Brick plant revamp is key to city’s future

March 2, 2012

Talk to anyone with a vested interest in the potential redevelopment of Newcastle’s Mutual Materials brick plant site and you’ll hear the same word time and again — opportunity.

It’s no exaggeration that as the city faces a $300,000 shortfall in 2013, and similar deficits in coming years, the redevelopment of this critical Coal Creek Parkway property may have an unprecedented impact on Newcastle for years to come.

With redevelopment comes the potential for much-needed revenue in the form of real-estate excise tax, sales tax, permitting fees, impact fees, review fees and any combination thereof.

Simply, this project matters.

It must be done efficiently, competently and in a way that benefits Newcastle. With this much at stake, it must be done right.

With a 52-acre site and a developer that has been in the community for more than 50 years and seemingly wants what’s best for the city, Newcastle arguably won’t have a chance like this again.

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Juvenile criminals’ names should be public

February 3, 2012

The Legislature is now considering two bills that would restrict access to records of crimes committed by minors, only allowing disclosure in the case of “serious violent offenses” as defined by law. Lesser violent crimes and property crimes would remain confidential.

The bills are bad ones, and should be stopped.

When a juvenile commits a serious crime, nobody involved takes the matter lightly. From the prosecutors to the courts, to the media that reports on crime, everyone weighs the value of punishing an individual against the needs of society.

The policy at Newcastle News is to report the names of juveniles only when they are charged with a felony. We did not arrive at this policy lightly. We’re glad to say it is infrequent that we come across minors charged with felonies. We do understand the implications when we choose to publish the name of a minor. But we stand by the public’s right to know.

If you were the victim of a string of home burglaries or neighborhood arson fires, you’d want to know who did it. We believe you’d want to know regardless of whether it was an adult or a teen — especially if the suspect lived next door.

It is just as important to ensure that the wrong people are not accused of a crime. Too frequently, the school-based gossip mill implicates an innocent person. Reporting in the media can make clear who is actually the suspected criminal.

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Our 2012 goals for Newcastle

January 6, 2012

  • The city must do all it can to facilitate the redevelopment of Mutual Materials’ brick plant site, a major change with potential opportunity for Newcastle’s future.
  •  The Newcastle library will open this summer, with a lot of opportunities for public involvement through classes, book clubs, book sales, homework helpers and more. It could very well become the city’s de-facto community center. Let the celebration begin!
  •  Continue to encourage business development in Newcastle’s downtown along the lines of recently revised requirements that are more development friendly. Now is also a good time to look at sign codes, fees and customer service. Also work with the chamber of commerce and landlords to identify businesses that would add to the mix in Newcastle and reach out to them to fill vacant storefronts.
  • Create a city Celebrations Committee to plan both Newcastle Days and other new city traditions and events. It need not be a commission with paid staff involvement, although any plans must be coordinated with City Hall.
  •  Seek a long-term budget fix that will get revenue on pace with expenditures in the next five years. Many projections show the city could be in real trouble if this isn’t addressed.
  •  Fund projects that enable connectivity and mobility via sidewalks and trail systems. Residents have repeatedly said that this is important!
  •  Continue to pursue a ZIP code for the city of Newcastle.
  •  Continue working with the Renton School District to implement the Safe Routes to School program, primarily near Hazelwood Elementary School. The continued exchange could lead to grant money for sidewalk improvements and is a great way to get kids active and walking to school.
  • School leaders and citizens should set aside their opposition to cutting the school year by four days, provided the total hours of class time remains the same. It offers a good way to save precious education dollars.
  •  Voters need to be committed to learning all of the pluses and minuses of school construction bonds coming before voters in February and April. For Renton, it means a new junior high school in Newcastle. Issaquah’s bond includes improvements to Liberty High, Maywood Middle and Newcastle Elementary schools. But is the time right?

Shorter school year wouldn’t be all bad

December 1, 2011

Gov. Christine Gregoire has floated a couple of ideas to deal with the state’s budget crisis. One of those is a half-penny-per-dollar increase to the sales tax, to go before voters in March. First, legislators would have to approve the ballot measure. The new revenue would be targeted for education.

