Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Almost Like Torture...

PLINK... PLINK... PLINK
It seems like it will never stop! This whole Fairgrounds Sale thing is like a Chinese water torture... it just keeps on dripping and dripping and dripping until your head feels like it's about to explode!

PLUNK
The latest droplet is found in the agenda of the
Special Costa Mesa City Council meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, December 15th. This meeting will have two Closed Session items, one of which deals with the Fairgrounds purchase. The other is a discussion of potential litigation.

MOU TO BE CONSIDERED
However, i
n the open session there is scheduled, "Memorandum of Understanding with the County of Orange for a submission of a bid for the Orange County Fairgrounds".

1-NO BID

In the staff report, after a lengthy and thorough summation of events surrounding the potential sale of the Fairgrounds, they present the council with three alternative courses of action. First is "No Bid", in which the city would "choose to focus all its efforts towards stopping the sale and implementing the
Specific Plan and the General Plan initiative."

2-GO IT ALONE

Second would be "City Purchase", in which the city would submit a bid to acquire the Fairgrounds and "assume 100% of the financial risk & liability and full responsibility for future operations."

3-SPREAD THE C
OST AND RISK
Finally is the option called, "Partnership with the County of Orange", in which the City would partner with Orange County in the purchase of the Fairgrounds and share the financial and liability risk. In recognition of the very recent vote by the Board of Trustees of the Coast Community Colleg
e District, the staff implies that this option "might also provide for other public agencies to participate as equity partners or under some alternative arrangement." This would involve contracting the operation of the Fairgrounds with a third party.

DOOR NUMBER 3 IS PREFERRED

The staff is recommending the third option and has prepared a Memorandum of Understanding for a partnership with the County. Apparently the County will consider this MOU at their meeting earlier in the day, so any changes suggested then will be included in the staff presentation Tuesd
ay night.


RELUCTANT PARTICIPATION MAY PRESERVE THE SITE

It seems to me that none of the entities potentially involved here REALLY want to get into the Fair business, but they've been left no choice because this snowball is rolling down hill, gaining speed and increasing size and complexity. None of the entities want to see the Fairgrounds sold to "the highest bidder", who may plan to level the site and
put in some kind of development - homes, commercial buildings, etc. Preservation of the Fairgrounds in its current state seems to be the goal.

FAIR BOARD SHOULD BE SANCTIONED

If the State legislature passes Assemblyman Jose Solorio's AB 1590, which kills the sale authorization, or if the governor does the right thing and orders the Department of General Services to cancel the sale, all this goes for naught. All this angst, turmoil and expense being born by the government agencies will become moot. We can thank a misguided and greedy Fair Board for all of this and hope the legal system of this state will provide sufficient sanctions for all of this. In any event, they should be replaced by the governor.

GENERAL PLAN AND BALLOT MEASURE SHOULD GO FORWARD

As I've said before, even if the sale does get stopped the City of Costa Mesa should proceed with its plans for a General Plan amendment and a ballot measure on the June, 2010 ballot to firmly cement the uses of that site unless changed by another vote of the people.

CHESTNUTS ROASTING...
So, let's all just sit back this weekend and enjoy the rain that passes for holiday weather in these parts. Finish your Christmas cards, wrap those presents and enjoy one of the best of the Christmas tunes ever...

NAT KING COLE - THE CHRISTMAS SONG

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Another Voice Heard From...

A NEW, CREDIBLE VOICE IS HEARD
Tonight Tom Johnson, highly respected former publisher of the Daily Pilot and co-publisher of the fledgling Newport Mesa Daily Voice, gave us his take on the Fairgrounds sale issue in a painfully personal commentary in the Daily Voice. You can read it HERE.


AN INSIDER'S PERSPECTIVE

Johnson, a man who has for years moved freely within the circle of folks who are
the movers and shakers in our community, provided us with a unique perspective on this subject - that of a man who considers folks like Dave Ellis his friends.

HE'S RIGHT
His analysis of this situation is right on the money and his solutions also track with what many others have suggested. I'm grateful that he stepped up and provided us with his view on this issue, difficult as it must have been.

IS THE GOVERNOR LISTENING?

