Monthly Archives: September 2011

5 Question Friday With TV Tacoma’s Amanda Westbrooke

I’ve been fairly busy finishing up my novel and dealing with some personal issues. I honestly didn’t have time to do a 5 Question Friday this week. Luckily, Luke Byram was able to help me out. Here’s Luke:

I first met Amanda when she taught drama at First Pres. She has been a long-time resident of Tacoma and an active member of Tacoma. She was the Education Director for Tacoma Little Theatre. She is co-host of TV Tacoma’s Cityline with Carol Mitchell. She attends many Tacoma events and is present at them, I’ve bumped into her at a couple events myself. Without further a due, I put 5 Questions up to her for 5 Question Friday, here are her responses.  

1. When did you start at TV Tacoma?

I started 6 years ago by accident. I was the Ed. Director for Tacoma Little Theatre and was scheduled to chat about our upcoming season. That morning our host was ill and the producer Phil Chang was going to cancel the show.I distinctly remembering saying to him that he couldn’t cancel…that I would never get my board president to come back with me and that this was so important. Phil calmly asked if I wanted to host the show. I thought about it and told him that I needed to go walk the hall and talk to my GOD in private for a bit and I would let him know. He said I have 5 minutes. I remembered in those 5 min that I have journaled 2 weeks earlier that I wanted to try TV and didn’t know how to go about it. It was then that I knew that I had to jump and do it…that I would sprout wings. The rest as we say is history!

2. Who has been your favorite guest on Cityline?

Well…all of them…Because they are passionate about Tacoma and love to serve. I have the pleasure and privilege of interviewing angels. Most of my guests have full time careers, families in addition to the project that they are currently promoting. Every single one of them has a ministry…I love them all and feel honored to sit next to them in all their brilliance.

3. What is your favorite Tacoma event?

Well…  it is a tie between Relay 4 life and Ethnic Fest. Yes I know…2 radically different events. Relay 4 life started in Tacoma and every year they surpass themselves in sponsorship, participation and courage. I leave Relay 4 life born again with a renewed sense of love, compassion and empathy for all the survivors, caregivers and those we lost to this dreaded disease.. Ethnic Fest has it all. A huge party with the best food, art ,music and people that Tacoma has to offer. It is a tapestry of diversity and harmony…it is Tacoma at its best.

4. What is your favorite place in Tacoma?

Wright Park. I fell in love with this park 15 years ago when I moved here. I would take my daughter to that park and we would spend the afternoon picnicking, reading and exploring every tree and swing. It is spectacular…I often imagine how if felt 100 years ago. I love how it has become a hub for our community. Don’t even get me started on the conservatory…it is mind blowing!

5. What are your plans for the future?

I would love to travel to Lesotho South Africa and spend some time with the children there teaching creativity, journalism etc,. I would love to stretch my wings on Network news…. For the most part however I measure my future one day at a time.I believe the following poem says it all!

My Symphony
“To live content with small means;
To seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion;
To be worthy , not respectable, and wealthy, not rich;
To study hard, think quietly,
Talk gently,
Act frankly;
To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart;
To bear all cheerfully,
Do all bravely,
Await occasions,
Hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.
 William Henry Channing (1810-1884)

You can catch CityLine at

I want to thank Amanda and Luke for taking the time and being part of 5 Question Friday.

As always, if you think you or someone you know wants to participate in 5 Question Friday, email me at

-Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With The Staff of Post Defiance

The Post Defiance Staff, left to right: Katy Evans, Robert Gale, Kate Albert Ward, Daniel Rahe, Alicia Wilkinson

I believe in quality content over quantity. I think more people show up when you actually put some thought, effort and originality into what you’re putting online. If that means you’re only posting things once a week or once a month instead of every day, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The people at the local online magazine Post Defiance feel the same way. Though they only recently started, they’re making a name for themselves as a source of quality content about Tacoma. So, for the first time, the participants of 5 Question Friday is more than one person. This week’s 5 Question Friday is the staff of  

