City News


Tacoma voters will see two replacement levies when special election ballots arrive in the mail late this month – Proposition 1, replacement of expiring levy for educational programs and operations; and Proposition 2, replacement of expiring levy for school technology improvements and upgrades.

Both measures, previously approved by voters in 2010, are due to expire this year and would need to be renewed by voters to continue school funding. If voters approve both measures, the overall tax rate for school funding would stay the same and would not increase from 2015 to 2018.

Proposition 1 is a four-year replacement levy for Educational Programs and School Operations that provides 24.4 percent of the day-to-day operations of the district's budget. The measure funds classroom teachers, nurses, librarians and other staff as well as educational programs to help bring students up to grade-level, arts, music, athletic and extracurricular programs. Proposition 1 also funds classroom basics including textbooks and supplies as well as the operations and maintenance of heating, plumbing, electrical, safety and security systems at all schools.

Proposition 2 is also a four-year replacement levy but dedicated solely to school technology improvements and upgrades. The measure funds replacement of outdated computers for students and teachers, upgrades software, expands access to up-to-date tools for teaching and learning and maintains the 24/7 online system for student and parent access to homework, curriculum and monitoring students' academic progress and school attendance.

The deadline to submit ballots is Feb. 11.


The ongoing process to help the state’s bridges better withstand an earthquake requires a long-term closure of the northbound State Route 7 ramp to northbound Interstate 705. The ramp handles about 3,000 vehicles per day.

The closure had been scheduled to start on Jan. 3, but scheduling conflicts and inclement weather prevented crews from restriping the roadway to allow the closure to be put into place. At 10 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, crews will again attempt to close the ramp and complete associated striping. If successful, the ramp will remain closed around the clock through mid-April. Motorists will be detoured via the Interstate 5 Portland Avenue interchange.

The long-term closure will allow crews to use the ramp as a construction zone from which they will seismically retrofit bridge columns within the I-705/SR 7 interchange.

Another current long-term ramp closure, the A Street on-ramp to I-705, is also in place for the same construction project. That ramp will remain closed until March 2014.


Pile driving is underway on a construction project to upgrade crane rail at Husky Terminal on the north end of the Blair Waterway. Residents near the Port industrial area might hear pounding noises as the 130-foot-long concrete pilings are set into place.

Orion Marine Group of Tacoma plans to work from about 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays through early February 2014. Work will end before the annual fish migration season begins.

This project is one phase of the terminal upgrades commissioners approved last year. It’s a strategic infrastructure investment that will enhance the Port’s waterway and marine terminal infrastructures to attract future business opportunities.


Stingrays, shark divers, seal pups, tiger cubs, clouded leopard cubs and breathtaking LED displays of Mount Rainier and a majestic polar bear family helped draw more than 700,000 visitors to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium last year. 

The zoo’s 2013 attendance totaled 711,077, breaking the record set in 2011 by 15,264 visitors.

Some 581,410 people flocked to the zoo during daytime hours last year. Another 129,667 came over the last several weeks to ooh and ahh at what many described as the best-ever edition of Zoolights. That’s the second-highest number in Zoolights’ 26 years, just behind the 2011 attendance of 135,907.

If there were a Hollywood highlight reel of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s accomplishments in 2013, it would include:

  • April 15 presentation of the zoo’s very first Paw of Approval Awards to community businesses actively engaged in promoting awareness of the plight of polar bears and reducing carbon emissions.

  • April 17 birth of Kali, a member of the critically endangered Sumatran tiger subspecies.

  • May 1 birth of Tien, a clouded leopard cub that was joined later in the year by Sang Dao, his future mate.

  • May 4 opening of Stingray Cove, an all-new exhibit in the South Pacific Aquarium in which visitors can reach into a tank and feel the velvety surfaces of stingrays. It gets guests closer than ever to nature.

  • June 2 and June 10 births of harbor seal pups Hogan and Saya.

  • Aug. 23-24 celebration of the first birthdays of Malayan tiger cub Berani and Sumatran tiger cub Dumai.

  • Oct. 11 grand opening of the Eye-to-Eye Shark Dive programs, which allow both novice divers and experienced scuba divers to view sharks underwater in the South Pacific Aquarium.

  • Holiday season Zoolights display of more than half a million lights arranged around the zoo in scenes that brought animals to life in lights and depicted much-loved local landmarks. The centerpiece of the 2013 edition of Zoolights was a family of bright white polar bears, backed by a squad of ice skating puffins. A blue-and-green “Seahawks 12th Man Tree” towered over the entrance to Zoolights, delighting guests supporting the highly successful football team.