So, we have yet another credible voice calling for a major re-vamp of the Fair Board. I wonder just how many of these voices it will take before the governor hears them and replaces the current Fair Board with residents who actually care for the
well-being of the Fairgrounds?


HERE'S MY OPINION, GOVERNOR

In my opinion, the governor should 1) stop the sale of the Fairgrounds and write it off as a bad idea proposed by a few greedy individuals intent on making a huge profit from the transaction and, 2) sweep the slate clean by replacing the current Fair Board with folks who won't view it as payback for political favors and/or contributions made in the past. He should select members of the community with solid business backgrounds and who have demonstrated through previous public service that they know how to nurture, guard and operate the treasure that is the Orange County Fair and Events Center.

THE CITY SHOULD CONTINUE WITH ITS PLANS

In the meantime, and regardless how the sale scheme plays out, the City of Costa Mesa should move forward briskly with their plans to produce a General Plan amendment to solidly codify the uses on the Fairgrounds property and further lock it in by placing it on the June, 2010 ballot to protect the Fairgrounds from future capricious acts by other Fair Boards or elected officials tempted by financial gain.

FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT...
Tonight's Christmas selection is chosen specifically because our community has such folks as Tom Johnson, who will speak out on issues although they may cause themselves personal pain.

AMY GRANT & CE CE WINANS - COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS

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Ellis Quotes And A History Lesson

READ THE ARTICLE AND COMMENTS
Last time I referred you to an article written by Joseph Serna in the Daily Pilot in which he told us Orange County Fair and Events Center Board Vice Chairman, Dave Ellis, resigned from the non-profit organization he and five other board members formed to buy the Fairgrounds. You can read that entire article and the growing comment thread HERE.

ELLIS SH
OWS HIS CARDS
Perhaps the most telling line in Serna's piece is a segment from a quote by Ellis. It reads as follows, "
I believed in deeply in the concept of local control. Not anymore,” Ellis wrote. “I hope the state retains ownership of the fairgrounds and we give everyone on the grounds enough government to choke a horse.” Well, now, if that doesn't send chills down the spine of Jeff Teller of the Orange County Marketplace and all those folks trying to retain the Equestrian Center at the Fairgrounds, nothing will! I thought that "choke a horse" reference was particularly tactless.

IS RETRIBUTION IN THEIR FUTURE?

Which gets me back to wondering just what will happen at the Fairgrounds when (he says, thinking positively) the Fairgrounds sale is quashed. What will the attitude of the Fair Board be toward their tenants, most of whom have risen up as a group to oppose the sale and who have spoken in loud, clear voices about their concerns with the Board and it's bogus non-profit group? Will they all hold a group hug and go back to business as usual? Based on Ellis' quote, above, I suspect not.

MAYBE THE ENTIRE FAIR BOARD SHOULD GO
Perhaps it's time, as Register columnist Barbara Venezia suggested HERE, for the governor to ask all those folks to step aside and appoint an entirely new board. Perhaps we should be addressing that issue with him in addition to lobbying him to stop the sale.

OC PROGRESSIVE HISTORY LESSON

In my last entry I referred you to the OC Progressive blog. Today they posted an excellent entry capsulizing some of the history of the Fair Board and all the turmoil that has been going on for years. You can read that piece HERE. Please take the time...

A PALATE-CLEANSING

I think it's time for some palate-cleaning, so I present for your viewing and listening pleasure another of my roster of Christmas clips. You're gonna love this one.

CONNIE TALBOT - DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Fairgrounds Beat Goes On...

FAIRGROUNDS "HURRICANE" GROWS
The hurricane that is the controversy swirling around the potential sale of the Orange County Fair and Events Center continues to grow in
strength.



FOUR DOWN, TWO TO GO

According to Joseph Serna in the Daily Pilot, HERE, Wednesday another member of the Fair Board, Vice Chair Dave Ellis, announced that he, too, had resigned from the board of the non-profit formed by six members of the Fair Board last summer to purchase the Fairgrounds. Besides Orange County Republican kingmaker Ellis, board members Gary Hayakawa, Dale Dykema and Joyce Tucker have bailed out, leaving only Chair philanthropist Kristina Dodge and Mary Young remaining on the non-profit's board. I fully expect them to also resign within a few days and the non-profit to be dissolved.

