Category Archives: Speedway

Hatfield’s biomass bill passes Senate

When we had the story about the NASCAR legislation in Olympia, we made mention of biomass legislation state Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, put forward this session. The first question from a commenter, Mr. Mikey, was this:

“Huh? Expanding biomass fuels? What does that mean?”

Actually, the bill would expand “what qualifies as biomass fuels.”

Today Senate Democrats dropped a press release to explain the bill and trumpet its success: The explanation follows:

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NASCAR TV Ratings Down

This is going to seem like piling on, to some. Last time I addressed this topic I asked if Kitsap dodged a bullet by not buying into the NASCAR track idea. Then I read this story, on American Public Media’s Marketplace and began wondering if ISC dodged one itself.

The reason to keep bringing this up is because I still hear from people who wonder if there still could come a day when Kitsap does become home to a track. The story discusses again that people did not travel to races as much, which makes complete sense. It costs money and people have less of that.

The worse part is that the television ratings are bad, too. That is a very bad sign for the sport.

For us here in Kitsap, though, you could still argue that, “OK, it won’t be 65,000 people here. It will be 45,000, who would not otherwise have come and spent money.”

Still, I wanted to know why TV ratings are bad, so I asked someone who follows the sport. Bob Pockrass is a NASCAR blogger for SceneDaily.com, a Street & Smith’s venture.

Pockrass qualified his comments, saying his opinions were only speculation. He also said it’s easier to find out why people do go to races than it is to ask them why they don’t, since the ones that do are right there in front of you.

Nonetheless, he had some ideas that seemed to make sense to me.

First, NASCAR for a long time was tough on those being aggressive on the track, penalizing them to the point that it made it less interesting for some viewers. When Chad Lewis was writing for us he got a quote from a writer who said NASCAR fans don’t necessarily want to see wrecks, but if there is one they don’t want to miss it.

Race officials got the message that in fact race fans do appreciate a little bit of nudging here and there. In 2010, Pockrass said, the races themselves were a lot better to watch. It will take time, though, for former race fans to get the word. “They didn’t lose them over one year. They’re not going to bring them back in one year,” Pockrass said.

Another issue is that during the 2000s NASCAR lost some of its legends. New rivalries exist, but they’re not the same. “Johnson, Harvick and Hamlin haven’t resonated the way Earnhardt, Wallace and Jarrett did,” Pockrass said. Johnson has dominated the sport in the last few years. In 2010 he won the year’s championship on the last race, but in previous years he clinched early.

When the sport was gaining popularity, Jeff Gordon was winning championships and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was winning a lot of races himself. The two of them got along fine, Pockrass said, but their fans hated each other, which made for a great rivalry.

There is little of that now. “It’s really a matter of having really strong personalities who can move the meter,” Pockrass said.

For those wondering if ISC or someone might venture into our woods again, there is little reason to have hope. ISC probably would still like to locate here and get the sport into a new market. But the company is not expanding anywhere for the time being. For one thing there is that attendance thing. The recession is the big one, though, and ISC still probably would not do it without some help from the public sector. Finally, Pockrass said, ISC makes more money from television than it does from race attendance, and the deal the sport will have beginning in 2015 is not likely to be as lucrative as the one now.

Finally, ISC would probably still want the state to help direct funds its way to build the track. Certainly the appetite for public involvement on the level ISC wanted the first time around is nowhere near as strong as it might have been then, and based on results the idea wasn’t tantalizing enough before.

Speedway — Missed Opportunity or Bullet Dodged?

As we look at what’s going in at the South Kitsap Industrial Area, the New York Times has a story about a number of publicly financed stadiums that get demolished before the bills are all paid off. The Kingdome is in there. The story is mostly about Giants Stadium in New Jersey. The piece begins:

It’s the gift that keeps on taking. The old Giants Stadium, demolished to make way for New Meadowlands Stadium, still carries about $110 million in debt, or nearly $13 for every New Jersey resident, even though it is now a parking lot.

The reasons are complex and you might argue that comparing what New Jersey did with the Meadowlands to what International Speedway Corp. wanted to do in parts of SKIA is a faulty activity. Had ISC’s projections been correct about the number of people coming to Washington who otherwise would not have come here, then it is possible that a speedway could have been built without adding any additional tax burden on anyone in Washington.

