Orange County Fair Preservation Society

BARBARA VENEZIA
OC Register

Like a bad horror movie where the slasher continually reappears out of the darkness to terrorize unsuspecting victims, the OC Fair Board is back to slash the pending sale deal Costa Mesa and Facilities Management West have on the table with the state.

Fair Board Chairwoman Kristina Dodge penned a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger dated July 31 with a unique revenue-sharing proposal.

Their new “profit-sharing plan” basically proposes the State keep the Fair Board in play and they, in turn, lease off the four corners of the fairgrounds to developers, sharing revenue with the state. This isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s based on a plan created in 1989 and never formally adopted that called for commercial development on the corners.

Kristina wrote to Arnold,”We were appointed to the board of directors to be stewards of the OC Fair and fairgrounds in service of Orange County residents, and as such we feel it important that the Board be part of the public discourse at this pivotal point in visioning the fairgrounds future.”

Really? I doubt the 86 percent of Costa Mesa residents who voted for Measure C would agree the Fair Board works “in service of OC residents.” Sounds like the Fair Board is just trying to save themselves from extinction and preserve their power.

Since the very beginning, this sale fiasco has been about power and money, not about benefiting residents or preserving the fairgrounds. Let’s not forget we wouldn’t be in this situation today if the Fair Board had not petitioned the governor to sell the fairgrounds to them and their hinky nonprofit.

If this scenario comes into fruition, Measure C – which passed overwhelmingly in Costa Mesa – becomes meaningless. The city has no oversight on what they can build. Residents worst fears of seeing the property carved up by developers could become a harsh reality.

I spoke to Jim Righeimer, who worked on the latest sale deal with Facilities Management West and the city, to get his take on it. Jim said, “If the state keeps the property, the city has zero control of what happens to it next. The basis of this new proposal is long term real estate deals, which is exactly what we were all trying to avoid all along.”

When I read Kristina’s letter, I was amazed at the shear arrogance of it. She writes, “This plan does indeed achieve the highest return while keeping the property in the state’s real estate holdings. It is undoubtedly the best model for a win-win outcome for all.”

I doubt city leaders, residents and fairground vendors – who’ve been on this wild roller-coaster trying to save the fairgrounds for over a year now – see any part of this as a win-win.

What’s most laughable in this letter is that she closes with, “We look forward to engaging the Orange County community, including its local elected officials, in discussion of this model …”

Yeah right! Anyone who’s attended Fair Board meetings will tell you the last thing this board is interested in is what the public thinks.

What must the governor think with yet another proposal coming his way? My guess is, “Oh No! Not these wing nuts again!”

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