The reaction was predictable. This is what we do when some adventuring Seattleite has the courage to head south and then proceeds to talk a little smack in print. Just ask the Pour Fool, a beer critic who felt Tacoma’s full wrath this year after calling us “a city struggling to put a lipstick smile on an old and weary face,” among other insults.

How hard was Knox — acquitted of Italian murder charges in March and the author of a column in the West Seattle Herald since August — on our beloved hometown? That’s in the eye of the begrudged, of course. While she acknowledged our infrastructure, our kitsch, and even our “cool?” (What’s up with the question mark?), she also used adjectives like, “empty,” and “ghost town.” She described her Tacoma excursion as “weird,” and even made the obligatory “aroma” reference.

Fighting words.

But, packaged in an unsurprising dose of pretension — the author drinks a lot of tea, sometimes wakes up with a feeling of “presentiment,” and has a cat named Picard, you guys! — here’s the thing so many people don’t want to acknowledge:

Amanda Knox is kind of right.

Downtown Tacoma is weird and empty on Saturday mornings. In fact, it’s that way much of the time. Throw in a windstorm, the stated meteorological impetus for Knox’s unexpected T-Town detour, and describing Tacoma as a ghost town was probably putting it kindly.

At least it implies apparitions were out and about.

Here’s a challenge for you. Take off those Grit City glasses for just a moment and identify exactly where Knox got it wrong.

… we found street parking surprisingly immediately. In fact, we were the only car parked on a street not only devoid of other cars, but also of pedestrians.

Sounds about right.

...even the chairs in the public plazas were stacked away, not expecting company.

Yep.

… it took a few wrong turns before we finally found our way to the highway heading home.

Bingo.

Now, I don’t point any of this out for mere snark value, page views, or to troll those who care deeply about Tacoma. I care deeply about Tacoma and hope to be here long enough to see it reach its full potential. Already there are countless businesses I love, neighborhoods I love, restaurants I love and — more than anything — people I love.

But part of the process of Tacoma reaching its potential has got to be getting past the pointless provincial reactions we so often let fly anytime someone from outside has the audacity to critique us.

In other words, suck it up.

And let’s work on upping our game instead of getting worked up.

Downtown isn’t empty on Saturday morning simply because the world hasn’t caught on to what an amazing place it is yet; it’s empty, much of the time, because it still lacks many of the things that attract people and residents — a cohesive vision, major employers, affordable housing, strong businesses that meet people’s needs.

We have a lot to be proud of. But we also need to be real.

Tacoma isn’t lacking in unfettered boosterism. If a town could blossom solely on the backs of those willing to cheerlead for it, we’d be sitting pretty. And someone like Amanda Knox — whose column runs in a paper known for its coverage of, ahem, White Center — would arrive here not by accident, but on purpose, as a destination.

A Saturday morning windstorm isn’t a great time to form your opinion of downtown Tacoma. Some of what Amanda Knox wrote doesn’t hold water.

But pretending like she didn’t raise a few fair points doesn’t help either.

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