5 Question Friday With Tacoma City Councilman Justin Camarata

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Photo by Silong Chhun

Earlier this year City Councilman Robert Thoms was deployed to Afghanistan as part of his commitment to the National Guard. Rather than have an election for a post that would only be necessary for a few months, the city asked for applicants and appointed one from the list of applicants. I was one of those applicants, but the city rightly chose Justin Camarata to fill that spot. When I saw Justin’s name on the list of potential appointees, his name along with a couple of others were people I honestly felt would do a better job than myself.

As Justin winds up his short tenure as councilman, I thought it might be good to have him do a 5 Question Friday and let us know what he thought of the experience. Here’s Justin:

1. Why did you choose to throw your hat into the ring to be a City Councilman?

I won’t lie – I’ve been interested in doing this for a long time. I love this city, I love policy and politics, I love working with a broad range of people, and I felt I had things to contribute and the ability to get into the weeds when necessary. It all happened pretty fast, but the timing was right and I think there was excitement over what we could get done with my being there.


2. What do you wish you knew before you began serving as a City Councilman?

The biggest one would be that if something seems like an obvious or easy policy fix from the outside, there’s a 95% chance it isn’t. There are often studies to commission, individual councilmember concerns to address, other governmental jurisdictions or City departments that need to (or want to) weigh in, and generally you can’t just wave something into or out of existence. I sort of knew and expected this to a degree, but seeing things from this perspective has been really eye opening and I think I’ll always view government a little differently as a result.
3. What are some of the highlights of your time on the council?
The City’s relationship with the Puyallup Tribe has been improving this year–getting to know their tribal council, being a guest at events they’ve hosted, and cosponsoring the resolution to place their flag in Council chambers has been something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. There are still big things to work through with them but given how strained it’s often been in the past, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Tacoma history has been happening and I’m genuinely happy to get to be part of that.

Working on housing issues has been frustrating at times, especially as the market has absolutely exploded over the past year or two, but knowing we’re doing things that will help literally tens of thousands of people keep a roof over their heads is gratifying. Be on the lookout for a big renters rights ordinance very soon, in addition to a continued focus on adding a lot more affordable housing inventory.

Voting to appoint the first woman to be the new Director of Tacoma Public Utilities, during the first time the Council got to vote on that appointment, was pretty cool. Jackie Flowers is incredibly talented and accomplished, including in municipal broadband (we need that for Click), and she’s going to do an amazing job in a role that’s really critical for the overall quality of life in Tacoma.

Beyond all of this, I’ve also been on a tour of organizations and events throughout the city. I’ve met with businesses, labor unions, political groups, neighborhood councils, faith organizations, business districts and associations, and activist groups and gone to dozens of events. It’s been a blast and I’ve met so many great people who deeply love and care about Tacoma in their own ways and want to help it succeed. That’s absolutely been a highlight.

4. What’s something many people don’t know about the City Council?

Six of the nine of us are in our early 40s or younger, and six of the nine of us (though not the same six of the nine) are transplants to Tacoma from other places. I personally think that’s really great, because Tacoma as a city is likewise full of people who wound up here for some reason or another and chose to stay.

Also, this Council is very accessible. If you want a meeting with any of us, or with Mayor Woodards, you can probably get one. One of the things I love about local government in a city like ours is that you can get involved, meet key people, and have a real impact on things in a way you can’t at the national level. I think people often assume their local leaders are out of touch and inaccessible, but that is not the case at all. You’ll see us in many of the same places you go to yourself and we’re generally always happy to talk.

5. What are your post-City Councilman plans?

I’m still figuring that out. I’m definitely not going anywhere, and I’m going to keep working on things just like I was before I joined Council, whatever form that takes. Short term, I’ve got a stack of books I want to read and my wife and kids wouldn’t mind a vacation.

