Thursday, May 27, 2010

Memorial Day - 2010

(4402 Americans buried at Florence American Military Cemetery,
south of Florence, Italy)


As we approach this long Memorial Day holiday weekend we here at A Bubbling Cauldron hope you will find some time to stop and contemplate exactly what this holiday is all about. In case your memory is a little vague on the subject, Wikipedia provides you with a little help, HERE.

To remind you just why we honor our fallen troops, here's a little chart that will give you some perspective. It tallies up more than a million lives lost in combat fighting to defend our country. This weekend please bow your head in gratitude to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.
A couple years ago I wrote about this holiday. I think you may find that entry worth re-reading HERE.

Now, let singer LeAnn Rimes help you contemplate this holiday.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meeting The Latest Bidder (Revised - See below)

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend a couple hours with two members of the Facilities Management West team, Guy Lemmon and Kathi Crowley, discussing their firm's participation in the quest to purchase the Orange County Fair and Event Center.

Wednesday the City of Costa Mesa produced a press release outlining the current status of negotiations with Facilities Managment West. Here is the text of that press release:


CONTACT: Allan L. Roeder
City Manager
(714) 754-5328

Kathy Crowley
Facilities Management West
9949) 433-8207

May 25, 2010

Costa Mesa, California - City of Costa Mesa and Facilities Management West Move Forward on Public Ownership of Orange County Fair and Events Center

The City of Costa Mesa, through the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority, and Facilities Management West (FMW) are moving forward with efforts to secure from the State of California continued public ownership of the Orange County Fair and Events Center (OCFEC) and to meet the schedule set forth by State officials.

"We were encouraged by our joint meeting last Thursday in the Governor's office and are committed to achieve a signed purchase agreement with the State by June 7, and completing the purchase by September 30," said Allan Roeder, Costa Mesa City Manager. A long term lease agreement between FMW and the Fairgrounds Authority is being drafted. The agreement will be structured to achieve the City's and FMW's goal that the OCFEC continue in public ownership.

"We believe that under the proposed public ownership and lease operating structure, existing fair related facilities, venues and community uses can be retained and improved," commented Guy Lemmon, spokesman for FMW. "We are focused on how these many activities can be made more friendly, more modern and more efficient."

Lemmon said that it is the intention of FMW to:

• Maintain and enhance the existing equestrian uses and related community programming on the fairgrounds property;

• Retain Centennial Farms as a park-like use, operated to encourage even broader community use;

• Host the annual Orange County Fair and continue the 50 year tradition of celebrating arts, entertainment, crafts, community service and family fun;

• Preserve the Youth Expo and its widely praised educational, recreational, cultural and social development programs for children and youth;

• Honor and seek to extend existing agreements with surrounding property owners for reciprocal parking and other cooperative joint uses;

• Continue existing arrangements and understandings with the community with regard to functions, events, services and operations; and

• Give existing employees of the OCFEC priority consideration for retention by Ovations-Fanfare, which has been retained by FMW to assist in the operation of the fairgrounds.

Lemmon said that discussions between FMW and the City of Costa Mesa have produced ideas "we intend to explore for new uses of the fairground facilities", including:

• Creating a singe ticketing operation and other operational efficiencies for the OCFEC;

• Expanding the use of the Pacific Amphitheater with improved marketing and booking strategies while remaining a good neighbor to surrounding residents;

• Expanding the use of the facility as an Exposition Center by increasing the number and length of events beyond what now exist;

• Establishing an advisory group of individuals with strong community and OCFEC connections to offer suggestions and counsel to the FMW organization; and

• Operating complementary facilities for the exposition functions and expanded food and beverage facilities.

Lemmon explained that FMW - under the anticipated terms of the long term lease with the Fairgrounds Authority - will retain Ovations-Fanfare to assist FMW in the operations of the fairgrounds and related activities. "Ovations-Fanfare is already well grounded in the real life, day to day operations of the fair as a result of its 15 year history of providing food and beverage services there," Lemmon said.

Ovations-Fanfare operates nine fair facilities in the state of California - including Cal Expo - and has more than 20 years experience in the fair and exposition business. Ovations-Fanfare is a subsidiary of Comcast-Spectacor, a national entertainment and event management firm.