CITY AND COUNTY INITIATIVES
Both the City of Costa Mesa and the County of
Orange have made serious moves about purchasing the Fairgrounds, and Costa Mesa also sent an entourage to Sacramento last Monday to plead their case for stopping the sale.

COAST COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT IN THE MIX?

Just as I went to press on this entry I was advised that at the Coast Community College District Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday night outgoing chairman Jim Moreno announced that Supervisor John Moorlach asked if the CCCD was interested in partnering with the County and possibly the City of Costa Mesa in some kind of Joint Powers Agreement that would make a bid on the Fair. According to my sources, the CCCD board unanimously authorized the staff to proceed with discussions with the county and city and, if need be, call a special meeting prior to the January 8, 2010 bid date. One more iron in the fire...

RELENTLESS

In the meantime, in the eye of the storm, the State's process continues to march on. Yesterday the third and fourth addenda to the original Request for Proposals (RFP) were issued to clarify several items missing or unclear in the original RFP.


CLARIFICATION PROVIDED
Addendum #3 provided links to four separate issues that were being clarified.
1- Purchase & Sales Agreement/Profit Participation
2- Bid Submittal, Opening, and Auction
3- Offer Form
4- Key Dates

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Addendum #4 provided nine pages of Questions and Answers that were generated from the original RFP and provided guidance for subsequent questions. Those questions will be accepted until December 15, 2009. You can find links to the original RFP and all accumulated addenda HERE.

REVISED KEY DATES

Among the important issues discussed in the new addenda are the Key Dates for this process. The following is the current list as revised on December 8, 2009*:

Issuance of Proposal: October 7, 2009
Deadline for Written Questions: November 13, 2009
Responses to Questions Posted No Later Than: December 8, 2009
Deadline for Addendum 3 Written Questions December 15, 2009
Responses to Addendum 3 Questions Posted: December 22, 2009
Final Bid Submission Date: January 8, 2010
Opening of Bids and Auction: January 14, 2010
Highest Bid Recorded**: January 14, 2010

Buyer’s Execution of Purchase Contract: January 21, 2010
State Review & Recommendation: January – March, 2010
State Execution of Purchase Contract: April 2010

(subject to legislative notice)
Escrow Opened, Buyer’s Deposit Increased April 2010
Estimated Close of Escrow June – November 2010
Buyer Control of Property*** November 1, 2010

* The State reserves the right to modify the above projected dates at its sole discretion prior to and after the Final Bid Submission Date.
** Same relative dates will apply from this point forward on subsequently ranked bid proposals
should a transaction fail to consummate with the initially selected bidder.

*** The sale of the Property is conditioned upon the Property’s continued operation as the Orange
County Fair and Event Center through the 2010 County Fair (slated to end mid-August).

MOOT IF AB1590 PASSES

All of this becomes moot, however, if Jose Solorio is successful in getting the bill he introduced, AB1590, passed by both houses of the legislature and signed by the governor OR the governor decides unilaterally to quash the sale of the Fairgrounds.


OCPROGRESSIVE BLOG STEPS UP

Although there have been many voices speaking out on this issue for the past several months, I have been remiss in not pointing out the very significant contributions made by one local blog, OCProgressive, which you can find HERE. Gus Ayer, who writes as "ocprogressive" on that site, has led the charge and posted many important items through it all. Please visit his site and simply scroll down through many of the most recent entries. Kudos to Gus for posting and for stepping to the speaker's podium and addressing Assemblymen Solorio and Tran at their recent public hearing.

IN THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON...

Finally, to wrap up this entry, here's my latest contribution to your pre-Christmas enjoyment. This one is one of my all-time favorite "Christmas" tunes, created and performed by the the one and only Stan Freberg. It seems more than a little appropriate today. Enjoy...

STAN FREBERG - A GREEN CHRISTMAS

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A CALL TO ACTION!

OK, folks, time's a'wastin'. The time for action is NOW!

