Take a stand for the place you call home

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

There are many who seem to portray our economy – or perhaps any economy – as the continual battle between business and the environment, sustainability and progress or even the future and the past.

I’ve never fully believed that. Just as we all live in the present moment with strands of previous life experience and future intentions and possibilities lying before us, we make decisions and take our choices informed by, but (mostly) not controlled by events or decisions in the past.

Our city, like every city perhaps, whether we know it or not, finds itself anchored in the past even as it peers into the unknowable future.

The economy is important – and for most of us, it is at the core of how we found ourselves here. But there is much more to our lives than earning our livelihood. For most of us (I hope) our identity is in the community we build around ourselves over time by our involvement in neighborhoods, churches and community groups.

Every community is more than the sum of its economy and its infrastructure – some cities are much more. They have a “vibe” an appeal or a reputation that is far more than their accumulating history, population or investment portfolio.

As important as jobs are, and as annoying as potholes are, they are never the real issue.

The real issue for Tacoma, now, and perhaps for most of our city’s history has been our sense of shared identity and destiny.

Not too long ago I showed my students a wall-sized map of Tacoma and had them write about what they saw.

tacoma dome2 cr DGuest

They, perhaps like most of us, could only see, and write about, their own neighborhoods. None of my students wrote about the big picture of Tacoma – its variety of neighborhoods, its expansive views in multiple directions, its remarkable and unique parks (from Blueberry Park, to Pt. Defiance and Swan Creek, among many others) and beautifully rebuilt or remodeled schools.

They, like most people, focus on immediate, and known, problems more than abstract, and perhaps distant, possibilities.

And they forget that basic rule of physics; a body (or city) at rest, stays at rest, and a body (or city) in motion, stays in motion.

Inertia is our biggest enemy. Tacoma can (and has) come together to face common problems. We can do it again.

One thing I know for sure; Tacoma has nothing, besides itself, holding it back.

Like most cities perhaps, Tacoma’s story is mostly one of unrealized potential.

Our problems are pitiful compared to our assets. Potholes are (relatively) easy to fix, even a large debt can be effectively addressed – if we only had the will, determination and vision to address them. But neglected potholes and debts only get larger.

I was born in Tacoma, my daughter was born here and now my three grandchildren have been born here. As they grow, travel and meet people, I want them to be proud and pleased about being part of this community. I want my grandchildren to have opportunities to prosper here. And if they leave, I want Tacoma to be a good memory.

As I explore and see my home town through the eyes of these young children, I am struck by what a different place Tacoma – and greater Pierce County – is from how it was a generation ago.

There are opportunities -and challenges – unheard of just a few years ago. There are literally too many to count – and more seem to appear every day.

I don’t know if progress is inevitable – but change certainly is.

The neighborhoods and urban landscapes will always shift – some noticeably and some will seemingly stay the same after decades. Every generation will see Mt. Rainier, Puget Sound and the community in front of us slightly differently. They may rue – or celebrate – our decisions and the legacy we leave them.

Photo by Morf Morford
Photo by Morf Morford

This reminds me that all of us are members of a continuous relay where we pass our decisions, dreams and legacies to future generations just as we literally inhabit the decisions, dreams and architectural intentions of previous generations.

As one example, I’d like to see a coalition of community groups, faith communities, parents, schools and neighborhood groups across the usual political, ethnic or demographic lines come together to address persistent problems like the high school drop-out rate, gangs, graffiti or teen homelessness.

And I want to encourage others – students, friends and neighbors, among others – to step up and participate and make their voices and concerns known.

In fact I would urge everyone to at least consider a resolution to become more involved when it comes to local and neighborhood issues by writing a letter to the editor to your local paper, taking part in a neighborhood watch group or joining one of the many neighborhood councils.

Or you could volunteer to be part of a disaster response team (http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/992/Volunteer-Opportunities).

You could also volunteer with the Pierce County Library System (http://www.piercecountylibrary.org/about-us/volunteering/Default.htm).

For a larger view of the range of volunteer groups and groups that work to make our community a better and healthier place, you could start here: https://greatnonprofits.org/city/tacoma/WA.

If you’d like to be an ambassador for Tacoma-Pierce County for visitors, check out this opportunity with http://www.traveltacoma.com/contact/volunteer/.

And if homelessness concerns you, a few more volunteer opportunities can be found here – www.cityoftacoma.org.

Never forget that our neighborhood, our city and yes, even our infrastructure is what we make it.

Tacoma has been the city of unrealized destiny long enough.

Trees, large and small, near or far, are everywhere around here. All indications point to another hot and dry summer - which means another year of fire hazards. Photo: Morf Morford

Trees, large and small, near or far, are everywhere around here. All indications point to another hot and dry summer – which means another year of fire hazards. Photo: Morf Morford