Dear environmental-ish….

…”progressive” voters of Tacoma,

I believe the stated manifesto of voting for a particular candidate in the name of an improved social and economic justice reality for this city is short-sighted, at best.

Leonardo Da’Vinci said, “There are three classes of people: Those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see.”


I want to remind you of the political environment that permeates this town. City Council and Port of Tacoma work closely together in a group-think model, with little room for diversity of thought or dissenting opinions. The candidate you espouse has been involved in city government for decades. This candidate sat with a city council that approved and championed methanol and fracked gas projects. This candidate sat with a City Council that could somehow square the dichotomy of port lands being too environmentally compromised for housing, yet does nothing to change the codes to eliminate the predatory detention center. This candidate breaks bread, socializes and works with people who say things like “your presence at this city council meeting is a privilege, not a right”. Some of those people will still be on city council, no matter who gets elected. And that is something that gives me considerable pause when I think about what the City Council will look like after November 7.

Over those decades of service by this candidate you espouse, how many building projects have been built that are the exact opposite of affordable housing? Over the last couple of decades, how many people have been forced to live outside because there were no affordable housing options left to them? In those decades, how many people living without homes have gone without proper care and assistance? In those decades, how is it that this town has managed to stay stagnant, economically, while surrounding communities have fared well? In decades, how many people have been imprisoned and abused by a for-profit prison industry that sits within view of City Hall?

City Council has been incredibly weak on the predatory for-profit prison, choosing rather to take the path of least resistance and not rocking any boats, no matter how insanely unjust this prison is. They have shown themselves to be incapable of standing up for our neighbors, friends and colleagues who have come to this town hoping for a better life. The methanol and fracked gas projects are just the beginning of another 5 decades worth of social and economic INJUSTICE. I have a very difficult time understanding how you cannot see that this is the OPPOSITE of an environmentally responsible energy plan. There are still 1300 clean up sites in and around the port that will need to be attended to over the next 100 years. The fracked gas plant is on it’s way to being completed, and once it’s built, it will be expanded. There will be more and more stacks and barges in and around the Salish Sea.

We haven’t had the right skill set of decision makers to help us with our social and economic issues to get out of the same old ruts Tacoma has slogged around in for decades. But you’re willing to throw in with the same skill set and group-think that has kept us stagnant.

You know who has been making awesome social and economic decisions for this community? The Puyallup Tribe of Indians. They are conscientious, gracious, giving and thoughtful stewards of the community.

Almost everything City Council and Port of Tacoma does is diametrically opposed to the efforts and work that has been done by the Puyallup Tribe.

COT and POT have given over to industry, whose intent is to burden Tacoma for at least another 50 years with increased fossil fuel projects which will decimate what’s left of our environment. Do you know what happens when the environment is degraded? The economic viability and possibilities of social justice disappear into thin air. If you don’t want to see through my eyes, then go look with your own eyes. Go look at the Gulf Coast. Go look at Fort MacMurray in Alberta, Canada. Go look at Fort Berthold in North Dakota. Our ports are considered prime targets for the continuation of the destruction and decimation that has taken place (and will continue) in these regions. Even if you choose to disregard what is not happening in your backyard, we all still must grapple with the fact that industry gets what it wants – from segmented construction permits, to tax-breaks, to lack of oversight on emissions and industrial waste – and we are facilitating that.

I do not believe that the candidate you espouse as being the best choice for social and economic justice is going to work out the way you hope. Not based on what I can see has happened in this town. At the very least, I implore you to stop claiming to be about social and economic justice when the status quo has given so little respect for the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. When the decision makers are the same mind-set and value-set that they won’t consider the importance of the voices, wisdom and passion of these First Peoples of Tacoma.

If we give over to the status quo and don’t start working to course correct, the last 5 decades will feel like a walk in the park compared to what is ahead. Keep in mind the fact that we are seeing an unprecedented level of attack on federal agencies whose mandates have been to try and keep people and the environment safe from the damages that industry can inflict.  When the EPA is decimated, it will be game over for the Salish Sea and all her inhabitants. No clean water, no clean soils and no clean air. No more salmon, no more orca, no more eagle. That is not a vision of a thriving, socially and economically just community. That is a vision of a community given over to the whims of industry. I’m no chicken little. I can see the trends.

How one can claim that any of this portends for a better social and economic future for Tacoma is something I cannot see. Let’s be honest – we all have a lot of work ahead of us if we are truly going to start bending the arc toward social, economic and environmental justice. But, let’s be honest with ourselves about what that really looks like and see our history before we throw away our future.


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