Tuesday, August 10, 2010

OFCA Meeting & My Proposal

I'm not sure what kind of information we're going to get out of today's special meeting of the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority (OCFA) - the City Council in a different dress - at 4:30 in Council Chambers. As mentioned in an earlier post, the proceedings will be televised live on Costa Mesa Television and on streaming video at the city web site. From the staff report, HERE, we do know there will be a discussion of the current status of Fairgrounds purchase issues, including:

Purchase & Sales Agreement

Due Diligence

Legislation Ground Lease

Prospective Land Use

Regulation of the Orange County Fairgrounds

Orange County Fairgrounds JPA - Rights, Authorities and Responsibilities

They will then adjourn to a closed session to discuss the actual sale of the Fairgrounds.

No mention is made in the staff report of the recent exchange of correspondence between lawyers for former bidder American Fairs & Festivals and the City of Costa Mesa, which rejected AFF's appeal request yesterday. I wouldn't be surprised if some discussion of the letters occurs during the "comments" segment of the meeting.

As you might expect, along with hundreds of other folks, I've been giving this whole Fairgrounds situation a lot of thought lately. Without getting into who caused this disaster - which really ticks me off - or dwelling on the distant history of this fiasco, I have what I think might be the best solution over all, for everyone.

I doubt there are any members of Costa Mesa city government who REALLY want to own the Fairgrounds. It's just that, once that property was put in play, the only way to protect the use was to reach out and grab that tiger by the tail and hold on. They can't let go (cease negotiations) until the sale process is formally stopped because that tiger (in the form of another buyer) would turn right around and eat them. So, they just keep hanging on while trying to find a way out of this mess. Right now that solution seems to be the Facilities Management West deal. So, round and round we go.

There are few individual or groups of stakeholders really happy with the specter of Facilities Management West becoming the primary vendor for the Fairgrounds for the next half-century. Getting the legislation necessary to consummate the deal passed this month is not assured because some powerful and influential legislators are ticked-off at Mayor Allan Mansoor for his "Rule of Law City" proclamation and others question the deal, period. The Fair Board has recently presented a competing proposal to state officials that, on the surface, may be a better deal for the State over the long haul.

In light of all that, here's what I propose:

1 - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in what might be his last sane act in that job, should immediately inform the Fair Board that he is willing to accept it's proposal for what it quaintly called a "revenue sharing" plan, and require the Fair Board to send the State a check for $5 million, as it proposed.

2 - Simultaneously the Governor should immediately remove the "For Sale" sign from the Orange County Fair and Event Center and direct the State Department of General Services to cease negotiations with the City of Costa Mesa or OR ANY OTHER ENTITY for the purchase of the Fairgrounds.

3 - The City, based on the guarantee that the Fairgrounds will not be placed back on the auction block, should terminate all negotiations with Facilities Management West and chalk this whole thing up to a very big, very bad, very expensive learning experience. I have this fantasy image in my head of Mayor Mansoor and FMW's Ken Fait in a big, conciliatory bear hug. Yeah, right!

4 - The Fair Board should be required to immediately put into place the mechanisms and procedures to fulfill the obligations it proposed in the revenue sharing plan. Many of us want to know why they didn't create this plan years ago and begin contributing large sums of money to the State Treasury, but that's a question for the new Fair Board to contemplate. We also want to know if this reluctance to implement such a plan previously constitutes a breach of it's fiduciary responsibility to the Governor and the taxpayers of the State.

5 - The Fair management, now free of any apprehension about the future of the Fairgrounds and the legal constraints imposed by the terms of the sale process, should immediately begin to line up the array of attractions and events - including the Fair - for the year beginning November 1, 2010.

6 - The entire Fair Board should resign coincident with the election of the new Governor in November. He or she can then start fresh with an entirely new crew - one without the cloud of suspicion hanging over it that shadows the current mob due to their apparent complicity in getting the Fairgrounds placed on the block in the first place, then trying to buy it on the cheap through a non-profit foundation they formed on the sly.

7 - The City of Costa Mesa should prepare a report on the cost of this fiasco to the City, to let the taxpayers of this city know just what the folly of the current Fair Board has cost us in time and treasure.

8 - The residents of Costa Mesa should find a way to properly thank our elected officials, staff members and volunteer consultants who have tirelessly held onto the tail of that tiger all these months, trying to cobble together a deal that would work without destroying our fiscal well-being.

