Let’s Talk About Local Neighborhood Issues

Join me at 6 pm Thursday for my next “Any Question” online gathering. This month, let’s talk about local issues! What’s up in your neighborhood? Click here to RSVP and click here for the zoom link.

Local neighborhood issues really get people worked up on social media nowadays, and it’s understandable and Facebook groups make it easy to share concerns affecting everyday life. Here in my home town of Puyallup, it’s always seemed like a tight community to me. We are hard working people, and when unfortunate things happen, people talk to each other about it because we feel like family. We want to be there for each other even when we disagree. Bottom line is we really care about our town and the people in it.

Crime & Safety

When a big crime happens it really affects the community and people talk. When the news stations come in from Seattle and Tacoma to report on these crimes, it’s a common occurrence to hear, “Hey, I know that guy” or “I always go by where that happened.” Or when somebody just hits another person’s mailbox, people we are posting about it to see if someone recognizes a car or got a pic of the license plate.

Car thefts and break-ins are pretty huge nowadays, and the community reacts as it should. In many cases, people use their vehicles for work, so when tools and stereos and other valuable items get taken, it’s a terrible thing because things aren’t cheap and people have to make a living.

The recent increase in crime makes the community feel unsafe, and when victims spend unnecessary amounts of time and money recovering from incidents, it’s draining. We seem to be living in desperate times again, people are getting depressed about it, and those are dangerous combinations. People are overwhelmed by life, and in turn, end up making bad choices so people on the other end of that become victimized, too. There isn’t a whole lot of compassion and empathy going on either. People are just upset.

Homelessness & Cost of Living

Homelessness is a huge huge problem here and probably everywhere. There are a lot of encampments throughout our county. It is a sad situation, and people with houses see the homeless as an inconvenience and get disgusted. We have to remember that being homeless in Washington is tough because the elements here are terrible.

Everyone knows there are a lot of reasons people become homeless. A big one is the high cost of living around here. With low salaries and high prices it’s gets tough. There are so many homeless people, and not enough resources to help. The way the government has handled it is an obvious failure. They clear out the camps and then the homeless people just make a camp elsewhere and the cycle continues. If I it weren’t for my family and the social safety net set up to support my physical disabilities, I could’ve been homeless pitching a tent somewhere or worse.

It was already getting tougher and tougher for people on fixed incomes and working by the hour, and then gas prices were raised, just adding more stress to the average citizen. How do you expect people to manage while coming out of pandemic at the same time? It’s just hard all around. Unless we figure something out that works for everyone, we are going to see more homeless people, more depressed people and more struggling people.

Congested Roads & Walkable Streets

A lot of people complain about our horrible traffic, because it is horrible. They also complain a lot about speeding on neighborhood streets, and that really hits home for me as a pedestrian. I know people are trying to avoid backups on the main roads and trying to get to work, home, appointments etc. but we have steep hills with curves and driveways everywhere and it’s just dangerous. A problem I face all the time is when drivers make erratic turns and don’t pay attention to who or what is on the side of their car, especially near the freeways where drivers speed down off-ramps to get into town.

Sidewalks and crosswalks are really important for a neighborhood feel, especially to get people out of cars, exercising and talking to each other. Sidewalks and crosswalks are also critical so people who don’t drive cars can get around safely, especially where there’s a lot of traffic. I can show you every old sidewalk that’s been here for decades, rotting due to the elements and needing to be replaced.

Our county seat of Tacoma is even worse. Just last month I had to drive my wheelchair into traffic to go around buckling spots in the sidewalk that my chair couldn’t handle. I know it takes tax money, but there should be an expedited schedule for when sidewalks should get replaced. Or back in my neighborhood – it was built before sidewalks were required, and they are needed, but I’ve been lucky that there aren’t any through-streets so not much traffic compared to other neighborhoods.

Accessibility & Discrimination

I think there are a lot of things in the Puyallup area that show significant improvement as far as accessibility and discrimination are concerned. However, it can be better. For instance, for the disabled community, we need to have more ramps, and automatic doors to businesses. Some businesses follow the existing regulations and some don’t. One business in town where my family likes go is very popular and a nice place to eat. They have two staircases and one elevator that has been there for years and years. That elevator is old and sometimes does not work. I have been stuck in it and told staff about it but they just don’t take me seriously.

Another bar downtown where I used to go has a step into it and I told them to please take care of it since it’s a violation of ADA regulations. I don’t know if anybody has had similar issues but it is hard for me to speak up very much because people start thinking “there’s Matt trying to cause problems again.” I really would love to be a part of the process of change, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to say something. I have lived here my whole life so I care about the safety of my community. Granted a lot of the buildings are old and it costs a lot to improve, but a little ramp won’t hurt, and replacing an elevator will only make it more safe and attractive.

I can’t speak for what people who experience discrimination based on things like race and sex go through in our town, but the friend who is helping write this blog post happens to be Black so I asked him what things are like nowadays in town after the George Floyd era. Here’s what he said:

“Living in Puyallup as a Black teen has been quite the experience. When I first got enrolled in school coming from Parkland I immediately noticed a shocking difference. My old high school in Parkland was full of diversity and culture: people took pride in who they were.

Compare that to my school in Puyallup where the social norm was for everybody to be the same, and shunning out unique personalities, cultures and ideologies. Speaking to other BIPOC people in Puyallup, it’s the same story. We feel left out, we feel silenced, we feel excluded. It feels like the community does not have our back and it shows in some of the things that have happened.

However, new leaders are speaking up, like having the City of Puyallup and School Board recognize Black History Month despite it being almost 100 years overdue. We also saw the first ever Juneteenth celebration in Puyallup last year and the first community Black History Month celebration this year. Things are improving, but ‘will it stick’ is the true question.” – Malachi Fournillier

What do you think about your neighborhood?

There are a lot of other issues we’re facing right now, but we’re also lucky to have what we do in our town. Parks for one, and many of them are even accessible. I mean, just compare our life to what’s happening in Ukraine or in developing countries. Whether you are feeling good or bad about your neighborhood, I want to hear about it. Post your thoughts in the comments, or join me this Thursday, March 31, 2022 for my next “Any Question” online gathering so we can talk about it all. Click here to RSVP and click here for the zoom link.

Published by Matt Budzak

My name is Matt Budzak, and I was born in Tacoma WA and raised In Puyallup. I am a Double amputee trying to make a differance

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