Lemmon noted that FMW decided to compete for the fairground operations package submitted to bidders by the City of Costa Mesa because OCFEC represents the kind of long term investment favored by FMW's president, Ken E. Fait, a long time resident of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. Additionally, he said, the Fait family and local individuals it brought into the proposal share a genuine affection for the fair and its connection to the county's agrarian roots.

The Fait Family Trust, owned by Ken E. Fait and other members of the Fait family, is a diversified investment firm with interests in numerous companies, including energy, commercial real estate, mobile home communities, engineering, computer software and a cattle operation.

The FMW investment team includes the Fait Family Trust, Richard Dick and David Pyle. Richard Dick, a Costa Mesa resident, has developed a number of successful retail and residential properties throughout Southern California in the past 40 years. Raised on a farm in Illinois, at the beginning of his career he sold agricultural products, kindling a lifelong passion for agriculture and local fairs.

David A. Pyle was also invited by the Fait family to join the proposing team. For more than three decades, Mr. Pyle has been a leader and innovator in the private, postsecondary education community. He is the owner of American Career College and West Coast University with corporate offices in Costa Mesa serving over 7,000 students on six campuses. both schools are health care educators with campuses located in southern California. Pyle is another longtime Orange County resident since his parents bought a home on Balboa Island in 1960. he supports a number of community based education and health care organizations including; the Orangewood Children Foundation's, Kidworks in Santa Ana, Hoag Hospital Marion Knott School of Nursing and "Circle 1000", Newport Heights Elementary School Foundation and Newport Harbor High School Foundation.

"We are honored to have been selected by the City as its partner in the monumental effort to secure continued public ownership of the fairgrounds," Lemmon said. "We are committed to achieving the schedule set by the State and look forward to concluding the process in a positive fashion."



Perhaps the biggest news from that press release is that the City representatives along with folks from Facilities Management West will, once again, travel to Sacramento on June 7th to achieve a signed purchase agreement with the State.

You may recall that Facilities Management West was a late starter in this process. Although one of the original bidders in what may have been the shortest auction in the history of auctions, they were ranked second to American Fairs and Festivals when the City decided to seek partners to purchase the Fairgrounds. Negotiations with American Fairs and Festivals fell apart - some speculate it was because the City couldn't arrive at a satisfactory financial agreement with them.

In any event, in a curiously abrupt addition to the agenda for a closed session meeting, Facilities Management West was added to the mix and, at the closed session, was selected as the exclusive bidder with whom the City would move forward.

The press release clearly outlines the major pieces of Facilities Management West's proposal, which now includes a public ownership element that was missing previously and may have been the reason they were ranked second. Those were re-emphasized by Lemmon and Crowley during our conversation.

No details of their offer are available at this time. We hope the City will release some of the particulars, as they did with the American Fairs and Festivals proposal, in the very near future. The press release indicates that City officials hope to complete the sale by September 30th. When I mentioned to Lemmon that closing the deal at that late date is going to create big problems re-signing contracts with existing tenants, all of which expire November 1st, he agreed and expressed hope that the deal could be consummated well before that date.

During our conversation Lemmon volunteered that the City's recently added consultants, Jim Righeimer, David Ball and Rick Kapko, were excellent additions to the team. He felt they had the City's best interests at heart and asked some tough but fair questions.

I apparently was part of a community outreach effort because yesterday Lemmon met with Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit. The first of his two-part report can be read HERE.

I left my meeting with the folks from Facilities Management West encouraged by their enthusiasm and their plans as outlined in the press release. Of course, much needs to be done in the week that remains before the next trip to Sacramento. The proof will be in the deal...

In the meantime, there lingers the bitter after taste of Mayor Allan Mansoor's recent "Rule of Law City" resolution. This resolution, which he explained in detail to the Orange County Register in this video clip, has caused a firestorm of controversy.

