Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Closing One Chapter and Beginning Another

 Last Friday, October 3rd, the University of Washington Tacoma said goodbye to their 25th anniversary, said hello to their 26th the new academic year.  The next 25 years are sure to bring bright minds and innovation to Tacoma and the South Sound area.

The newly appointed Chancellor Pagano welcomed the first year students with words of encouragement and advice. Many students in the crowd are Tacoma natives and are the first in their families to get the opportunity to go to college, making convocation an extremely special event to celebrate the students’ grand accomplishment. Last year the University was at 68% first generation with their student body population just around 4,500 students. This year is sure to increase in both size and in first generation college goers. 

The University prides itself on its Urban Serving mission, which is why Convocation runs through the Downtown area, to show incoming students not only the partnerships that the University has fostered but to show them how much their community supports them. The University is a member of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities. The University and the coalition define themselves as “a network of public, urban, research universities committed to creating an educated workforce, building strong communities and improving the health of diverse populations.

Tacoma is so unique in the way that it was the community who brought UW Tacoma to life and the community who has supported them in so many ways.  Not many Universities get to say that. Universities and their communities usually are going in two different directions but this is not the case for Tacoma and UW Tacoma. They have grown some much together and continue to grow side by side, serving the South Sound. With the University’s next building project in their sights, they are set to grow once again with the Urban Solutions Center, promising to bring with it more partnerships and students poised to become the future of Tacoma. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Time to Once Again Brush Up on Tacoma Arts Month

As many Tacoma locals know, the month of October brings many wonderful things to the downtown area. While most cities are hunkering down for the winter and the end of tourist season, Tacoma is still buzzing with so many things to offer. A little cold has never bothered the city with the most grit. Tacoma locals are tough, weather going people with a soft side for art. As you might have guessed it is time for Tacoma Arts Month.
While some exhibits are presented year round in local store fronts and in the plethora of museums that the downtown area has to offer, some of the exhibits are only here for the month of October so be sure to see what our local artists have to offer at this year’s festivities. This year’s 76 exhibits are sure to inspire the artist within us all.

Being the 14th anniversary for the Tacoma Arts Month, it promises to be a spectacular showcase of art, culture, dance and local businesses. One of the highlights to Tacoma Arts Month is that participants get the opportunity to take a studio tour October 17-18 at 35 locations featuring over 57 artists and a unique look into how their art comes to life. The tours run on both days from 11am-5pm. The tour is a free, self-guided tour and offers the opportunity to purchase art pieces from the artists directly. Be sure to get your Tacoma Studio Tour Passport to earn stamps and win prize packages. Tacoma Arts Month online website offers you a customized map with all tour locations to ensure you don’t miss out and have the opportunity to create your own art experience. Information regarding the passport, maps, and all that the month of October has to offer can be found on their website

Tacoma Arts Month kicks off this Thursday, October 1st at 6pm at the Historic Tacoma Armory. This is a free public event with no RSVP required. The kickoff will be featuring pop-up exhibits, aerial and cirque performances, dance, poetry, and food. This event is being sponsored by Tacoma Arts Commission, SpaceworksTacoma, Historic Tacoma Armory.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Community Development Practices - Defining Quality of Life

Quality of life – how do you define it and how do you measure it?

I spend quite a bit of time thinking about this question in my work as a community development consultant, working with communities all over the country who are unique and differentiated from one another in beautiful ways.

The optimistic part of me and the part of me that believes in some common universality within the human experience looks for important threads amidst all of that diversity.

Another part of me, the intellectual and philosophical, doesn’t believe we can make statements of objective or universal truth.

Even the image I have used at the top of the post reveals biases about what the artist thinks a quality of life is.

It isn’t that I don’t think there are universal truths, I just don’t think those truth's are ever objective truths, because our perspectives are always mediated through our own or someone else’s experiences and privilege. The bias of the mediation, the others or our own, shape our perspective in ways that can’t be divorced. No one is ever “speaking objectively”, whether I agree or disagree with them.

