December 9, 2008

By Staff

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City communications are better than ever

Earlier this year, the Newcastle City Council took its show on the road to Hazelwood and Newcastle elementary schools. The council and city staff wanted

 to reach out to residents who might not attend a council session at City Hall. 

The meetings were informative and helpful to demystifying the operations of city government. They included an informative demonstration regarding the effects of drinking and driving and an emergency preparedness discussion. City staff provided a slideshow about the city’s budget woes at the Newcastle Elementary session.

The budget process was a painful one with revenue projections down in 2009, but the council held three public hearings to give citizens a chance to be heard on proposed cuts. From our observations, the citizens were heard and some budget adjustments made accordingly. That’s the way good representative government should work.

The city also receives high marks for its municipal Web site and thorough information about government operations, illuminating just how tax dollars are spent. To the uninformed, the material fills in some information gaps.

On the city’s Web site, www.ci.newcastle.wa.us, go to the city records button in the index bar for a treasure trove of data, including City Council agendas, annual budgets since incorporation and minutes from meetings, ordinances and resolutions. 

The site also includes information about obtaining building permits, pet licenses and the city’s famous trail system. Under the public safety category, the site has information about Blockwatch, vacant house checks by the police and material about co-existing with wildlife in Newcastle. The site also has maps and a calendar listing of meeting times for the City Council and the Parks and Planning commissions.

Public participation is not just publishing agendas, it’s also about communicating with citizens at the two Town Hall meetings at the elementary schools or meeting with neighborhood homeowners associations.

Transparency is becoming a prominent issue lately with citizens demanding more information from city government. Kudos to city officials for using all available communication resources to make Newcastle one of the most inclusive cities around.

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