City News


In 2014 the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) takes effect. The health care landscape will change substantially. New provisions are included that will impact individuals and families, people with jobs and people who are unemployed.

Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources will offer “Deciphering the Affordable Care Act,” a workshop that will provide a comprehensive overview of the ACA, the basic provisions that consumers will notice and how to get personal, one-on one help in choosing the best insurance plan and benefit from available subsidies to help reduce the cost.

The workshop will be repeated four times at four different locations:

· Nov. 4, 12:10-12:50 p.m.

Pierce County Annex Main Meeting Room

2401 S. 35th St. in Tacoma

· Nov. 4, 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Sound View Building

3602 Pacific Ave. in Tacoma

· Nov. 5, 12:10-12:50 p.m.

County City Building Rainier Conference Room

930 Tacoma Ave. S., 7th Floor in Tacoma

· Nov. 5, 7-8 p.m.

Sound View Building

3602 Pacific Ave. in Tacoma

“The Affordable Care Act has much to it,” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, manager of Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources. “Understanding the ACA and its many provisions is important if people are going to benefit from it fully. Even if people have their own insurance – through work or Medicare – it would be important to know what is and is not part of the Act."

“Deciphering the Affordable Care Act” will be presented by the Pierce County Aging & Disability Resource Center. The workshop offers the opportunity for participants to ask questions about their own situation and how to connect with In-Person Assisters in Pierce County. The workshop is free and open to the public. No RSVP is required. For details call the Pierce County Aging and Disability Resource Center at (253) 798-4600.


With flu season quickly approaching, Molina Healthcare will be offering free flu shots on Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Sea Mar Tacoma Clinic at 2121 S. 19th St. The free vaccination will be given on a first come first serve basis to the first 75 adults and 100 children that attend between 1-4 p.m.

According to the Center for Disease control, anyone six months of age and older should get the flu shot as soon as it becomes available. The flu shot protects against the three main types of flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season.  


In July, the City of Tacoma began using the first hydraulic hybrid garbage collection truck on the West Coast and in its first few months of service, it’s showing significant fuel savings.

The Environmental Services vehicle’s advanced hybrid drive system captures about 71 percent of a vehicle’s otherwise lost energy when the vehicle brakes. That energy gets stored in compressed hydraulic fluid that propels the vehicle from a stop when the driver steps on the accelerator. Since so much of a garbage truck’s miles are spent in slow stop-and-go conditions, the fuel reduction is significant. So far, the City of Tacoma is seeing savings of about 33 percent over a traditional garbage truck. If efficiencies continue, reduced annual fuel savings will be about $8,000 to $10,000 per year, based on current fuel costs. The fuel that the truck does still use generally only occurs when the vehicle travels at higher speeds, and even that fuel is 20 percent biodiesel – as fuels the rest of the Solid Waste Management’s garbage and recycling truck fleet.

At $397,000 the hybrid truck was about 23 percent more expensive than traditional models, yet in addition to using less fuel the hybrid truck should also require less maintenance. Brake pads last longer because the brakes don’t contact the drums until the truck slows to about 2 miles per hour. Normally brakes are replaced every four to five months, but the brakes on hybrid trucks may only need to be changed every six years. Garbage truck tires, which number ten per truck and cost about $150 apiece, may last longer as well, due to reduced friction heat on the wheels.

Fuel reduction improves air quality and supports the City’s Climate Action Plan goal to reduce Tacoma’s greenhouse gas emissions. For future purchases, City staff are also exploring compressed natural gas collection vehicles, which could be combined with hybrid technology in the near future.


Tacoma Public Schools has installed computer kiosks at four schools to help families access district information including student grades and attendance at school.

McCarver and Sherman elementary schools and Baker and Mason middle schools have the designated computers in the main office for parents and guardians to use to access five of the most frequently visited district sites and provide information back to the district:

  • Home Access Center: Check your student’s grades and more

  • Lunch Money Now: Add money to your student’s meal account

  • Meal App Now: Apply for free or reduced price meals

  • Your student’s school website

  • Classroom website: Find information from your student’s teacher

  • A three-question kiosk survey

The district’s Project Management Office and Instruction Technology created this pilot kiosk project to help meet the parent partnership goal in the district’s strategic plan. Research shows that when parents are more involved in their student’s education, the student does better academically.

Many families do not have a computer at home and cannot access online information about their student. The kiosks will provide a way for families to check the student’s progress. Since the parent kiosk is in the main school office, a parent can ask for help when accessing the user-friendly programs on the kiosk computer.

