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Originally published September 23, 2009 at 12:11 AM | Page modified September 24, 2009 at 10:20 AM

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CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story might have given the impression that Fox News sought to restrict access to Saturday's "Welcome Home Glenn Beck" event in Mount Vernon. Fox News has nothing to do with the event.

Press to be limited for Glenn Beck's city visit

There will be no press credentials for the sold-out "Welcome Home Glenn Beck" event, 7:30 p.m. Saturday at McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon — with the exception of one member of the local press who will accompany Mayor Bud Norris.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Is someone trying to restrict press access when Glenn Beck is presented with the key to the city of Mount Vernon?

There will be no press credentials for the sold-out "Welcome Home Glenn Beck" event, 7:30 p.m. Saturday at McIntyre Hall — with the exception of one member of the local press who will accompany Mayor Bud Norris.

Norris, who planned the instantly controversial evening, said the directive came from Beck and his representatives, and that he wasn't told why: "No, I didn't ask for a reason." Norris said he would be choosing the one reporter allowed but hadn't decided who it will be.

Chris Balf, president of Beck's production company, Mercury Radio Arts, said in a statement Tuesday, "Glenn is very excited about returning home and being a guest at the fundraiser [for Mount Vernon's Lincoln Theatre], but there is a slight misunderstanding as we are guests and are not running the event."

Staff at McIntyre Hall — a county facility — said it might simply be a capacity issue for the venue whose 680 seats sold out for $25 each in just one day.

Meanwhile, opinions differed Tuesday about how to classify "Welcome Home Glenn Beck." The mayor ... key to the city ... making an official proclamation of "Glenn Beck Day" ...

"It is a city event. There's no question about that," Norris said.

Then how could it be possible to restrict press access, regardless of where the order comes from?

Mount Vernon City Attorney Kevin Rogerson added, "This is a ticketed event not open to general public. This is the mayor giving a symbolic key of recognition to a private individual."

City Council member Dale Ragan said he's since tried unsuccessfully to introduce an ordinance that would require council approval for this kind of activity.

"The key to city and recognition of 'Glenn Beck Day' appear to be the key hurdles," Ragan said. "If someone wants to bring a speaker to town and sell tickets, they've got the right to do it. I don't believe in involving the city. There's going to have to be additional police officers on duty. There stands a chance of huge numbers of demonstrators on the premises. It just runs up all the costs.

"And I've said all along that I don't want to see any city money spent on this issue. This is a very divisive, uproaring issue," Ragan said.

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Radio host Jerome Edge of KSVR 91.7 FM is organizing "a peaceful protest starting at 5:30 p.m. outside of McIntyre Hall ... as we let Mayor Norris and Mr. Beck know the thoughts of the majority of us here in the Skagit Valley." The Skagit Democrats and Young Democrats of Skagit County are joining Edge in organizing the protest to give Beck "a tyrant's welcome," he said.

While there's also plenty of support for the event (not to mention healthy ratings for Beck), opposition to "Glenn Beck Day" does seem to be snowballing. Another group plans to bring a petition with 16,000 signatures to the Mount Vernon City Council meeting tonight, asking the council to cancel the event.

"We want the City Council to overrule the mayor," said Aaron Ostrom of the progressive advocacy group Fuse Washington. "Or they've got different options for what they could do — a resolution disagreeing with him. We'd like them to indicate that the kind of politics Glenn Beck represents isn't the kind of politics we should be honoring in our country."

But council member Kathy Combs said there's nothing they can do about the event. Norris didn't consult the council when he planned the event, and didn't have to, she said. And since there's nothing about the matter on the council's Wednesday agenda, she said they can't even take symbolic action that registers approval or disapproval.

Combs is the only one of the council members who accepted a ticket to "Welcome Home Glenn Beck." "I don't know Mr. Beck, I've never heard him, I've never met him. So I'm looking forward to going to the event and hearing what he has to say," Combs said.

Ragan said "No thank you" to a ticket. While Norris has said his feedback has been about 50/50 pro and con, Ragan said, "Of several hundred e-mails I have had, there are maybe three supporting it. All of them talk about the fact that they will shop no longer in Mount Vernon."

Ragan, the owner of Karl's Paints, said, "I actually had a lady come in the store who's been a longtime customer and said, 'I'm sorry, I will no longer be back.'

"With everything that's going on in the world now, the last thing we need is for something to affect our businesses in a negative manner. The businesses are beside themselves."

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

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