For perspective on how NASCAR is doing, an ESPN column by Terry Blount provides an interesting assessment of how NASCAR schedules are made and what influences them. International Speedway Corp., the company that was going to sink millions into a track here, wants to shrink its workforce and other expenses. The sport is hurting from lower attendance. On the other hand and from a purely Northwest-selfish perspective, the article also points out ISC’s muscle in terms of scheduling. It’s unlikely the company would build a track and not have it host races. Given the scheduling shifts going on for 2011, you could rightly wonder how many people would show up here if we had races. It’s all the more interesting because 2011 would have been the year the track would have been ready.

The speedway’s possible economic benefit still has its former supporters bringing the idea up when, say, Chris Endresen gets appointed to the Puget Sound Regional Council and has as one of her responsibilities economic development. Endresen, as county commissioner, was tough on the track.

The Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal scoffed at the idea of Endresen’s new appointment, writing:

Endresen’s active opposition to NASCAR, which would have created hundreds of local unionized construction jobs — jobs which would be contributing heavily to our local economy at this point in the recession — as well as about 50 permanent jobs, was the overriding theme of local businesspeople contacted to comment for this story. Most didn’t want to be quoted, but all were vitriolic off the record, with several laughing out loud and asking if it was a joke.

You see, the recession we’re in gets used in arguments for and against the track. Those against it say NASCAR’s lagging attendance and its fans’ increasing willingness to be more budget conscious show that making any gamble involving public money a bad bet. Those who support it say at least now there would have been high-paying jobs going on right now at a time when such a reality would certainly be welcome.

It’s old news, and this question is likely to come up again, but I’m still interested in your thoughts. Did we turn down a golden goose, or did we wisely reject a deal with the devil? Have any of you changed your mind since we had this discussion three years ago?

Vote in the poll and leave your comments here if you like.

Legislators Keep Secrets

In 2007 I was the beneficiary of serendipity, which essentially is the accidental discovery of treasure.

For a story on the scene behind the legislative scenes on the NASCAR debate, I made a public records request for all communications between legislators and other government officials about the proposal. What I did not know at the time was that e-mail communications strictly between legislators is not subject to state public disclosure rules. Legislators are exempted from the law.

The reason I was able to get the documents was because local government officials are not exempted. Since so many of the communications were copied to locals, I could have solicited the documents from several different closer sources. The lawyers working for the Legislature recognized this and recommended making all the documents available, since I could get them elsewhere.

The (Tacoma) News Tribune opines Monday that lawmakers ought to remove the exemption they keep for themselves.

“There’s no legitimate reason for legislators to avoid public scrutiny. Failure to void this exemption would send a clear signal to their constituents: Butt out.”

I guess what I enjoyed wasn’t quite serendipity. I was looking for treasure, just not at the right source. I got it anyway.

I don’t know the reasoning behind the legislators’ exemption from the law, but I can imagine that local government officials could make the same or similar arguments to remove their responsibility to be open. Maybe one of you can explain why a legislator should or should not be different from county and city officials.

NASCAR’s Other Petty Says ‘Don’t Blame Us’

Kyle Petty was in Richland and was asked why there are no NASCAR tracks in the Pacific Northwest.

“We’ve tried to come up here 5 or 6 times but every time we come up here, the people you guys vote into office seem to vote us out of the states,” said Petty. “That’s not our fault, so don’t blame us because you guys have great drivers.”

Well, that’s kind of a simplification of what happened here last, but Mr. Petty may have some reason to be bitter with Washington lawmakers after House Speaker Frank Chopp suggested Richard Petty, Kyle’s father, had a DUI. He didn’t.

Organization Honors Local Open Government Champion

Charlie Burrow, who sometimes comments here, was one of eight to receive a Key Award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government. The award is given to people and groups who work to promote open and accountable government.

The coalition’s award to Burrow states, “Charlie Burrow’s leadership of Kitsap Citizens for Responsible Planning resulted in improved awareness of and access to open government issues in Kitsap County. His actions helped clarify and focus the minds of many Kitsap County citizens, officials, and staff of the functions and value of open government concepts.  Burrow’s actions exposed the undisclosed meetings and arrangements of a very large corporation with local officials.”

According to Tom Nevins, who nominated Burrow for the award, much of the activity focused on interactions between International Speedway Corp., their supporters and local government officials. The issue was regarding ISC’s consideration of Kitsap County as a place to build a new speedway for NASCAR races.

