I attended the recent presentation to Lt. Governor Brad Owen and the legislative economic development committee about the NASCAR proposal. Frankly, I was surprised there were only a handful of opponents present, while the room overflowed with supporters who couldn’t find seats and had to listen from outside the meeting room. International Speedway Corporation (ISC) did an outstanding job of presenting a panel of recognized experts to explain the facts of the financing proposal to the legislators present, and answer their questions.
Representatives of the Governor’s office, most notably Dr. Irv Lefberg, PhD., Chief of Forecasting for the Office of Financial Management (OFM) told the legislators that the numbers contained in the Berk Report and presented by ISC appeared to be conservative, and that the value of the massive amounts of TV coverage as well as exposure to the corporate CEOs that sponsor NASCAR teams, is a positive intangible benefit for our state that is impossible to calculate in dollars.
Rep. Adam Smith, who stated he represented Congressman Norm Dicks as well as himself, stated that they both support the project and see it as a vehicle for the Puget Sound region to become less Seattle-centric economically, and pledged to work to secure funding for the needed infrastructure improvements. Meanwhile, Bremerton mayor Cary Bozeman gave an impassioned plea for support because he believes enough revenue will be generated to help fund the continually mounting social obligations cities face. Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma, who was ill and couldn’t attend, has also endorsed the project, as has Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, who testified with Bozeman.
However, the event was most notable for the fact that C.H.E.C.K., the group opposing the project, didn’t present any compelling, or credible evidence of why legislators should not green-light the project, when given the opportunity to testify. Frankly, their presentation was so lame it did their cause more harm than good. It was long on accusations and innuendo, but short on reality — and C.H.E.C.K’s well-worn misdirection approach obviously backfired as the legislators saw right through it. One of the legislators, I believe it was Senator Joyce Mulliken (R-Ephrata), chastised C.H.E.C.K. spokesman Ray McGovern by saying point blank, "I have to make my decisions on issues based on the facts. Where are your facts? I don't see any being presented here."
C.H.E.C.K.’s presentation also contained obvious intentional misinformation (which some people might term blatant lies), such as when McGovern stated the project would devastate 950 acres of “virgin timber.” You could hear background snickers from the audience at that comment. Anyone that’s actually visited the proposed site knows it’s an overgrown clear-cut for the most part, that’s devoid of “virgin timber.”
Another C.H.E.C.K. spokesman, environmental activist Tom Donnelly, didn’t endear the group to legislators either (some who traveled from as far away as Walla Walla) by admonishing them about the location of the hearing, stating it should have been held in Kitsap County. But it was Port Orchard Independent columnist and Sierra Club representative Mary Colborn who took the undisputed prize for lack of credibility with her assertion that bird watchers would generate as much revenue as NASCAR if only given a chance.
I came away from the hearing believing the momentum has shifted significantly away from opponents who have been carping against the project by playing to the fears of the uninformed, in favor of project supporters. They shifted that momentum simply by dealing in reality and stating the facts — not by using the blatantly dishonest tactics of systematic disinformation, misdirection and outright lies employed by opponents up to this point.