Category Archives: The Economy

Recession Revelations: How Has Your Life Changed?

Another recession story (and side bar) coming your way Monday.

Following news that Kitsap’s unemployment rate in February reached a record high, my editor asked me to revisit individuals and social service agencies profiled in our September story on the recession to see how they were faring.

The county’s unemployment rate shot up to 8.8 percent in February, a record since 1990 when Washington’s Department of Employment Security started collecting local data. So-called “gateway agencies,” already booked with recession-related cases and pinched by their own budget woes, are seeing an increased demand for services from people who have never had to ask for help before.

In summary, the agencies are feeling the strain, and some say the community’s “safety net” is starting to look more than a little tattered. But the agencies, with a new found solidarity, are learning to cooperate better with one another to enhance services and avoid duplication. Doing more with less — it’s all the rage.

The people I talked to said their brush with near economic ruin — including impending foreclosure — has transformed their lives for the better, even though they may never regain the level of wealth and economic stability they enjoyed before the recession.

“It isn’t really what I wanted to do per se,” said Moler of Suquamish, who is driving school buses on Bainbridge Island. “As it turns out, it’s been such a blessing.”

Doug Haskett of Silverdale, also is grateful for the job he found — even with a step down in pay — after demoralizing months of unemployment.

“You adjust, you adapt and you overcome,” he said. “It’s a matter of perspective. … This is the way things are meant to be. I’m content. I look forward to going to work every day. Things are the way they are.”

How has your life changed as a result of the recession? Be honest, what stinks about the new normal? (Moler admits she really misses the ability to buy whatever she desires.) On the flip side, have you, like Moler and Haskett, found yourself stronger, happier, calmer, whatever? Share your thoughts in the comments below or e-mail me at

Kitsap Kick-off Soccer Tourney Could Be Cancelled

Addendum 3:30 p.m. March1: Minutes for the South Kitsap Soccer Club can be found on the Washington State Youth Soccer Association Web site under information, then documents.

The South Kitsap Soccer Club Board of Directors is considering cancellation of the Kitsap Kick-off, annual soccer tournament, due to lack of volunteers, said club president Mike Kerr.

The Board will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. March 11 at Marcus Whitman Junior High School to discuss the proposal with club members.

Another proposal to be discussed at the meeting is switching the U9 teams for players 8 years old and under to randomized team assignment. In other words the rosters and coaches would change each year.

The KKO last year was moved from its traditional slot on Labor Day weekend to the week before, a move that Kerr said resulted in increased participation. The number of teams in 2009, 72, was up from 40 the previous year. Fees from the 2009 tournament generated $10,000 in revenue for the club.

The tournament appears to be a plus for the club. Additionally, with the KKO bringing teams from out of town for a three-day tournament, the local economy stands to lose out if the tournament is canceled.

The board went ahead and registered for the tournament this year, in the hope that volunteers will step forward from the meeting. If the KKO goes forward, the dates would be Aug. 27, 28 and 29.

Members of the board last year held roles in organizing the tournament, but “the executive board is stretched thin,” said Kerr.

Following a 2008 change in board organization, in which the number of board members was reduced from 21 to 13, a number of volunteers in key positions left the club. Positions that had previously been board positions became non-voting “committee member” positions. The change was made in part because the club was having trouble coming up with a quorum and had become “unwieldy,” Kerr said. Nevertheless, it appeared to have caused bad feelings on the part of some board members who left the club disgruntled.

I asked Kerr today if the club was having trouble filling volunteer positions. He said, no, only in the area of the Kitsap Kick-off. According to the SKSC Web site, one board position and four committee positions out of a total of 21 positions altogether are vacant.

Kerr who previously held the post of Vice President of Administration is now serving as club president. Former president Dick Morhrmann stepped down in December, 2009. Mohrmann was not available for comment. According to Kerr, he was “just getting tired.”

Mohrmann, in his late 60s, a former president of the Washington State Youth Soccer Association, was appointed in Jan. 11, 2008, as club president by SKSC’s parent organization, Kitsap Peninsula Youth Soccer Association, which stepped in at that time over what many called “dysfunction” on the board.

South Kitsap Soccer Club at one time had around 1,500 players. In 2009, there were about 1,200. That’s still a lot of kids and a lot of families who could potentially be affected if volunteer momentum that keeps the club going peters out, for whatever reason. If the executive board is stretched thin, that would suggest they are having trouble recruiting volunteers.

If you’ve been involved in the club, tell me how you think things are going. What do you think of the proposals on the table (No KKO; randomize team assignments for players 8 and under). Have you volunteered in the past? If you no longer volunteer, why?

Leave your comments here, or contact me at

Thanks, Chris Henry

PO Eateries Dropping Like Flies

Not a pretty image, I know.