Wrote Nevins:

“Charlie’s efforts to shine the light of day on ‘matters of the public business and in the conduct of the public’s business’ had significant results.

“Officials charged with doing the publics business became more aware of their open government responsibilities.

“Citizens became informed and involved through Charlie’s web site. Private agencies became aware that when their private business involves public agencies, the public has the right to know.”

The Washington Coalition for Open Government describes itself as “an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization founded in 2002 by a group of individuals representing organizations with a broad spectrum of opinions and backgrounds, all dedicated to the principles of strengthening the state’s open government laws and protecting the public’s access to government at all levels.”

Government Money for Sports

Congress, specificly U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is looking at government money being used on professional sports facilities. The subcommittee looking at it is being postponed to give time to figure out why land under the new Yankee Stadium was valued at $21 million in one appraisal, but a month earlier was appraised at $204 million. There does seem to be one plausible explanation, plausible to me, anyway. From New York Newsday:

A city Department of Finance spokesman said the land values were taken from separate city appraisals. The lower figure was estimated by the city’s Parks Department in May 2006, appraising the land as if it were undeveloped real estate.

The higher estimate was by the finance department, which appraised the land in April 2006, as if the new stadium were complete, the spokesman said.

The Yankees declined to comment.

The Yankees also declined to comment on why they’re willing to move from the sacred ground once patrolled by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle. The new place being Yankee Stadium, I think not. From now on I’m calling lemons bananas.

Thank you to Jake Metcalf for the tip and this link in which you can find Kucinich saying:

I think that it’s very important to understand that we’re looking at a public policy matter here that relates not only to New York and not only to the Nets and the Atlantic Yard project, but it also relates to the whole country, as your other guests have said, because it’s quite possible that there are billions of dollars in tax benefits that should be going to municipalities for the purposes of repairing their infrastructure and for schools and other things and that are instead being diverted for these private sports complexes.

Again with the Speedway

farmac.jpgYou remember that time, when the city councilwoman from Fontana sent an e-mail to that city councilman from Bremerton and she was “I’m surprised that went public,” and he was all, “me too” and stuff?

Yeah, that was awesome.

Earlier this week there was a comment posted to that blog entry that was originally published in March of 2007. I wondered, but didn’t investigate, what had brought someone to that entry.

Then today in my Google alerts I found a link to this story, which ran Monday in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin near Fontana.

The part that surprised me, again, was that the councilwoman stated again that it wasn’t intended for public consumption. This again goes to the topic of transparency in government issue and the rules about public official e-mails are apparently the same in California as they are here. So I don’t know why she still makes that point. And by the way, she’s someone I interviewed when I went to the race in California and I found her to be very helpful. This issue about e-mails, though, is still a new one for a lot of public officials.

DV Charges Against Legislator Dropped

We ran the news when state Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-Covington, was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. The charges were dropped.

SEATTLE (AP) _ Domestic violence charges against a Democratic state representative have been dropped and Rep. Geoff Simpson of Covington, Wash., says he plans to run for re-election.

According to court papers filed Wednesday, the prosecutor for the south King County suburb says he no longer believes there is sufficient evidence to proceed with the charges.

Simpson was arrested in April after a dispute between the legislator and his ex-wife.

He had been charged in King County District Court with fourth-degree assault and interfering with a domestic violence report.

In an e-mail to supporters, Simpson says he’s on track to run for re-election and plans to resume the chairmanship of the House Local Government Committee, from which he temporarily stepped down.

Simpson was the House sponsor of the legislation that would have paid for part of the construction of the NASCAR speedway in Kitsap County.

NASCAR Bill Sponsor Arrested

UPDATE 2: The (Tacoma) News Tribune published a statement by Simpson, part of which reads:


As a state legislator, I remain strongly in support of erring on the side of protecting potential victims with our laws and their enforcement – even when, in situations like mine, it can result in unwarranted charges. I am confident that once the facts come to light I will be exonerated.

UPDATE: Richard Roesler at the Spokesman-Review has a synopsis of the police report and a link to it. The domestic violence incident comes from an argument over taxes Simpson had with his ex-wife. Not surprisingly, his version differs from hers.

From earlier: Here’s the first blast about the arrest of State Rep. Geoff Simpson, who was the primary sponsor in the house to build a NASCAR speedway, which as you may recall would have been right at the gateway to Mason County, or the gateway Kitsap County, depending on which way you’re traveling.

