Tacoma Needs an Focus on Education, Not a Gentrification

As citizens of Tacoma we have a sense of pride: we love our home in the South Sound. Blue-collar work—work­ing in factories, being industrious—is what we grew up with, it is what we know. As we exit the year 2015, the blue-collar way of life that was once the only way here, simply isn’t working as well anymore.

For the record, I was born in 1993, so I am by no means qualified to speak on the “history” of my beloved city. But what I can speak on is what I am seeing today—something that I believe is very unsettling, but in some ways, much needed.

Gentrification—the process of re­newal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents—is the way to improve Tacoma. Sure…

While I do think that building our economy through enhancing the capi­talist state in the South Sound, I don’t believe that happiness and a truly hu­mane livelihood can be established through “booting” low-income families in favor of wealthy corporations.

That just seems selfish.

“The danger in moving so fast to improve a city is a lot like plastic sur­gery,” says L.D. Kirshenbaum of the Seattle Times, “the wrinkles and prob­lems might have vanished, but the result is unnatural and irreversible, and ulti­mately, somewhat ghastly.” By ushering out the poor and not worrying about where the families end up, officials are essentially creating a new problem.

Instead of focusing on (solely) building a booming economic struc­ture, Tacoma officials should place more emphasis on building a better future in Tacoma through education.

The importance of equal opportu­nity, higher level—college—education seems to be placed on the backburner of possible progressive solutions. Busi­ness closures, the four tragic murders in Hilltop (as an example), all of which fell within two weeks of each other, appear frequently in news headlines.

While officials are all for pointing out the issues poverty brings, they don’t do much to make it easier for families in need.

This “revitalization” of the city will bring new, and much needed business to the South Sound, but simply con­structing the buildings is not enough to build Tacoma back up. Equal op­portunity of college education could be so vital for Tacomans because when new businesses are founded, local residents will have the proper creden­tials to obtain employment.

UW Tacoma’s late Chancellor, Deb­ra Friedman, who died of cancer in January 2014, launched Pathways to Promise and the Tacoma Whole Child Initiative, which partners with local Tacoma/Puyallup school districts to foster a college bound environment in K-12 schooling.

In those two plans, students who obtain a 2.7 grade point average and score at least 480 on each section of the SAT are guaranteed admission to UW Tacoma.

Creating a shift in the place where they survive is what’s currently going on. Taking time and being considerate of citizens’ needs should be city officials’ priority. Focusing on building the city up by maintaining a supportive com­munity would be most effective for Tacoma families.

Congress has cut college education funding dramatically over the past 25 years and the classroom is seemingly run more like one of the big-time cor­porations Tacoma officials seek to bring to the city. University presidents have increasingly made more money (Ana Mari Cauce, the new UW president, makes $910,000 a year).

Continuing to cut educational fund­ing is not the answer. Nor is gentrifica­tion. State assisted grants are. Paying a little bit more on your taxes to support the future of America is. Caring about your neighbor—metaphorically—is what makes the difference in revital­izing a town.

While there is a lot of work to be accomplished on this topic, I believe a better look into the educational in­frastructure would be extremely valu­able in the conversation surrounding Tacoma’s future.