I just heard today that the Clubhouse Grill & Cocktail Bar (4215 Southeast Mile Hill Drive) is the latest Port Orchard restaurant casualty of the recession. On a tip from South Kitsap resident and Kitsap Sun blogger Travis Baker, I called The Clubhouse and spoke to a person who declined to be identified after telling me they had closed yesterday (Jan. 11). When I asked why, I was told (in no uncertain terms), “Because the economy sucks and this is going to be the worst year for restaurants and bars, and there’s no reason to piss away our money.”

The Clubhouse was opened in 2001 by Frank Tweten, whose family has been in the restaurant business for two generations. It had been sold to a new owner.

Also up for lease is the Mentor property on Highway 166 (682 SW Bay St.), which has seen a succession of restaurants over the past 20 years. Gary Hobbs opened Smokey’s Bar B Que and Grill in 2008, after Fat Rascal’s, another BBQ joint, ran into debt from back taxes. Before that, it was a Mexican place, and there were a few other incarnations, including the old Clam Bake in the 1980s. I was unable to contact the Hobbs family to find out why they closed in mid-December. My guess is I’d get a response similar to that from the Clubhouse.

Undaunted by the economy is Tim Tweten, Frank’s brother, who is investing in an upgrade of the former Gino’s (429 Bay St.), soon to become the Lighthouse Restaurant and Lounge and already under new management. I was unable to contact Frank, but when I called Tim Tweten to see if he knew anything about the Clubhouse, he said he was sorry to hear about the closure.

“It’s a very, very challenging environment for everybody, as you know,” Tim said. “It’s just too bad they weren’t able to weather the storm.”

When I asked Tim if he, too, wasn’t a tad bit uneasy about launching a new venture even as the recession grinds on, he said, “No, I’m not nervous one bit about my ability. I have rather deep pockets, so my situation is quite unlike most anyone else.”

Location is another factor that can make or break a restaurant. Back when I wrote about Fat Rascal’s closing, I made a blog entry about “snake-bit” restaurant locations in Kitsap County. But Jennifer Mentor Mills, speaking last week on behalf of the Mentor Company, countered my suggestion that the property on Ross Creek with a view of Sinclair Inlet, is somehow hexed. As I mentioned in the blog, the property is slightly off the beaten path. Mudslides across the highway in the early 2000s didn’t help, but have now been fixed by the state DOT. Mills said her company has “a number of prospects” and hopes to lease the place soon.

“I think its great location,” Mills said. “Its got high traffic, high visibility, a nice layout for a restaurant and a great view. I think it could be a great location for a successful restaurant, and we have quite a lot of interest in it.”

BKAT, Parks Funding Among Proposed PO Budget Cuts

On Wednesday, I’ll be heading to a 6 p.m. city council work study meeting at Port Orchard City Hall. The council will discuss $16,000 worth of budget cuts needed in light of its decision to maintain the city’s budget at 2009 levels. The council declined to take a one percent property tax increase in light of the recession.

Among proposed cuts are BKAT broadcasts of city council meetings, a cost of $7,900 per year, and nearly $10,000 in parks funding, including $700 a year for mutt mitts (who knew Port Orchard’s canines were so productive). The city also could renegotiate contracts to save money.

The work study is open to the public, although comments are not generally taken. The public will have a chance to comment on the city’s 2010 budget at a hearing at 7 p.m. Dec. 7. The council will vote on the budget at its regular meeting, Dec. 8.

From the city’s Web site:
“Copies of the Preliminary Budget will be available to any interested taxpayer at a nominal charge during normal working hours, Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the office of the City Treasurer on November 13, 2009.

Any person or public agency interested is invited to attend the Public Hearing and/or submit written comments on the 2010 budget to the City Council on or before December 7, 2009.”

All meetings are held at City Hall, 216 Prospect St.

Port Orchard Council to Vote Tuesday on Tax Ordinance

The Port Orchard City Council on Tuesday will vote on an ordinance declaring substantial need to raise taxes up to one percent. In past years, the city has automatically been able to do so. But this year, an ordinance is necessary because of negative inflation and the fact Port Orchard’s population has increased beyond the threshold that triggers a vote in such a case.

Read the complete story here.

Also at the meeting, the council will issue proclamations recognizing November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and recognizing Deliah Rene Luke for spearheading the Paint the Town event in August.

I’ll be at the meeting. Comment here, or e-mail me with your questions for the council,

A Turf Field for the Wolves in This Economy?