WA lawmaker charged with assault

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) _ A Democratic state representative is charged with assault in an alleged domestic violence incident.

Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-Covington, was arrested Sunday after King County sheriff’s deputies got a 911 call at around noon.

Sheriff’s spokesman Rodney Chinnick says Simpson was booked into the King County jail, but the jail has no record of Simpson being in custody. Chinnick refuses to provide more details.

Covington’s prosecutor says Simpson is no longer in custody. He’s been charged in King County District Court with fourth-degree assault and interfering with a domestic violence report.

In a statement, Simpson says the charges are unwarranted, and he predicts he will be exonerated.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

If he has been charged, then there must be a probable cause statement. The details of that should be forthcoming.

Simpson was the primary sponsor of the NASCAR bill, primarily because bill supporters could not find a single Kitsap legislator to take the lead. Had Jan Angel been in the Legislature, as she hopes to be in 2009, she certainly would have signed on.

Simpson took some heat for being the lead on this. It got him a little piqued, but he didn’t back down.

In case you’re interested, here was the final blog entry dealing with the Legislature’s actions on the NASCAR proposal. It was one of the last speedway posts while this site was “Tracking the Speedway.”

Here is the story that followed the e-mail trail.

On March 15 Appleton exchanged e-mails with Simpson in response to Simpson’s forwarding of a pro-track editorial written by the News-Tribune’s Dan Voelpel. Appleton referenced the annexation issue. “Bremerton is in Kitsap County but the track would be built in an area non-contiguous to Bremerton. (so sorry, Mr. Mayor).”

Simpson responded in part, “Since none of your stated concerns seem to be valid, I’m left with the impression that your opposition is nothing more than nimbyism.”

Appleton countered that Murphy did not agree with Simpson and argued against using the “full faith and credit of the state.” She asked to “agree to disagree.”

Simpson came back with, “I’m stunned that you apparently have not bothered to learn the most basic details of the proposal. Nobody has ever proposed to use the ‘full faith and credit’ of the state. Mike Murphy, the self-proclaimed greatest Treasurer in the United States, clearly did not understand the proposal either when he testified before the House Finance Committee. The more he spoke, the better NASCAR looked.”

NASCAR: ‘They aren’t going away!’

If those who still yearn for a NASCAR speedway in Washington are not watching what happens with the proposal to fix KeyArena, they should.

There are a few similarities. Both the new KeyArena idea and the speedway plan called for the proponents picking up about half the tab. Neither, at this point, could guarantee the presence of the major league sport should the work happen.

When International Speedway Corp. made its bid for the track, one of the arguments was that its proposal was better than those used to pay for Safeco and Qwest fields. The same is being said about the deal for KeyArena.

The KeyArena proposal would use existing taxes to pay for half of the improvements needed at the arena, while the owners would put up the other half. Additionally, the proposal has the tentative backing of people who normally oppose stadium deals using public funds.

That last point could be bad for race fans, because if the deal goes through, the next speedway proposal would presumably have to be a better offer than the one before to come close to arena proposal.

Apparently, ISC is still interested.

Ryan McGee writes for ESPN Magazine and in a tongue-in-cheek March 6 column he wrote, “International Speedway Corp. is snooping around Seattle, Denver and, despite the best efforts of environmentalists, New York City.” That part wasn’t a joke. Nor was it really news, according to ISC.

ISC spokesman Wes Harris said Monday the company continues to be interested in the Seattle market, and the ones in Denver and New York. “We do think that long term those are markets that would be well served by cup racing,” he said.

I e-mailed McGee and asked if there was any news we should be expecting. He responded:

“I was with NASCAR Images, the league’s production company, up until January and I don’t have any specific info for you other than to say it still comes up on the ISC meeting agendas on a weekly basis. In other words, they aren’t going away!”

That doesn’t mean Kitsap County, necessarily. But I can’t help but have it in the back of my mind when issues such as the annexation of the South Kitsap Industrial Area arise. There’s also an election coming this November, with many promising payback to local legislators who helped block the proposal in 2007.

It makes me wonder if some people in Daytona Beach, Fla. will be hitting the refresh button around 11 p.m. EST on Nov. 4.

Ball Bounces the Other Way for the Sonics Arena

As the Legislature approaches the midnight hour, a group of investors are coming forward to A. put $150 million toward improvements at KeyArena and B. ask the state and the city to match funds.