Thanks to Justin for serving as City Councilman and taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. If you or someone you know would like to join me for a 5 Question Friday drop me a line at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

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Ninth Tacoma Homicide of 2018: Josh Youell

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According to charging papers, Josh Youell was looking for a man he claimed owed him money.  They’d talked on the phone earlier and it seemed as though the man was disrespecting Josh. Josh wanted to talk face to face. He and some others went looking for the man in an SUV. They found him near the 4400 block of Portland Avenue. It was 8pm on July 24th. It’d been a hot day. Though there were at least five other people in the SUV ranging in ages from 16-30, Josh was the only one to step out initially. Josh and the man got into a scuffle. The scuffle ended with Josh having been stabbed repeatedly. Three people in the SUV stepped out. Two had guns and shot the man who stabbed Josh as he ran away. They then drove Josh to Allenmore Hospital where they helped him get inside. Josh later died from his stab wounds during surgery becoming the ninth Tacoma homicide victim this year.

It isn’t known how much money the man owed Josh, but it certainly was not worth both of their lives. It is often not until horrific tragedy has struck that we see how minor our differences really are. It helps to remember that everyone you know has sides you may not see. I doubt the man who stabbed Josh knew that Josh had a sister who was also his best friend. I doubt that the people who shot the man who stabbed Josh knew he had a three year old daughter who had already lost her mother. And I would bet anything that given the option everyone involved would take back everything that happened.

This year continues to be a year in which the homicide rate in Tacoma is higher than normal. We’ve had literally twice as many homicides as we did at this time last year. This means more grieving family and friends and the loss of more Tacomans.

As always the comments section is reserved for friends and family of Josh who want to share memories or thoughts about him. All comments are moderated and approved before they are posted.

– Jack Cameron

Eighth Tacoma Homicide of 2018: Francisco Beiza

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It was 8pm on Tuesday July 24th in the 4400 block of Portland Avenue. 30-year-old Francisco Beiza was walking down the street. Charging papers say that he had talked on the phone earlier with a 23-year-old man who claimed Francisco owed him money. The phone conversation had not gone well. Now the 23-year-old man showed up in an SUV with a group of others ranging in ages from 16-30. The man got out of the vehicle. The man and Francisco got into a scuffle. The scuffle ended with the man being stabbed. Three individuals then got out of the SUV. Two had guns. Francisco ran.

Inside the nearby Eastside Community Church they were having a bible study. The gunfire they heard was so loud that they initially thought it was in the building. Francisco Beiza died on the scene from gunshot wounds. Police found twenty-two 9mm shell casings and a knife near his body. Francisco was the eighth Tacoma homicide this year.

The 23-year-old man was taken to Allenmore Hospital by the individuals in the SUV. He later died during surgery. Six individuals were arrested in connection with the death of Francisco Beiza.

Francisco had a three-year-old daughter who lost her mother in 2015. I was unable to find much else about Francisco online, but here is what I know from covering all types of homicides in Tacoma for the last eleven years. There are people who knew and loved Francisco. There are people who will never be the same because of his murder. He will be missed. And not soon forgotten by those who care. Any killing is a tragedy and sometimes that tragedy hits home.

My thoughts go out to all of the friends and family involved in this. It’s not easy for anyone. If any friends or family have a photo of Francisco they’d like to send for this article, please send it to jackcameronis@gmail.com.

As always the comments section is reserved for friends and family of Francisco who want to share memories or thoughts about him. All comments are moderated and approved before they are posted.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Ken Thoburn From Wingman Brewers

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It has been a full year since I last did a 5 Question Friday. College, working on my novel, and family obligations have made it difficult to focus on this website I care so much about that doesn’t pay me. 

I figured what better way for 5 Question Friday to return than to go back to the first guy I asked five questions to. Ken Thoburn from Wingman Brewers is back for an unprecedented third time. The first time I talked to Ken his brewery was just a couple of rooms in a small building on Fawcett Avenue and they hadn’t even put out a beer yet. Later when I talked to him in 2012, they were making their move downtown. 

