A smelly museum, zero unemployment and other bold Tacoma predictions for 2019

Crews begin to remove scaffolding around the McMenamins Elk Temple in Tacoma. The historic property has been under construction since 2017 and is slated to open this year.
Crews begin to remove scaffolding around the McMenamins Elk Temple in Tacoma. The historic property has been under construction since 2017 and is slated to open this year. News Tribune file photo, 2018

The night before my grandfather emigrated from Germany, he visited a fortune teller in Hamburg. She described his upcoming life in America in great detail.

He would marry a Hungarian woman and have a son, then two daughters. His wife would die young. He would then marry a Puerto Rican woman. They would have another daughter. He would die at age 62.

All of this came true, exactly as predicted, except for the terrible year he spent cowering in his apartment’s closet when he was 62. Until his death 30 years later, he cursed himself for believing in psychics.

Still, my family hoped there was an unerring oracle somewhere.

We turned to the tabloids. Each New Year’s Eve, we would find a particular tabloid’s predictions issue that my mom had saved from a year before. Then we would read its prophecies for the year we had just lived through.

None proved true. No squid people emerged from deep caves to become our overlords. We did not colonize Mars. Detroit did not unveil a flying car fueled by pollution.

That tabloid, now more known for the stories it suppresses than fabricates, still publishes year-end predictions. Last December it forecasted that our national debt would fall by 10 percent in 2018. Poor Vice President Mike Pence would disappear to attend to a sick relative. Marilyn Monroe’s long-lost daughter would surface.

None of this came to pass. Inquiring minds are giving up on tabloids.

Instead, we called a Hamburg seer. Here are her prognostications for Tacoma in 2019:

January will mark the last homeless count that increases from the year before. Homelessness will decline by year’s end when a local programmer shows how we can better coordinate services that business, government and non-profits already provide.

This work will also usher in a new age of volunteerism as city residents become fully aware of the wide array of volunteer opportunities. Tacoma Cares software will be distributed nationwide.

In February, a UWT study will show that the Starlite Swap Meet significantly reduces the solid waste load in the area. Local garbage utilities will use their avoided costs to subsidize the Starlite, which will not close but become a popular indoor bazaar.

By March, the Tacoma Olfactory Experience (T.O.E.) will open in an old factory downtown. Interactive exhibits will recreate city aromas through the ages, from ancient wood smoke to last summer’s wood smoke.

Visitor favorites include horses, saw mills, pulp plants, vapors and low tide. Everyone loves the “Guess The Neighborhood” game. Bonus: The T.O.E. will patent Send-A-Scent technology. It will revolutionize social media.

In April, droves of tourists will pack McMenamins opening. The brothers will not be able to buy other local landmarks fast enough.

In May, the 50th anniversary of Tacoma’s Mother’s Day riot will be observed all month long. Out of the 1969 disturbance, a new generation of city leaders emerged more interested in dreams than fears.

In June, native son artist Paul Michaels will begin sculpting a tribute to those leaders. Also in June, Jesse Jones returns to establish his huge non-profit consumer advocacy group, Jonesing for Justice.

By July, the Port of Tacoma’s profits will exceed its rosiest expectations. Unemployment hits zero. Taxes go down. Northbound commutes end.

In August, the T.O.E. will enlarge, adding space for the wonderful smaller history museums of Tacoma. Telephone Pioneer, Shanaman Sports, Karpeles Manuscript and Tacoma Historical, among others, will move in. Museum City is coined.

By September, old City Hall will become the bustling anchor for a fully rejuvenated Pacific Avenue.

In October, the creative Puyallup Tribe of Indians will repurpose the abandoned downtown escalade as a fish ladder. Soon, salmon will proliferate and Commencement Bay will become the principal dining room of a robust orca J Pod.

By November, News Tribune subscriptions will surge as the newspaper basks in the afterglow of Pulitzer prizes in three categories.

December doesn’t look so good. Find a comfortable closet.

Chuck Kleeberg, a Tacoma resident for most of the last 40 years, is retired from public service. He's one of six News Tribune reader columnists for 2018 and early 2019. Reach him at chuckkleeberg@gmail.com


Since 2000, we’ve reserved a spot in our pages once a week for a rotating panel of four to six local columnists.

For our 2019 roster of writers, we are looking for contributors who represent the diversity of South Sound residents. Applicants should submit two freshly written sample columns, each 500 to 650 words.

Include a cover letter telling us a bit about yourself and how to contact you during the day.

Samples should be personal essays grounded in first-hand experience and observations, not commentary on national or political issues.

Successful applicants will have a strong voice and engage readers with use of such techniques as characterization, narrative, precise detail, humor, vignettes or wordplay. (Not necessarily all of the above.)

Submit your samples by email to:


Please attach a photo of yourself, and put “Reader columnist” in the subject line.

The deadline is Jan. 11.