Would like to own the Sonics.
Once ran out of ideas.

Among the group of investors is Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The group is asking the state for $75 million and the city of Seattle for another $75 million. That doesn’t include the cost of buying the team, which current owner Clayton Bennett says is not for sale and will be moving to Oklahoma City.

A year ago Seattle residents passed Initiative 91, which is described by its author Chris Van Dyk as requiring that any money the city invests include a positive return on investment.

He was also one of the vocal opponents of the speedway deal here.

Nonetheless, there he is in Thursday’s Seattle Times, speaking positively about the most recent KeyArena deal.

Van Dyk, the anti-stadium activist, said he thinks the latest proposal could be a good deal for taxpayers.

Van Dyk said he’s been briefed on the plan and thinks it would meet the requirements of Initiative 91, approved by Seattle voters two years ago. The measure requires any arena subsidies for pro sports teams to turn a profit for the public.

Van Dyk suggested the arena plan may not even require a public vote.

“If it meets the terms of I-91, as far as I’m concerned, the public has already had its say-so,” Van Dyk said.

Van Dyk is a Bainbridge Island resident. I called him today and asked him to specify some of the differences he sees between this deal and the one for NASCAR.

The Seattle Sonics
oksonics.jpg
An Oklahoma City Sonic

A “key difference,” he said, is that there is a better direct cash return to the city. He then went on to discuss some of the other weaknesses he saw in the NASCAR deal. He talked about the infrastructure he thought ISC officials didn’t understand, saying it was the physical location that “ultimately killed NASCAR.”

During the debate last year, though, Van Dyk also discussed how ISC’s proposal called for taxes generated by race fans as something that would be impossible to measure. In this case, the city would get its money returned, because it would bond for the $75 million it’s putting up, would get lease payments and then in 20 years would own the arena. He’s basing that on initial conversations. “If ultimately what comes out is wrong, then we’ll say so,” he said.

The state will not get its money back, he conceded, but said that shouldn’t kill the deal. “I think there’s an element of heartburn, but there comes a point where you say, ‘Reasonable is reasonable,'” he said. “You’ve got to live in the real world.”

He compared the current KeyArena proposal to the public’s investment of $300 million for the football stadium and the $18 million that former Sonics owner Howard Schultz initially offered as a contribution to fixing the Sonics’ home court.

“By being creative we were able to stop a deal for $18 million and we got another $132 million. I call that a win,” Van Dyk said.

I asked him if he thought Clay Bennett was ever serious about keeping the team in Seattle. “No,” he said. Van Dyk said he met with Bennett’s group twice, the last time about a month after Bennett bought the Sonics. He said his group was willing to work with Bennett to get them a deal that would meet the restrictions of Initiative 91. After that second visit, though, he said he couldn’t get anyone from the new Sonics’ ownership to return his calls.

What could have been. The Boeing European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) Entertainment Center in Renton

Bennett then went to the Legislature with a proposal for a $500 million arena in Renton, for which the state was asked $300 million. “The Renton proposal was as big an apple pie as you could ever stuff in your gullet,” Van Dyk said Thursday.

The Legislature said, “no,” which prompted Bennett to say he was “out of ideas,” which prompted Horsesass blogger David Goldstein to suggest:

I mean, if Bennett really wanted to keep the team in Seattle, he wouldn’t be so uncreative or intractable. And he wouldn’t be such a whiney little quitter. You know, qualities one doesn’t usually associate with successful businessmen.

Or CEOs who have to answer to Bill Gates, which from what I hear is no picnic.

On Tuesday more than 60 percent of Oklahoma City voters approved a 15-month one-cent sales tax increase to improve the arena there to make it more attractive to the National Basketball Association.

Bremerton SKIA Talk Gets Serious

Here is a draft of the Bremerton SKIA story scheduled to run in Tuesday’s paper.

By Steven Gardner
sgardner@kitsapsun.com

SOUTH KITSAP — There’s talk about Bremerton annexing property near the Port of Bremerton again, but so far it’s not causing the near the heartburn it did when there was a NASCAR speedway involved.

That speedway conversation from a year ago, however, may have affected how serious county, port and city officials are, as well as private property owners, about making the 3,400-acre South Kitsap Industrial Area part of Bremerton.

