Thursday, April 15, 2010

Special Council Meeting Provides Some Light

The special council meeting held by the Costa Mesa City Council yesterday provided some light on the process of putting together an acceptable offer for the Orange County Fair and Events Center (OCFEC) by the deadline - described to us by City Manager Allan Roeder as next Wednesday, April 21st, not the 19th as earlier indicated.

The streaming video of the short - 27 minute - council meeting is up and available for viewing, HERE. I suggest you take a look at it to see Roeder deliver an excellent PowerPoint presentation to the council, which included a chronology of the path taken in the drama that has been the Fairgrounds Sale from the announcement by the Governor nearly a year ago to the current date.

Roeder emphasized at the beginning that this is "not simply a real estate deal".

He outlined the principles supporting the current negotiations, which includes the following:

*The city seeks public ownership of the OCFEC site.

*The City seeks to preserve the OC Fair, the event center activities and the community programs currently operating at the OCFEC.

*It is the direction of the City that an open and transparent governance plan be created for the future operation of the OCFEC.

*The City intends to purchase the OCFEC without utilizing Costa Mesa public funds or putting Costa Mesa taxpayers at risk. This means the City will be seeking financing through a consortium of interested entities for the purchase of the property.

*Should the purchase be accomplished, the City wants to ensure a smooth transition for existing state employees who work at a OCFEC and the protection and conveyance of assets that support operations and preserve the history of OCFEC.

*The City is firm that future operation of the site is to be consistent with the City's General Plan Designation and the proposed initiative for the property and subject to environmental review and City approval.

*The City supports a plan of use of the OCFEC that protects the current economic, social and cultural benefit to the community yet supports expansion of these activities within the constraints of the City's General Plan.

*City granted 30 days exclusive negotiations

*Submittal due to Governor by April 21, 2010

*Proposal will include the following:

1 - Terms, including price, financing and date for conveyance of property.

2 - Conditions the City believes must be met prior to any opening of escrow. these include, but are not limited to, required due diligence, business plans, governance structure, financing, transition plan, etc.

3 - Identification of required actions prior to conveyance of the property, including legislative action as it pertains to the Annual Fair, 32nd District Agricultural Association, existing contracts & agreements, etc.

4 - Request Governor's support for lifting current restrictions on prospective event scheduling so the Fairgrounds can continue to operate effectively.

Following that presentation, and without a single comment except for Gary Monahan's expression of gratitude to the staff for their hard work, they immediately adjourned to the closed session and did not subsequently "report out" the results of that meeting, with the City Attorney citing the fact that they will have yet another opportunity for a closed session on the 20th, before the 21st due date.

One interesting tidbit that was not discussed during the council meeting was reported - again - by Norberto Santana, Jr. in the Voice of OC this morning. In his article, HERE, discussing the meeting he mentions that Roeder has "recently sent out a private letter to potential bidders advising them of the real ground rules and goals: the city's interest is in 'potentially developing a public/private partnership to acquire and operate the Orange County Fair and Event Center', read the April 7 letter." The letter was somehow obtained by Santana. You can read the remainder of the text quoted by Santana in his article.

I know the team - Roeder, Becky Bailey-Findley plus Katrina Foley and Monahan and many other staff members - will be working long and hard to meet the deadline for submission of their offer to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on the 21st. No mention of the content of Jim Righeimer's "leaked" voice mail message was made during the open session. I'd bet a lot, however, that it got lots of discussion in the closed session.

So, now we just wait until some time after the 21st, when we find out if the Governor and his crew feel that the proposal being presented by our city is acceptable and, if so, how the process will move forward now.

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