VOCALIST VERN ON THE ATTACK

You will recall Huntington Beach activist/blogger Vern Nelson. He's the fellow who stood before the Costa Mesa City Council recently and sang his composition "Tainted Sale", which brought down the house and prompted Mayor Allan Mansoor to admonish, with a smile, any other speakers to better his performance.

NELSON'S CALL TO ACTION
Over at the Orange Juice Blog he has been among the most prolific spokespersons in the campaign to get the sale of the fairgrounds quashed. He posted an emergency call to action late yesterday to derail the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds and Events Center, HERE. Please visit his site for the particulars and follow his lead - FAX State Senators Harman, Dutton and Walters and Assemblywoman Harkey today requesting that they support holding an urgency vote on Assemblyman Jose Solorio's bill, AB1590.

FAX NUMBERS PROVIDED

Nelson provided the following fax numbers for the four members of the state legislature. I've duplicated them below. Apparently there is a feeling up north that, since the legislators have not heard much from folks down here on this issue, it must not be "urgent". We need to FAX them information to the contrary.

Senator Dutton: (916) 651-4031
Senator Harman: (916) 651-4035
Senator Walters: (916) 651-4033
Assm. Harkey: (916) 319-2073


TICK... TICK... TICK...
The clock is ticking... Please FAX each of the four legislators today.


Under the circumstances, I thought the following video clip was appropriate.

JOHNNY MATHIS - WE NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS


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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Three Fair Foundation Board Members Bail Out!

RATS AND SINKING SHIPS
Orange County Register investigative reporters Jennifer Muir and Tony Saavedra reported late today, HERE, that three members of the 32nd District Agricultural Association board (Fair Board) who helped form the non-profit organization with the intent of buying the Fairgrounds have resigned from the non-profit board. Those members are Dale Dykema, Joyce Tucker and Gary Hayakawa. Their resignations leave only three members left on the board.

DYKEMA PLACES BLAME

Board member Dykema, in his comments to the Register, blames what he calls "special interests" for affecting the sale. He was referring to supporters of the Equestrian Center and the Orange County Marketplace.

NO SURPRISE

With all the heat turned up over the past few days on this issue, it doesn't surprise me
at all that Fair Board members are bailing out of the non-profit. The Register story has some fascinating twists and turns. I'll let you read them for yourselves at the link above.

NO WORD ON SACTO TRIP YET

We still have no word about the results of the trip Wendy Leece, Katrina Foley and Allan Roeder made to snowy Sacramento on Monday. They hoped to meet with State officials to discuss quashing the sale of the Fairgrounds.

COMING APART AT THE SEAMS
It sure looks like this whole ill-advised scheme to sell the Fairgrounds to, theoretically, help balance the state budget is coming apart at the seams. I can almost hear the cheering around the Fairgrounds as I type this.

Stay tuned... this isn't over yet.

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Monahan's Banner Is Gone!

FINALLY!...
Well, I guess long time city counci
l member Gary Monahan has decided to follow at least one of our municipal rules.


TWO MONTHS OF VIOLATION

Finally, after nearly two months
of blatantly displaying an illegal banner along the Newport Blvd. frontage of his pub, today just before noon, I drove past his place while running errands and discovered that it is gone!

YESTERDAY
TODAY

RULES ARE FOR OTHERS

One can assume many things in this situation. First, we know for sure that he thinks the rules are for someone else. That's a given, since he recently proposed to his pe
ers on the City Council that they cut Costa Mesa business owners some slack when it came to enforcement of sign and banner rules. He thought that, in these tough times, the business owners needed ever advantage they could get. He might have been accurate, but his peers rejected his idea on a 4-1 vote.

THUMBED HIS NOSE
That didn't dissuade Monahan, though. He went right ahead and put up his offending sign and left it there for almost two months, virtually thumbing his nose (or worse) to the city and his fellow council members before finally tearing it down.

I find myself wondering if he paid the $75.00 fine for the first month...

RIGHT THING - WRONG REASON

I'd like to think that Gary discovered the error of his ways and realized that he was setting a bad example for a current councilman and former mayor. I'd like to think that, but I don't. Nope, I think the pressure finally got to him, so he decided to take the banner down and replace it with a flock of flags. I have no idea if they are legal or not. In the spirit of the holidays I'm willing to cut him some slack on the flags.