The county created SKIA in 2002 with the intention of setting land aside for industrial services. Since then, though, there has been little progress in getting infrastructure to the area, which most in the discussion agree needs to happen to get industrial clients interested.

David Overton, who owns much of the private property within SKIA, described the current conversation as a “Could this be a good idea?” discussion.

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SKIA Could Go to Bremerton

The South Kitsap Industrial Area, at least parts of it, could get annexed into Bremerton. I’ll flesh this out more next week, but here’s a brief synopsis. SKIA was land set aside years ago for industrial development, but getting infrastructure to the site has been a challenge. It has been long believed that Bremerton or Port Orchard would one day take over, since industrial areas tend to be found within city boundaries.

When International Speedway Corp. proposed building a speedway on property near SKIA, the company did a study on infrastructure. When the whole flap about Bremerton annexing the site came about, the city did its own study.

Though the speedway proposal died, the entire process shed some light on what it would take to get sewer and other services out there.

Getting the annexation for the private land owners would require Port of Bremerton cooperation, because it’s port property that’s contiguous to the city, and it’s pretty tough to do leapfrog development.

One of the port’s concerns is Bremerton’s business and occupation tax. That could go away in March when the Bremerton City Council considers an ordinance that would exempt port industrial tenants from the tax.

Though discussion about SKIA annexation has been going on for years, port commissioner Cheryl Kincer said the conversation level has been raised recently. Jan Angel, county commissioner, said she’s been trying for eight years to get development to South Kitsap. If it takes annexation, that’s fine with her.

Country Club for Racers

Boardman, Ore. is building its track, even if NASCAR is not interested. The folks in Boardman, at least on the record, don’t seem to be taking it personally. From the Oregonian:

NASCAR, the nation’s largest sanctioning body of motor sports events, traditionally has preferred being within 60 miles of major population areas and airports. Recent studies in Washington state revealed NASCAR fans require about 27,000 rooms during a major race series, while corporate sponsors demand luxury accommodations and restaurants — all of which appear to put Morrow County, population 11,750, well out of the running.

“NASCAR is going to do what they want to do,” Morris said. “If they are interested, we are here.”

In August 2006 Kitsap Sun photographer Larry Steagall and I stopped by Boardman to get the skinny on the plans there. We were on our way to Fontana, Calif. to see a race.

This was back when Boardman was competing with Kitsap for a speedway. Boardman won when Kitsap lost, but no one from NASCAR was ever serious about Boardman.

So they’ve got kind of a racers’ club concept going on down there.

Hadn’t Heard This About NASCAR

You will recall all the noise about state Rep. Larry Seaquist’s “junky cars” comment about ISC, which was received like Jeff Gordon in Talladega.

Members of the House Homeland Security Committeeseem concerned about something more serious than that thing on blocks in your neighbor’s yard.

Getting a hepatitis shot is standard procedure for travelers to parts of Africa and Asia, but some congressional aides were instructed to get immunized before going to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord and the racetrack in Talladega, Ala. . . .

Staff who organized the trips advised the NASCAR-bound aides to get a range of vaccines before attending — hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria and influenza.

A Republican congressman from North Carolina was none too happy about the precautions.

“I have never heard of immunizations for domestic travel, and as the representative for Concord, N.C., I feel compelled to ask why the heck the committee feels that immunizations are needed to travel to my hometown,” (Robin) Hayes said in an Oct. 5 letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who chairs the Homeland Security panel.

At one of the speedways the news was met with a laugh:

Lauri Wilks, vice president of communications for Speedway Motorsports, which owns Lowe’s Motor Speedway and other tracks, said Wednesday that immunizations aren’t needed for the race.

“There’s no health risk that we know of,” she said, laughing. “We have never had any disease outbreak during one of our weekends.”

No disease outbreak, sure, but only if you don’t count . . . oh I better not go there.

Turns out the recommendation was because the visitors were going to hospitals and other health care facilities on the trip. The only diseases common at NASCAR tracks are . . . again, I better shut up.

Why Public Financing

The Seattle P-I’s Strange Bedfellows blog has an interesting conversation with author Neil deMause who, with co-author Joanna Cagan, wrote “Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit.”

deMause said he got into this line of study because he was a sports fan and was concerned about why teams left cities and old stadiums were torn down. He explains a sports team’s rationale for wanting stadiums this way:

If an arena costs $40 million a year (say) to get $20 million a year in new revenues, that’s only bad if you’re the one paying the $40 million. Teams want arenas because they’re a way of socializing costs while privatizing profits. Or to put it another way, teams want stadiums and arenas because just asking for the public to hand them cash seems too crass. But asking the public to build them a new building is for some reason considered more acceptable.

