January 3, 2013

New year brings new city goals

Each year, we offer you our list of 2013 goals for Newcastle. Let’s get the agenda started!

Infrastructure projects. An extensive pavement management program, two sidewalk projects and a multitude of storm water projects are in line for 2013. It’s ambitious, but nothing city staff can’t manage to ensure they are done well and on time.

School construction. It’s an exciting time as the new middle school prepares for construction to begin in 2015. The Renton School District will hold community presentations to showcase the design and invite the community to help name the school. Get ready to help shape an important educational and community space.

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December 6, 2012

Council, staff should be applauded for budget

City Manager Rob Wyman, Finance Director Chris Olson and the entire Newcastle City Council should be applauded for their work on the city’s 2013 budget.

In a landscape where citizens are often being asked to shoulder taxes upon taxes to help cities stay afloat during difficult economic times, the City Council approved a 2013 budget that includes no new taxes.

On top of that, the 2013 budget increases public safety, adequately funds pavement management and works quickly to fix the Coal Creek Parkway issues.

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Litzow, Maxwell for state representatives

November 1, 2012

Newcastle voters face some clear choices in the legislative races on the Nov. 6 ballot. If you haven’t yet voted, here is more food for thought.


State Senate — Steve Litzow

Republican Steve Litzow was elected to represent the 41st District just 22 months ago. Already, Litzow has shown leadership on diverse issues — education reform and same-sex marriage among them — and the capacity to ably represent his constituents. Most notably, Litzow played a key role in bringing together both political parties to agree on a state budget. He has demonstrated his ability to work across the aisle for the good of his district. He deserves the opportunity to return for a full term.

Opponent Maureen Judge is an articulate, intelligent candidate, and we encourage her to seek public office again in the future.


State House of Representatives,

Position 1 — Marcie Maxwell

Democrat Marcie Maxwell serves her district well by acting as a genuine community representative. Residents in Issaquah, Sammamish, Newcastle and other cities throughout the district are as apt to meet her at community functions as residents in her hometown, Renton. Every district should be so lucky as to have an elected official that has the time to devote to community outreach and understanding.

Challenger Tim Eaves wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his commitment to serve, but Maxwell is the better choice.

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Keep Newcastle’s identity here, not in Bellevue

October 4, 2012

As Newcastle gathered to celebrate the city’s 18th year of existence at Newcastle Days on Sept. 8, we were reminded of the exceptional qualities that make the city one of the best in the nation.

The city’s spirit of volunteerism and its unique coal-mining history were on full, glorious display, making us question how anyone could entertain disbanding the city and joining Bellevue.

CNN Money Magazine selected Newcastle among the top 25 best places to live in the nation in 2009 and 2011.

In the magazine’s 2011 article, which ranked the city 18th, the author highlighted the culture of volunteerism.

“Despite serious budget cuts that threatened the city’s summer 2011 events, local businesses and citizens offered time and cash to keep the community’s concerts and fireworks afloat,” the magazine said.

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School begins with need for volunteers

September 6, 2012

This week, Newcastle parents across the Issaquah and Renton school districts walked their kids to the school bus or to their school for the start of a new school year.

Ahhhh, finally, a bit of free time for a second cup of coffee!

But wait, your school needs you! The volunteer jobs at school are endless. The playground needs monitors, the library can use assistance, the front office might need your organizational skills, teachers almost never have enough helpers and the nurse’s office is often in need of a mother’s touch to watch over a sick child.

But the best of the volunteer jobs may be working directly with students. Parents, grandparents and other citizens are always welcome to just listen to children read. For a bigger role, ask about becoming a mentor to a student, helping guide him or her in his or her social development and studies — or sometimes just to be there to listen.

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Newcastle’s history deserves protection

August 2, 2012

As the city of Newcastle looks to celebrate its 18th anniversary of incorporation at this year’s Newcastle Days with the historically fueled theme “Return to Newcastle,” there’s never been a more apt time to really dig in and explore what it means to live here.

There is arguably no better example of the home-grown Newcastle experience than 94-year-old resident Milt Swanson.

Many people may not know that much of Newcastle’s invaluable history, including photos, materials and maps, has been collected and stored by Swanson in his home.

The collection includes coal-mining equipment and tools, 100-year-old maps of the area, photos of Newcastle’s people, a moonshine still used during Prohibition, desks from the former Newcastle school, and even Newcastle coal itself, the very foundation of the town when the fuel was discovered in the area in 1863.

Other historically significant artifacts and photos are scattered throughout the basements of members of the Newcastle Historical Society.