Something may be VERY true for me, but without a doubt, I will meet someone who can’t affirm that same truth. Still, I’ve never met a person – no matter how different – that I could not find one or two threads of commonality. In the midst of this dance is the art of community development work.

So in my work I try not to run too quickly to the common threads.

I’ll admit it can be hard, both because of timelines and also because of the way my mind works – moving quickly to synchronizing and looking for common elements. I’ve made many mistakes in this regard and I have to work hard to not make them again. I work hard to put my own biases on the table and to always be aware that I speak from a particular vantage point that cannot be separated from my privilege, fears, and personal pain.

So, I have to slow it down - listen deeply and allow for people to be heard.

Often my work is done in the context of community or neighborhood planning, where one of the tools we use is the process of creating an outcome based evaluation tool that starts with creating a baseline for the resident perceptions of the quality of life in the neighborhood.

That baseline is used as a way to prioritize community needs to be addressed by the coalition (usually residents, community groups, the city, etc…). As the work continues, we then re-survey the same residents over time and are able to see whether the quality of life is improving based on the standards that they set.

One of the most interesting parts of this process is getting to the definition of quality of life so that we can even create the baseline survey.

It is true, that the more homogeneous a neighborhood, particularly when it comes to socio-economics, race, and culture – generally the quicker quality of life definitions are arrived at. Still, in very homogeneous communities there can be deep divides around other areas of differentiation. For example single people, partnered people with no kids, and partnered people with kids might have very different priorities around issues affecting children in their neighborhood.

In communities with a great deal of socio-economic, racial, or cultural diversity – the quality of life definitions and perceptions may seem downright antithetical to one another. Yet, in these circumstances, with skilled facilitation, and mature and committed participants, I have often seen how people who seemed to be forever a part were able to come to consensus as they found a deeper understanding of their own perceptions and those of their neighbors.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not pie in the sky about any of this. Sometimes diverse communities aren’t able to come together.

Sometimes an effort breaks down because there isn’t enough common ground.

Sometimes the scope of a project gets limited to what can be agreed upon and often that is much less than everyone one was hoping for.

Sometimes factions break out that end up working for entirely different visions in the same community. That is also the beauty of grassroots advocacy in a democracy, the choice of differentiating, with each working and advocating for their vision in the public square.

Regardless, generally people gravitate towards very common issues related to quality of life in their community. Things like safety, beauty, economic opportunity, appropriate and affordable housing options, access to food, access to recreation, and many other things. In fact, there are studies and theories that put forth common elements of quality of life - the problem is still in definition of what those mean and how to get there.

The difficulty begins when you try to come to a common definition of something like safety or a consensus on how to create safety.

It is difficult, because an individual’s sense of safety is a very subjective and personal thing. While we might be able to find some threads, those particular differences are often held closely, emotionally, and tied deeply to personal experiences that are hard to question.

What IS common for all of us is that we think about and are invested in our quality of life. We all have the desire to live in a community that supports and reflects that definition of quality of life.

What I have found helpful is the process of examining my own definitions of quality of life.

Where do they come from? What definitions are most different from my neighbors and why? Are there any of my definitions that seem unreasonable? What are my non-negotiable (essential) and what are simply my preferences, but negotiable? On an issue of difference, what is the CORE concern I have – what is the ROOT fear I have that drives my perception?

Spending some time doing this self-reflection work better prepares us to engage in community development work with others. It also helps our awareness of what might be going on for others around their own definitions.

I encourage us to take the time to ask our neighbors some of the questions we’ve asked ourselves, so that we don’t assume we know where their opinions come from, but rather get at the root of their perspective and its genesis.

None of this is magic. But, the process of defining quality of life with our neighbors is a powerful tool that deepens our understanding of our differences and also creates an opportunity to find threads of commonality with which to build consensus in moving forward.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Walk Tacoma - Museum Walk & Kid Walk - Wednesday July 15

Mark your calendars for July 15th. There are two great events brought to you by Downtown On the Go and their various partners – Walk Tacoma Museums and Family Walk. Detailed information below about both events from a press release put out by Downtown on the Go.