1. What motivated you to start Post Defiance?

Katy has been working with the Tacoma art community in multiple ways through various organizations for years. Dan worked with Derek Young as co-editor of Exit133 for a while. The two of them, together with Kate Albert Ward, worked together on an internship program called Tacoma Arts in Review, a recurring feature on Exit133 which gave students and members of the community an opportunity to experience local art and produce thoughtful reviews. Through this effort, we began to see a certain gap in the way Tacoma art was covered in the media. City Arts, Tacoma Weekly and The Volcano have been doing an admirable job with certain aspects of arts journalism, but each had a certain niche that didn’t necessarily add up to a cohesive whole. Dan began a dialog with Robert Gale, a Tacoma musician and computer guru, and soon, ideas began to emerge about producing a community-based, eye-catching, holistic approach to cultural reporting. Alicia had been planning to start her own blog geared towards newcomers to Tacoma – something that might appeal to the kind of professional, culturally curious demographic. Our common sense of community brought us together and culminated in Post Defiance.

2. Why did you choose to make the magazine digital only?

The digital format provides a more accessible, affordable, responsive, and timely format, which in turn provides faster word-of-mouth. It was important to us from the outset to make this an amalgam of many various viewpoints, and the web was simply the best conduit for that.

3. What’s something you feel is missing from Post Defiance?

A lot, actually. Our meetings usually consist of animated brainstorming about all the various directions we’d like to go. Our ultimate vision is to provide a sophisticated commons for blossoming arts partnerships in the community. There are a lot of different aspects of Tacoma’s culture, and we don’t have all the writers we need to properly address some of those areas – but we are actively reaching out to find those voices.

4. What does Post Defiance have for non-Tacomans?

When we began to plan Post Defiance, we wanted to have a publication that would present Tacoma to outsiders in an appealing and approachable light – because it’s certainly not difficult to do that. It can be difficult to find information online about Tacoma unless you already know where to look, which makes it challenging to get a sense of what the City is. Our “Neighborhood Profiles” series addresses this problem by providing information relevant to someone who wants to understand Tacoma better. Our hope is that these profiles, paired with our wide range of archived articles, will serve to provide an informal “Guide to Tacoma.” The key to this is that we are passionate about Tacoma, but not so protective of its gems that we’d try to obscure them or devalue them.

5. What’s next for Post Defiance?

Expansion. We are working on attaining non-profit organization status. We are meeting new contributors literally every week. We’ve been lucky enough to build a platform from which people can express what they are passionate about. We have been so warmly embraced by the community, it’s hard to not feel propelled forward and upward. We will be working to grow internship programs at the universities in Tacoma, and will be seeking out ways we can serve cultural organizations by providing thoughtful coverage. We really want to make an impact on the way Tacoma talks about itself.

You can find Post Defiance at  I’d like to thank  Katy Evans, Robert Gale, Kate Albert Ward, Daniel Rahe and Alicia Wilkinson for participating in this week’s 5 Question Friday. If you or anyone you know is interested in participating in a future 5 Question Friday, email me at .

–          Jack Cameron

10th Tacoma Homicide of 2011 – Devondre D. Davis

Devondre D. Davis

At some point on Wednesday, September 7th, 16-year-old Devondre D. Davis went to the apartment of 20-year-old Anthony Clark on Tacoma’s East Side. Clark has given various accounts of why Devondre was there and what happened what he got there. What is known is that sometime after Devondre arrived he was  shot in the back of the head likely while near the bedroom closet.

Devondre’s body was found in a garbage bin in the 500 block of East 36th Street. Neighbors say Clark asked him if he could dispose of a body in the garbage bin. They then alerted members of the Tacoma Police Department’s Anti-Gang task force who were nearby on an unrelated call.

This tenth Tacoma homicide of 2011 is such a senseless waste of life that I actually have trouble writing about it. This is the second teenager murdered in Tacoma in the last two weeks. Here’s hoping this streak stops now.

Tacoma’s East Side has had its share of violence. Like the rest of Tacoma, it has improved over the years. Much like Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, the East Side is held together by proud citizens who do not accept that this sort of violence has to be a part of their neighborhood.

We may never know the reason Devondre was shot and killed. In many ways, it doesn’t matter why. There isn’t a reason that is justifiable for what happened to him. It is a crime and a tragedy.

