Foes of racetrack turn out in force

ARLINGTON – About 250 people attended a public forum organized by Snohomish County Citizens Against a Racetrack on Thursday evening at Arlington High School.

But the meeting was also noteworthy for a few prominently empty seats.

Representatives from Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon’s office and the city of Marysville declined SCAR’s invitations to represent the pro side of a pro-and-con panel to discuss a plan to build a 75,000-seat racetrack capable of handling NASCAR’s popular Nextel Cup races.

Without official proponents, the meeting leaned heavily to anti-track sentiments.

Ernie Fosse, representing SCAR, started the meeting with a summary of his group’s primary reasons for opposing the track. He talked about noise, traffic, effects on Arlington’s airport and the environment, and concerns about responsible economic growth.

His presentation touched on one key concern for many in the room – the track’s north Marysville location is within a few miles of thousands of homes.

Damon Matz, another SCAR organizer, said his home in the Berry Farm neighborhood would be 318 yards from the track.

A few folks bucked the prevailing opinion.

Bill McColl of Everett stepped forward to express his support.

“I’m probably as popular as a skunk at a picnic,” he said.

The tax revenues should work for local communities, he said.

“When I go to a race, I spend a minimum of $1,000,” he said, adding that $2,000 is not uncommon for a race fan to spend in four days.

“Do the math,” he said. “There’s new tax money to be had.”

A couple of elected officials spoke: Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, and Arlington City Councilman Dan Anderson.

Pearson said politicians should attend such meetings and not do “handstands” to persuade track officials to come here.

Anderson agreed, but he was a bit more sympathetic to the track idea.

“I’ve been trying to find ways to generate revenues without burdening people” with more taxes, he said. “What I have gotten out of this is a better set of questions.”

A few hours before the meeting, Reardon said he would not attend meetings prepared by “special interest” groups on either side of the issue. He said he had already turned down a similar invitation from Fans United for NASCAR, a pro-track group started by local businesswoman Gigi Burke and others.

Reardon questioned the reputation of the panel’s moderator, Mike Siegel, a conservative talk radio host on KTTH radio in Seattle. Siegel was fired in 1996 by KVI radio for broadcasting false rumors about Norm Rice, then Seattle’s mayor.

“He’s not trustworthy,” Reardon said.

Reardon decided not to attend when Siegel told his staff that “entertainment” was one of the reasons he was moderating.

Reardon poked fun at Siegel’s penchant for “paranormal” topics on past radio shows.

“I’m not going to go on a talk show with a guy who used to chase little green men, crop circles and flying saucers,” Reardon said.

At the meeting, Siegel refuted charges that he was putting on a show, pointing out that the meeting was not being broadcast.

“Maybe Executive Reardon should have been here to listen to that,” Siegel said.

Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or smorris@heraldnet.com.

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