Free massage offered to military members

November 3, 2011

Puget Sound-area Massage Envy centers from Olympia to Everett will salute active military members, veterans and their spouses on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) with its Massage for the Military event.

The free one-hour massage sessions on Nov. 11 are a way for the business to say thank you for military members’ service to the country.

The 19 Massage Envy locations in Western Washington include the Newcastle Massage Envy, 6920 Coal Creek Parkway S.E.

The event requires an appointment and there are a limited number of free massage appointments at each clinic.

Proof of military status is requested, such as a military identification card.

Make a reservation by calling the Newcastle Massage Envy at 957-7979 or go to

State minimum wage to rise to highest in nation

November 3, 2011

Washington’s minimum wage is due to increase Jan. 1 to $9.04 per hour — the highest state minimum wage in the nation.

The state Department of Labor & Industries announced the 37-cent per hour increase Sept. 30. The agency calculates the state minimum wage each year.

The recalculation is required under Initiative 688, a measure passed by Washington voters 13 years ago.

The increase reflects a 4.258 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers since August 2010.

The calculation is a measure of the average change in prices over time of goods and services — such as food, clothing and fuel, and services, such as doctor visits — purchased by urban wage earners and clerical workers.

The minimum wage applies to workers in agricultural and nonagricultural jobs, although 14- and 15-year-old workers may be paid 85 percent of the adult minimum wage, or $7.68 per hour, starting next year.

Washington and nine other states adjust minimum wages based on inflation and the CPI. Washington has the highest minimum wage nationwide, followed by Oregon.

Newcastle hosts forum for high-profile state candidates

November 3, 2011

Candidates for the state’s top office met Newcastle residents and laid out dueling plans for the future Oct. 22 during a forum at The Golf Club at Newcastle.

The candidates for governor, Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee, touted education reform as top priorities for the state more than a year before voters choose a successor to outgoing Gov. Chris Gregoire.

State attorney general hopefuls Reagan Dunn, a Republican, and Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, also participated in the Eastside Candidate Forum. The candidates — both King County councilmen — said more should be done statewide to protect consumers from fraud and foreclosure.

Jay Inslee

Rob McKenna

Reagan Dunn

Bob Ferguson

Candidates could speak for up to 15 minutes during the seventh annual forum. The event attracted about 100 residents and local politicians.

The major party candidates in the race for governor agree restoring funding to the state’s education system will bring stability to Washington’s job market and aid the state’s still-struggling economy.

How they propose to do that, however, is where some differences between McKenna, the state attorney general, and Inslee, a U.S. representative, begin to surface.

Inslee said the state must aggressively seek new ways to encourage development in the business and technology sectors, implement reforms for education, restore education funding and deliver government services more efficiently.

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City faces liability issue in fire services contract

November 3, 2011

New negotiations will save Newcastle $68,000 in 2012

After almost a year of meetings and contract negotiations, the city of Newcastle may realize a cost savings of about $68,000 for its 2012 fire services provided by the Bellevue Fire Department.

A potential savings of about $2 million in fire services costs could be realized by the city over the next five years.

But one unexpected addition to the contract, concerning how firefighters’ medical costs will be paid in the future, has the Newcastle City Council thinking twice about immediately signing on for an additional six-year term.

Over time, contracting cities like Newcastle have paid into Bellevue’s LEOFF 1 Retiree Medical Liability plan, which provides a defined benefit pension to local government law enforcement officers and firefighters.

The plan, created in 1970 and closed to new members in 1977, also stipulates cities are responsible for the lifetime medical and long-term care costs for their LEOFF members and retirees, according to the Association of Washington Cities.

But the LEOFF account hasn’t been adequately updated by the city of Bellevue to cover the radically increased medical costs for those enrolled in the plan, City Manager Rob Wyman said.

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State tracks prescription medication purchases

November 3, 2011

State health officials have started collecting information regarding purchases of prescription pain medication to crack down on a statewide overdose problem.

Officials rolled out the Washington State Prescription Monitoring Program in October to reduce abuse and promote safe prescription drug use. The program collects information on commonly abused medications.

Information from pharmacies and health care providers is collected and stored in a central database. Starting in January, health care providers can view their patients’ prescription history dating back to the start of data collection.

The program also allows patients and law enforcement officials to view the prescription records.

Officials said physicians and pharmacists could use the data to intervene earlier to identify dangerous drug interactions, address misuse, recognize undermanaged pain or see the need for substance-abuse treatment.

The number of people dying from prescription pain medication overdoses is on the rise in Washington.

Overdose deaths involving prescription pain medications doubled from 2000 to 2010. Since 2006, deaths from unintentional drug overdoses have surpassed the number of deaths from automobile crashes.

