Generosity and welcoming is who we are

“Generous and welcoming behavior to all people (friends and strangers) who enter our lands”.

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

The city of Puyallup took its name from the Native people living in that particular glacial valley, the Puyallup, (S’Puyalupubsh – phonetically: spooy-all-up-ahbsh) which roughly translated, means “generous and welcoming behavior to all people (friends and strangers) who enter our lands”.

Sometimes we, in other areas of Pierce County, remember, commemorate and even act on this strand of our history and identity.

A pandemic and its fall-out have impacted us in a thousand fractured and splintered ways, but has also emphasized this enduring, and ever more crucial essence of who we are.

One example is the recent decision by the City of Tacoma to dedicate funding for the resettlement of Afghan refugees here and in other locations across our state.

Here is an excerpt from a statement by current City Council Member Robert Thoms on Tacoma’s commitment to being a welcoming city;

“The City of Tacoma confirms and continues its commitment to being a welcoming city.

I am pleased to sponsor a Council Contingency request for $25,000 to provide our local relocation service providers with more capacity to process Afghan refugees right here in the South Sound and across Washington state.

As an Afghan war veteran, I know firsthand how wonderful these Afghan partners are. Their care for me allowed me to return safely to my family. I, and many other veterans across our community as well as service members serving at bases across our state, are eager to support Afghan families seeking to settle here. This is our mission now, and we will finish strong.

Today, Tacoma will invest resources to support its community partners, in concert with increases in funding from our federal delegation, and White House and U.S. Department of State programs to resettle Afghan refugees in our region and state.

I am proud of this Council and our community for opening their arms and stepping up.”

By any criteria, helping those who risked their lives and the lives of their families – and everything they ever knew or had, to assist our personnel is the right thing to do.

This is a small, but significant, step in their relocation and the absolute redirection of their lives forever.

They, like our people in Afghanistan, will remember for the rest of their lives what has been, and will be, done for them.

Our generosity, of course, does not stop at our state’s borders. Did you know that approximately 200 Soldiers from the 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion and the 2-3 Infantry Battalion, both from the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, I Corps, JBLM, supported the action against the Dixie Fire in northern California?

And yes, we take care of our own

On a more local note, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier presented his proposed 2022-2023 biennial budget to the Pierce County Council recently. The nearly $3 billion budget prioritizes funding for public safety and justice, attainable housing, and behavioral health.

A visible, and ever-increasing, homeless population is clearly not a healthy sign for individuals or communities. With that in mind, and with the assistance of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, Dammeier proposed more than $26 million in shelter expansion and services for unhoused people. In addition, another $55 million is allocated to develop and preserve affordable housing in the County.

“No resident of Pierce County should be without a clean, safe place to live,” said Dammeier. “That’s why I am proposing a significant expansion of our shelter capacity and the creation of hundreds of new units of attainable housing. We are committed to helping people move into an affordable place to call home.”

The budget, as proposed, includes nearly $27 million to expand behavioral health services and more than $18 million to expand and maintain the County’s extensive trail system and improve ADA accessibility in Pierce County parks. In addition, nearly $2 million is in the budget to establish more than a dozen new positions to directly support the County’s increasing aging and disabled communities.

And, no, they didn’t forget young people

As part of Pierce County’s budget, an expanded paid internship program would provide learning and career preparation opportunities for young adults in Pierce County, especially those of color, or otherwise under-served and create a potential path to full-time employment.

We may have different positions on spending, but it couldn’t be more obvious that these are crucial and enduring investments in our community – both now and for many years to come. And, like every expenditure, this spending reflects our values and priorities.

The Foothills Trail

The Foothills Trail is only one of the budget items addressed, but it is certainly one of the wonders of Pierce County. It is on an abandoned, historic railroad bed and snakes through the river valley southeast of Tacoma. This 25-mile-long, nearly level trail is a popular commuter route and recreational destination for bicyclists and hikers.

In and around Orting it follows the Carbon River through farmlands and forest with occasional – and astounding – views of the mountain.

The Foothills Trail is a 12-foot wide non-motorized asphalt trail/linear park suitable for bicycles, walking, in-line skates, and wheelchairs. It also has a soft shoulder path for equestrians.

When complete, this trail will be more than 28 miles in length, extending from Buckley through the Town of South Prairie, the City of Orting and into the City of Puyallup and eventually connecting with similar trails in King County.

To see the entire Foothills Trail Map, look here