City Council Meeting Roundup | February 1, 2022
Posted on 02/07/2022
Newcastle City HallOn February 1, 2022, Council convened at 6:00 p.m. to hold a special meeting in advance of the regular 7:00 p.m. meeting.  If you missed watching it live, you can always see videos of past Council and Commission meetings, which are generally posted the following business day.

Here are the highlights from last week’s meeting. See the Agenda Packet
 for additional information and documentation.

Update on 2022 Events

At 6:00 p.m., there was a joint session with the Community Activities Commission (CAC). Commissioners presented their proposed 2022 work plan, which has these key principles:

- Fostering community interaction including facilitating Neighborhood Representative Group meetings and engagement with diverse communities

- Alignment of commission actions with results of the community survey

- Coordination of traditional, pre-pandemic summer events

- Promoting arts and culture activities, community volunteerism, and parks and trails events and projects

- Development of an annual theme

- Promoting early event planning and better recognition of community sponsors

- Advocating for the need and value of city parks and trails

The events proposed for this year include Earth Day (April 22), concerts in the park (summer), Newcastle Days (September 10), and a virtual holiday lights event (December).

At the regular meeting, which started at 7:00 p.m., Council approved the CAC work plan.

Quarter 4 Police Report

Newcastle Police Chief Jason Houck reported on 2021 year-end crime statistics in Newcastle, noting increases in assaults, vehicle thefts, and burglaries. Although traffic tickets increased in 2021, so did accidents. Chief Houck reported on persistent staffing shortages in law enforcement, which he noted have a disproportionate impact on small cities like Newcastle. Although there are eleven positions on the Newcastle police force, only seven are currently filled. This not only complicates provision of services but frustrates recruitment efforts. Traffic patrols are expected to be directly affected by shortages.

City Manager Report

In addition to the written report (linked above), City Manager Rob Wyman reported on the death of Surface Water Management Specialist Mathew Kwartin on January 21 and reflected on the impact of his passing on staff and Mat’s wife and three children. A memorial was held January 26 and grief counseling was later made available to staff.

The city manager reported on state zoning legislation that would, among other provisions, unilaterally increase density maximums in single-family zones by forcing local governments to allow duplexes on single-family lots. The city’s lobbyists in Olympia have testified on the bill in support of city interests.

Regarding American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funding, Mr. Wyman reported on new guidance affecting application of the revenue loss formula. Management Partners will provide a presentation soon as part of completing the city’s draft ARPA spending plan.

City Manager Wyman noted the February 1 completion of five days of public hearings in Puget Sound Energy’s permit application for the Energize Eastside power transmission line upgrade project.

Communications

City Clerk Paul White provided a tour navigating through the city’s website to access city council public meeting agendas, packets, and minutes; adopted ordinances and resolutions; notices of public meetings and hearings; the city calendar; and general information about city council and advisory commissions.

Community Engagement Coordinator Kate Langsdorf presented an overview of the current state of city communications tools and practices, covering the communications objectives of the city’s 2019 public engagement strategy and including activities managed through the city website, social media, email newsletters, and news bulletins on the city’s homepage. She described the city’s efforts to avoid the pitfalls of infringing on First Amendment rights, inability to engage in TikTok without a more reliable method of archiving content, and the city’s limitations surrounding NextDoor conversations, which would constitute a violation of the city’s NextDoor user agreement. Potential opportunities include more proactive storytelling, more frequent newsletters, increased video messaging, and more frequent community news stories. While the results of the 2021 city survey suggest that community satisfaction with communications is higher than national and regional benchmarks, it was noted that the survey showed a desire for more and better communications from the city. Councilmembers discussed communication needs, particularly surrounding development and transportation subjects, and asked about additional communications outlets, flyers, and availability of city newsletters on the city website.

At 8:59 p.m., the Council recessed to an executive session and adjourned the meeting when they returned.

Do you want your City Councilmembers to know your preferences and opinions on City issues? You can always email them directly at [email protected], or you can submit public comment, either live at a Council Meeting or by writing to the City Clerk at [email protected].
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