I continue to hear rumblings, some of them from highly placed individuals in state government, that this resolution - clearly a ploy to grab the campaign spotlight with an incendiary issue - has so rankled Latino members of the legislature that there is strong consideration being given to punishing the City of Costa Mesa by not permitting the sale of the Fairgrounds to go through. It seems very likely to me that, if they chose to block the sale, there's not much that could stop them. The legislature is Democrat-controlled, so it would be easy for them to simply lock the essential bill into committee, effectively quashing it. They wouldn't even have to put it to a vote.

BREAKING NEWS: At 2:35 Thursday the Orange County Register posted an article, HERE, that confirms the above apprehension.

One would hope that the legislators wouldn't let one stupid, opportunistic, partisan political move by our mayor - one that really changes nothing in our city - cloud their judgment when it comes to the Fairground sale. The City of Costa Mesa, State representatives and bidders have all spent countless hours crafting an acceptable bid that could perpetuate the historical and cultural icon that is the Orange County Fair and Event Center into the future. It would be a shame to have partisan pique block the sale.

I guess we can only sit and wait, hoping that the City and Facilities Management West can hammer out a deal and present it on June 7th, that the State finds it acceptable and that the legislature will do it's part and process the necessary legislation with dispatch.

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Change Of Pace Time

Tired of all the Fairgrounds and Budget drama? Me, too. Here's a little personal story to brighten your day.


For the past few months there has been a strange cat wandering our neighborhood. The local "cat ladies" were in a tizzy because they suspected "she" was preggers. That sets the scene...

For a few weeks I've heard "something" jumping over my front gate, right beside my office. Never saw a critter, but suspected it might be a cat or one of the numerous squirrels that inhabit our neighborhood... never gave it much thought. Then, last Sunday, as I interrupted some very important television watching to make a supervisory visit to my wife who was sweeping beside our dormant dune buggy - poor girl needs constant supervision - I saw this cat jump our front gate, see us standing beside the buggy and immediately bounce right on over my neighbor's fence like it was on a pogo stick.

Well, the light came on for both the sweeper and supervisor and we decided to check the dune buggy. Now, understand, this old Meyers-Manx buggy has been sitting there, covered, for several years. It's street-legal and licensed and insured, but our buggying days are over. So, there it sits, beside the house, all snuggly wrapped in a nice brown plastic tarp - secure from weather and anything else, or so we thought.

When we carefully pulled off the tarps - there's another one under the brown one - and peeked inside we found four kittens scrunched behind the passenger seat. There they huddled, on the carpet and my half-roll of paper towels, amidst nutshells apparently deposited by squirrels before Momma Cat decided it was a lovely place to drop her brood.

Well, this event required a convening of the neighborhood "cat ladies", in even more of a tizzy now. Much discussion ensued about what to do with the kitties - I returned to my important television-watching, leaving them to decide, with the admonition that the cats were going, and soon. They decided we should cover up the buggy again because they looked too young to move - 3 weeks old, maybe.

The next day, Monday, my personal sweeper - as a committee of one - inflated her business telephone bill trying to find some entity to take the felines off our hands. No luck. The kitties were too young - Drat!

In the meantime, I kept hearing something climbing my gate during the day. Couldn't see it and didn't want to disturb it if it was Momma Cat coming to feed the kitties. The only thing worse than a litter of critters in my dune buggy would be a litter of dead critters in my dune buggy!

That evening I got a call from one of the "cat ladies", demanding that I go inspect the buggy. So, since my personal sweeper was out, I was required to stop what I was doing and drag my old carcass outside at sunset and uncover the buggy - fully expecting a protective Momma Cat to pounce on me. Did I mention I'm not a "cat guy"? So, I dragged the covers back and, BINGO!, no kitties! Seems Momma Cat had been moving them, one at a time, from their little nest in my buggy to somewhere else - thank goodness. I'm still trying to imagine her, kitten in her mouth, leaping my six-foot gate and then carrying each one to a new safer place - four times. It took her all day.

So, with that behind us - and with friends and strangers still calling about wanting one of the kitties - the next step is to finally get rid of the buggy. Know anybody who wants a project buggy? Happy ending all around - I think.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

OCLNN is History!

After only four months of operation, the fledgling Orange County Local News Network is gone - poof!

