Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fairgrounds Beat Never Stops!


In a week of surprises, the beat goes on regarding the sale of the Orange County Fair and Event Center.


TUESDAY'S MEETING AVAILABLE FOR VIEWING

I've previously discussed the events of last Tuesday night when the Costa Mesa City Council, cross-dressed as the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority, passed the resolution approving the ground lease with Facilities Management West or, rather, most of the lease. If you want to watch the proceedings on streaming video you can do so HERE. Several contentious issues were left unresolved but we understand the staff on both sides of the table are hard at it, negotiating for an acceptable final solution.

MICKADEIT ON SOLORIO
In the audience for a short time Tuesday was Orange County Register columnist, Frank Mickadeit. He heard enough - from the proceedings and from Jim Righeimer whispering in his ear from his seat immediately behind Mickadeit - that he began working his contacts about the issue and ended up with a conversation with Santa Ana Assemblyman Jose Solorio. You can read his column HERE.

SOLORIO TAKING THE HIGH ROAD
Seems he thinks Solorio is still supporting the sale, is still ticked off at Mayor Allan Mansoor for his stupid, self-serving "rule of law city" resolution, but won't let that influence his decision on the necessary legislation to complete the sale. Unless, that is, Mansoor does something else stupid as a follow-on to his resolution - something he's alluded to in the recent past.

I WANT TO BE WRONG...
I still don't see much chance for the legislation to be passed, but I really want to be wrong on this one. We'll know by early next week, when the legislators are scheduled to head home to work their districts.

TOM HATCH ON CITY TALK
On a much, much happier note, there's a new City Talk clip available for viewing on the City web site that will perk you up. This one features Dane Bora interviewing Assistant City Manager Tom Hatch and I found myself smiling all the way through it. One of the reasons Costa Mesa is making it through these dire financial times - when staffing levels have been cut to 1980s levels - is because of people like Hatch. In a sports parlance, we've got great bench strength. You can watch the clip HERE. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

OCFA Approves Ground Lease

FIRST, THE PUNCH LINE - THEN THE JOKE
OK, I know I spoiled the suspense with the title of this one, but I didn't want you to have to hang around for 5 hours like I did last night for the punch line. Katrina Foley voted "No" in the 4-1 vote. Now for the details....


SURREAL AND DISJOINTED

I must say that this meeting - one in which the fate of the largest financial transaction in the history of the city, including it's incorporation back in the 1950's, would be decided - was a surreal, disjointed event. I'm sure there are many reasons for this - the pace of the process imposed by the State, the pressure applied by the announcement earlier in the day that the Fairgrounds was back on the block and the fact that the City is working with significantly smaller staff because of budget constraints - but it was such a contrast when compared to most other similar meetings that it stood out, and not in a positive way. If you watch the tape of the meeting you'd think everything went smoothly - you had to be there. I've stalled this report long enough that the streaming video is now available for viewing HERE. You can also watch the taped replay at 5:30 tonight on CMTV.

LATE, AS USUAL...
First off, the meeting started 20 minutes late - the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority (City Council) had much to discuss in closed session. So, by the time they actually got started at 5:50 there were around 150 people in the auditorium, all eager to hear how this milestone event was going to go.

CEQA REPORT APPROVED
After a short staff report and even shorter discussion they voted 5-0 to accept the CEQA report.

ROEDER REVIEWED TUESDAY'S SHOCKER
City Manager Allan Roeder provided a brief overview of the surprise decision Tuesday morning by the State Department of General Services to put the Fairgrounds back on the block. Nobody on the dais was happy about it. Foley felt it was another example of the State bullying the City and it's proposed tenant to wrap up their deal quickly. And, as it turned out, that's precisely what happened.

OOPS, NO SONGBOOK!
Let me say here that the pace of this process has been unacceptably rapid from the very beginning. Tonight may have been the perfect example of Ben Franklin's old saw, "haste makes waste". When the OCFA board began discussing the actual ground lease and City Attorney Kim Barlow started to refer folks to certain pages in the handouts it was discovered that nobody in the audience had the staff report! Because of the haste with which the documents had been changed during the day it seems no copies of the actual most current lease were provided.