Devondre may be gone, but he is remembered. A Facebook Page has been posted in his memory. You can find it here:

You can also post comments below if you like. My thoughts go out to Devondre’s friends and family.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With News Tribune Columnist Kathleen Merryman

Recent 5 Question Friday participant Luke Byram enjoyed doing 5 Question Friday so much, he asked if he could try his hand at being the questioner. For his first 5 Question Friday, he’s talking to News Tribune columnist Kathleen Merryman. So here are Luke’s questions and Kathleen’s answers.  

1. What is your favorite column you have written?

You know, Luke, I don’t have one. It¹s just a privilege to be allowed to tell the stories of the community I love.

2. What is your favorite column, who’s it written by?

Dave Barry won the Pulitzer for commentary. I wish he still wrote a weekly column. Bloviating is easy. Comedy is hard. Using it to explore important issues without alienating half the readers is genius.

3. What community activities are you involved in?

There are plenty of people out there who are much smarter than I am, and they are developing the ideas behind the big, positive changes in Tacoma. Some of those ideas need muscle, and that’s where my husband and I jump in. Remember the old ‘Give 5’ campaign that challenged all of us to give five hours of volunteer work a week and 5 percent of our income to non-profits? It launched when our daughter was in pre-school, and at the time we thought it was impossible.

Through our daughter’s school years, it got easier. We helped on auctions, special events and at the school store. We’ve both served on boards, but agree that most anyone is better at that than we are.

Groups ask me to speak at events, which, as a shy person, is a huge stretch. The advantage is that I get to learn about groups like CASA  and University Place volunteers, who are doing the work that is transforming this community for the better.

Community groups let me jump in on work parties, pulling ivy, caroling and picketing with First Creek Neighbors, digging and hauling blackberries at McKinley Park, picking up trash on community cleanups in Summit and the Lincoln District, painting over tagging with Dome Top Neighborhood Alliance and Lincoln Lawgs. It’s always a blast.

We¹ve volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and Emergency Food Network (including Plant-A-Row with our garden this summer) and will again.

This summer, we’re on our second house with Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful. That¹s been pretty much all weekend, every weekend except two, since June. It¹s also been a lot of fun, working with delightful people. One of my favorites is Phu Bui, 17, a student at SOTA. His neighbor, the amazing Edwina Magrum, suggested he letter in volunteerism with United Way, and he’s going for it big-time.

When you’re a reporter or columnist, you never know whether you’re doing the community any good. When you paint a house and clean up a yard for a senior or disabled person, you know you’re making one person’s life easier. You’re also making a neighborhood prettier, which fights crime and supports property values. Also, it’s a fabulous weight loss program.

4. How has the newspaper industry changed, what is most startling to you?

My first journalism job was as the Meeteetse Page correspondent for the Cody Enterprise in Wyoming in 1972. I made $10 a week, shot my own photos with real film and wrote my stories on a manual typewriter in a log cabin. And not one of those nice log cabins. It was a drafty settler’s cabin that has since fallen down. No kidding.

When I landed a job as obit writer at The Billings Gazette in Montana, one of my jobs was rolling the ticker tape that was used to transmit copy. Computers have changed everything. Information is much more readily available, as is misinformation. The process of writing and editing is streamlined. Reader feedback is virtually instantaneous.

We network with blogs and Facebook, and have a broader and more immediate connection to the community.

 Newspapers have been quick to adopt new technology, and are figuring out how to make money on new business models. That’s been a bumpy ride, what with furloughs, freezes, layoffs and buyouts.

Our staff is much smaller than it once was, but the people I work with are far more productive on more platforms than we were in olden times.

5. How has Tacoma changed over the years?

For the better, and from the bottom up. When I came to what was then The Tacoma News Tribune 28 years ago from Spokane, a friend asked why I¹d want to live in the official state armpit. Um, a full-time job?

Back then, Pacific Avenue was lined with strip clubs. Gangs ran the Hilltop and the East Side. Salishan was a dangerous dump.

Union Station, the History Museum and UWT put money and confidence back in the downtown.

Hilltop Action Coalition members took their stand on crime, followed by Safe Streets. They demanded, and earned, more effective policing. These are heroes like Sally Peterson, Skip Young and Jeannie Peterson who made walk-about rounds, took photos of gang and drug  knuckleheads at work, recorded the license plates at crime houses and, most importantly, bought their homes and stabilized their neighborhoods.

