City News


The City of Tacoma, Business Improvement Area and Downtown Merchants Group are inviting residents, drivers, business staff and all others to celebrate the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project’s substantial completion at “Pac the Ave” on Saturday, Dec. 7.

From 3-5 p.m. Pacific Avenue will come alive at the new 8th Street cobble-style intersection under the new crisscross overhead lights between 7th and 9th streets with free live music, arts performances, hot chocolate, kettle corn and activities. Bring a donation of unwrapped toys, blankets and towels to benefit the Rescue Mission for a free picture with Santa. Or, go for a 4 p.m. historic walk with Downtown on the Go.

Public Works Director Kurtis Kingsolver, who will be speaking at the event at 3:15 p.m. said, “This project had been a very big deal for our community. We’re thrilled it’s done. We’re thrilled it creates such an inviting environment.”

The event is designed to kick off the holiday season by introducing residents to the transformed Pacific Avenue with all its new public improvements and businesses. To encourage this, a Pac Ave Passport, available at the event and at participating businesses afterwards, will foster visits to area businesses for the chance to win prizes. That contest continues until Dec. 31.

The project’s “green flash” theme will carry into the event with green candy canes and costumes, even two of Downtown’s historic stars have been re-strung with green lights in a nod to the project.

The ten-block project included sidewalks, curbs and curb ramps, landscaping, public art, historic streetlights, roadway repaving, overhead catenary lights and 14 rain gardens which treat stormwater prior to entering the Thea Foss Waterway.

A few final project elements will be competed in January 2014 when the holiday shopping and celebrating season is over – road striping and instillation of bike racks, benches and a few remaining sidewalk public art pieces.

Those with event questions may contact Communications Specialist Carrie McCausland at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or (253) 591-2005. Those with project questions may contact Mark D'Andrea at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or (253) 591-5518.


The following anticipated event-related road closures are expected around Tacoma through Tuesday, Dec. 31.

  • On Thursday, Dec. 5 and Friday, Dec. 6 from 7-11 a.m. the Bates Technical College Foundation Holiday Food and Toy Drive will close the northbound lane of Yakima Avenue at South 12th street, also known as Earnest S. Brazill Street.

  • On Saturday, Dec. 7 from 3-5 p.m. “Pac the Ave” will close Pacific Avenue from South 7th to South 9th streets and South 8th Street from Pacific Avenue to Court A from that morning to evening.

  • On Saturday, Dec. 14 the Santa Runs 5k will close roads between 9 a.m. and noon on ‘A’ Street, South 11th Street, and the south-bound lanes of St Paul Avenue, East 15, ‘D’ and Dock streets.

  • On Saturday, Dec. 14 the Tacoma Christian Center’s North Pole will close East Harrison Street between McKinley Avenue and East ‘I’ Street from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • On Tuesday, Dec. 31 from 4:30 p.m. to midnight First Night will close Broadway between South 7th and South 9th streets and South 11th and South 13th streets. Broadway between South 9th and South 11th streets will be closed from 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. from Dec. 31 through Jan. 1, 2014.


Water defines the northwest. It sustains recreation and natural spaces. Yet, rain runs off streets, parking lots and buildings picking up pollutants along the way. A heavily used environment, such as Tacoma’s downtown lying directly above the Thea Foss Waterway, intensifies these issues. City staff began to search for a solution that would not only protect Puget Sound, but enhance downtown. Now, 11 months after construction began, the City has 14 rain gardens intercepting and filtering storm water along Pacific Avenue.

“The rain gardens draw on natural systems to filter out pollutants,” said Lorna Mauren, environmental services surface water manager. “This project and other activities are having a positive impact on stormwater quality. People can personally see how that change is happening in this project.”

Thanks to the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project, which reached substantial completion today, storm water now enters the rain gardens through curb cuts at street level and seeps its way through filtering layers of plants, soil, compost and gravel until it enters a drain pipe. Once slowed and filtered, the water enters storm system pipes, which ultimately flow to the Thea Foss Waterway and Puget Sound.

Aesthetics are an important element to the rain gardens too. On Monday, artist Elizabeth Conner placed 16 public art sculptures in the gardens where, when raining, they will create engaging water ripples. The gardens also feature 114 decorative green tiles, reused granite street curbs and trees and plants designed to withstand urban, drought and flood condition.

The project’s storm water elements also include about 930 feet of storm piping, 30 catch basins , 1,660 cubic yards of permeable topsoil and compost and 5,200 plants and trees. The Pacific Avenue Streetscape project further includes wayfinding, pedestrian, lighting and landscape improvements. Visit the City’s website at to learn more, including details for kicking off the holiday season and viewing the completed project in person at the “Pac the Ave” celebration from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7 on Pacific Avenue at 8th Street.


An interactive new learning hub will offer families an exciting day out beginning this holiday season at LeMay-America’s Car Museum. Children of all ages can play and engage in hands-on activities in the museum when the Family Zone debuts Saturday, Dec. 14.

“The Family Zone is specially designed to provide the younger generation of car enthusiasts a means to experience the joys of the road in both fun and educational ways,” said David Madeira, president and CEO. “The new space also invites multiple generations to share with one another their treasured memories on the road, even as they foster the next generation of car lovers in their families.”

With visually-stunning graphics and five individual fun stations, the Family Zone features:

  • Go for a Road Trip — Children can navigate their own travels from sea to shining sea on an oversized map of the United States.

  • Learn How Cars Work — Visitors can earn about the basic systems that make cars work by exploring a chassis with exposed parts.

  • Take the Wheel — Kids can test their driving skills and experience the thrill of being behind the wheel of a car along a simulated trail.