80 MINUTES LATER...
So, ten minutes into the discussion, a "short break" was called so copies could be produced for the audience. That "short break" ended up being an hour! And then, when they reconvened, it was discovered that the copy that had been used to make copies for the audience was Gary Monahan's copy - and he had removed some pages to make comments on! So, another ten minute break was called so copies of the missing segment could be made. The discussion finally began again at 8:00! That things were in disarray doesn't even come close to describing the scene. It was like a scene from an old Laurel and Hardy movie! Remember the one where Stan and Oliver are trying to carry a piano up a long, steep staircase? Well, you've got the picture of how this went.

PUBLIC COMMENTS - A THINNING CROWD
By this time the crowd was thinning out - down to fewer than 60 people by this time. It was 8:55 before the first person had a chance to address the Board in public comments. I won't attempt to discuss every comment made - folks stood and spoke until 9:35. Once again, Orange Juice blogger Vern Nelson crooned a newer version of his "Derail the Sale" song. This time, though, Allan Mansoor didn't think it was very funny. However, resident Greg Ridge drew more than a few chuckles from what remained of the audience when he compared the City's situation to a guy with a gun to his head and a knife - to use Ridge's words - "down there". If you make one decision you get your head blown off and if you make the other you lose your "cojones"... Ridge's word, not mine. Ridge also alluded to "back room deals", turning and looking directly at Jim Righeimer as he said it. Riggy, however, was fully engrossed in his Blackberry, as he was virtually the entire meeting, and didn't notice.

GENIS - "IT'S NOT READY YET!"
Former mayor and President of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society, Sandra Genis - perhaps the only person in the audience who actually read through the entire lease - used her time to cover some details, like the little one in which we will be asked to sign a lease with an entity that doesn't officially exist. She ended by saying to the Board, "It's not ready yet". She was right.

SHOTGUN WEDDING?
Joy Williams ended the public comments with her observation that she wasn't sure whether this was a shotgun wedding or an arranged marriage, but observed that the bride - the Fairgrounds deal - was like a bride being walked down the aisle with a bag over her head - you didn't know what you were getting until it's too late. Her observation was right on the money!

LEMMON GRILLED
Guy Lemmon, spokesman for Facilities Management West, stood and was grilled by the Board - especially Mayor Mansoor - about their position on some controversial items in the lease. During this conversation, and those by other board members, it was determined that there were at least a couple issues about which each side had their heels dug in, including that of naming rights for the Fairgrounds.

BARLOW PRESENTS OPTIONS
Finally, shortly after ten o'clock, Barlow presented the options to the Board. After listening to those "options" again, they all basically boiled down to asking the Board to approve those elements of the lease they agreed with and giving staff direction on further negotiations for those they didn't like. She did reiterate that time was of the essence since they are obligated by the terms of their purchase agreement with the State to close escrow by the end of September - a very short 5+ weeks away.

FOLEY MOVED TO CONTINUE - NO SECOND WAS FOUND
Katrina Foley, opining that the legislation necessary to complete the sale was stalled in Sacramento and would likely be part of a budget bill, if ever, moved to continue this item until the first week in September so the differences could be resolved and we would have a fully-fleshed out lease to consider - no second was received.

MONAHAN MOVES TO APPROVE, WITH MODIFICATIONS
Gary Monahan moved to approve the lease with several modifications - those that had been discussed at length earlier - including those where the City and the tenant were at odds. The staff and negotiating team would continue to work with the tenant to resolve those issues. That motion passed 4-1, with Foley voting NO. By the time the vote was taken at 10:30 only 45 people remained in the auditorium.

STRESS WAS EVIDENT ALL NIGHT
A couple observations - First, this meeting demonstrated the stress under which both sides have been working for months. Apparently emails with revisions to the deal had been flying non-stop in recent days, including as late as midnight Monday! It's tough to make good decisions at that pace.

