Category Archives: Economics

Brockus Back Among the Working Stiffs

Adam Brockus, Bremerton city councilman, sent out an e-mail to friends and family announcing that he had landed a job. He was laid off in November. Here’s the e-mail he sent:

Last week, the US Navy offered me a position as a Civil Engineer in their Naval Facilities (NAVFAC) Office at Naval Base Kitsap.  I can now announce that I have accepted their offer.  After 3 months of unemployment, it turns out the place I went to first was the place that gave me the job.  Plus it pays better than my old job.

I will be needing to wait 4-6 weeks for the paperwork to go through before I can start, but after that I’ll be working in Bangor about 30 minutes north.  Jill, Rachel, and I will continue to live in our house in Bremerton.  And I will continue to serve as a City Councilman.

Coffee Saves the World Again

To know the concept of “pay it forward,” I hear, all you have to do is drink expensive coffee and spend no time out of your car to get it. It happened again today, at Starbucks on 303 in East Eastern East Bremerton. (Technically, that’s Central Kitsap, but I answered the phone.)

Well, that’s not true if you wrote this letter, which said this:

“While it’s nice to buy a stranger a cup of coffee, Paying it Forward involves doing significant good deeds. If all that coffee money was spent instead on someone who needed it, that would be Paying it Forward.”

Here’s how it works. Someone decides to buy the next person’s order. That next person, it turns out, is you. You get to the window, ready to pay for your somethingiatto and the attendant tells you that the woman in the Pacer who just left paid for your order. “Cool!” you think. Here’s where it ends, though. The attendant then asks, “Would you like to pay for the next person’s order?”

Shannon Bray of Bremerton was the 180th person in the “Pay it Forward” line today at Starbucks. She thought it was pretty darned neat. In fact, “neat” was her word. “Especially with the economy, it’s really neat.”

Brynn Grimley, formerly of “The CK Beat,” said around the holidays she was about 180th in one of these, and thinks another time the woman in front of her broke the chain.

She takes some issue with the letter writer above, because she really does need the coffee in the morning.

I called the Starbucks folks and they said the thing ended at 183, which they said might be a local record. No one really keeps track, though. I say the record is 211. Go ahead. Disprove me.

Brynn and I talked about the nuance between this pay it forward routine and what the letter writer proposed, that you do something similar to what was done in the movie with the kid who who was Forrest Gump‘s son and sees dead people. In that movie, Pay it Forward, the kid does a good deed and tells people to pay it back by doing something good for three other people and telling them to do the same, paying it forward instead of paying it back.

OK, so maybe buying a coffee in a cup and in a cake isn’t the same as fixing someone’s bike or giving them your ticket to the inauguration, but Brynn said it was pretty nice when it happened to her. That’s probably the point, don’t you think.

If you focus on the money, then there are clear winners and losers. Bray ordered a coffee and a treat, but the person behind her only bought a cup, so she came out ahead financially.

If you don’t focus on the money, though, you get surprised by someone’s generosity. Then you get the opportunity to continue the good will. Maybe you feel guilted into it, but you don’t have to feel that way. Today about 183 people had that choice. I bet more than half of them talked about it with others. I bet a few of those others will decide to do something nice. It could happen.

Bremerton, You’ve Got (Part of) SKIA

Over at the Caucus blog we’ve got a little ditty about SKIA annexation. You might not be surprised to hear that I’m seeing slightly different characterizations from Port Orchard and Bremerton. The official word from the board, for now, is the annexation of the northern property was accepted as submitted. A written decision will be issued later this month.

Bremerton Still Tasty, Port Orchard Not As Much

Bremerton gets smug with Port Orchard after enjoying a delicious meal from Popeyes.
Bremerton gets smug with Port Orchard after enjoying a delicious meal from Popeyes.
Remember that time when Bremerton got Popeyes?

And remember how someone from Port Orchard got all superior and stuff because they had Popeyes first?

They were all, “We had it first.”

And we were all, “Whatever.”

Remember how there seemed to be a pent-up demand when Popeyes opened here, because there were long lines and stuff?

Yeah, that was awesome.

And you can still get in line in Bremerton.

Not so in Port Orchard. The Popeyes there is closed. I’ve contacted headquarters to find out why, which is really Rachel Pritchett’s job, but I couldn’t resist an opportunity to get all childish.

On my home one of these days, I’m going to stop by and get me some Popeyes, because I still can. The spicy chicken in still in the house in Bremerton.

Yo, Port Orchard. Now that I’m contributing here again, you’re back on notice.

Bremerton: Looking for a LIFT

Photo Credit

I’ve been asked two questions about this story, published today, about a program the city may apply for that allows the city to keep some tax revenue to pay for large capital improvements.

It’s not an easy thing to read about, or write about, but because of the questions I thought it would help if I tried to explain it again.

1 The city wants to build these three projects: a boardwalk, a fancier, more pedestrian-friendly Pacific Avenue and a parking garage. Let’s take as an example the 366-slot, underground parking garage it wants to build at the corner of Park Avenue and Burwell Street on property it already owns.

Parking garages are losing investments. They won’t make back the money it takes to build them, however, they are necessary to stimulating an economy.

2 A program through the state will allow the city to pay for the garage, (that is, pay off the loans for the garage) with sales and property taxes generated in downtown Bremerton that otherwise would go to the state. Let’s call this a “kick back,” although it isn’t in the classic, Chicago meaning of the word.