Tacoma, Wash. – Come downtown to experience the Museum District on Wednesday, July 15 at noon for the Walk Tacoma Museum/Family Walk.  These two concurrent walks have something for every age.  The 1.8 mile Museum Walk, led by Council Member Robert Thoms, will showcase our downtown museums with stops at the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, Tacoma Art Museum, WA State History Museum, Museum of Glass, and LeMay America’s Car Museum. 

The 1 mile Family Walk, geared toward children elementary school age and younger, will include fun activities for kids, a visit by Rhubarb, goodie bags, and a ride on the Tacoma Link.  It will be led by Dianna Kielian, Sr. Vice President for Mission with Walk Tacoma series sponsor CHI Franciscan Health.  The Museum/Family Walk, sponsored by the Tacoma Rainiers, will start outside the Children’s Museum at S. 15th & Pacific Avenue.  There is no need to pre-register for the event, simply join Downtown On the Go at the meeting spot. 

Downtown On the Go will be collaborating with the United Way of Pierce County and the Children’s Museum of Tacoma to offer the Family Walk.  “The museum is so excited to be a partner in the Museum/Family Walk again this year.  We love to see young families exploring downtown Tacoma and enjoying all of the great parks, museums, and sites that our city has to offer,” said Brenda Morrison, Tacoma Children’s Museum Deputy Director.

Walk Tacoma 2015, sponsored by CHI Franciscan Health, is a nine-event walking series held on first and third Wednesdays, from April through August. The fun, themed walks, now in their sixth year, encourage people to enjoy downtown on foot by introducing new walking routes and sharing information about the community and its history through the guided tours. The walks are scheduled at the lunch hour and just after work to encourage downtown employees to walk during their workday, whether it is to and from work or at a lunch break.

Log your walks on the Trip Calendar at to earn prizes and be a part of the 24,859 mile community challenge to Walk Around the World.

For more information on the full Walk Tacoma Series or the Walk Around the World campaign, visit or find us on Facebook orTwitter.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Resident Engagement this Week - Be Informed, Give Input, and Have Some Fun!

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

That phrase is actually an old proverb, but you probably know it as the sentence that Jack types over and over again during his psychotic break in the movie The Shining. If you are the literary type, you might remember the phrase shows up in Jack Kerouac’s novel Big Sur.

Well, don’t worry, nothing that heavy or scary here - just a full week of ways to have fun and to “go to work” as an engaged citizen in downtown Tacoma.

Because, all play and no work make Tacoma a dull place.

Bike Train: Bike Me Out to the Ballgame
June 24, 2015 at 5:30 pm

​The Bike Committee is going to bike train from downtown to Cheney Stadium to watch the Tacoma Rainiers play the Reno Aces. The game starts at 7:05 and anyone who bikes to the game gets a special ticket rate of $11.50, which gets you a seat, a hot dog, a bag of chips, and a bottle of water.  Just tell them at the ticket counter that you biked to the game. If you want to join the bike train, meet at S. 11th and Pacific Avenue.

ST-3 Tacoma Open House
June 24, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Good and plenty of public transit is an important factor for a thriving urban region. You can show up at this open house and give your input to The Sound Transit Board on which projects they should study as final candidates for the ST3 public vote that could be happening as soon as November 2016. The presentation will begin at 6 pm and the open house will take place at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center at 1500 Broadway.

Public Hearing on Draft of Paid Leave Rules
June 25, 2015 at 10:00 am

You have probably heard by now and I will likely be writing more about this soon, but beginning  in February 2016, Tacoma employers will be required to provide up to 24 hours of Paid Leave annually to employees within the City of Tacoma. You can read about the paid leave rules and regulations that have been drafted for review at You can attend the public hearing, and provide your feedback at the Tacoma Public Library Main Branch – Olympic Room at 1102 Tacoma Avenue South.

