OC Voters: Republicans stole your Fairgrounds. Remember that Tuesday.


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L.A. Live, which Facilities Management West has mentioned as a model for their envisioned “O.C. Fame.”

Very, very few Orange County residents are happy to watch the spectacle of our Fairgrounds being sold off for pennies on the dollar to uber-connected greedy and secretive developers Facilities Management West – what looks more and more to be the unavoidable outcome to this struggle.  If this swindle can’t be stopped by lawsuits or Solorio’s final Hail-Mary legislation this December, it will be the first step in losing our cultural birthright, bought and paid for decades ago with our grandparents’ tax dollars. All justified by a TINY drop into the bucket of our state’s massive debt, which no other county has had to match – but of course really a political favor owed by Governor Schwarzenegger to his powerful wealthy backers.

Is there at least anything we can learn from this tragic experience?

One lesson should be this:  Orange County voters need to realize that at every step this SWINDLE was orchestrated and enabled by Republicans that they have voted for. And on top of that, it’s not just a case of Republicans being sneaky and crooked.  It’s the logical extension of the extremist anti-government, anti-public ideology more and more Republicans are espousing – Chuck DeVore most honestly and concisely – that the public should not own land, and EVERYTHING is best done for profit.

As we look forward toward the probable commercializing and development of the historic property, Orange Countians who loved the Fair must realize that this ideology, and these politicians they’ve supported so long, have gone way too far. I’m seeing more and more lifelong Costa Mesa Republicans leaving the party in disgust over the Stalinist treatment Wendy Leece is receiving right now for her apostasy in accepting a $4 million savings from the city’s public safety workers.  They’re becoming independents because that’s psychologically easier than joining the Dems they’ve always seen as corrupt wasteful enemies.  But they are going to VOTE DEM.  Will it be enough to make a difference this Tuesday?

I want to pass on the latest call to arms from our friends at the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society, but FIRST let me present:

Republicans responsible for stealing Orange County’s Fairgrounds.

John Campbell. The first politician to propose and attempt selling off the Fairgrounds, back in 2004 when he was a state Senator “representing” that district.  The idea was shot down back then.  Now he’s the wingnut Congressman for the South County, running for re-election against Beth Krom.  Remember this, voters down there – this “idea” was John Campbell’s baby.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and cronies Fred Aguiar and Gary Hunt.  They would have liked to sell off Fairgrounds and other public treasures all across the state, but every place except Orange County was represented by politicians who actually fought for their own public property.  Meg Whitman‘s philosophy and rhetoric are no different from Arnold’s in this regard, and she’s hired dozens of his advisers and aides – so think of that when you make your choice for Governor, Fair lovers.

The Arnold-appointed Fair Board, especially GOP player Dave Ellis. Jumping at the chance to own and profit off this property themselves, they secretly formed themselves into a “Foundation” to buy it, and set to work lobbying to make sure the sale was okayed.  All of this was so legally questionable that the Attorney General withdrew their legal aid from his office, leaving them to fend for themselves.  They seem now to regret their actions now that things didn’t turn out in their favor.  Greedy Republicans just being themselves, they shook the tree, and the fruit did not fall into their hands.

Ex-Senator Dick Ackerman, a.k.a. “The Judas of the Fairgrounds.”  He was legally prohibited at the time from lobbying his old legislative colleagues, so he and his allies have concocted a host of semantic dodges to explain what exactly he was doing, back up there in Sacramento so soon after being termed out, talking to everyone to make sure the legislation would go through, lying to anyone who would listen that “Costa Mesa” wanted the Fairgrounds sold, and actually writing the “language” of the enabling bill itself.

As-good-as-no-D.A. Tony Rackauckas who “investigated” the above shenanigans of the Fair Board and Ackerman in exactly the same way he “investigates” any wrongdoing by well-connected politicos.  Kid gloves and “nothing to see here.”  Carefully questioning only the folks who won’t talk.  Avoiding the dissenting members of the Board who would have loved to spill all – *cough* Dave Padilla. *cough*  Doing what T-Rack does best – a WHITEWASH.

