Letters to the editor

December 9, 2008

By Staff

City should preserve trails system, buy more park land

By the time you read this, the Newcastle budget may be decided. But the issues remain, and 2009 is an election year for the City Council.

Continuing citizen involvement may help us avoid the worst of all worlds: increased taxes, cuts in basic services and permanent deficiencies in parks, trails and open space. So far, pressure from citizens has kept the lid on taxes; but there’s a parkway debt hanging over us, and a wish list of big-ticket projects (like a new City Hall). On a per-capita basis, we trail far behind Bellevue and Renton in basic services, in park acreage and in trail mileage. And parks and trails are poorly distributed: Some neighborhoods are well-served; others have been left out.

Newcastle is still a green city, with trails and open spaces, and their benefits: healthy recreation, pedestrian connections, wildlife, higher home values and quicker sales. But your local trail or woods may be temporary, on private land awaiting the next wave of development. If you go to the Newcastle Trails Web site — www.newcastletrails.org — you’ll see dotted lines on the trail map — existing trails on private land, or trails not yet built. On the Open Space Project Web site — newcastleopenspace.blogspot.com — you’ll find a discussion about open space.

Priority is key. We can keep Newcastle green by lobbying (or changing) city government to make preservation of trails and open space (including potential park land) top priority. Since Newcastle was founded, it’s been the reverse. We’ve spent millions developing Lake Boren Park, perhaps $41,000 on trail construction citywide, and close to nothing on saving trail corridors and open space. When Dan Wilson offered a free trail easement, the city waited more than six years to sign the agreement. Low priority. 

Meanwhile, other trails closed and open space disappeared.

Now is a good time to acquire land: Prices are falling; grants are available. We can always build things. But losing essential open space means a permanent deficit in parks and trails. Visit the Web sites above, join (no dues) and help keep Newcastle green.

Garry Kampen


Citizens with radar detectors is a recipe for disaster

Regarding the news that the city is arming volunteer citizens with radar detectors: This policy is a bad idea for the city. Setting neighbor against neighbor to rat on traffic violators is a recipe for disaster. 

I can think of several scenarios where these citizens would be put in harm’s way. For example, if someone is leaving the scene of a crime, they will be speeding. 

If these criminals see someone writing down their license plate number, it’s not a far stretch to imagine that harm may come to one or both of the citizens tagging speeders. 

Can our city afford a lawsuit over this program because our leaders did not consider the possibility of negative consequences? 

This program will foster ill will among neighbors. It will not build a stronger sense of community. 

It will simply add bricks to the walls of division separating neighbor from neighbor and expose our small city to an inevitable lawsuit.

Let’s leave police work to the professionals. And that includes information gathering for speeding hotspots.

Jeff Skocelas


Kudos for Liberty’s Jazz Alley performance

We were fortunate to be in the audience recently for a magical evening of jazz when Liberty’s music teacher, Phil Donley, organized performances by Liberty High School students in collaboration with students of Issaquah and Skyline high schools Nov. 3 at Seattle’s Jazz Alley.

The work that went into this behind the scenes was obvious and impressive; the performance went off without a hitch. It was the best kind of collaborative event with the three high schools’ musicians wowing the audience the entire evening. 

We were impressed with how good the students were, which also reflects on their teachers. From the first few phrases of Liberty’s first piece, we could tell they had every right to be on a nightclub stage in Seattle. To hear such energy, talent and style after only a few short months of playing together was downright wonderful. 

Each school had its own distinctive sound, accomplished musicians and appropriate performance demeanor for this venue. Both of the other school’s jazz band teachers complimented Donley from the stage for his hard work and initiative in organizing this event. Congratulations are also in order for the music teachers of Issaquah (Patrick Holen) and Skyline (David Pitt) for their students’ fine performances. 

As parents, we schlepped our kids to practices early and often to help them be ready for this big night. It’s a reflection of the students’ dedication to Donley that he is able to demand and get their time and attention. We are grateful for Donley’s commitment to the music program at Liberty, and his skill to pull something like this together and make it happen. 

The musicians’ family and friends packed the house on a typically quiet night, so Jazz Alley was also a winner. It was a good opportunity for all of our high school students to participate in something shared rather than the more typical competition. We hope to enjoy more collaborative events like this. 

As proud Liberty parents, we tip our hats to Donley. Special thanks to him for providing such a wonderful opportunity for all of us.  

Linda and Mark Bergam



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