Tacoma and Puget Sound area residents will see more new exhibits and programs in 2014. Small epaulette and bamboo sharks will be added to the Stingray Cove touch tank in the spring, giving visitors new elements of nature to reach out and touch. Critically endangered black and white ruffed lemurs will soon debut in the zoo’s Kids’ Zone area. And a brand new show featuring resident dog Herald as “Indiana Bones” and a supportive cast of amazing animals will debut at the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater in May.


Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), elected to the House in 2010, has been appointed by her colleagues as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

Jinkins noted, “The jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee is very broad, and I look forward to hearing from the public on topics as varied as gun responsibility, landlord/tenant issues, civil rights and family law.”

Jinkins, who received her law degree from Seattle University, has a long history in state government. She began her career in the Attorney General’s office litigating child abuse and neglect cases. She then shifted towards public health, eventually serving as an assistant secretary of health at the state Department of Health.

Since arriving in the Legislature in 2011 Jinkins has been a leader in transforming health care, helping working families and reforming Washington’s revenue structure. Along with other attorneys serving in the House, Jinkins was a central figure in the case challenging portions of I-1053 that required a 2/3 majority vote of the legislature to close tax loopholes or increase taxes. Washington’s Supreme Court eventually found this requirement unconstitutional.

“I am excited and honored to step into this new role,” Jinkins said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues and building strong relationships across the aisle and rotunda.”

The Judiciary Committee handles the largest bill volume of any policy committee. As Chair, Jinkins will oversee critical issues such as landlord tenant law, family law and the Consumer Protection Act, among many others.


Spaceworks Tacoma seeks creative enterprise and special projects applications from creative businesses, artists, community groups, and non-profit organizations looking to fill no- and low-cost vacant storefronts in 2014. The deadline to apply is Feb. 3.

Participants of Spaceworks are provided space, exposure, training and technical assistance in exchange for creatively activating vacant spaces. The goal is to transform empty storefronts with creative energy and artistic enterprise, making Tacoma a stronger, more active city.

Spaceworks will present a free informational workshop for those interested in applying on Tuesday, Jan. 14 from 6-7:30 p.m. The workshop will be held at the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber located on the 3rd floor of 950 Pacific Ave. Contact Spaceworks Manager Heather Joy to RSVP at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For more information, visit


Help the Port of Tacoma recognize the customers and tenants that made significant contributions to Pierce County’s economy and livability in 2013 by nominating top performers for Summit Awards.

The awards, to be presented at the April 9 annual breakfast, recognize three categories of leadership:

Business Magnet: a Port customer or member of the supply chain (shipper, transportation or logistics service provider, developer) for business development efforts and investments that led to a recognizable increase in business volume or new business opportunities for the Port of Tacoma, and have a positive economic effect for the citizens of Pierce County

Livable Community: a Port customer or tenant for a project, program or initiative that demonstrated the business community’s positive contribution to Pierce County through social responsibility. Criteria include philanthropy and charitable giving, community service and employee volunteering, community engagement and outreach, and employee development

Environmental Stewardship: a Port customer or tenant for a project, program or initiative that supported Pierce County’s sustainability and honors biodiversity and the interconnected nature of industry, people, wildlife and natural systems

Self nominations are welcome and encouraged. Find nomination forms and information at

Recipients will be chosen by a panel of community and business leaders, led by a Port commissioner.

Nominations are due by 5 p.m. Feb. 13. Completed forms should be emailed to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), faxed to (253) 593-4534 or mailed to Port of Tacoma Summit Awards, P.O. Box 1837, Tacoma, WA 98401-1837.

To receive updates about the awards and the annual breakfast, subscribe to the Port’s Summit Awards email list.


Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist has charged Michael Schaef, 51, with murder in the first degree for the 1991 shooting death of Jerald Iafrati. The defendant killed the victim during a drug deal.

"There are basically two ways cold cases are solved. The first is DNA, and second is people talk," said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. "Here, it was good old-fashioned legwork by Tacoma Police detectives who gathered new statements and other evidence. There is no statute of limitations on murder cases and we don't give up until there's justice."

On May 6, 1991, the victim and his girlfriend drove to the defendant’s home to purchase a large amount of marijuana. They waited in their car for the seller. A blue sedan pulled up, and two men got out of the vehicle. They pounded on the victim’s car and demanded money. When the victim's girlfriend drove away, the defendant shot the victim through the passenger window. A chase ensued, and the two vehicles collided. The defendant grabbed the money and fled.

After the murder, a search warrant was obtained for the defendant’s home. Inside, officers discovered a marijuana crop. The defendant was charged for the marijuana, but nobody was arrested or charged for the victim’s murder.