  • Built for Speed — Children can race pinewood cars down a track and experiment with the science of speed.

The Family Zone will open to the public at 10 a.m. and will be preceded by a 9 a.m. private reception for honorary guests to preview the space. On Dec. 14, 15, 21 and 22, Family Zone visitors will also have a chance take photos with Santa in a 1906 Cadillac as part of ACM’s “12 Days of Christmas” annual celebration. For more information on the new Family Zone and museum activities, visit


Seahawks running back Derrick Coleman will have plenty to communicate to deaf and hard of hearing students at Baker Middle School Tuesday, Dec. 10, from 10 to 11 a.m. Coleman began to lose his hearing about age three, but that didn’t stop the 23-year-old from playing football and signing on with a national football league team. He reads lips and his teammates face him when calling plays.

Third- grade and older students from the deaf and hearing of hearing programs at Birney Elementary School and Mount Tahoma High School are invited to the Baker event as well as deaf and hard of hearing students in the Federal Way and Puyallup school districts.

For more information, contact Baker Middle School at 253-571-5000.


Next fall, when businesses in Tacoma want to get a local business license or pay their local business and occupation taxes, they’ll be able to do it at File Local is an online multi-city business license and tax portal that was created through a cooperative effort by the cities of Tacoma, Seattle, Bellevue and Everett. File Local will offer businesses an easier way to pay taxes and get business licenses.

“File Local will streamline processes for businesses significantly, making things more intuitive and more efficient for them,” said Finance Director Andrew Cherullo. “We look forward to its implementation.”

When implemented, the service will benefit about 200,000 businesses. These businesses together comprise roughly 90 percent of businesses statewide that pay local business and occupation taxes.

Nearly 30,000 companies operating in more than one of the four cities would only need to enter their profile information once. Then, for each reporting period, they would add in their sales data. Using city-specific rates and special incentives to compute the total due of the company across all of the cities in which it does business, File Local’s computer system would then ask the company to enter payment information – via electronic transfer or credit card – so it can distribute the funds to meet the amounts due in each of the cities.

Officials in Tacoma, Seattle, Bellevue and Everett have been working on developing the concept behind this service since 2010. This summer, the group hired a Louisiana-based technology firm, e-Gov Systems, to build and test the site.


On Nov. 27, the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office’s (PCPAO) Diversity Committee hosted a mock trial for Upward Bound high school students. The mock trial was held in Judge Culpepper’s courtroom at the County-City Building. Volunteers from the PCPAO were actors in the recreation of a real criminal case where the incident was referred to the Prosecutor’s Office for charging, but was not charged due to proof problems.

In the mock trial, the case was charged and tried to a jury of 12 students. The students delivered a verdict of “not guilty.”

“With young leaders such as these students, Pierce County’s future looks good,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “In this case, the verdict was less important than the experience.”

While the students took their jury duty responsibilities seriously, there were moments that called for unanimous laughter. For example, after delivering her opening statement, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Christine Chin, was applauded for her performance. Judge Culpepper reminded everyone there is no clapping in the courtroom.

This experience gave students the opportunity to learn how the justice system operates in their community. In addition to a great learning opportunity, students had the chance to discuss the process and the justice system with local attorney and judges.

The students who participated in the mock trial represent the Upward Bound programs at Lincoln High School, Mt. Tahoma High School and Foss High School. Upward Bound provides fundamental support as participants prepare for college. The program offers opportunities for participants to succeed in their pre-college performance and ultimately in their higher education pursuits.

The PCPAO’s Diversity Committee’s THINK program was created to provide Pierce County students with an introduction to law, public policy, and community leadership, while creating opportunities to gain knowledge and skills in legal analysis.


United Way of Pierce County (UWPC) Board Chair Debra Young announced on Nov. 22 that the six month national search to find a new CEO to replace retiring UWPC CEO Dr. Rick Allen has ended. Ms. Young stated “We are thrilled to announce Dona Ponepinto will join UWPC on Jan. 6, 2014. The extensive search revealed dozens of strong local and national candidates, and we are excited to be able to bring someone of Dona’s caliber to our community to help us change the story for our children.”

In early 2013, UWPC Board of Directors restated the organization’s focus to lead, support and invest in community efforts to ensure all Pierce County children are prepared to succeed in school and in life. These investments early in a child’s life work are proven to increase high school graduation rates and to prevent longer term issues like homelessness and economic instability.

Ponepinto comes to Pierce County with over twenty-six years with the United Way network and with a long history of working on behalf of children and their families. Most recently, Ponepinto was vice president and major gifts officer at United Way for Southeast Michigan (UWSM) in Detroit, Michigan. With UWSM since January of 2006, Dona has held positions of increasing responsibility including VP, Community Investments, Financial Stability and Basic Needs, and VP, Resource Investment and Community Partnerships.

The span of Ms. Ponepinto’s work in Detroit included the development of the Metro Detroit Centers for Working Families in collaboration with Detroit Local Community Support Corporation. Dona also led the development and implementation of several collaboratives, including the Regional Asset Building Coalition and the Regional Foreclosure Prevention Collaborative in Detroit that secured resources to expand an on-line foreclosure prevention tool across four counties.

Prior to joining UWSM, she was with Orange County’s United Way and the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

Ponepinto has consistently been very engaged in her community and has demonstrated strong leadership through service and board membership of the following organizations: Association of Junior Leagues International; Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion; Ruth Ellis Center for homeless LGBTQ youth; Board President positions of Junior League of Detroit, MI and Junior League of Long Beach, CA, and the National Conference for Community and Justice.

She holds a MS Degree in Counseling with emphasis in children, youth and families from Creighton University.


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