1st Annual Tacoma Waterfront Crab Feed
June 25, 2015 at 5:30 pm

If you are allergic to crab, well, I feel really bad for you and you definitely shouldn’t go to this event. But, for the rest of you – strap on your bib and join the Tacoma Waterfront Association (TWA) this Friday for the first ever Waterfront Crab Feed fundraiser at the Foss Waterway Seaport at 705 Dock Street.

Beyond eating all the crab you can, there will be chances to bid on or win prizes at the silent auction, raffles, and a ring toss. This fundraiser will be an opportunity to highlight Tacoma’s waterfront and the community and businesses within it. The event will feature prominent figures in the waterfront speaking to the latest activities and plans for the future of Tacoma’s waterfront. This fundraiser will help TWA continue its mission of making the waterfront enjoyable and accessible.

You can get your tickets now at:!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pop-Up Art Putt! in Downtown Tacoma

It’s finally here – the U.S. Open Golf Championship has come to the 253. For many, the anticipation has been building for years.

There has been word of Tiger Woods sightings as he played some practice rounds in the weeks leading up to the tournament. Some are hoping that practice might lead to a Tiger return to glory. It seems doubtful.

Others dream of a local boy like Michael Putnam or Ryan Moore coming out of nowhere to win their first major. That also seems unlikely, but would be really cool.

Whatever happens with the actual golf, we are all hoping for a nice economic boost for the city, county, and region. We can anticipate the world will fall in love with the pure aesthetic beauty of the course and its surroundings, as they watch the tournament unfold later this week.

I will not be heading out to Chamber’s Bay for the tournament. I’ve never played the golf course because, well, I’m terrible at and easily frustrated by the game of golf. Why pay all that money to be pissed off and when I can enjoy the course and the view for free by walking the trail? I’ll track the tournament and the coverage on T.V. this week.

If I actually grab a golf club this week, it will be to play something a little more my speed – like the Pop-Up Art Put mini golf course being brought to downtown Tacoma by the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) and the Tacoma Arts Commission.

Ten local artists have been commissioned to create ten sculptural miniature golf holes for a course that will span TAM’s Paul G. Allen Family Foundation Plaza, Tollefson Plaza, and the Prairie Line Trail.

You can get your club, golf balls, and score cards at the TAM and when you are finished playing the course you can vote for your favorite artist-designed hole. Unlike Chamber’s Bay – this course is FREE to play.

As the first day of play is winding up at Chambers Bay, the party will just be getting started at the Pop-Up Art Putt course in downtown Tacoma.

The Opening Party for the exhibit will be this Thursday June 18 from 5-8 pm. You can dance along the course to tracks spun by a live DJ. There will be food trucks along the course and of course a beer garden, because this is Tacoma.

Come on – go ahead and check this out! This is one hell of a cool idea. Bravo TAM and Tacoma Arts Commission!

Pop-Up Art Putt! Hours will be…

Thursday, June 18, 5 pm – 8 pm
Friday, June 19, 10 am – 8 pm
Saturday, June 20, 10 am – 8 pm
Sunday, June 21, 10 am – 4 pm

New Tacoma Awards 2015 Nominations Open

Each year the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber works with the downtown community to recognize outstanding individuals, organizations and events.  Well, it is that time of year again.  

Next month, on July 10th, downtown standouts will be honored at the New Tacoma Awards luncheon.  Last year's award recipients include:

Ghilarducci Award: Foss Waterway Seaport’s Rehabilitation
Popham Award: Justin Mayfield of Downtown Block Party
Public Places Award: Downtown On the Go’s Walk Tacoma
Schoenfeld Award: Tinkertopia
Union Station Award: Children’s Museum of Tacoma 

For more on last year's recipients:

Who will be nominated to receive the awards this year is up to you.  Nominations are now open:

If you love what someone is doing downtown, nominate them for an award:

  • Popham Award: Building community spirit

  • Schoenfeld Award: Retail/Restaurant pizzazz

  • Ghilarducci Award: New development or renovation

  • Union Station Award: Building momentum for revitalization

  • Public Places Award: Activation of a public space
The online nomination form can be found