As reported HERE in the Orange County Business Journal, OCLNN ceased operations yesterday, Monday, May 24th. Calls to their number went directly to voicemail.

The reported 20 staffers were domiciled adjacent to the Daily Pilot and other Times Community News entities in the Los Angeles Times facility on Sunflower in Costa Mesa. A call to the Daily Pilot confirmed that the entire OCLNN staff was laid off yesterday and that the space they occupied now holds only echoes.

I've followed the OCLNN since it launched earlier this year and thought they were doing a pretty good job of providing timely original content and relevant aggregated local news from other sources. No reason for its failure was given in the OC Business Journal article, although some might speculate that they had difficulties attracting advertising revenue, without which any news organization will fail.

I cannot help but wonder about the future of the former Newport Mesa Daily Voice, which recently morphed into the Newport Beach Independent when former Daily Pilot publisher, Tom Johnson, sold the Daily Voice to an outfit in Laguna Beach and is now operating the Independent. There will be no Costa Mesa component in this modified venture and, based on its new look, it will continue to aggregate content from other sources with a little original content in the form of columnists. We'll be keeping our fingers crossed that this venture succeeds.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Measure "C" - Yes or No?

As part of the strategy implemented by the City of Costa Mesa to retain the Orange County Fair and Event Center as it is today, the City Council recently approved a General Plan amendment that locks in the uses for that 150 acre site to it's current - or similar - uses.

I've lived in Costa Mesa going on 37 years now and I don't recall any issue that has generated such interest and that brought together so many diverse constituencies toward a common goal - keeping the Fairgrounds as-is. Although there were many different paths toward that goal expressed, I don't recall any local voice advocating the sale of the Fairgrounds for anything except it's current basket of uses.


However, since it only takes three votes of the council to change that restriction and council members come and go like the tides, the current council also approved placing on the June 8th, 2010 ballot a measure - Measure "C" - that, if passed by the voters of Costa Mesa, will further lock in that zoning. Any changes made in the future will require another vote of the people to implement.

The ballot language is pretty straightforward:

"General Plan Designation of Orange County Fair and Event Center Should an ordinance be adopted confirming the General Plan Designation for the Orange County Fair and Event Center as it is set forth in the General Plan as amended by GP-09-01 which amended the fairground land use designation in the Land Use Element of the 2000 General Plan to describe and maintain current fair and event uses on the site and requiring that further amendment be made only upon majority vote of the electorate?"

Trying to get a broad perspective on this subject for you to consider, I asked several members of the community to give me their take on it. This next segment is a compilation of those views.

Greg Ridge, Westside Resident and "Derail The Sale" Activist
"The Orange County Fairgrounds is a tremendous legacy. We were given this asset from our fathers, to steward and enjoy, until we cold pass it on to our children and their future generations. Unfortunately, that stewardship has been corrupted and found severely lacking from those entrusted with it's care and preservation. Measure "C" will firmly place the future use of the Fairground property into the hands of the voters.

Time and again we have witnessed politicians eyeing the fairgrounds to solve their fiscal over-spending. The current battles being waged over the future of the Fairgrounds were started by politicians and appointed political insiders, in back room deals that completely excluded the community at large. The passage of Measure "C" is how we take it back.

Currently the Fairgrounds is zoned for usage through the city of Costa Mesa's General Plan. A simple majority amendment from the city council could change the future of the Fairgrounds forever. The passage of Measure "C" will take that power from a simple "three vote" council majority and put it back into the hands of the community. Any future changes regarding the zoning and "usage" of the Fairgrounds would have to come before the voters.

Our "public" Fairgrounds will finally be protected by a public majority. That majority will be made up entirely of Costa Mesa registered voters that live, work, travel in around the Fairgrounds everyday.

The city is currently in negotiations with a private entity to purchase the fairgrounds for the state. What that actually means for the future of the Fairgrounds is far from certain. The devil is always in the details. One thing is certain. measure"C" is the most secure mechanism to protect "our taxpayer" owned asset from being sold off by desperate politicians and greedy developers.

Please, get out and VOTE YES on Measure "C"... Keep our Fairgrounds "Public"."