Glitch delays ballots for more than 900 local voters

November 3, 2011

King County Elections did not mail ballots to 11,000 Eastside voters — including more than 100 people in Newcastle — in mid-October due to a glitch.

Officials, after receiving calls from residents about missing ballots, mailed ballots to the affected voters Oct. 29. The deadline to return ballots via mail, drop box or accessible voting center is Nov. 8.

Overall, the issue impacted 11,000 Eastside voters, including 54 in Issaquah, 141 in Newcastle, 875 in Sammamish, 1,118 in North Bend and 72 in Snoqualmie.

King County Elections started mailing 1.1 million ballots to voters Oct. 19. Calls to the elections office about missing ballots started soon after. The reason for the delay remains unknown, officials said Oct. 28.

“Fortunately, we had some voters who were on top of it and that tipped us off to start checking and seeing if there were any anomalies,” King County Elections spokeswoman Kim van Ekstrom said. “There are always voters who don’t get their ballots. Things happen, and that’s why they have several weeks to try to connect with us.”

Liz Lawrence, a rural King County resident on the Sammamish Plateau near Issaquah, is a diligent voter, and the late ballot raised some questions.

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Poetry slam is open to Liberty students

November 3, 2011

The second annual Issaquah Poetry Slam hosted by the Issaquah Youth Advisory Board is from 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Skyline Black Box.

The slam is open to Liberty High School students. Anyone is welcome to submit poetry, and participants can bring any kind of spoken word performance.

The event is free and open to the public. The winning poem will receive publication in Newcastle News and its sister publication, The Issaquah Press.

The submission deadline is Nov. 17. Submit a poem by emailing it to

Proposed King County budget touts savings, eschews deep cuts

November 3, 2011

As the King County Council begins to listen to hours of public testimony at a series of budget hearings, one overall theme became clear at its Oct. 13 session — support human services now, before it’s too late.

Derek Franklin, a Sammamish resident and representative of the Alliance of Eastside Agencies, said the county must begin to formulate a dedicated and stable long-term funding source for human services, such as those aimed at protecting residents from homelessness, domestic violence and inadequate legal counsel.

“Although sometimes obscured by the high socioeconomic status of the Eastside, human service needs here are quite high,” he said during a public hearing at Pacific Cascade Middle School near Issaquah. “We urge the budget committee to establish a long-term fix for the human services safety net. It’s been significantly dismantled over the years by budget cuts, and people … are beginning to fall through the cracks.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine’s 2012 budget proposal earned praise from County Council members for eschewing cuts to services in the general fund — elections, law enforcement and other basic government functions. The overall budget proposal is $5.3 billion, including $648 million in the general fund.

Using $1 million from savings, Constantine proposed creating a fund for human services to invest in nonprofit organizations offering food for the needy, support for the homeless and more.

Steve Roberts, executive director for Congregations for the Homeless, echoed Franklin’s sentiments in increasing funding to services for the homeless on the Eastside.

He praised Constantine’s supplement that has been added for human services, but said more needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable residents of King County.

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Newcastle Library’s Friends group takes shape

November 3, 2011

As construction continues on Newcastle’s new library, community members have begun the process of creating a sustainable partnership to support the facility once it’s up and running — a Friends of the Library group.

“We’ve known for a long time the community was interested in getting a friends group going,” said Julie Brand, community relations and marketing director for the King County Library System.

Made up of volunteers, friends groups act as advocates for local libraries and primarily focus on fundraising. The funds earned go to programs such as summer reading programs and other library system initiatives. In 2005, the most recent year for which numbers are available, King County Friends of the Library groups raised more than $388,000, Brand said.

Most of the concrete work for the underground parking structure of the Newcastle Library, seen here Oct. 19, was completed in October. By Christina Lords

The facility, expected to be complete by June or July, will incorporate environmental efficiencies while offering Newcastle residents increased access to the King County Library System, associate facilities director Kay Johnson said.

Recent work on the library includes the installation of post tension slab cables and storm drains in the right of way.

In late October, work was being done to finish grading and exporting remaining dirt at the site, and the facility’s curb wall was finished.

The underground parking portion of the garage is also taking shape.

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Deal keeps popular transit app moving

November 3, 2011

Local transit agencies and the University of Washington agreed Oct. 12 to keep a popular transit app up and running.

The future of the app, One Bus Away, had been uncertain, because the original developer, a UW graduate student, had moved on to the private sector. The app tells people when a bus is expected to arrive at a stop — in real time.

King County Metro Transit, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit and the university agreed to fund up to $150,000 to further develop and maintain the app for 13 months.

One Bus Away is available on the Internet, for iPhone and Android devices, and as text message alerts.

The app is used by thousands of transit riders to plan trips through the region and is used more tha

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