Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fair Board Discusses Selling The Fairgrounds

FAIR BOARD MEETING
Wednesday evening I attended the meeting of the Orange County Fair Board, held at the Costa Mesa City Council chambers. The event played to a big crowd - I estimated that nearly one hundred people were in the chambers at one time or another.


FAIR VENDORS DOMINATED THE CROWD
Most of the attendees seemed to be either Fair vendors or staff. Several members of the Costa Mesa hierarchy were in attendance, too. I saw City Manager Allan Roeder, Assistant City Manager Tom Hatch, Mayor Allan Mansoor, Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Leece and former Mayor Sandra Genis.

ONLY THE OC REGISTER REPRESENTED THE MEDIA

The main item on the agenda was described as, "Governors Initiative to Sell Orange County Fair & Event Center". You can read the Orange County Register's Ellyn Pak's account HERE.

MOST SPEAKERS WERE VENDORS
After Vice Chair Kristina Dodge made a motion to direct staff to hire consultants to facilitate the process the issue was opened up for public comments. Thirteen attendees rose to speak. Of those, all but two were vendors who make a good living from their business activities at the Fairgrounds.

GENIS ASKED SOME GOOD QUESTIONS

Resident and former Mayor Sandra Genis spoke, questioning the wisdom of a "non-profit" organization buying the facility and not being subject to the open meeting requirements. She also pointed out the short-comings of the board by not soliciting public comments in the form of opinion cards, as was done at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. She closed by suggesting the City of Costa Mesa buy the property and lease it back.

STILLER URGED TRANSPARENCY

Resident and former Parks & Recreation Commissioner David Stiller was the final speaker. He encouraged the Board to not be rushed into action and to keep all dealings transparent to residents and other interested parties. He suggested that this was not time for "Government By Ambush". He urged what he called "deliberate speed".

BIDDING COULD TAKE HALF A YEAR
Chair Julie Vandermost suggested that if the process that is about to be launched does not result in a satisfactory bid for the property, then Assemblyman Van Tran is prepared to present a bill to the Assembly quashing the sale plans. She indicated that this process could take six months or longer before bids are reviewed, and that the Fair Board has no say in this process.

CROWD FAVORS KEEPING IT "AS-IS"
Based on the obvious mood in the chambers, it's safe to say that no one in attendance wanted anything at all to change with the Fairgrounds and the activities conducted there. We shall see.

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