I'M NOT HAPPY
Second, I'm not happy with the way this turned out. I think Foley had the right idea. There is no way a separate bill necessary for this deal to be completed can be passed now. The only chance there is for it to get passed and signed is if it's attached to a budget bill. The term "snowballs chance in hell" comes to mind. This issue should have been continued for a couple weeks so ALL the issues in conflict could be resolved. Actually, I don't think there is any chance this deal is going to pass - the State is going to stall the legislation until it's too late - and we will have expended all this time, energy and money to no avail. And now we wait to see if further negotiations on what amount to deal breaking issues will produce a final agreement. I'm not optimistic.

COSTA MESA TEAM DESERVES KUDOS
Don't get me wrong, here. I think the city staff has done an admirable job with skill, professionalism and tireless sacrifice of their personal lives during this process. They simply have been asked to do the impossible without the resources and time necessary to do the job they want to do. Allan Roeder, Kim Barlow and the other members of the bargaining team and the staffers who have supported them these many, many months deserve kudos for their efforts. Thanks to them all...

LONG PHAM TO BE A "WRITE-IN" CANDIDATE
I did note tonight that Long Pham, Mansoor's opponent in the June Primary election, was in the house. I introduced myself to him and he told me he's mounting a write-in campaign for the November election. I'm not sure who he will steal votes from - his fellow-Republican Mansoor or the Vietnamese Democrat Phu Nguyen. At least those of you who won't vote for a Democrat for any reason will have an option to Mansoor now.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

STATE PUTS FAIRGROUNDS BACK ON BLOCK!


HOLY COW!
In a process full of bizarre events, this may be the most bizarre of all! UPDATE BELOW

FAIRGROUNDS BACK ON THE BLOCK
In a press release issued today the State Department of General Services announced that the Orange County Fair and Event Center has been placed back on the block! The Daily Pilot broke the story locally just before 11:30 a.m. HERE.

BIDS DUE BY SEPTEMBER 30TH
In a press release dated today, the DGS announced it will accept bids of no less than $96 million for the property, and that the bids must be submitted no later than September 30th, 2010. The DGS says it's on target to complete the sale by December, 2010.

RFP TERMS
According to the revised RFP, the bidders will be required to include a $50,000 deposit, the minimum down payment will be $20 million and the terms of payment will be no longer than 40 years. You can read the entire revised RFP, including the schedule of events HERE, then clicking on the appropriate link.

WHAT ABOUT OUR DEAL?
I have no idea what this does to the deal with Facilities Management West and the City of Costa Mesa, but I suspect FMW will be preparing it's bid for the property post haste!

MEASURE C APPLIES
If a new bidder successfully purchases the property, the terms of Measure C and the City General Plan will come into play. That's really the only good news here.

UPDATE: Just got off the telephone with OC Fair and Event Center CEO Steve Beazley. He and I read the RFP similarly.. the 32nd District Agriculture Association remains intact. One could interpret this that they can bid for the right to operate the venue for a new owner or - get ready for this - MOVE the Fair! Yep, I suspect many people are spinning their Rolodex's right now, looking for Larry Agran's number.

And, what of the foundation members of the current Board formed a year ago? Methinks they may be looking for financial partner to bid on the Fairgrounds, too. Ah, what fun!

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La Femme Wonkita Analyzes Ground Lease

HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN...
It's going to be hot, hot, hot in Costa Mesa today - and probably even hotter in the Council Chambers starting at 5:30 p.m. When the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority (the City Council in a fancy dress) deliberates the Ground Lease necessary to consummate the sale of the Fairgrounds it's likely that there will be more heat than light generated by the proceedings.

LA FEMME WONKITA STRIKES AGAIN
Today former mayor Sandra Genis, writing as La Femme Wonkita, has thrown more fuel on the fire by publishing yet another incendiary essay on the Orange Juice Blog. You can read it HERE. Thanks to reader Gericault for the heads-up on this one.