By Chris Henry
Heading into playoff season with a 9-0 record, the South Kitsap Wolves football team would seem to have nothing standing in their way. But Coach D.J. Sigurdson says the grass field at Joe Knowles Stadium, looking these days like a mud bath, is selling the players and other South Kitsap athletes short.
South Kitsap is one of fewer than a dozen 4A schools in the state that hasn’t already converted to turf fields. Sigurdson says it’s time.
Coaches raised concerns about shortcomings of the field and other district athletic facilities during recent contract negotiations, said Ron Ness, president of the South Kitsap Coaches Association.
“Safety is an issue and making sure we can provide adequate resources for our athletes and the community,” said Ness.
With cuts to South Kitsap School District’s budget this year totaling $6.8 million, no one who uses the fields expects the district will ask voters to approve a capital facilities bond in the near future. So a facilities task force, made up of coaches, maintenance staff and community members, has taken matters into its own hands. They are seeking outside funding for a turf field and more.
At a meeting Monday, the group came up with a lengthy wish list, including upgrades to tracks and ball fields at the junior high and elementary schools, improvements and renovations to the pool, installed in the 1970s, scoreboards, lighting, public restrooms and storage.
The group agreed that district facilities should be made available for community use whenever possible.
Installation of a turf field at the high school would cost an estimated $1.7 million. The turf would need to be replaced in 10 to 12 years, but with infrastructure in place, the replacement cost would be about half the original price, said Brad Martin of Martin Victory Products of Kent, a turf manufacturer’s representative.
The high cost of installing a turf field would be offset in the long run by lower maintenance costs, said Kathleen Simpson of Fields Today, Fit Tomorrow. Her nonprofit group is coordinating with area sports clubs, local governments and other groups on the installation of turf fields throughout the county.
The annual maintenance cost on the grass field at the high school is $23,000. A turf field costs about $5,000 per year to maintain.
Turf fields present revenue opportunities, Simpson said. Her low-use estimate for one field would be about $57,000 in income for the district per year.
Fields Today, Fit Tomorrow had a hand in the recently opened fields at Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island. The Bainbridge fields were built despite opposition from a group called Plastic Fields ForNever whose members link artificial turf to lead poisoning, cancer, skin burns and injuries.
Sigurdson said he hadn’t heard of environmental or disease hazards of turf fields. Injuries were a problem in the early days of the technology, but substrate, made of ground up tires, provides a more natural playing surface, he said.

The facilities task force will meet monthly. The public is welcome. The next meeting is 6 p.m. Dec. 7. For information, contact South Kitsap High School Athletic Director Ed Santos at (360) 874-5736 or

Take the poll on the blog homepage: Does South Kitsap need a turf field?

PO Lodging Tax Funds Come in at 70 Percent of Budgeted Amount

Advisory committee has forwarded its recommendations for 2010 awards to the city council.
By Chris Henry
Revenue from the City of Port Orchard’s lodging tax for 2009 will fall short of estimates made at the end of 2008.
The city expected to collect $93,000 in hotel/motel tax revenues, but with the downturn in the economy, a revised estimate shows the city will receive $64,577, about 70 percent of the original amount.
The city treasurer’s office told the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee of the shortfall in early September. The committee makes recommendations each year on distributing funds among a pool of applicants. Recipients must submit claims to the city to receive their allocations.
In light of the shortfall, the city council debated how to honor commitments to recipients. At one point they considered disbursing funds on a first-come-first-served basis. But on Tuesday they decided instead to distribute the funds proportionally.
“We wanted to do it in a fair and humane way,” said Fred Chang, chairman of the committee.
The city has asked recipients to submit claims no later than Oct. 27, so the total amount available can be calculated.
Lodging tax funds not claimed in any given year are rolled over into the following year. The city had $21,776 carry-over in funds that weren’t claimed last year. The council awarded these funds to four applicants not chosen in the first round. The amount of supplemental funds not yet claimed will be considered in the total yet to be distributed.
Mike Strube, chairman of the Port Orchard Chamber board of directors, said the lowered award did not come as a surprise. The chamber’s successful fundraising this year will help offset the loss of funds.
“I think we all knew, with the economy the way it was, that we may not see as much from lodging taxes,” said Strube. “It’s a little lower than I expected but we’ll roll with it.”
Chang said the council will encourage organizations that can make up the loss in other areas of their budgets to decline all or part of any funds yet to be claimed.
The city’s 2009 lodging tax recipients and the amount they were originally promised include the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce ($23,420), tourism and marketing duties performed by the city clerk ($20,000), Cedar Cove Days ($15,000), Fathoms ‘O Fun Festival ($10,500), Sidney Museum and Arts Association ($10,200), the Port Orchard Bay Street Association ($3,660), the Saints Car Club ($1,900) and the Port of Bremerton ($500).
Groups receiving awards from the supplemental fund include the city’s Festival of Chimes and Lights ($7,820), Concerts by the Bay ($5,000), foot ferry service for the Kitsap Harbor Festival ($4,400) and the city’s tourism committee ($3,000).
Notably left off the list of 2009 recipients was the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau. The council took the position that the VCB in recent years had fallen short in promoting Port Orchard. The VCB has since hired a new director.
The committee recently submitted its recommendations for 2010 lodging tax funds to the city council. According to Chang, 12 organizations made requests totaling $168,000. The city expects to bring in $61,000.
The committee ranked applicants based on how well they are seen to support tourism in the city. The VCB requested $20,000. Mayor Lary Coppola recommended $2,000. The committee has recommended the VCB receive $900.
“My sense was that they were a little skeptical of the VCB, but they did want to try and encourage them,” said Chang, who did not vote on the recommendation.
According to Chang none of the applicants were recommended to receive all of the funding they requested.

