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Racetrack backers, foes ready to face off

After more than a year of sermons preached to the converted, proponents and opponents of the construction of a NASCAR racetrack are scheduled to meet head-on three times in the next month.

The first, a meeting of the Legislative Committee on Econ-

omic Development and Inter-national Relations, will take place at 2:30 p.m. on May 31 at the Port of Seattle Office on Pier 69.

According to Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, this meeting will give the International Speedway Corp. the opportunity to present its case to the Legislature since doing so was not possible during the last session.

U.S. Rep Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) is due to address the meeting. ISC will make a presentation, along with several other groups.

This is an open meeting but will not allow public input. Some anti-NASCAR groups will also make presentations.

This will be followed by two North Kitsap gatherings during June, with with intended as public debates with representatives from both sides.

Both Poulsbo (June 5 at the North Kitsap High School) and Bainbridge Island (June 21 at the regular Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Wing Point Country Club) plan to invite advocates and opponents of track construction and have them respond to written questions from the audience.

The likely participants are from the pro-racetrack Checkered Flag Club and the opposing Coalition for Healthy Economic Choices in Kitsap.

While both groups have made presentations throughout the county, the Poulsbo gathering represents the first time they have appeared together in a structured debate setting.

Checkered Flag Club president Rick Flaherty said he is looking forward to the open discussion and does not expect it to become contentious or personal.

“We plan to take the high road,” he said. “A lot of people are fearful of a hostile situation, but we won’t allow that to happen.

“I’m not sure what the effect the racetrack will have on Bainbridge Island,” he said, “but I expect it could increase tourism or convince some companies to locate there.”

CHECK spokesman Ray McGovern said he does not expect an emotional debate, as he, too, expects to present a factual-based argument.

“It won’t get too emotional,” he said. “We will each use facts to prove that the other side doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Dwyer said the meeting’s schedule is still up in the air.

“I think if you took a poll today, you would find that most people on the island would think this is not a good idea,” Dwyer said. “But it is a regional issue, and we need to hear both sides of the story.”

Bainbridge City Councilman Bill Knobloch expressed qualified support for the track a few weeks ago and has already felt pressure from track opponents. Still, he seeks to keep all options open.

“I think Bainbridge Island is watching and waiting,” Knobloch said. “I think we have an open mind, and the business community realizes that it could be a favorable economic generator.”

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