The city-wide honor roll is pretty long now: Dan Fear, Edwina Magrum, Andy Mordhorst, the Scheidt family, the Grotes, Frank Blair, Darren Pen, Moni Hoy, the Vignecs, Rose Perrino, Laura Rodriguez, Bob McCutchan, David Whited (keep going, and add your name here.)

Leaders at the ground level are moving through neighborhood councils onto the city council and the school board. That keeps the pressure on officials to invest in all parts of town.

We are a smart city, smart enough to know that community gardens fight crime, and taste yummy.

We are a connected city, using social media for everything from crime watches to work party announcements.

We are a city with a sense of humor and a scrappy soul. I can’t see that changing.

Thanks both to Luke Byram and Kathleen Merryman for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. If you or someone you know is interested in taking part in 5 Question Friday, email me at

Tacoma Stories…Behind Bars

I was recently contacted by someone named Chris Salcedo. He’s heading up a new website for people who have been incarcerated in the Pierce County Jail. And he needs your help. – Jack

Here’s Chris:

If you ask somebody in the Pierce County Jail whether they are guilty or innocent you are likely to get only one answer. If you ask those same inmates how to avoid trouble behind bars you will also get one answer (and this one will be the truth!): “Mind your own business!”

Seriously though, going to jail is a fact of life for a lot of people. Some are criminals, others made pretty minor bad decision and yet others are innocent of the charges they are being held on. A new website dedicated to sharing real information about the Pierce County Jail shares interviews from people who have done time in the jail.

We are currently looking for more stories to improve the quality and quantity of information available on the site. The site is helpful to those headed to jail, those with a loved one behind bars or people who just want to know what life in the big house is really like.

One of the main purposes of the site is to debunk a lot of myths propagated by the media about jail life. Most people don’t realize, for instance, that violence is pretty rare in county jails (it is much more common in prison). Did you realize that walking 56 laps in the day room is equivalent to walking a mile? If you like eating breakfast at 4:30 AM you will be right at home in the Pierce County Jail.

If you have been in the jail or know somebody who has head over to the site and submit your story (the link is on the top right-hand side of the site). Together we can make this an invaluable resource for people living in Tacoma!

5 Question Friday With Tacoma Teacher Delonna Halliday

When I was in the third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Hixon told me I should ‘write more.’  I thought she meant that the assignment I turned in wasn’t long enough. What she meant was she liked my writing. She introduced me to the concept of writing because I wanted to rather than for an assignment. Teachers are among the most important people on the planet. A good teacher can change a kid’s life.

In Tacoma, teachers are currently working without a contract. They voted 77.2% to strike. They needed 80% to approve the strike. In a little under two weeks, they vote again. Personally, the idea that your average reality show contestant makes more money than your average teacher bothers me. I could go on about my feelings on teachers and what we should and shouldn’t do for them. But I thought maybe instead, it might be a good idea to simply ask a Tacoma Teacher.

Delonna Halliday is a teacher at Grant Elementary School. My son went there a few years ago. (Full disclosure: I’ve known Delonna for twenty years and she’s a good friend.)  This week I asked her if she’d take time out of what is probably the busiest part of her year and participate in 5 Question Friday. I’m glad she was able to do so. Okay, students, here’s Mrs. Halliday.

1. What’s your teaching background?

I decided to teach after spending a year in China teaching in a public high school. I discovered that I loved teaching and that I might actually have a knack for it. I came back to the US, earned my Master’s and teaching cert and started at Grant a little over 6 years ago. Since, I earned National Board Certification in Visual Arts.

If you ask my mom, she’d mention that I’m a 4th generation teacher. I grew up in a house that valued education in many different forms. I was always teaching my brothers all sorts of random things. I taught one of my brothers all the parts of their hand when they were in first grade. I’m not sure what the teacher did when he came in with that information. Of course, I also convinced that same brother he was made out of spare parts.

