Lent still undecided about track

When it comes to the disposition of the proposed Kitsap County NASCAR facility, the county commissioners will decide much of the permitting details and other minutiae that will determine the project’s fate.

And with commissioners Jan Angel and Chris Endresen leaning for and against, respectively, Central Kitsap Commissioner Patty Lent has assumed the tiebreaker role.

This was emphasized this week, when Lent sent out a public letter underlining her continued neutrality with regard to the project until all the facts are in.

Lent was responding to a published report that implied that she had taken a stand.

“I am neutral,” she said. “I am the fence-walker. I will not make up my mind before I get all the information that I need in order to make the right decision.”

Lent’s fence-sitting is complicated by the fact that she faces re-election this year.

Ray McGovern, who opposes the track, said the situation presents a dilemma for voters who want to make this preference known.

“This is an extremely hard choice,” he said. “Whoever sits in that seat will have an extremely important vote.”

Track supporter Rick Flaherty respects Lent’s position, noting that neutrality is the proper position for all the commissioners to take at this time. But he feels Lent will eventually support the track, due to her stated support for economic development.

Lent said the racetrack will not be a campaign issue, since the earliest time she would make up her mind would be during the 2007 legislative session.

“It is not an issue to vote for or against this year,” she said. “NASCAR is bigger than me, and bigger than my election.”

Lent’s announced opponents are more committed. Jack Hamilton, who is challenging Lent in the Republican primary, has expressed qualified support for the project.

“This will be a significant economic benefit for Kitsap County,” he said. “We should look at this in a positive light with the negatives to be sorted out.”

Josh Brown, who is now the presumptive Democratic nominee, recognizes the economic benefits but strongly opposes the “public funding” aspect.

Brown disagrees with Lent about whether the matter is a campaign issue.

“NASCAR is the only issue that everyone in the county knows about,” he said. “Wherever you go in the county, people have an opinion.

“I don’t know what other research Patty needs to do in order to determine that this is not a good deal for Kitsap County,” Brown said. “The financing proposal makes it clear that we will not benefit.”

In other words, the election of either one would tip the scales. In all likelihood, Hamilton would vote with Angel while Brown would vote with Endresen. In the simplest terms, voters who want to express support for the racetrack can vote for Hamilton.

Those who oppose it can vote for Brown.

Lent said the tiebreaker role increases makes her more deliberative.

“This puts pressure on me to make the right decisions,” she said. “We need to look at the total package and make sure it is a good deal for Kitsap County.”

Flaherty takes this a step further.

“It’s high time that our three commissioners start to balance the requests from their districts with what’s best for the county,” he said. “This is a county issue, it won’t just benefit the south. The commissioners need to realize this.”

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