Let’s see what’s going on with Ken and his brewery these days. Here’s Ken:

1. The last time you did a 5 Question Friday was 2012, you were just about to move things downtown, what’s been going on for Wingman Brewers since then?

Wow seems so long ago. We moved our little brewery to Puyallup Ave in 2012, got a year of good credit under our belts and went I to serious debt to try and grow our business. We learned a lot of being small business owners between 2012 and now and are continuing to try and work our way into being a business than can support ourselves, our families, our workers, their families and our community. We want to keep growing into the kind of company that people in Tacoma are proud of. we think despite our limited experience and funds that were getting there.

2. How has your personal life changed since then?

I got a dog. He’s fantastic. My wife and I bought a house since she has a great bread winning job as a nurse. I try and take at least one day off per week now. Some days are great, some days suck, some months or years have been great and others have been full of struggle and suffering. I think struggle is something that will always follow me or maybe I’ll always follow it. I think personally I’ve been spending a lot of energy trying to find the good in what looks to be awful or frustrating. I just constantly try and remind myself that I dont know everything and that there’s something to be learned from even the people who I don’t agree with.

3. What’s something about the brewing industry that would surprise most people?

It’s hard. We don’t just have fun and drink beer all day. The work isn’t even the hard part. Despite there not being a lot of old brewers since it is a physically demanding job, it’s also an industry that isn’t flush with cash. There’s a million taxes to pay, as a small brewer I have little ability to take advantage of economy of scale and it costs a lot to get that beer from my brewhouse to your refrigerator. The margins are small. As the industry is consolidating only those with lots of money or lots of passion are surviving.

4. In the spirit of community so common with brewing, what’s a local beer that you like not made by Wingman?

There are so many. It would feel like a betrayal of everyone who I didn’t mention to only mention one or two. If people are looking for great local beer I would recommend checking out southsoundcraftcrawl.com

5. What’s next for you and Wingman Brewers? We’re partnering with a new brewery to build a shared production facility. Together we can afford to build something more environmentally friendly and economically friendly than we could separately. We should be able to make more beer, and hopefully over time have a comfortable business where we can express our creativity and exercise our love for our community.

I’d like to thank Ken Thoburn and Wingman Brewers for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday and congratulate them on their success. (Also I’m a personal fan of their Ace IPA.)

If you think you or someone you know might make a good 5 Question Friday participant, let me know at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

– Jack Cameron

Seventh Tacoma Homicide of 2018: Robert Doss II

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Around 10:30pm on July 18th Tacoma Police received a tip about three young men in an SUV confronting people about their gang affiliation. About twenty minutes later 24-year-old Robert Doss II and a 20-year-old woman had parked near the intersection of South 14th and L Street in a 2004 Ford Explorer. They were eating when the SUV pulled up. The man in the passenger seat of the SUV asked them where they were from. Robert told them he was from Hilltop. The driver pulled the SUV slightly forward. The man in the backseat, a hooded sweatshirt over his face opened fire and drove away.

Robert was hit in the chest. His female companion was hit in the hand. She managed to drive to the nearby St. Joseph’s Medical Center where Robert was pronounced dead and she was given medical treatment.

The three men were found six days later in a house in Graham and have been arrested for their part in Robert’s murder. A surveillance camera at the East Side convenience store helped identify the driver. The driver admitted that they were looking for rival gang members to attack in retaliation for a shooting in May. The driver claimed that Robert was responsible, but there’s no evidence that Doss was in a gang much less responsible for any violence whatsoever.

This is the seventh Tacoma homicide this year. Typically in the city of Tacoma we have about one homicide a month. But we’ve had three in the last week. It’s worth noting though that though this shooting occurred on Hilltop this is only the second homicide in the past year to take place in that neighborhood. This is a marked difference from the violent days of the 1990s.

When violent crime increases it’s easy for the human experience to be lost in the statistics and the law. Of course this is impossible if a loved one is the victim of a homicide. Robert was a security guard at a downtown fast food restaurant. He was a good guy with a great smile. And he will be missed by those who knew and loved him in a way that most media will ignore and I will fail to do justice to.