Another idea to help local school districts deal with looming budget cuts would be for the state to reduce the required number of school days per year. We like the idea, although we acknowledge that it could be a burden for working parents who have to pay for more childcare.

State law currently requires students to have no less than 180 separate school days.

But take a closer look. Another state law requires districts to provide at least 1,000 hours of instruction time for students in grades one through 12 and at least 450 hours for kindergarteners.

Gregoire’s proposal to drop the 180 days per year down to 176 days would not reduce the average total hour requirement.

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I-1125 not right answer to new tolling fees

November 3, 2011

Initiative 1125 is one of those ballot measures that does so much more than put limits on what can and cannot be done with gas taxes and toll revenues. It’s one more initiative that screams, “We don’t trust our elected representatives to run the state!”

We get that sentiment, and encourage voters to hold their representatives accountable.

Tim Eyman’s I-1125 ballot measure is supposedly about reinforcing laws already on the books. It makes assumptions that the Legislature has run amok, bending rules on road tolls and taxes. It covers state bids and contracts for vessel dry-docks and goes on to specify that there will be no tollbooths. And then it slips in a little wiggle that stops light rail from expanding across Lake Washington via Interstate 90.

I-1125 limits road tolls to funding of a project — only.

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October 9, 2011

Initiative 1183 — putting liquor sales in the hands of retailers instead of the state —is worth a yes vote.

Last year, voters were asked a similar question, challenging the state’s monopoly on liquor sales. The voters said no. But I-1183 is vastly different.

For one thing, small stores like mini-marts will not be allowed to sell liquor, squelching the fear that teens will have more access than ever. Only stores larger than 10,000 square feet will qualify, unless a smaller store is the only option in town.

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Newcastle Days will celebrate best of city!

September 2, 2011

Imagine that! Newcastle is the 18th best place to live in the nation, according to CNN’s Money Magazine.

Distinction for Newcastle is nothing new. Two years ago, Newsweek ranked the city No. 17.

Someone at City Hall or the chamber of commerce did a good job supplying the information that helped Money Magazine determine Newcastle’s ranking.

“The volunteer spirit is alive and well in this former coal-mining town…,” writes the magazine. “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.

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Editorial: Newcastle Days needs you

August 5, 2011

Newcastle Days is fast approaching, but more volunteers are needed to help before and during the Sept. 9-10 festival.

What a fun way to get involved in your community! If you have a head full of ideas, or are just willing to help booths and bands get set up during the event, let the committee know now. They’ll accept all offers of help. No reason not to get the kids signed up for a little community service along with you!

Call Grace Stiller at 228-7927 to volunteer

Editorial: Gordon Bisset unmatched in City Council race

August 5, 2011

Between the two candidates still seeking election to Position 4 on the City Council — now that Andrew Shelton has withdrawn — Newcastle News can only endorse Gordon Bisset for the job.

Bisset’s unrelenting involvement in Newcastle and his vast knowledge of city issues and municipal government makes him an ideal choice and a fantastic addition to the council.

As a former councilman, former member of the city’s Finance Committee, current president of the Hazelwood Community Association and an involved citizen who attends nearly every city meeting, he is up to speed and prepared to get to work immediately.

Given his decadelong involvement in the city, Bisset knows what issues are recurring and the history behind them. He knows what the council can realistically accomplish, and conveys his ideas honestly and directly.

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Life jacket rule could create confusion

July 1, 2011

The King County Council has passed an ordinance to require anyone who swims, floats or boats on major rivers this summer to wear a life jacket. Violators will be fined $86.

The law takes effect July 1 and expires Oct. 31. The short-term requirement is in response to the swift, icy snow melt from mountains filling rivers later than usual this year, creating a heightened risk to public safety.

The ordinance is a bit over the top for citizens who don’t like government telling adults how to be safe. The idea has been quick to garner comments from those opposed to “nanny” laws, and those who believe the county is seeking a new revenue source.

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