Matt Driscoll

Matt Driscoll: Cleaning out the inbox: Reefer Madness, taxes and a strong mayor poem

October marks six months for me at The News Tribune. I’m sure you’ve been keeping track.

There have been many revelations about this job that I never could have imagined before getting into it. For one, I’m still coming to terms with having my goofy picture in the paper. I’m used to the journalistic anonymity of just a byline, and the mugshot is a real game changer.

Admittedly, part of me enjoys it. I mean, I’m Tacoma famous now – like Sonics Guy, the Six Avenue Yarn Bomber and the prolific tagger Shuckface. I feel like I’ve really made it.

But there’s another part of me that still finds it strange when people come up to me and say, “Hey! You’re the guy from the paper!”

It’s true, of course. I am the guy from the paper, and I always appreciate interacting with readers.

No, really, I do.

But still, it can be weird. And weirdest of all is how often someone follows up with, “Wow … You’re a lot taller than you look in your picture.”

I’m not sure what it is about my headshot that leads people to think I’m vertically challenged, but there’s obviously something. I hear it all the time.

Perhaps it’s the sweater.

Also on the list of surprises is just how many emails I get from readers. I mean, I expected people to reach out – with words of encouragement or just four letter words – but the volume has been humbling.

It’s been a healthy mix of love and hate.

In regard to my Oct. 11 column on County Councilman Derek Young’s effort to lift the ban on recreational pot in unincorporated Pierce County, Jay writes:

Finally a voice of reason on the council. Someone has shed the Reefer Madness syndrome.

The County Council could use a few more voices of reason on this issue (and many others). They’ll take up Young’s proposal soon, with Lakewood’s Doug Richardson poised to cast the deciding vote. Let’s hope Jay’s right and Reefer Madness in Pierce County will finally be put out.

Some readers are not so appreciative. In regard to my Oct. 6 column on the Locks & Socks program at the MLKHDA that creates a place for Tacoma’s homeless population to safely store belongings, and my Oct. 4 column on proposed changes to city code to help create more affordable housing, Francis wrote:

I see the past two days in the paper that you are pushing for higher taxes. Again. You mention each time about needed programs and the only real way to fund these programs effectively is with new taxes.

She wrote me again this week, after my Sunday column about creating a local housing trust fund to help ease Pierce County’s affordable housing crisis:

You’re talking taxes again.

The first two columns don’t actually involve new taxes, but on the third, I’m guilty as charged. We’ve got the largest gap in the state between the number of “very low-income” households that spend more than half of their income on rent and the affordable housing units that would reduce that burden. That chasm has economic ripple effects. In Tacoma alone it’s estimated we’ll need over 22,000 affordable housing units by 2030.

New taxes aren’t the answer to every problem, but when it comes to this specific issue, inaction is even more costly.

I’ll end with a timely strong mayor poem, sent last week by Lyz Kurnitz-Thurlow of the League of Women Voters of Tacoma-Pierce County. As Kurnitz-Thurlow tells it, the poem, which she recently discovered, was read at the LWV state convention in 1953 by Tacoma-Pierce County delegates who wrote it.

A Poem

Tacoma’s League in ’27 decided a change was due/We wanted City Manager, but it did not go thru.

In ’28 an’29 – in ’30 ‘31/We wanted City Manager, but nothing could be done.

In ’32 and ’33 and ’34 and ‘35/We wanted City Manager and kept the cause alive.

From ’36 to ’46, we studied every year/We wanted City Manager, but couldn’t get one here.

In 1947 we enlisted aid from others/We talked to city-fathers and even city-mothers.

We asked for an election in 1948/We wanted City Manager, but they would not cooperate.

In 1949 we got out a petition/To inform the electorate of the League’s position.

In 1950 we elected Big John/A new city charter was the platform he ran on.

In 1951 we supported an election/We called 400 groups and pointed the direction.

We wanted City Manager in 1952/We elected 15 freeholders to help us get it thru.

The charter was rewritten to conform to all our plans/We wanted City Manager; the time seemed now at hand.

We knocked on doors, we wore out shoes, and held big meetings too/We wanted City Manager and finally got it thru.

In ’53 we held a meeting where 99 could speak/These were the men and women who the council posts did seek.

And now that we’ve accomplished this our job has just begun/We know since we are women that our work is never done.

Prescient words. Considering how remarkably botched this year’s strong mayor initiative is, if it manages to pass we’ll all have a lot of work on our hands.