Letters to the editor

September 2, 2011

By Contributor

Safety audit proves it’s safe to walk to school

Hazelwood Elementary School has been part of the Safe Routes to Schools grant to encourage and support “active commuting” on the part of school children and families.

The goals are to identify safe and unsafe areas for biking and walking, design safety improvements, educate students about safe walking and biking practices, and launch events to encourage children to walk and bike. Through new and improved systems that encourage more students to walk and bike, we can also help combat childhood obesity.

To date, we have completed a walking audit with the support of Feet First and more than 30 student and community volunteers, and taught all fourth- and fifth-graders bicycle safety with the support of Bicycle Alliance of Washington.

We recently had a meeting to review the results of the walking audit with representatives from the city of Newcastle, Newcastle Police Department, the city of Bellevue, Feet First and the Renton School District. I was so impressed with the level of commitment for student safety and the willingness to partner to promote a safe community for students and families to walk and bike.

I look forward to our ongoing work to improve our neighborhood and educate our families about safe routes and the benefits of walking and biking. We will be having a community event in early October with the help of our Hazelwood PTSA to promote walking/biking to school.

The Hazelwood community is amazing and I continue to feel proud and appreciative to be part of this wonderful community.

Cindy Farnsworth, principal

Hazelwood Elementary School

 

Bus stops are a bust

Why do we need four bus stops at the intersection of Newcastle Way and Coal Creek Parkway?

Two of the stops are properly designed to get the buses out of the traffic lanes at the stops: the one northeast of the intersection, near City Hall, and the other southwest of the intersection, in front of the library. The other two are designed to create traffic jams or accidents. The solution is to remove the two ill-designed stops: those southeast and northwest.

A more significant problem is to determine how this set of bus stops got designed and approved in the first place. Did our city engineers fail to recognize these conflicts or were they forced on us by King County? Does anyone in city government bear responsibility for the cost of two improperly designed bus stops that should have never been built? Finally, what is it going to cost to remedy this situation?

Bob Geary

Newcastle

 

Superintendent has priorities mixed up

Superintendent Mary Alice Heuschel should be spending her time on Renton Schools, not a hospital commissioner campaign. With one failing school, a large budget deficit, and a $242,000 (including benefits) salary, clearly her priorities should remain with the schools.

She says her contract requires her to do community service. That is great, but those obligations should be completed on her time, not the kids’ time.

The hospital board meetings will be held during the school day when she should be working to improve schools — the job she is being paid to do.

Overall, the Renton Schools have done well under Heuschel’s leadership; as long as she holds the position of superintendent that is where her focus should remain.

The children, school district employees and the school district voters deserve her full attention.

Erin Williams

Bellevue

 

Strip mall development

Our City Council is moving forward as fast as possible to change the city’s zoning code to allow more strip mall development in our downtown.

The code currently requires a minimum floor-area ratio to ensure pedestrian-friendly, multistory, mixed-use development. The council intends to eliminate that requirement. Instead, in the name of developer flexibility, they want to see more surface parking lots with drive-thru retailers, such as a Walgreens where the fruit stand currently sits.

Recently, there was a strongly worded editorial in The Issaquah Press regarding this issue. I am borrowing liberally from it, because the publisher’s negative reaction to more strip mall space is diametrically opposed to that of our council, and the editorial applies equally to Issaquah and Newcastle.

Strip malls were acceptable 30 or 40 years ago when they were springing up across the country to service new housing starts. But strip malls create an abundance of paved parking areas that separate stores, homes, offices and recreational uses from residents. Let’s be honest, Newcastle’s business area is a strip mall.

To create a new direction for the city, previous councils spent many years developing a Community Business Center plan and zoning code to move us toward a mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented lifestyle. I read another article recently that explained the necessity for this change. It said something like this: It appears our children will not have the resources to purchase single family homes in our existing neighborhoods. The trend is for them to rent apartments and buy condos located above or close to shops, restaurants, and gathering places — amenities that are in step with their lifestyles. This is exactly what is encouraged by our existing CBC plan.

The stated goal of our current council has been to ensure Newcastle’s financial health. So it is illogical that it favors strip malls. After all, pavement does not generate the tax revenue of more dense multistory, mixed-use development. So, if you oppose changing our zoning code to allow more strip mall space, please email Mayor John Dulcich at johnd@ci.newcastle.wa.us. No emails will guarantee that we get Walgreens.

Will Winslow

Newcastle

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