NASCAR fails in the fine print
A bill that would usher in NASCAR to the Northwest could set a dangerous precedent in the way government works in Washington. This should be an...
A bill that would usher in NASCAR to the Northwest could set a dangerous precedent in the way government works in Washington. This should be an easy "no" vote for legislators.
The rejection of HB 2062, which is sponsored by Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-Covington, and requested by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, should not be about whether NASCAR is wanted in Washington. The discussion should be about the details of the bill, which is a slick piece of work that is tougher to stomach with every turn of its 57 pages.
The bill does not designate a site in Kitsap County that Great Western Sports (GWS), Inc., a subsidiary of racetrack builder International Speedway Corp. (ISC), wants to build on, but there has been no noise about any other location in the Puget Sound area. This editorial board opposed GWS's choice of the site in 2005 when GWS announced it wanted to build an 83,000-plus-seat racetrack on a 950-acre tree farm in unincorporated southwest Kitsap County. The location is still problematic.
The logistics of moving that many people from lodgings in King and Pierce counties would be enough to clog already full summertime ferry routes and roadways. The flow of RVs and campers during race week would also slow an overburdened transportation infrastructure.
The most problematic location issue for the racetrack is that it would fall outside of the Urban Growth Boundary. The racetrack legislation is set up so that a city could leapfrog county land to annex noncontiguous land for the track, thus making it "urban." Once growth boundaries have been compromised, sewer and infrastructure currently banned outside the growth boundary would be extended.
That scenario pits a county like Kitsap, where there is little political support for the track, against a city like Bremerton, which has a mayor who supports a track. More worrisome is that if the Legislature adopts the bill, not only is a local government obligated to move on the project, it — whether that be a host or neighboring city or county — only has to have council or commissioners vote to start the process. The public has no say.
The outrageous number of exceptions and tax breaks should also give legislators pause. The track would be exempt from property taxes and the public speedway authority would not have to pay sales tax on supplies and equipment used in the construction of the track.
GWS and ISC still have not guaranteed the track will be graced by NASCAR's top event — a Nextel Cup Series race. Chances are that it would happen, at least for a time. But what happens several years down the road when a new track is built in a place ISC and NASCAR deem an important market and they need to pull races away from existing tracks?
All this doesn't even consider the funding mechanism for the bonds. The state would not be on the hook, but whatever combination of local governments that back the track would be. The bonds would be paid off with an admissions tax and percentage of the sales tax.
A racetrack is not worth violating the Growth Management Act or forcing a new relationship between the state and local governments. Simpson's colleagues should read the bill carefully and then soundly trash it.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.