3 The city has to prove the projects will generate extra tax revenue to justify the “kick back.” In this case, garage fees are expected to be about $200,000 a year, not nearly enough to pay for the project. However, with the additional parking, an analysis found that tax revenue within the designed area would increase because of additional economic activity, partly caused by the easy, cheap parking.

4 OK, now switch gears. For this year’s program, the state will forgo $2.5 million a year for 25 years in tax revenue generated by the projects. Total.

5 The most a city can get is $1 million a year for 25 years. The money must be spent to pay off loans (otherwise known as bonds) that paid for the original project. See how it’s kind of circular?

6 The program was available last year, and this year. The Legislature has not approved it for another year.

7 As for “other people’s money,” which some people took exception to, apparently I did not provide enough context.

Lyon’s comment came out of a conversation where I mentioned that many of the revitalization projects are being paid for with grants and other forms of outside money, money that Bremertonians did not earn.

Lyon was not being flippant, she was agreeing with me that, in other words, it appears that Bremerton is not paying the full price for Bremerton’s revitalization. It’s getting a lot of outside help.

8 McConnell’s comments were twofold. First, he noted that downtown isn’t the only neighborhood in need, and second that there appears to be some risk involved in joining the LIFT program: what happens if the tax revenue expected doesn’t pan out?

More Details on Westsound Bank’s Problem

Westsound Bank’s troubles with federal and state regulators may stem from high-end residential construction loans one or two former bank employees oversaw, according to the transcript of a conversation with the bank’s president, Dave Johnson.

The discussion was the third-quarter conference call Johnson made as CEO of WSB Financial Group, the bank’s holding company. The conversation took place on Oct. 29.

I tried to listen to the call live that day, but was denied access.

The short story is that Westsound gave out construction loans intended for people who planned to live in the homes they’re building. The loans, though, required only that the borrower state an income, not provide any proof. Westsound offered the loans because Countrywide Financial Group was there as a secondary market, so Westsound could sell the loans.

State regulators got nervous about the lack of income proof, then Countrywide pulled the program. Westsound looked closer at the loans, met with borrowers and looked at the projects and determined the borrowers’ ability to get permanent financing was less certain than the borrowers had said.

Johnson said:

“While the borrowers indicated that their intentions were to live in the homes once they were completed, on closer review, we felt that it was unlikely, in many cases, that the borrowers could service the long-term loans on the properties and that these loans were really more of a speculative situation where they would sell the home as quickly as possible.”

He said there were about 135 borrowers given 146 loans (so at least 11 of those loans were the second or third loans), averaging about $616,000 per home for a total of $90 million.

As for fraud, Johnson said the investigation centers on one or two former bank employees and third parties.

You can read the conference transcript (a PDF file) by clicking here.

Marriott in Bremerton

A few weeks back the buyers of the old city hall building in downtown Bremerton told me they had applied with Marriott to get the Fairfield by Marriott label for the new hotel they’re planning to build on the city hall site.

It appears they were approved. Go to their site and you’ll see as much.

We are currently in the design phase for the construction of a 130-unit Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in Bremerton, Washington. We are scheduled to break ground in January of 2008.

Hotel Concepts owns the Hampton Inn on the waterfront. The owners say shipyard clients make up the bulk of their guests.

On the site you’ll also see plans the company has for hotels in Tacoma and Seatac.

I’m also checking on the status of the former Howard Johnson’s on Kitsap Way near the freeway.

Guys Need Flowers

A blog I never knew anything about includes four reasons guys can use flowers.

It’s done by Bill Gross, who owns the Flowers to Go shops around these parts. I know Mr. Gross, but I didn’t know this bit of history:

Gross, owner of Flowers to Go, has brought thousands of flowers to the people of western Washington. He’s changed the floral industry into affordability and convenience. He started with a flower bucket on the streets of Bremerton 25 years ago and from there started transforming old burger joints into drive-through flower shops. He now owns and runs the most flower shops in the state.

Reason 4 you should send flowers to a guy:

A Rutgers Behavioral Study concludes that flowers trigger happy emotions, life satisfaction and improve social behavior.

I believe that’s true, but only when I’m sending flowers to my wife. When I do, that is improved social behavior by definition. It’s certainly an improvement over leaving the seat up. As for the happy emotions, when I send her flowers she’s more likely to overlook that I keep procrastinating taking the recyclables down to the bin, so that triggers my happy emotions and life satisfaction.

If someone were to send me flowers I’m not sure I could find room on my desk.

747’s Demise Not Changing Bremerton’s Plans

This same item is posted on the Kitsap Caucus blog.

On Wednesday’s council agenda is one item that for the past five years has been a pro forma event, the passing of the 1 percent property tax levy increase.

This year, however, the city has all the legal right in the world to throw upcoming election margins to the wind and grab 6 percent. Council members appear in no mood to do that, heeding Gov. Chris Gregoire’s plea that local governments not rush for the cash in light of the overturned Initiative 747.

The council will also effectively lower its business and occupation tax by increasing the exemption from $40,000 to $60,000. This is part of the city’s intended move to eventually eliminate the tax completely to give businesses something of a break and make the city competitive with the county.

Starbucks to West Bremerton

Real Estate agent Jo Soss has a blog in which she reports Starbucks is coming to West Bremerton, along with Walgreen’s.

The new store will be across Arsenal National from Rite-Aid, she wrote.

Starbucks has a store downtown, which was the first free-standing Starbucks in Bremerton when it opened in 2004. And unless I’m sadly mistaken, isn’t there a Starbucks kiosk in Safeway on Callow? I thought there was, but can’t find reference to it in the phone book or online.