“The four schools in the pilot represent a cross section of the district,” said Kristie Stanek, innovation facilitator. “The pilot will run for a month and we will gather the data to see whether we should expand the kiosks across the district. 

“Parents will be able to find out about homework help, access district math video resources as well as other valuable links on the teacher’s classroom websites. Anything a student can access on the district website, parents can access on the kiosk computers. YouTube, Facebook, gmail and the like are blocked.”

The district will track visits at each of the pilot computers and the resources families access. The results will help determine whether the project should expand to other schools and whether a school might need more than one kiosk.

Already during the first week of operation, the kiosks are helping families and office staff.

“This week we had a parent come in to get homework for a sick child at the end of the day. Unfortunately the teacher was unavailable. We were able to direct the parent to the kiosk to get the homework from the classroom website,” said Michelle Paschich, Sherman office paraeducator.

“As a new middle school parent, I love being able to access their assignments and being see what homework has been turned in. It’s a big transition moving from one teacher to six teachers,” said Mason and Sherman parent Sarah Paskett. “Having access to HAC helps with planning after school activities and sports. I love that I can intervene before grades slip too far. The teachers have been very responsive to questions that I have about the information on HAC.”


Tacoma-area veterans take note: The Washington Legislature is providing funding for 2013-14 that supports the hiring of recently returning military veterans for beach cleanup work.

The Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) has created two specialized all-veteran crews based in Pierce County to survey the state’s coastline and remove marine debris from shorelines. The crews will also clean up backcountry areas of beaches that are difficult for volunteer crews to reach, will provide volunteer event coordination and will be available for cleanup of debris deposited on the coast from the 2011 Japan tsunami if needed.

State funding for the all-veteran cleanup crews covers crew time, some training, travel, and disposal costs associated with coastal cleanup.

The crews are available for free to coastal entities such as state parks, cities, counties, and nonprofits that are part of a coastal preservation or conservation organization. Those entities benefiting from work will be asked to provide tidal information, secure locations for dumpsters and other materials, and contacts that can provide information about the work needed at the cleanup site.

Currently work is being scheduled and those interested in having a free crew for their use are encouraged to contact Stephanie Jackson, Veterans and Project Coordinator with the Washington Conservation Corps, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

The WCC was created in 1983 and has provided opportunities and training for more than 1,700 people, mostly young adults. The WCC also receives federal AmeriCorps funding and Washington Department of Natural Resources funding through the 2012 Jobs Now Act.

In 2011, the Washington Legislature created the Puget SoundCorps with the WCC to focus specifically on jobs for young adults and military veterans that benefit Puget Sound recovery.

WCC crew members receive minimum wage. Recently returned military veterans are eligible for behavior health training and military benefits counseling through a WCC partnership with the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs.


Historic Tacoma is hosting a free event celebrating the city’s historic architecture and the arts from 6-8 p.m. Nov. 5, during Tacoma’s Art at Work Month. Event partners include the new owner of the historic 1908 Tacoma Armory, local artists and Earthwise Architectural Salvage.

The event is designed so that participants can learn more about the history of the Armory, the owner’s vision for adaptive re-use, and discuss ideas for the building’s future. The visual and performing arts communities have shown interest in making use of the Armory’s vast and stunning drill hall.

The event will also serve as Historic Tacoma’s annual membership reception and meeting; the non-profit organization’s Board will celebrate recent accomplishments, recognize volunteer contributions, and share a vision for the future of its preservation work in the community. All are welcome to attend.

Participants include: Fred Roberson, owner, and Mat Shaw, commercial property manager, Roberson Building Co.; Earthwise Architectural Salvage (628 E. 60th St.) specializing in the reclamation and resale of historic building materials; Simone Aydelott, artist with Raindrop Yard & Garden Art, using salvaged materials from Earthwise; Gabriel Brown, artist, activist, street performer, and shoe cobbler, with his Old City Hall shoe shine stand; and a special guest, a 12-foot tall lighted horse sculpture created by artists Diane Hansen, Dale Hillius and Lance Kagey, which will also make an appearance at Tacoma’s First Night. Though horses were once a regular presence at the Armory in its early days, prancing in formation and at ceremonies, we daresay a horse hasn’t visited the drill hall since the 1930s.

Street parking is available; use the Yakima Avenue entrance; ADA access to the right.


The City of Tacoma has been awarded $133,000 in grant funding from the Washington State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice for its gang reduction program from Nov. 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015.

“With these much needed dollars, we can continue our work to foster a comprehensive and community-inclusive anti-gang approach, build capacity within the community for gang prevention and intervention, and develop programs, strategies, and policies to reduce youth gang involvement,” said Assistant City Manager Tansy Hayward, who also oversees the City’s Neighborhood and Community Services Department.