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Graduates, take time to explore life

July 3, 2012

A collective sigh of relief can be heard across the district from graduates of the Issaquah and Renton school districts.

No longer will they have to endure the most frequent question asked of high school teens: “What are your plans after you graduate?”

By now the graduates know the answer and so do those who asked the question repeatedly for four years. The answer, of course, is most likely what all graduates before them have answered: Go to college or technical school, join the military, get a job, get married or take time off and then decide.

Congratulations to all. But special applause for those who have a next step that ends with “then decide.”

Too often teens are encouraged to have a life plan in place by the time they are handed a high school diploma. Today’s reality is that plans will change as young people go on to discover interests they never knew they had. And once they get it figured out, the road may bend, taking them in a new direction altogether. Throw in changing technology, an unknown economy and myriad other of life’s hiccups.

The best post-high school answer to future plans might be “expand my knowledge and skills.” Learning to appreciate education for education’s sake will create a foundation for life, for understanding of diverse people and interests, and foster better citizenship.

A well-rounded education is a goal in the districts, but too often high school students get caught up in the pursuit of specific classes to gain entrance into a specific college that they don’t make time for the electives. Parents and faculty can help by encouraging students to explore life.

What are your plans after college?

Explore life. Now there’s an answer you’ve got to love.

Take a hard look at arena deal

May 31, 2012

This area has a long history of skepticism when it comes to building sports facilities. Let’s put that attitude to good use when reviewing the proposal for a new basketball — and possibly hockey — arena in Seattle.

Though it may seem like a Seattle problem, the arena will have an impact here on the Eastside. In direct terms, the county is on the hook for up to $80 million, if certain conditions are met.

Where is this big chunk of money supposed to come from? Aren’t they about to ask us for a bond to build a juvenile justice center? Why is there money for a glorified basketball court, but not a justice center?

A possibly large, indirect impact on the Eastside could be the effect of the arena on freight mobility.

The Port of Seattle, of course, generates billions of dollars of commerce and provides tens of thousands of good, blue-collar jobs. Any arena must not disrupt port operations.

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New school planning begins right now

May 3, 2012

It’s official: Newcastle will soon be home to the newest school in the Renton School District.

And while voters may have given their stamp of approval to financing a new middle school in the April 17 election, the work to bring the project to fruition is just beginning.

Early projections from the district have doors opening at the school in 2016. With the project in its infant planning phases, it’s never too early for parents, community members and city leaders to give valuable input on the project.

District spokesman Randy Matheson said there will be ample opportunity for community input as the project progresses. We hope the residents of Newcastle will answer the call and be involved and dedicated to a school that will have lasting implications for those neighborhoods for decades to come.

With some public concern for the necessity of the school construction bond (the measure failed Feb. 14 and barely passed April 17), the district and its core of education advocates should do everything it can to keep the residents abreast of the middle school’s financial impact, encourage public involvement in the planning process and maintain a steady construction schedule.

As a district that has been recognized for outstanding financial management and reporting from the Association of School Business Officials International and the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for the past eight years, residents have legitimately high expectations for this project to be completed on budget.

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Controversial bond deserves a yes vote

April 5, 2012

We wish the Issaquah School District had been more conservative in its request to fund the long list of items on the April 17 construction bond, but we get why it was not.

With another school bond ending its 20 years of tax collections, this is a good time to get a lot of catch-up work done on our school facilities, while still giving taxpayers a couple hundred dollars’ reduction in property taxes next year (an estimated $215 drop on a $500,000 assessed valuation home.)

Volunteers for Issaquah Schools, the group pushing a yes vote, say this is the biggest campaign it has ever mounted. It’s no wonder. With so many questions and a $219 million price tag, the proposed bond has raised a lot of eyebrows.

There are a lot of questions voters are asking, as we did. Do the middle schools really need artificial-turf fields? Does it really make sense to tear down Clark Elementary School? Does Tiger Mountain Community High School, population 80, really need to be relocated at a cost of $4 million? Isn’t $75,000 for clocks at Beaver Lake Middle School rather excessive? And so on.

First, recognize that the extensive repairs, remodels, permanent classroom additions for 500 students, rebuilds of the five oldest schools, stadium upgrades, safety and energy-saving additions is so extensive that it will take eight years to get it all done — although taxpayers will pay for the next 20 years.

Equality in school facilities will come closer to reality if these projects are completed. Consider that the slower economy makes it a great time to get the best construction bids.

For many voters, this bond request is a stretch. But just like the committee of volunteers who studied the issues and drafted the bond plan, we believe the facilities bond keeps Issaquah schools in tip-top shape and designed for changing educational needs.

Vote yes.

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