Chris McEvoy, former and future City Council candidate
"Measure C is important for the future of the Orange County Fair and Events Center which is home to the O.C. Fair, the O.C. Swap Meet/Marketplace and many other community treasures.

I believe as do others that Measure C contributed to low bids for the OCFEC auction which in effect put Costa Mesa directly in negotiations with the State for the OCFEC and the 32nd District Agricultural Association and I further believe that the outcome of Measure C will be one of the deciding factors the State must consider in moving forward with the sale.

I like the idea of the Orange County Fair and Event Center not developing into something else, which Measure C accomplishes and I like the idea of Costa Mesa owning the OCFEC, which I believe Measure C helps. For these reasons I will be voting yes on Measure C


Sandra Genis, Former Mayor and President of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society
"Measure C puts decisions about future land use at the fairgrounds in the hands of Costa Mesa voters--not politicians. The surest protection we have, not only for the fairgrounds but for our community as a whole, is the informed voter. Vote yes on C!"

Councilwoman Katrina Foley, Member of City negotiating team
"The 150 acres that our community claims as the OC Fair & Event Center is prime real estate. Developers can't help but see its potential development as housing, apartments, hotels, strip malls and the like. That's why locking in the existing zoning and protecting the fairgrounds, marketplace, equestrian center and amphitheater is critical now.

This vote will send a strong message to our current and future leaders about what the residents prefer. Anything less than a supermajority will signal an opening. Don't let it happen. Vote yes on C.
Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Leece
"Frankly, I don't know anyone who is opposed to Measure C. When I cast my vote, I'll be doing it for my grandchildren and future generations who will be able to know the fun and food our family has enjoyed for many years at the OC Fair."

Councilman Gary Monahan, Member of City negotiating team
"Passage of Measure C is crucial to the preservation of the fairgrounds. Measure C locks in the current zoning as a Fair & Events Center. This provides that housing, high rises, commercial development etc..cannot take place without going back to the voters. It's the strongest statement that the voters of Costa Mesa can make to the State of California that we want to keep and save our fair!"
Although I was unsuccessful in finding anyone to speak on the record against Measure "C", some opponents may tell you that we don't know what the future holds and that by putting a stranglehold on that prime piece of real estate we could stifle future growth and prosperity in Costa Mesa. After all, they will say, Costa Mesa is a "built-out" city, with very few parcels left available for development.

They may say that circumstances in the future may make it palatable to consider more diverse development of the Fairgrounds site. Such circumstances as the expansion of Orange Coast College, for example, might make modification of the zoning desirable.

They may say, with some validity, that zoning decisions made at the ballot box tend to be bad decisions. I don't disagree with that philosophy in general terms, but this is a little different. The current City Council has had the wisdom to foresee the potential for capricious changes when they voted to place Measure "C" on the ballot.

The Orange County Register, in both an article and on their editorial pages, recommended a "No" vote on Measure "C". Their reasoning is basically "the state is broke and needs the money", then goes on to attempt to assign blame for the State's fiscal woes in great part to Orange County and it's out-of-control pension plans. That's a real stretch, in my view. The proposed price - $96 million - won't begin to scratch the surface of the State's budget woes. However, if the plan the City presents to them is similar to the one proposed last week, the State will get some cash and a note for a much more lucrative long-term payout.

The Fairgrounds, with it's wide and diverse range of events, including the Fair itself, has been a venue for cultural and entertainment activities for a half century. Literally thousands of folks make their living from events at the Fairgrounds.

Whether the City of Costa Mesa is successful in it's bid for the acquisition of the Fairgrounds or not, it's clear that the State is intent on unloading that property, one way or another. If they reject the City's proposal they will probably immediately put it back on the auction block. Measure "C" insures that any future owner will retain the present mix of events and programs.

Seems simple enough. If you want the Fairgrounds protected from development beyond the scope of the current General Plan, vote "Yes". If you want to protect that site from things like high-rise offices and apartments, outlet malls, casinos, kosher slaughter houses and, as one speaker before the council recently proposed, water slides, a Vatican Library and a Latino Hall of Fame, vote "Yes"on Measure "C".

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