Crisis hitting close to home, Marchione says

“How low can you go?,” people are wondering, not in reference to a limbo contest but to our nation’s economy.

“How low can you go?,” people are wondering, not in reference to a limbo contest but to our nation’s economy.

It’s tense out there, with so much talk about layoffs and foreclosures and the worst holiday season since the Great Depression.

As we’re chatting with local business owners about the economy, we also sat down with Redmond Mayor John Marchione and asked for his thoughts.

“Last weekend, I was talking to a friend about a neighbor’s house that foreclosed — not here in Redmond, but on the Sammamish Plateau. I’ve since heard about two more foreclosures. This national crisis has become very real,” said Marchione.

“Human service agencies are very concerned,” he added. “The origin of Hopelink is that in ‘68-’72, Boeing had a big wave of layoffs. With companies like WaMu and Liberty Mutual going away, more people are needing help.”

The game and computer industries are doing well, he said. Therefore, many Redmond residents and workers have a more secure future than others.

We mentioned that folks who sell food are noticing more frugality from their customers.

“It’s interesting that you said that,” Marchione replied. As the former director of finance at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center, he looked at food expenditures there as “a leading economic indicator.”

“In good times, companies are spending $18 per person for food. In bad times, it’s $8 per person for food. Everyone’s more cautious. Everyone’s more on edge,” he agreed.

Interacting with citizens at City Hall and throughout the community, Marchione has observed that “E-mails are a little more cranky, people’s fuses seem to be a little shorter.”

We asked how businesses and city departments might work around that, to improve people’s moods and the local economy.

“I think residents turn more to coupons — and family rates or group rates help when the entertainment dollar is smaller,” he suggested.

City-sponsored events, especially those which are free, are increasingly appreciated, too.

“Attendance was way up at this year’s Derby Days, perhaps because of the ‘staycation’ trend, and a big turnout is expected for Redmond Lights,” Marchione said.

But as far as holiday shopping goes, “Even established businesses are lowering expectations for Christmas. Staples and hobbies will sell well. Others, big-ticket things, don’t,” said Marchione.

Concluding our brief meeting last week, Marchione reminded us that “the (city) budget comes out next week. I think you’ll see that we are able to live within our means, execute core services and deliver a top-quality product. A recession is not a time to raise taxes.”

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Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
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