Under the revenue sharing proposal by the Fair Board, the Orange County Fair and Event Center goes from being a revenue-neutral venue - happy with earning just enough to pay it's operating costs - to a fully-fledged, fiscally responsible profit center of the State. The plan proposes to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the state coffers over the 80-year life of the proposal - and the State gets to keep the land.

About the only good thing to come out of this mess from the City of Costa Mesa's standpoint is the tightening of the zoning for the Fairgrounds site and the passage of Measure "C", which requires a vote of the registered voters of Costa Mesa to change it.

One of the things I've learned from this mess - you cannot take your eyes off elected or appointed officials for a second. You can assume they will do what is expected of them, but it's always prudent to follow the admonition of President Ronald Reagan - "Trust, but verify" That seems like a great motto for us all when it comes to dealing with government at every level.

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Anonymous acinti said...

Yay, Geoff, I (almost) completely agree with your proposal. A few points must be addressed:

1. You mention "a breach of fiduciary responsibility" by the Fair. No such breach occurred since there was no fiduciary responsibility from the Fair to the Governor or the tax payer. As you well know, this is the way DAAs are structured and the OC Fair does not receive money from the State or contribute money to the State. So, to suggest otherwise is both disingenuous (since you know it is not true) and irresponsible (since you know it is not true).

2. And, why they didn't create this plan years ago probably has more to do with the fact that this board is not a universal constant and this board did not exist "years ago." This, of course, is once again, disingenuous and irresponsible for the reasons cited above.

3. And, to drive the point home, Item 4 of your article posits the idea that the Fair was supposed to contribute to the General Fund, and that it was a moral failing that prevented them from figuring out a way of doing so. As you well know, the Fair is under no obligation to contribute to the General Fund and had not done so for the century plus of its existence. For you to make such suggestions is both (repeat after me) disingenuous and irresponsible.

Maybe this whole process wouldn't have been so angry and bitter if everyone stuck to the facts instead of making inflammatory conjectures that neither contributed to the conversation or helped us get out of the mess we are in.

But what do I know. I do all my research on the interwebs.

8/10/2010 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

acinti, so you agree with what I say except for the premise on which it is based. Well, thanks for that.

You assume (nasty word, that one) that I "well know" many things that I obviously don't. In fact, your presentation of "facts" is without attribution, so I'm not sure you are correct.

As a matter of fact, I do know that this plan has existed for years but was not considered by the then-Fair Board.

The "facts" we're stuck with - those that have fanned the flames - start with the role the current Fair Board played in getting the Fairgrounds put on the block, then trying to buy it cheap by forming the foundation - and likely violating the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act along the way.

You're welcome to vent your spleen here anytime, although I'd prefer you did so armed with facts, not innuendo.

8/10/2010 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous acinti said...

So you are saying that it isn't a fact that the fair is structured to be self-sufficient and not contribute anything to the general fund? Are you saying that it is not a fact that all DAAs have no "fiduciary responsibility" to the Governor or the taxpayer? Are you saying that the current board is negligent by operating the way the DAA is structured?

Is point #1 incorrect? Is point #2 incorrect? Is point #3 incorrect?

And are they incorrect simply because you do not understand the establishment and structure of DAAs?

And does your ignorance of these facts allow you to assume and imply "a breach of fiduciary responsibility" by the fair?

Your rebuttal to my comments didn't actually address any of my comments.

8/10/2010 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

So acinti admits that these DAAs are not supposed to contribute to or receive funds from the general fund.

But acinti admits that the site is underutilized and could generate income to the state.

How many more of these underutilized facilities do we have that are run by a bunch of self serving individuals that are uninterested in maximizing the financial benefit to the state that their facility could create because "they don't have to"?

8/10/2010 03:23:00 PM  
Anonymous acinti said...

I never said anything about the property being underutilized. I was only contesting the notion that the fair has done something wrong by not contributing to the General Fund for the past 120 years.

8/10/2010 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

You said you (almost) completely agreed with Geoff and then you pointed out what you led me to believe were you disagreements. Nowhere did you disagree with increasing the financial performance of the facility and sharing the revenue with the state. That certainly seems an admission that the facility is currently underutilized.

If that is not the case, please explain your view of this new “revenue sharing” concept. If the board can not generate more revenue than they currently do, what is to share? If they can, by cutting costs and/or improving income, the facility has been underutilized. Yes or no?

8/10/2010 03:52:00 PM  

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