I sat here late last night, knowing I needed to write about the Fairgrounds drama following the Fair Board meeting yesterday and the hasty Sacramento trip by City Manager Allan Roeder and Councilwoman Katrina Foley at the same time. I knew I owed you some kind of observation based on all the turmoil that is swirling around this issue. But, every time I began to type I found myself getting angry, frustrated and plain old depressed. So, I thought I'd get a good night's sleep and start today. Didn't work - I'm still angry, frustrated and depressed!
PADILLA ANGRY - VOTES "NO"
I was unable to attend the Fair Board meeting yesterday due to a prior commitment, but I'm told by reliable sources, and local media coverage, that the Board voted nearly unanimously to forward the profit sharing proposal to Sacramento for it's consideration. Member David Padilla voted no and, based on reports from the front, was quite angry with the whole situation. Rumors have it that he and other Board members had not even seen the document before being asked to ratify it.
you will recall from my previous entry, Chair Kristina Dodge penned a letter to the Governor dated 7/31/10 that was a transmittal document for the proposal. My conversation with Steve Beazley, CEO of the Fairgrounds, on Saturday led me to believe that the proposal was already in Governor Scharzenegger's hands on that date - more than 48 hours BEFORE the Board had even seen it! Some have speculated that this was a clear violation of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Law.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
This kind of stealth governance has marked the Fair Board's role in the whole process for more than a year. From the time they unleashed Dick Ackerman to gin up support in Sacramento for a bill to sell the Fairgrounds last year right on through the events yesterday, they have been less than forthcoming. "Transparency" is a word with which they have no familiarity, it seems.
STILL NO WORD FROM BEAZLEY
Beazley promised to give me a call yesterday following the meeting so he could answer any questions I might have. Instead, he bailed out right after the meeting and has still not returned my repeated messages to him.
FOLEY AND ROEDER TO SACTO - AGAIN
In the meantime, Roeder and Foley were apparently summoned to Sacramento with short notice and no word is yet forthcoming from either of them about the reason and any results of the trip. A Press Release is promised today sometime. I'll report on that when I see it.
SOURCE: "SOLORIO STILL ON BOARD"
One source, who refused attribution, but is in a position to know, tells me that Assemblyman Jose Solorio is still supporting the current deal, is satisfied that Facilities Management West can perform and will have a draft of his bill available for circulation soon. He apparently is concerned that the budget gridlock may delay passage of this bill, to maybe as late as November! Every day that passes now without a signed and sealed deal delays lining up contracts for events at the Fairgrounds next year. It's my understanding that, based on previous direction from the Department of General Services, NO contracts may be authorized past the end of October until a deal is done.
It will come as no surprise that many of the interested parties and stakeholders in the Fairgrounds have been melting the wires with emails, peppering their Facebook walls with comments and writing commentaries in local media and on blogs.
CROONER VERN'S TIRADE
For example, yesterday Vern Nelson over at the Orange Juice Blog, wrote the third of his essays on the current Fairgrounds deal between the City of Costa Mesa and Facilities Management West. Yesterday's presentation is a scathing indictment of the process and the deal. You can read it HERE. Give yourself plenty of time.
Former Daily Pilot columnist and current Orange County Register columnist Barbara Venezia has written two highly critical essays recently, which you can read HERE and HERE. The last one, dated yesterday, has the provocative title, "OC Fair Board like killer in a bad horror flick". Her take on this seems to be pretty darn valid.
WHAT HAPPENED TO AMERICAN FAIRS AND FESTIVALS?
Other activists have flooded the social media with links to, for example, the text of the American Fairs and Festivals proposal for a partnership with the City of Costa Mesa for the purchase and operation of the Fairgrounds that, for an unexplained and curious reason, was abruptly rejected and Facilities Management West was invited to the table as a last-minute replacement. You can read that long pdf. file HERE. Some have speculated that nearly $8,000 in contributions to Mayor Allan Mansoor's Assembly campaign by individuals and organizations affiliated with Facilities Management West may have had something to do with that, but I seriously doubt it. Mansoor was not part of the negotiating team and, even if he had been, although he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he's not that stupid. However, many inquiring minds want to know what happened with that deal, but nobody's talking. Supposedly, all those contributions have been returned.
A DISASTER FROM THE START
This whole Fairgrounds Sale deal has been a disaster from the very beginning, with the intrigue surrounding the Fair Board's creation of a foundation to purchase the property, Dick Ackerman's role in this whole thing, the haste with which the State has required the City of Costa Mesa to cobble together an offer that they MIGHT accept and the various factions attempting to "blow up" the deal - including threats by Costa Mesa Planning Commission Chairman and candidate for City Council, Jim Righeimer, to do just that if not given a seat at the table.
COSTA MESA NOT WITHOUT FAULT
The City of Costa Mesa is not without fault in this process. For an organization that has historically conducted the business of the city with candor and openness, this has been an unexpected and unpleasant aberration. I suspect the pace with which they had to put together a deal due to the unrealistic and unreasonable deadlines imposed by The State has caused our elected leaders and the staff to give public awareness short shrift. I imagine some of them must have felt like they were in an old Keystone Kops movie at times. Yeah, I know I'm dating myself - so be it.
WILL WE BE UPDATED TONIGHT?
Tonight there will be a City Council meeting, but there is no agenda item in either the open or closed session that deal with the Fairgrounds. We can only hope that Foley and/or Roeder will take a few minutes to let the public know what that dash to Sacramento was all about, and give us an update on the status of the Fairgrounds deal.