Opinion

NASCAR questions tabled — for now

It’s official: The NASCAR folks will wait until after this year’s general election to push hard in the state Legislature for the construction of a speedway in South Kitsap.

Not until the Legislature convenes in January 2007 may we see whether a financing package including substantial government funding of construction costs can be passed by the legislature and accepted by the governor.

This could make for an interesting campaign season, if the candidates vying for seats in the Legislature find they can’t keep their opinions about the speedway proposal under their hats.

If it’s still good enough come November to say only that many questions need to be answered, then the campaigners will not have done the job required.

Lots of us have questions galore, but we need to know enough about each candidate’s approach to the issues to consider it in deciding for whom to vote.

There may even be an impact on the campaign for the one seat on the county commission, since Commissioner Patty Lent might find it necessary to state the principles upon which she expects to decide matters related to the speedway.

Saying simply that she would rely on her conscience and consider the interests of all may not get Lent far in her campaign for re-election if people insist on hearing just what factors and presumptions she would incorporate into her decision making process.

For this region, the speedway proposal ought to be a major issue for every voter to consider before voting for candidates on this year’s primary and general election ballots. 

If you want anyone in government to heed your views on this proposal, you need to make it clear that it matters when you mark your ballots. Making noise and then ignoring your own words while casting your votes isn’t likely to make the impression you desired.

A new speedway hosting popular NASCAR races could be the cornerstone of an economic structure that provides the growth and jobs we need and desire.

If it could be the beginning of desirable economic growth, then the voters need to know which candidates are likely to accommodate that growth rather than oppose it or vacillate while checking to see which way the winds of public opinion appear to be blowing.

For those of us who have not one entrepreneurial bone in our bodies and who lack the imagination needed to figure out what the new economic structure may look like, people other than the candidates for public office need to get into the conversation.

If there are opportunities for economic growth that would be likely to follow construction of a speedway, what are they?

Is there even one example of a business other than a retail establishment or tourist attraction that went to an area with a new speedway?

The local task force making phone calls to other areas learned that retail establishments sprouted around a new track in an area that had been suffering from economic stagnation.

Having thousands of potential customers congregate at the track twice a year may be just the thing to make it worthwhile to invest in a large regional retail center — sort of like having Christmas shopping seasons in June and August.

If that’s what we could expect here, then what changes to the sub-area plan for the South Kitsap Industrial Area have to be made?

The SKIA sub-area plan incorporates the planners’ wishes based on what they imagined to be the opportunities, but sometimes a completely different opportunity knocks.

The plan prohibits using that area to serve the retail needs of this region, yet retail establishments seem to be the most likely businesses that would be attracted to the vicinity of the speedway.

If large new retail businesses cannot be located in the SKIA or the immediate area, where would they go?

The primary uses intended for the SKIA are surely still desired, so is it more or less likely that industrial and commercial businesses would want to be near a speedway?

As for the speedway facility itself, what could be done with it during the many weeks when there are no big races?

Could someone put an indoor firing range under the grandstand? How about a trap and skeet range on the infield? 

The recently announced reorganization of NASCAR’s regional racing program indicated that existing tracks couldn’t profit from the regional events they had been hosting, so it appears there is no great demand for smaller racing events.

If we are going to exempt the NASCAR folks from taxes and use a large part of the sales taxes paid by their fans to pay for the race track, it would be nice to think the facility could be useful for other things at other times.

It’s easy to come up with questions, but not so easy to answer them. 

Let’s hope the candidates and other interested people come up with some plausible answers before November.

Robert Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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