As always, the comment section is reserved for those who knew Robert who might want to share thoughts or memories of him. Comments are moderated and approved before they are posted.

– Jack Cameron

Sixth Tacoma Homicide of 2018: Robert ‘Big Dave’ Crall

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It was just after 5:00am on Thursday March 15th when 54-year-old Robert ‘Big Dave’ Crall took his last cab fare near the 5800 block of South Montgomery. The 19-year-old man got in the cab. They made it about a quarter mile. The 19-year-old pulled a bandana over his face and tried to rob Big Dave. The confrontation ended with Big Dave shot in the chest and the 19-year-old on the run. The shooter would be arrested later that day and implicated in a couple of home invasions and at least one other robbery.

As Robert ‘Big Dave’ Crall lay dying outside his cab with a chest wound, a nearby neighbor held his hand. He becomes the sixth Tacoma homicide this year. Six homicides by March is nearly double our typical homicide rate. It is difficult to find a cause for this sudden uptick in violence in the city. It’s also worth noting that the amount of homicides is not a very good measure of such things as there are aggravated assaults that are just as violent and amount to attempted homicides.

Family and friends say that Robert ‘Big Dave’ Crall was incredibly friendly and generous. He had a 27-year-old son and an ex-wife who he was good friends with. He was funny.  He’d been driving a cab for two years. That particular morning they had asked him to skip work because he was tired, but he went out to do the job like so many of us do.

Once again I have to apologize for the delay in getting this article written. It has been four months since Big Dave’s death. I am sure friends and family still feel like it was yesterday. It’s difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t lost anyone close what it means when there’s a hole in your life where there used to be a smiling person you loved. It’s not just something that happened. It’s something that happens every day when you look at the world and don’t see them in it.

As always the comments section is reserved for those who knew and loved Big Dave. Comments are moderated and have to be approved by me before they appear. By all accounts Big Dave was one of those people who made Tacoma what it is and the city is a little less having lost him.

– Jack Cameron

Fifth Tacoma Homicide of 2018 Tyler Zimmerman

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It’s was almost 2am on Wednesday, February 21st. 27-year-old Tyler Zimmerman was at a friend’s house in the 6110 block of South Fawcett. They decided to purchase some magic mushrooms and invited a dealer over. The 26-year-old dealer showed up with a friend. Tyler handed over $300. The dealer pulled out the mushrooms, but when Tyler saw them he decided they weren’t worth the money and asked for the money back. The dealer refused. A fight ensued. The fight spilled into the yard. At one point the dealer pulled a knife and stabbed Tyler in the back.

“Ow, what did you hit me with? What did you hit me with?” Tyler said before collapsing to the ground. After police arrived, Tyler was transported to the hospital where he later died.

The drug dealer and the drug dealer’s friend were both arrested. This is the fifth Tacoma homicide this year. This is a sharp increase in homicides compared to last year.

Tyler was the oldest of five children and had a seven-year-old daughter. He worked at a company that set up offices. In his off time he liked working on cars. He also liked gardening. He grew roses in his mother’s yard.

There are some who would argue that anyone involved in illegal drugs should not find it unexpected when things turn violent or fatal, but those people lack empathy, compassion, or awareness. Odds are that those same people have close friends and relatives who engage in such behavior and would feel very differently if the victim were one of their own.

Every death matters. Every killing is a loss. Right now there is a seven-year-old little girl who will grow up without her father because another man chose to end her father’s life over $300.

As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Tyler to share memories or thoughts of him. All comments are monitored and approved by me.

I would also like to take this moment to apologize to Tyler’s friends and family for the delay in getting this article written. I have been writing about Tacoma homicides for over a decade. This sort of writing and research takes a toll. I had to give myself some time away and as this is a one-man website, that meant a delay in getting this done. Tyler is not forgotten.

  • Jack Cameron