Friday, April 02, 2010

"Voice of OC" Launched

YET ANOTHER "VOICE" IN THE OC
While I was away a new Orange County online news source - Voice of OC - was launched in an attempt to fill a perceived void in hard news coverage caused by the withering of such traditional local news outlets as the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register.

FORMER SENATOR JOE DUNN HEADS THE BOARD
According to their press release last September, "Former California State Senator Joe Dunn has assembled some of the best legal and journalistic minds in the region." According to the release, this new effort will be dedicated to investigative journalism at the local level.

NORBERTO SANTANA LEADS THE TEAM
This new non-profit newsroom is headed by former Orange County Register reporter Norberto Santana who, as Editor-in-Chief, will lead a cadre of experienced reporters.

LABOR UNION FUNDED
According to Matt Cunningham over at the Red County blog, HERE, this new effort is apparently underwritten by the Orange County Employees Association, so it will be very interesting, indeed, to see just how "hard-hitting" the reports are when they cover issues that might cast an unfavorable light on labor groups in the county. That, alone, will make this new site worth watching.

LINK ON THE RIGHT
I've linked this new site on my blog roll over on the right side of the page. Don't get confused by this new site and John Earl's Huntington Beach-based "OC Voice" site - both are worth a peek every day.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Costa Mesa Negotiates For Fairgrounds

Yikes!! I take my sweet wife on a little birthday vacation trip out of town for a week and look what's waiting for me when we return!

"EXCLUSIVELY NEGOTIATE"
According to a press release from the City of Costa Mesa this afternoon, in the wake of the rejection of all offers for the Orange County Fair and Events Center last month, the City is moving forward independently and apparently stuck an agreement with the State to "exclusively negotiate for the purchase of the Fairgrounds." According to the press release, the city council "authorized this move in an effort to preserve the Fairgrounds and retain public ownership of the fair, insuring into the future that the property continues to operate as a fairground." This plan was mentioned in an article in the Daily Pilot yesterday, since revised this afternoon, HERE, and Councilwoman Katrina Foley apparently mentioned it last night on KOCE.

BECKY BAILEY-FINDLEY - PROJECT MANAGER
To make this process work the City has retained Becky Bailey-Findley, CEO of the Fairgrounds from 1994 - 2008, to act as Project Manager for the purchase of the Fairgrounds. In my view, this is a great move on the part of Costa Mesa. Ms. Bailey-Findley was an excellent leader during her tour at the Fairgrounds, understands just how much it means to Costa Mesa and the broader Orange County community. According to the press release, "Her charge will be to create a plan that preserves the heritage and relationship of the Fair with the community while bringing all elements of the fair business together to achieve the self-supporting goals of Costa Mesa."

WILL HEAD A SMALL TEAM
I spent some time on the telephone with Ms. Bailey-Findley this afternoon to get her take on this assignment. As it stand right now, she will have a month to put together the proposal for the purchase of the Fairgrounds. She will work with a team comprised mainly of city staffers but it might also include some outside folks if special expertise is required.

MANY VARIABLES REMAIN
As you might expect, there are still many variables in this process. In a perfect world everything would remain essentially the same following the acquisition of the Fairgrounds by the City - the Fair would continue, the Orange County Marketplace would continue and the other 150 plus activities and events would be retained and augmented... in a perfect world. The future of the employees of the Fairgrounds remains unclear if this sale goes through, for example.

CITY GOING IT ALONE - OR NOT
It's unclear at this time whether the city will go it alone or will partner-up with the County, as it did for the initial bid, or with other interested entities - the Coast Community College District, for example.

WHENCE THE FAIR BOARD?
Among the many unknowns remains the future of the Fair Board. If the State no longer owns the land, what responsibility will the Fair Board have to operate a Fair on the site? Will the Fair Board be dissolved? Will it remain a fully-constituted State entity and move the Fair elsewhere? Do I hear "Great Park"?

STATE LEGISLATION REQUIRED?
One very interesting comment from the press release really caught my eye. Near the end it stated, "It is expected that successful negotiations between the City and State will require State legislation." Well, now, we all remember how well that kind of stuff goes, don't we? Remember AB1590 - the bill proposed by Jose Solorio and Van Tran to quash the sale? That ended badly.

MANSOOR EMPHASIZES LOCAL CONTROL
According to the press release, lame-duck mayor Allan Mansoor said, "Our plan to submit a comprehensive proposal to the Governor demonstrates our commitment to preserve the Orange County Fair & Event Center as a community asset for all of Southern California and we hope that the Governor will agree that local control is the best for California."


WITH FINGERS CROSSED...

I'm looking forward to seeing just how this process goes and am keeping my fingers crossed that Ms. Bailey-Findley and her team can put together an agreement that meets the State's requirements and provides a way for the Orange County Fair and Events Center to be perpetuated in it's current format - only better.

NOT AN APRIL FOOL'S DAY JOKE!
I did a big double-take when I looked at the calendar today after hearing about this story and hoped like heck that this wasn't just some whopper of an April's Fool joke! I guess we'll find out soon enough.

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