THIS JUST SEEMS TOO APPROPRIATE
It seems somehow very appropriate, considering Monahan's removal of the banner, to leave you with this season-appropriate video clip.
HANDEL'S HALLELUJAH CHORUS

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Early Retirement Incentive Plan Pays Off

STUDY SESSION TOMORROW
Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 8th, the Costa Mesa City Council will hold a study session in which the current results of it's Early Retirement Incentive plan will be discussed. Based on the staff report shown on the city web site, one can
only assume this program has exceeded all expectations.

PART OF 10-POINT PLAN

You may recall that the Early Retirement Incentive plan was part of the 10-point plan
to balance the 2009-2010 budget. Although no savings were included in this part of the plan because there was no way to predict how many employees would take advantage of it, the city staff hoped that somewhere in the area of $3.5 million could be saved on an annual basis if all went as planned.

PLAN HOPED FOR 25 PERS
ON REDUCTION
The plan assumed that somewhere around 50 employees would take advantage of the plan, and that of those 50 positions vacated perhaps 25 could be left unfilled and the annual cost savings might be the above-mentioned $3.5 million.


RESULTS DOUBLED EXPECTATIONS

As of this morning 51 employees have taken advantage of the enhanced retirement program and have either already departed or will have departed by the deadline of December 31, 2009. However, after extensive analysis by individual department managers
and senior staff, it has apparently been determined that only 6 of those departing employees will be replaced! The result is a projected savings of $3.6 million for the remainder of this fiscal year - or double the rate previously anticipated.

WATCHING SERVICE LEVELS
This is good news, which will be made even better if the staff assessments prove
correct and acceptable service levels can be maintained despite the loss of those 45 very senior people.

KUDOS AND CONGRATS
It's nice to have a little good ne
ws for a change. Kudos to the management team for the plan and congratulations and thank you to those retirees who have contributed so much to the well-being of our city over the years. We here at A Bubbling Cauldron wish them all the best in their "golden years".

MONAHAN'S LAW BREAKING CONTINUES

By the way, councilman Gary Monahan continues to t
humb his nose at the city by leaving his illegal sign up on the Newport Blvd. frontage of his pub. As predicted, he will likely run this right to the very end of the football season, pay the penalties and chalk it up to the cost of doing business.

TERRIBLE EXAMPLE

This is terrible example for him to set for everyone and especially the other business owners in our city. I noticed that another gin mill just down the street from his place has already taken Monahans lead and has hung his own illegal banner on the side of Triangle Square. Thanks, Gary, for effectively giving the city the finger and for starting to turn this city into a slum.

MORE PRE-CHRISTMAS CHEER FOR YOU

On a happier note, the following is the next in my series of holiday music clips courtesy of YouTube.

CELTIC WOMAN/CHLOE AGNEW - OH, HOLY NIGHT

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A Holiday Message To Make You Smile

As promised, this is the next in my little series of clips to get you into the old holiday spirit.

HEIDI KLUM - CHRISTMAS CAROL WONDERLAND



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NEVER FORGET...

"A DATE WHICH WILL LIVE IN INFAMY..."
Today marks the 68th anniversary of the sneak attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, which launched the United States of America into World War II. I wrote about it last year, HERE.

AN UNHEALED SCAR

That date, more than any other in the history of this country, left a scar that has never fully healed. Recalling the events of t
hat day, the four years of strife that followed and the hundreds of thousands of American lives that were lost should be a splash of cold water in the faces of those who would counsel our trainee president to withdraw from the current conflict in the Middle East without a satisfactory solution.

OBAMA SHOULD LEARN FROM HISTORY

President Obama needs to understand that his recent pronouncements about withdrawing from Afghanistan before the next preside
ntial election is viewed by our enemies as weakness and will almost certainly encourage them to try to attack us again. In my opinion, Obama should learn from history and provide our military all the resources necessary to win this War on Terror.


UNITED STATES MILITARY CEMETERY - FLORENCE, ITALY

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

More Fairgrounds Intrigue

LEECE, FOLEY AND ROEDER WINGING NORTH
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 Even
ts 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 Jos
e 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 fron
t. 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, inclu
ding 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.

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

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.

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