More Fairgrounds Intrigue
By the time most of you read this Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Leece, Councilwoman Katrina Foley and City Manager Allan Roeder will have already arrived in Sacramento to discuss the sale of the Orange County Fair and Events Center with officials from the State Department of General Services with hopes of convincing them that, since the city will be exercising it's authority over the property once it is no longer owned by the state to significantly reduce it's potential uses, the State should cancel the sale.
GOOD LUCK WITH THAT...
The last time I personally spoke with a representative of General Services a week ago I was told that only the governor's office can stop the sale now. Of course, if Assemblyman Jose Solorio's bill, AB 1590, is passed it includes an urgency element that would quash the sale immediately.
NO A.G. LEGAL SUPPORT FOR THE FAIR BOARD
And, this weekend brought some interesting news from the legal front. It seems that the Fair Board has been advised by the State Attorney General's office that, because of the "seemingly intertwined and potentially conflicting interests the District, the District Board members and the non-profit", it will no longer provide legal services to the Board on issues relating to the sale until "all issues relating to the proposed sale of the District fairgrounds have been resolved."
A BLANK CHECK INSTEAD
While at first glance it would seem that the Attorney General's office, headed up by former and possible future governor Jerry Brown, has cast the Fair Board adrift without a paddle, that's far from the truth. In the letter sent to philanthropist Kristina Dodge, Chair of the 32nd District Agricultural Association (Fair Board) on December 1, 2009, the Board was authorized to use alternative legal counsel of its own choosing. The author of the letter, Chief Assistant Attorney General J. Matthew Rodriquez, went on to say, "By providing this authorization, we do not endorse the Districts' choice of counsel or agree to monitor that counsel's bills." Sounds like a blank check to me...
VENEZIA CALLS FOR FAIR BOARD OUSTER
In her column in The Current last Friday, former sauce-stirrer and current Orange County Register columnist Barbara Venezia called for the ouster of the Fair Board. You can read her column HERE. This sounds like a great idea to me. Through their attempted manipulation of this issue, including the apparent illegal hiring of former Senator Dick Ackerman to lobby on their behalf for the sale of the Fairgrounds, the current Fair Board has proven itself unworthy of the public trust necessary to perform its duties. According to the Daily Pilot, Ackerman was paid more than $19,000 for his efforts on behalf of the Fair Board.
WHAT'S RIGGY'S GAME?
I also find myself suspicious of the activities of Costa Mesa Planning Commission Chairman, Jim Righeimer, in this issue. When the story broke about the Fair Board forming a non-profit organization (comprised mainly of current Fair Board members), he launched his "Save The Fair" effort, theoretically to do just that - save the Fair. However, as time passes, it seems clear that his effort was simply a smoke screen to obscure what some of his pals on the Fair Board were trying to do - buy the Fairgrounds on the cheap for potential future financial gain for themselves.
There have been few issues that have so energized our community than this bogus proposal to sell the Fairgrounds. There are still way more questions than answers. And, this issue has brought together some very interesting diverse groups, too. The most vocal and persistent are those with very real vested interests - the equestrian crowd and vendors from the Orange County Marketplace. However, there has been a huge groundswell of outrage from residents who love the Fair and feel the sale of that 150 acres will mark the death knell to one of the last bastions of our agricultural heritage.
CLOSED SESSION TUESDAY MAY PROVIDE ANSWERS
I hope the Costa Mesa entourage is successful on their trip north. There's a special closed session City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, December 8th to address the sale. Perhaps there will be a "report out" of that session that will give us some answers.