Economy

(Editor's note: The following article appears originally in Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell's E-Newsletter "Positive Focus.")

You may have tuned in to the Energy and Technology Committee meeting of April 1, 2009, and heard the presentation and ensuing discussion with City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco.

The presentation painted a dire picture of the utility’s current financial condition. In my opinion, the utility’s proposed solution to cut some core customer service elements were presented as a precursor to a request for a rate increase.

In a press release dated, April 1, 2009, Mayor Greg Nickels proclaimed that he would not request a rate increase in 2009 and that he is supportive of the proposed cuts. On April 9, council president Richard Conlin and I co-wrote a letter to the superintendent, requesting that the utility re-examine many of their cuts.

Our concern was that some may be ill-advised and could possibly produce unintended consequences. For example, cutting costs in tree trimming, which is designed to reduce the frequency of power outages, may not produce the actual savings we desire.

05/20/2009

The Metropolitan King County Council recently adopted a set of priorities to guide the county executive’s development of a budget plan for 2010 with priority placed on efficiency in government and the protection of public safety, health and human services, and the physical environment.

The county is facing a gap between projected revenues and expenses for next year approaching 50 million dollars.

“The economic challenges facing King County call upon us to find ways to maintain the safety net for our most needy and vulnerable populations, and to provide mandated services in a period of shrinking revenues,” said council member Larry Gossett, chair of the council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “The priorities we adopted today reflect the idea that in protecting the safety, health, and quality of life of King County citizens, we must look beyond our standard way of preparing the budget.”

05/19/2009

It’s graduation time at colleges across the country. If you have children graduating from college, you’re probably excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for them. But once your last child leaves home, and you become an “empty nester,” you also may find some good opportunities for yourself — opportunities to improve your financial situation.

In fact, your empty nester status may help you make progress toward what are likely some key financial goals at this stage of your life: Getting rid of debt and accelerating your savings for retirement.

What steps should you consider? For starters, you could downsize your home by moving into a smaller, less expensive one. If you make a profit on the sale of your home, you could use it to invest for retirement and clear up debts. Of course, you may be emotionally attached to your home and neighborhood, but downsizing may be a good financial option to consider at some point.

Here are a few other suggestions for taking advantage of your empty nest:

05/15/2009

(Editor's note: The following article appears originally in Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin' s newsletter "Making it Work.")

On Monday, May 11, the council committee of the whole on economic recovery approved a resolution outlining the strategies and actions that the council intends to undertake to mitigate the impacts of the current economic recession on Seattle residents and businesses, and to help promote the economic recovery of the city and region.

The council has worked with community members and businesses over the last few weeks to identify steps that we can take that will help those who are unemployed, at risk for foreclosure, or otherwise impacted by this severe recession.  We have identified 17 specific actions that we can take that will assist those in need, help businesses weather the current downturn, and prepare Seattle for the next economy.
The following actions are included in the resolution:

05/14/2009
Change comes to Ballard branch after WaMu collapse

A new Chase sign was installed May 12 on the former Washington Mutual branch at the corner of 22nd Avenue Northwest and Northwest 56th Street.

In late September 2008, Washington Mutual was seized by federal regulators and sold to J.P. Morgan Chase in what was the biggest banking collapse in American history.

The Ballard WaMu branch has been undergoing changes, such as the new sign, new uniforms and interior construction, during the past few months as part of its conversion to Chase.

Washington Mutual was founded in 1889 and based in Seattle.

05/13/2009
DSC_0253.JPG
Photo credit: 
Michael Harthorne

A Chase sign was installed on the Ballard Washington Mutual branch May 12.

The Seattle City Council passed a measure this week aimed at cutting the city's budget in the face of declining revenues and outlined a plan for economic recovery for the city that also provides some relief for small business owners and individuals faced with losing their homes and jobs.

A resolution that officially acknowledges the city's need to make mid-year budget cuts, utilize up to $5 million in city rainy day funds to balance the 2010 budget and identify potential cost savings to be considered by Mayor Greg Nickels during the preparation of the 2010 proposed budget was passed unanimously May 11.

With its passage, the bill calls out public safety and human services and housing as the city's highest funding priorities, but also re-affirms the council's six budget goals that were pre-established for the 2009 budget. Along with the aforementioned, others include transportation, pedestrian safety, environmental stewardship and neighborhood planning.

05/12/2009

Acting on recommendations from a result of a series of public meetings with citizens, business owners, community leaders, and experts on the economy, the Seattle City Council approved a resolution designed to ease the effects of the recession on residents and businesses, and to help promote the city’s economic recovery.

Introduced by the council’s Committee of the Whole on Economic Recovery May 11, the resolution outlines a range of strategies to provide relief to small businesses, support individuals affected by the economic recession, set priorities for city services, and achieve operational efficiencies.  

The resolution also calls for refining the mission of the city’s Office of Economic Development to improve Seattle’s overall business climate, reviewing the city’s taxes, fees and utility rates, and investing available resources in actions that will aid recovery.

05/12/2009

Dear Editor.

Many of us have seen the value of our house purchases recently decline due to the economy.

I was wondering who else might consider re-zoning the first lots along Southwest Roxbury to a town home type zone. This would allow approximately three town home lots per each single-family lot facing Southwest Roxbury Street. Allowing town homes along this street would also buffer the noise to the single-family homes in the lots behind Southwest Roxbury Street.

I am currently own a home on the 32nd block of Southwest Roxbury Street only to see the noise increase and the speeds of the vehicles increase. Either the street needs better vehicle management or density should be allowed to increase as well. Southwest 35th is a similar situation and town homes have been built along this street in some areas with no detriment to the neighborhood.

I am sending this e-mail to find out other people’s comments in the neighborhood on increasing the zoning density here on Southwest Roxbury Street from 35th down to 17th.

05/11/2009
Cuts general fund spending another 1.5 percent

Mayor Greg Nickels has finalized his plans to cut about $13.3 million from the city’s 2009 general fund budget, while preserving funding for public safety and direct human services, according to a press release from his office.

“These are difficult decisions, but these cuts are prudent and we are able to make them while maintaining our core services for public safety and for people in need,” Nickels said.

After consulting with the Seattle City Council and getting feedback from an April 22 public hearing, the mayor restored a position assigned to the Emergency Operations Center. This position will continue to help community groups prepare for disasters.

Departments will begin implementing cuts this month, according to the mayor's office. In anticipation of the 2010 budget deliberations, Nickels will continue looking for additional savings in the months ahead.

Nickels is proposing to tap up to $5 million in reserve funds this year, leaving more than $25 million available to help balance the budget in 2010.

05/08/2009

In an uncertain economy, it’s natural for people to “tighten their belts” by cutting down on their spending. And yet by having too much cash on hand today, you could actually slow your progress toward your financial goals of tomorrow.

Before we get to the possible pitfalls of hoarding cash, let’s consider your fellow Americans’ recent savings habits:

How much? In the last quarter of 2008, the personal savings rate was 2.9 percent, the highest level since the third quarter of 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Where? People are putting their money in what they consider safe vehicles. At the end of 2008, the ratio of money market fund assets and bank savings deposits to stocks — as measured by the Wilshire 5000 Index, one of the broadest market indices — was 95.4 percent, according to Ned Davis Research. (Keep in mind that the Wilshire 5000 index is unmanaged and not available for direct investment.)

04/28/2009