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.

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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