In 2013, the Tacoma Police Department’s Cold Case Unit re-activated the investigation. Recent statements from the defendant’s ex-wife, along with other evidence, led to the murder charge. A bench warrant for Michael Schaef’s arrest was issued on Dec. 30, 2013. He was arrested at his place of employment, where he works as a cannabis consultant. He was booked into the Pierce County Jail on Dec. 31.


Learning Ally, a 65-year-old nonprofit serving individuals with learning and visual disabilities, has bestowed its highest award to Maia Schumacher of Tacoma. Schumacher is one of six students from across the U.S. who will receive cash awards of $6,000 and travel with their families to be honored at Learning Ally’s National Gala celebration in Washington, D.C. this April.

Reading and writing have always been a struggle for Schumacher, who is severely dyslexic and has difficulty with spelling and decoding words. As she progressed in school grade levels, the complexity and quantity of her reading assignments grew to be overwhelming, requiring the assistance of a reader to help her complete her homework and bringing about dependency on others to cope with the sheer volume of assigned reading for each class.

A turning point came when Schumacher started using Learning Ally audiobooks to complete her assignments instead of a human reader. With higher self-confidence and a newfound sense of independence, she rose to the top of her class. A gifted athlete and highly involved volunteer, Schumacher continued to excel in her academics and extracurricular activities, graduating from high school with numerous awards and a 3.98 grade point average.

Now at age 18, Schumacher is attending Seattle University to pursue a master’s degree and career as a nurse anesthetist. “Since the second grade, I have struggled with dyslexia and know all too well the emotional pain, isolation and frustration of living with a learning disability,” she says. “But now I look at my disability in a different light, as a gift in the form of a challenge that has shaped me into the person I am today.”


On Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, Narrows Brewing Company will host six Tacoma-local breweries as they collaborate to brew a Black Belgian IPA. In addition to Narrows Brewing Company, participating breweries include Engine House No. 9, Pacific Brewing & Malting Co., Harmon Brewing Company, Ram Restaurant & Brewery, Tacoma Brewing Company and Wingman Brewers. The Black Belgian IPA will be evenly distributed among each participating brewery, and a portion of the proceeds from each keg sold will be donated to a charitable cause.

Narrows Brewing, E9, Pacific Brewing & Malting Co., the Harmon, Tacoma Brewing, the Ram and Wingman Brewers invite you to join them at Narrows Brewing Company’s brewery and taproom to watch as these beer-centric brewmasters work their magic. Doors open at noon, and the brewing is expected to last until 6 p.m.

Patrons will enjoy sipping from a selection of six featured Narrows Brewing Company beers as they watch Tacoma’s best brewmasters come together to make this epic beer. (By Margo Greenman)


You have two chances in January to hear national education expert Mychal Wynn describe how the Tacoma community can create a college-bound culture for all students in Tacoma Public Schools.

Wynn, an author and an educator, will speak to parents, students and educators with his message “It’s All About Strategy: Creating a College-Bound Culture – A Framework for Increasing Student Achievement.”

Tacoma Public Schools will host the first session with Wynn Tuesday, Jan. 21, from 6-7:30 p.m. at Baker Middle School, 8001 S. ‘J’ St. Wynn also will speak Wednesday, Jan. 22, from 6-7:30 p.m. at Lister Elementary School, 2106 E. 44th St. The presentations are free and open to the public.

“We’ve already made great strides in our goal to create a college-bound culture, and we want to continue making progress in that area for all students,” said Superintendent Carla Santorno. “Mychal will focus on that through academic excellence and partnerships.

“Our data reflects national and state trends and shows the need to address issues surrounding achievement gaps. Mychal will provide a way for us to improve our work with all students that meshes with our approach to teaching and learning,” Santorno said.

Wynn, also a parent, will provide parents with strategies to guide their children from elementary school through high school. He inspires students in his presentations and provides what they need to pursue their college aspirations.

Educators will learn how to frame conversations with parents and students about elementary school preparation, middle school exploration, high school course work, community service, extracurricular activity involvement and leadership development.

Wynn will also cover:

  • Why less than half of all students graduate from high school “college ready.”

  • The impact fourth-grade reading levels have on college enrollment.

  • The type of home-school partnerships needed to guide students into the right scholarships and the right colleges.

  • How to engage students at school and encourage students at home in ways that are guaranteed to increase student achievement.

The Community Partnership, Academic Equity and Achievement department and the Equity and Achievement department are sponsoring Wynn’s presentations.

For more information, contact Patrick Johnson, director of Equity and Achievement, at (253) 571-1120.


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