GENIS ANALYSIS
Genis has reviewed the Draft document made available late last week, and that has been updated at least once since then yesterday, and presents to us for our consideration her take on the problems with the Ground Lease and the entire deal. Hit that link above and take a couple minutes to review her conclusions.


NOT ENOUGH TIME
I agree with Genis that this deal is being jammed down our municipal throat with woefully insufficient time to do a proper job of analyzing it. Naturally, that leaves us hanging, with only two real options: (1) Sign the agreement and hope it works out for the next half century or, (2) Walk away from the whole thing and trust that a new governor will have second thoughts about selling the Fairgrounds.

LEGISLATION PENDING
And, after all this turmoil and rancor, there is still the probability that the State Legislature will fail to pass the bills necessary to complete this deal.

FMW IS OPPORTUNISTIC
As I've said before, Facilities Management West - led by Ken Fait - has been portrayed as the bad guy here, but are they? Seems to me that they are slick operators who see the chance to snatch up a good business opportunity and are moving forward to do so. If they are better negotiators than we are, who's fault is that? If we've failed to put enough horsepower behind this effort - which is what many critics have implied - is that FMW's fault? Hardly!

INSUFFICIENT GRAY MATTER
This evening our City Council will be forced to work well beyond their skill sets, trying to make sense of the document they must approve. We know that at least a couple of them lack the education, background and - quite honestly - the brain power to fully grasp this deal. I'm worried about how tonight will turn out.

HERE'S A HINT - WE'RE MOUGLI...
So, while crossing my fingers until they turn blue, I leave you with this little video clip that seems to me to represent our situation. See you at City Hall at 5:30...

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Fairgrounds Ground Lease Vote Tomorrow

THE FINALE?
Well, the BIG news this week is the meeting Tuesday, August 24th of the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority (OFCA)/City Council during which they will discuss and, theoretically, vote on acceptance of the proposed ground lease for the purchase of the Fairgrounds. You can read the draft for yourself HERE.

MY HEAD HURTS!
I DID NOT spend much time looking over the lease - as I've said before, it's going to take a much better brain than mine to unscramble that lingo so a normal human being can understand it. I did, however, notice that there are several items - conspicuously highlighted in Gary Monahan Green - that are as yet unresolved, and some of those seem to be deal breakers.

GENIS ON THE ATTACK
In the meantime, the opposition is whipping itself into a frenzy and are generating much heat on the blogs. Former Mayor Sandra Genis, President of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society, has re-awakened her alter ego, La Femme Wonkita, and posted an epistle on the Orange Juice Blog, HERE, which was followed up by the management of that blog with another call to arms, HERE.

OVER OUR HEADS?
The general consensus of the opposition seems to be that the neophyte negotiators for the City of Costa Mesa are getting bulldozed by those brutes from Facilities Management West, enabled by the unreasonable deadlines imposed by our "friends" in Sacramento. I'm not so sure I agree with the former, but sure do agree that The State seems intent on making our deal fail.

FMW AS THE BAD GUY
Facilities Management West has been portrayed as the bogyman in this deal ever since Ken Fait, their head honcho, ranted before the City Council a few months ago that he "wanted all the money". He was being interrogated by lame duck Mayor Allan Mansoor about some of the terms of the deal and didn't like it at all. There may be no better example of why big organizations should hire a spokesperson - the "big guys" don't like to be challenged, and certainly not by a lame brain politician, posturing for campaign points. Unfortunately, that night the FMW spokesman, Guy Lemmon, was on the way to Arizona for the birth of a grandchild. At least HE has his priorities in order!

UNUSUAL HOUR FOR MEETING
Tomorrow's meeting, which commences at an unusual hour - 5:30 p.m. - should be very interesting and worth attending or watching live on Channel 24, CMTV. (Channel 99 on ATT Uverse)

OUR LAST CHANCE
This may be our last shot as residents to influence what happens to the Fairgrounds for the next couple generations. The drop dead date for the legislature to pass the bill(s) necessary for the sale to come to fruition is Friday, August 27th. After that date they will be gone until after the November elections and a new governor will be at the helm of our sinking ship of state.

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