He also said he thought Clay Bennett would be back in the Legislature next year.

Tax Breaks vs. Economic Benefit

Steven Gardner writes:

Seriously, I’m going to stop posting these news items from other states one day, one day soon, but I thought this news from Michigan would interesting to this audience.

Read carefully, because the story indicates the track gets a break on new income it generates. It’s also worth noting that MIS is expected to pay $2.1 million in taxes, while Bremerton was estimating an annual estimated income of $473,000.

A ‘No’ in Denver

Steven Gardner writes:

You may have some recollection that ISC wants to build a track near Denver. On Tuesday there was a story in the Rocky Mountain News that led this way:

COMMERCE CITY – There’s a new sheriff in town. And he’s had it up to his white goatee with NASCAR.
In a sign that the political winds have shifted against building a superspeedway in Commerce City, new Mayor Paul -Natale and a majority of new council members poked some nails into the International Speedway Corp.’s tires Monday.

The city was considering a charter amendment “that would ban the city from offering economic incentives for a racetrack within nine miles of any residential subdivision.” It was a similar move to one passed in Aurora in 1999. Incidentally, ISC is looking at a site near there as well. Word on the street was ISC would seek about $250 million in state help and $2.5 million in incentives from the local entity.

On Thursday we learn the city won’t have to bother with the amendment. It’s not urgent, anyway.

Again in the Rocky Mountain News there is more:

The citizens revolted, and they got their way. NASCAR has veered away from Commerce City.

Further:

The property in Commerce City, only a few miles from the upscale Reunion subdivision, so roiled emotions that it changed the face of the City Council at the April elections. Most now on the council were elected by voters who oppose the track.

“You have to take a look at what the politics look like,” ISC spokesman Wes Harris said. But he added that the biggest factor in deciding against Commerce City had to do with the land parcels themselves.

Besides the somewhat parallel stories, there is another local connection to this. Chris Van Dyk from Citizens for More Important Things, a group that has consistently opposed subsidies for major sports venues here in Seattle, was according to Van Dyk hired by the Commerce City opposition group, The Commerce City Citizens & Business Alliance, to help them get to this day.

Van Dyk, who lives on Bainbridge Island, sent an e-mail saying as much.

The airport and the eagles in the refuge might have put up with the noise and traffic impacts from Earnhardt and Petty, but my clients weren’t much interested.

Van Dyk was among the long list of those who helped defeat the ISC push here. Most recently he was among those critical of the story I did about the legislator e-mails. He also provided one of the best metaphors for ISC’s funding plan, a metaphor I never got to use but always wanted to. After a county commissioner meeting he described ISC’s plan to take a percentage of sales taxes from three counties as filling a bathtub with 100 faucets. If you turn one off, do you really notice that it’s not there?

That was one reason Sens. Derek Kilmer and Phil Rockefeller talked about a performance guarantee.

You can see the text of Van Dyk’s e-mail from Thursday morning by clicking on the link below.

Continue reading

Bob Oke Dies

Steven Gardner writes:

Bob Oke, the Port Orchard Republican who served in the state Senate for 16 years, died Monday night.

The Senate gave him tributes in both 2005 and 2006, with many of his colleagues openly crying. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said during one tribute that Oke “greeted each day so courageously.”

“If you can address what you’re addressing with such courage and grace, we should certainly do the same thing,” she said.

I mention it here because he testified in favor of the speedway in March, riling some (including a couple seated next to me) Democrats by suggesting there was a conspiracy in that party to not support candidates who supported the track. The guy a couple seats over from me dismissed Oke as a “former senator,” as if as if cancer wouldn’t convince everyone to consider their career choices. I didn’t get to cover the Legislature before this year and I never met Oke personally. I will say that hearing was the only time I ever heard anyone say anything bad about Oke. Though for many he was on the wrong side of a lot of issues, there are few people who were more revered than Oke.

I’ve decided to not allow comments posted to this entry. If you’d like to comment on Mr. Oke, I refer you to the “Speaking of South Kitsap” blog, where you’ll find a more expanded story and room to comment.