Recession Humor: Heard a Good One Lately?

Economic pundits may see signs the recession is easing, but that’s small comfort to Leah Figueras of Poulsbo, a dental assistant and single mother of two who was laid off in July. I wrote about Figueras as part of the Kitsap Sun’s Faces of the Recession series.

One of recommendations experts have folks like Leah for who are depressed over loss of a job is laughter. Well it seems we, as a nation, have found plenty of humor in widespread unemployment, home foreclosures and bank bailouts. In fact, it’s spawned a whole new industry.

Yes, it’s the great American way. When the going gets tough, we go shopping for T-shirts, coffee mugs and refrigerator magnets. We send recession humor greeting cards. And we drink from a no doubt collectible recession humor pint glass.

Recession Beer Mug
Recession Beer Mug

We post slide shows with catchy sayings about the economy.

And we laugh at political cartoons about the recession.

Bailout Sculpture
Bailout Sculpture

We all could use a good laugh. So post your favorite recession jokes here. Hey, “If I had 700 billion, I guess I could save the economy, too.”

What’ja Want For That?

I was at the chiropractor the other week and was interested to hear my provider say she was trading her services for tennis lessons.

I haven’t checked Craiglist or other sources, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if, given the economy, the fine art of bartering isn’t seeing a bit of a revival here in Kitsap County.

According to an article in USA Today, bartering, common in the 19th Century and earlier, is definitely making a come-back.

From the article, written in February:

“Barter “absolutely thrives in bad times,” says Roger Staiger, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s business school. Last month, a Denver developer asked Staiger for help restructuring a loan. Lacking cash, he gave Staiger a Colorado ski trip, and the developer’s wife is designing his Web page.

“This is part of the underground economy that does not contribute to the GDP (gross domestic product), but it absolutely contributes to helping people and fostering trade,” he says.

***** end reference******

Then there was the guy who began trading a paper clip for a fish-shaped pen, and, through bartering on the Internet, ended up with a house.

While bartering appears to fall outside the Economy (note the capital “E”), the Internal Revenue Service wants its cut.  A plumber who trades with a dentist for services, for example, must report the fair market value of said services.

“Generally, you report this income on Form 1040, Schedule C (PDF), Profit or Loss from Business. If you failed to report this income, correct your return by filing a Form 1040X. Refer to Topic 308 for Amended Return information.”

The IRS article talks about barter clubs and bartering on the Internet. Regarding the latter, the article says, “If you exchanged property or services through a barter exchange (on the Internet), you should receive a Form 1099-B (PDF), Proceeds From Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions. The IRS also will receive the same information.”

I am curious about bartering:

Have you bartered for goods or services? Has your bartering activity increased with the recession? What sources, including the Internet, do you use to make connections? Regarding the quote about not contributing to the gross domestic product, how – if at all – do you think bartering helps the local economy? Do you have any advice for people who are new to bartering?

Thanks for your thoughts. CTH

P.S. What does this have to do with South Kitsap? My chiropractor is in SK.

No Surprise, Assessed Property Values Down Again

Most property owners in Kitsap County will see an eight to 12 percent reduction in their assessed values for taxes payable in 2010, Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery announced Tuesday. In most cases, however, that won’t equate to a corresponding reduction in taxes, due to voter approved levy rate increases in all areas of the county.

The assessor’s office will mail out change-of-value notices on Wednesday to 105,215 Kitsap County residents. Updated information on assessed property values has been available on the county’s Web site since last week.

Avery, who has been predicting an average 10 percent reduction in assessed values for this year, said the eight to 12 percent is what he expected based on analysis of real estate trends.

Asked to predict assessed valuations for 2010, Avery said, “I have no idea. I like to think we’ve hit the bottom from a price point, but I understand there’s still some foreclosures that are going to hit the market. Certainly it’s those foreclosures in my mind that are causing the prices of the properties to go downward.”

Read more in a story to be posted later on

Asked to comment on any silver lining in all this, Avery said – as we’ve heard from those in the real estate industry – this is a great time for first-time home buyers to jump into the pool, especially considering the $8,000 tax credit available to qualified buyers.

Is anybody out there making lemonade?