2. What information did you use to determine your vote?

This is a sticky issue in so many ways for me. First, I don’t like the idea of striking. I think it is unfair to place the burden these negotiations on the students. On the other hand, I voted for my union leadership and know enough of the people on the bargaining team to believe them.
My concern is the proposed evaluation system. I’m interested in reforming the current seniority-based system with something with more criteria. I want the criteria to be measurable and objective. The District’s proposal is very subjective. One of the criteria is based on positive family communications. How would they determine that? I know I have a lot of family support from my students’ families, and I wonder if there are phone calls I don’t know of that came to the principal at some point.
I just want facts. Instead, I feel like I have to wade through propaganda from both sides. I don’t want pathos, I want facts.

3. What do you think is the biggest challenge of teaching in public schools these days?
The biggest challenge? Oh dear, there are so many challenges.
I happen to like a good challenge.

I’ll give you my answer for today, and if you ask me tomorrow, I will most likely have a different answer.
There is so much pressure to get those high test scores. Meanwhile, I have students in 4th grade who read at 2nd grade level. That means they can’t read the math book. Let’s say I have a student who needs help in math. In our LAP program (with a fabulous teacher), students cannot be pulled during our math time nor reading (because we can’t interrupt our 90-minute reading block), so that means they will miss Science, Art, Social Studies or Writing. What do I have that student miss? Do I keep them in recess (my planning time) to make up the time? I want those kids out playing and making those important social discoveries.
How do I do what is right for these kids?

It would be so easy to say that the answer is more money. Money is objective and identifiable. People expect a return on investment. You can follow and trace money. I’m not sure it is so simple. There are plenty of examples of money being tossed onto an educational problem only to have it back-fire.


4. What is the biggest misconception people have about teachers?

That all we teach is math, science, reading, social studies and writing (or other curricular areas). I teach students how to create strong friendship and how to get out of bad friendships. I teach them to say “Thank you” and push in their chairs. I teach them to greet people with a polite handshake and smile. I teach them to compliment each other. There is the unwritten curriculum of responsibility and that deep love of learning. I want my students to be as passionate and as thirsty for knowledge as I am. I need time in my day to do that, and I need encouragement from families to continue.

If you want another misconception: I do not have an easy schedule. I work from 8am and rarely leave school before 5pm. I work at home after my kids are in bed until about 10pm most nights. I easily spend an extra 3 hours a day outside of my contract hours. When invited by families, I attend football games, religious services, soccer games and tons of school events because I want to encourage my students to be well-rounded and model life-long learning. Those summers? I direct a kids camp and teach classes. I also spend a few weeks packing and unpacking my room. Then, there are files to read on my students so I can prepare for the next year. Sure, I can stop doing those things, but those are things that help enable me to relate to my students and be a more effective teacher for them.


5. What can people do to help teachers educate children?

Be the parent your child wants you to be. You are the parent, not their friend. They have chosen their friends: they get you as a parent. It isn’t easy being a parent and there are resources out there if you want ideas. Choose your battles wisely and be consistent. The expectations you set at home continue into the type of respect we will get at school. I can spend energy on managing students behavior and/or I can spend it on fun creative lessons for the entire class. Some days, I can’t do both as well as I wish.

Read to them. After dinner sit at the table and everyone work until all the homework and reading is done for the night. Show them you think their education is important. Invest time into demonstrating this to them.

Let them learn in a caring environment. The person holding the pencil is doing the learning. Learn these lines, “Suzy, I am more than happy to help you work on your assignment. I help kids who are polite to me.” OK, not those exact lines because that might feel too fake, but help them only when you are not in the middle of a power struggle. You want to cultivate a love of learning. They’ll figure out the associative property of addition at some point if you can keep learning a positive experience.

Tell your teachers you appreciate them. You are busy, and teachers understand that. A simple note from the student and the family goes a long way. Again, this models the value of education to the student. I keep a notebook of my favorites.

You might not agree with everything the teacher does, but talking bad about them only creates divisiveness. If you have an issue with an adult, talk to the adult and leave the student out of it.

I could go on this for hours. I send home a booklet for families in my class full of ideas. I’ve probably covered enough screen space here.


I want to thank Delonna Halliday for taking the time and being part of 5 Question Friday.

As always, if you think you or someone you know would want to participate in 5 Question Friday, email me at

-Jack Cameron