The City will establish contracts with community organizations to implement a number of strategies in the Tacoma Gang Reduction Project Implementation Plan, including supportive services, community capacity building and graffiti removal.


This election season you can digitally encourage friends to vote with the Pierce County Auditor’s new “I Voted” avatar. The transition from the traditional “I Voted” stickers to a digital image is both cost effective and a reflection of modern communication.

“Posting your Pierce County ‘I voted’ avatar to your social media accounts is the modern equivalent of wearing the sticker. Post it as soon as you vote to prompt your friends to vote. It’s also a good reminder that you can vote and return your ballot as soon as you’re ready,” said Auditor Julie Anderson.

The Auditor’s Office is providing images formatted for Facebook profile pictures and cover photos, and for Twitter avatars. These images can be found at, on Facebook at and Twitter @PierceCountyAud.

Voter turnout has improved with the shift to vote-by-mail, but with expected turnout for the Nov. 5 election at 46 percent, the Auditor’s Office is always looking for new ways to promote voting.

“Personal outreach is the very best way to prompt participation. We want our most enthusiastic voters to promote the vote. Use your social capital and be a civic leader,” said Anderson.

Ballots will arrive on Saturday, Oct. 19, and Monday, Oct. 21. Vote and return your ballot as soon as you’re ready. Ballot Drop Boxes are open now.


Kiplinger’s Personal Finance has included the University of Puget Sound (UPS) in its 2014 list of the country’s best value liberal arts colleges. The national magazine’s annual list ranks 100 private universities and 100 liberal arts colleges.

UPS and the other schools included in the 2014 lists represent the colleges that provide high-quality academics at a reasonable cost during these continued tough economic times, Kiplinger’s said. The colleges exemplify the attributes parents and students look for in higher education, including small class sizes, a good freshman retention rate, and a high four-year graduation rate.

Although private universities and colleges generally carry higher sticker prices than the in-state prices at public institutions, private colleges can actually be cheaper because of their generous financial aid, the magazine noted.

Puget Sound, for example, offers merit-based or need-based financial aid to more than 90 percent of its students. The college, with 2,600 undergraduate students and a student to faculty ratio of 12:1, offers a high-quality education in an environment where 99 percent of tenure-line faculty members hold the highest degree in their field and more than half of students do at least one internship.

“With President Obama’s recent emphasis on rating colleges and universities based on their value, our rankings serve as a valuable resource to help students and families make more informed choices,” said Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. “Combining a high-quality education with an affordable price tag is a challenge, but the colleges on this year’s list offer the best of both worlds.”

Kiplinger’s rankings measure academic quality and affordability. Academic criteria include the student admission rate (the number of students accepted out of those who apply), the test scores of incoming freshmen, the ratio of students to faculty members, and the four- and five-year graduation rates. On the cost side, Kiplinger’s measures the sticker price, the availability and average amount of need-based and merit-based financial aid, and the average student debt at graduation. Many of the schools on the top 200 list have appeared in Kiplinger’s rankings in previous years, demonstrating that these schools consistently deliver good value.

To see the full lists in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance visit:


Tacoma City Council is looking to fill five open volunteer positions on the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which oversees the establishment and regulation of landmarks, local historic districts, proposed name changes for public facilities, and certain property tax incentives.

· Architect (Two Open Volunteer Positions)

These positions are open to individuals residing in Tacoma who are currently, or have in the past, been professionally certified architects.

· Professional (Two Open Volunteer Positions)

These positions are open to individuals who have had professional experience or training related to historic preservation originating from employment or study within the following disciplines: art or art history, architecture, history, architectural history, planning, prehistoric and/or historic archaeology, conservation, construction or building trades, landscape architecture, urban planning or design, structural engineering, land use or real estate law, real estate, appraisal or real estate finance, project management or contracting, or a related discipline. 

· At Large (One Position)

This position is open to Tacoma residents with a demonstrated interest in historic preservation.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission consists of 11 members who are nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by a majority vote of the City Council. Membership is composed of three architects, four individuals with professional expertise in preservation related fields, one representative from the Tacoma Arts Commission, and three interested citizens. Non-voting ex-officio members may be appointed to represent property and business owners within Tacoma's historic districts.

For additional information on the Landmarks Preservation Commission, please visit or contact Reuben McKnight at (253) 591-5220.

Applications must be submitted to the City Clerk’s Office by Nov. 1, 2013. To apply, please visit or contact Linnea Meredith at (253) 591-5178, City Clerk’s Office, Room 220, Municipal Building, 747 Market St., Tacoma, WA 98402.


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