By John Larson
Mayor Victoria Woodards discussed a number of serious topics with youth of the city during the Mayor’s Youth Commission meeting on March 16. The meeting took place at Asia Pacific Cultural Center. After a presentation by Thy Nguyen, it was time for a question and answer session with the mayor. She fielded questions from the youth while they had lunch.
The mayor apologized for missing the Commission’s last meeting, as she was ill. She said she is impressed by the progress made so far. “I am really proud of the work you have done and I am excited by what is to come.”
The youth asked the mayor a number of tough questions. She was asked if she read a recent editorial in The News Tribune written by Mike Jankanish, a history teacher at Wilson High School. Woodards said she had not read it, but was aware of the dialogue it has sparked regarding multi-cultural education.
Carla Santorno, superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools, said she had read it and expressed her opposition to the views expressed by the teacher. “I cannot fire him for what he wrote in the newspaper because of the First Amendment,” she declared. Santorno explained how the teacher could face action for violating school district policies, such as interactions with students on campus.
One student asked Woodards what she thought about the wall that President Trump seeks to build on the Mexican border. She mentioned her recent trip to Washington, D.C. for a National League of Cities meeting. While there, she met with officials from Immigration and Custom Enforcement and discussed her concerns about the Northwest Detention Center.
The mayor discussed ongoing efforts to fix potholes across the city. She told the audience that tax money approved by Tacoma voters has leveraged an additional $52 million in grants for street repairs. The efforts have added another four miles of bicycle lanes, she added.
Later there were discussions at the tables for the four committees that the Commission has formed. The members chose four policy goals on which to focus during the last meeting. The Justice and Safety Committee met with Police Chief Don Ramsdell and Greg Eisnaugle, principal at Remann Hall. The Outreach Committee met with Maria Lee, a community relations specialist with the city, and Information Technology Director Daniel Key. The Education, Arts and Culture Committee met with Santorno and Heather Conklin, chair of Tacoma Arts Commission. The Social and Environmental Health Committee met with Fire Chief Jim Duggan and Michael Mirra, executive director of Tacoma Housing Authority.
Recommendations that emerge from the work of the Commission will be discussed during the Tacoma City Council study session on March 26. It will begin at noon.