Thursday, October 22, 2009

O.C. Fair Sale Pot Is At Full Boil

The sale of the Orange County Fair and Events Ce
nter as a theoretical method of balancing the state's budget continues to generate more heat than light.


Much has been written in the local media recently on
this subject, including on this blog. The President of the current Fair board, Kristina Dodge - who could probably buy the Fairgrounds from her petty cash account - wrote an opinion piece in the Daily Pilot HERE. The editors of the Daily Pilot opined that the Fair should stay, HERE.

Following the most recent Costa Mesa City Council meetin
g last Tuesday night Daily Pilot reporter Mona Shadia gave us her take on the proceedings HERE and Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit dragged himself away from his law books to cover the meeting, which he summarizes HERE.

Republican activist, Costa Mesa Planning Commission Chairman and councilman-wannabe Jim Righeimer has taken the cause of keeping the Fair in
tact under his wing and has written two columns in the Daily Pilot to generate interest in a ballot measure to accomplish that goal, HERE and HERE. Stand-in City Attorney, Harold Potter, opined last Tuesday that the City cannot put this issue on the ballot - something do do with liability if it scares off a potential buyer. He was directed to present more information to the council on this issue.


Then, to the surprise o
f very few following this issue, our friends at the Newport-Mesa Daily Voice tells us HERE that the new Orange County Fair and Events Center Foundation - which includes many of the current Fair Board members - have decided that their meetings will not be open to the public. Remember that smell when you drive past a squashed skunk on the road? That's what I smell with this decision, and it's certainly an example of the reason there is so much distrust of this board and their real motives for trying to purchase the Fairgrounds on the cheap. By the way, we still don't know who is on that new board. We do know Dodge and political kingmaker Dave Ellis are apparently on the board, but the other four members from the current Fair Board have not been identified, nor have the two residents of Costa Mesa or other members.

On November 9th Assemblyman Jose Solorio and Assemblyman Van Tran will co-host a hearing on the sale of the Fairgrounds in the Costa Mesa City Council Chambers, from 9:00 - 11:30 a.m. I called Solorio's office to see who will be speaking, but was told the panel is still being assembled. (UPDATE: Solorio's office confirmed the tentative attendance of Councilwoman Katrina Foley, Jeff Teller of the Orange County Marketplace and Rick Hansen of the Equestrian Centrer. More to follow as names are confirmed.) I also contacted the City to see if, since this meeting will occur in the Council Chambers during normal business hours, the proceedings will be televised - live or taped for future viewing. I just received a reply - the meeting WILL be televised live on CMTV, Channel 24, and on streaming video (for those outside the city) and will also be included in the replay rotation f
or future viewing. According to the announcement, a reservation to attend the meeting in person is required, as implied in the last line. Here is the text of the announcement of the meeting:

Based on the recent activities on this issue, there is much public interest in r
etaining the Fairgrounds as-is - with all the amenities and features intact. The way things seem to be shaking out, if we don't pay very, very close attention to this process we're going to find the Fairgrounds sold for a low-ball price to a group that will then manipulate the Costa Mesa City Council into re-zoning it for major development purposes.

One question that continues to linger is the status of the group that was appointed by
the Governor to run the Fairgrounds. We know the Fair, itself, is guaranteed by the terms of the Request for Proposals for the sale that the Fair is to run unobstructed next year. The actual closing of the acquisition occurs in October, 2010. If the Fairgrounds does, in fact, get sold to someone who wants to put a casino, a toxic waste dump or high rise condos on that 150 acres, what happens to the Fair? Well, if you stand on your tippy-toes and look southeast you'll find a perfect location - the Emperor Agran's Great Boondoggle, er, Park! Yep, it's a perfect place to carve out a couple hundred acres for a new, improved Orange County Fairgrounds. Don't you suppose some of those folks on the Fair Board have thought just a little about that?


Stay alert on this issue or it will be a done deal before you finish unwrapping your Christmas presents!

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