Jim Righeimer. Shady questionable Swindle-related activities too numerous to mention.  Phony “Save the Fair” Facebook page aimed to divert public outrage AWAY from preventing the sale and TOWARD selling it the way Riggy wanted it sold.  Passionate booster and apologist for Facilities Management West who threatened to “Blow the whole deal up” if he couldn’t be part of the negotiations. A  SPY filling in his FMW cronies on every little detail of the “confidential” negotiations with their competitors, even accidentally leaving a message on a journalist’s phone machine – but somehow Teflon!  Tireless and voracious DEVELOPER.  Now running for City Council – Fair-Loving Costa Mesans Vote McEvoy and Leece, save yourselves from a Riggy Decade!

Facilities Management West. All well-connected wealthy and secretive Republican donors.  [In stark contrast to their community-minded Republican competitors at American Fairgrounds and Festivals, they have no record of philanthropy or any community contribution.] They have had their hands in this at every juncture, probably from the beginning, and had the great foresight to hire Gary Hunt, who just happened to be Governor Schwarzenegger’s campaign finance chairman. Are we surprised to see them end up with the prize?  Can you see why I have made “cronyism” a category on this blog?

Van Tran. The district’s long-time do-nothing Assemblyman.  Like the vast majority of our hapless county’s useless delegation, he voted in favor of the sale.  When the public woke up last year and erupted in outrage, he waved around his sword a little bit, to great applause.  But after that he has done JACK SHIT to stop the sale, leaving all the work to his Democratic colleague Jose Solorio who represents a different district.  This leaves Van free to do nothing but campaign against Loretta Sanchez, the Democrat who’s our only Congressperson bringing back any Washington resources to our County.  Fair lovers, a vote for Tran is treason.

Allan Mansoor, eventually joined by his Republican council colleagues Bever, Monahan and Leece.  The tongue-tied and sinister Costa Mesa Mayor, now running for Assembly against progressive Fairgrounds champion Phu Nguyen, was the first Councilmember to support Facilities Management West over the incomparably better, more open and public-friendly American Fairgrounds to be Costa Mesa’s “partner” in the deal.  He would certainly want you to think his mysterious support had nothing to do with the $6000+ contributions he received from them (and was forced to temporarily return.)

As is his usual style, Allan gave no reason for his decision, just his vague “concerns.”  One by one his other colleagues joined him, Democrat Katrina Foley being the most ambivalent and eventually voting no on the final swindle.  We learn more and more that Allan is nothing but an obedient puppet, who will do anything his Party superiors order him to do. And on that final night, that final vote, I happen to know that the text messages were coming in fast and furious to all five council members from the Governor’s office.  With ORDERS and THREATS as they sat there ON THE DAIS.

In retrospect, Facilities Management West was just playing with Costa Mesa, going through a charade of negotiating in good faith while arming themselves with reams of knowledge and information to help them get the final deal on their own.  Allan Mansoor ran interference for them from the start.

Fair lovers, VOTE PHU NGUYEN!


Latest press release from the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society:

State Parks, Museums & Beaches now at risk by Sale of Orange County Fairgrounds

On October 21, 2010, public property in California moved onto the endangered species list when Gov. Schwarzenegger inked the deal to sell the Orange County Fairgrounds to real estate developers Facilities Management West.

And this was done over the loud objections of the public.  Over 50,000 postcards and petition signatures were ignored.  Over 26 cities asking to not sell the property were ignored.  And Facilities Management West even hired Gary Hunt, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s campaign State finance chair, to make sure the deal got done.

The deal is bad for taxpayers.  150 acres of prime Costa Mesa real estate went for a paltry $20 million down, with the rest of the $100 million to be paid out over 40 years.  The broke State of California is financing the deal.  Why does the State have money to burn for real estate deals when they are furloughing employees, cutting teachers, and eliminating medical care for senior citizens and the disabled?

There are incentives to develop the property into uses that generate more revenue.  The State will get 10% of the increases value if the property is developed within in 15 years.  This gives the State an incentive to help Facilities Management West to change the Costa Mesa General Plan or find ways around Measure C.  It only takes 3 votes on the Costa Mesa City Council to change the zoning, and there are millions of reasons to do that now.

Every piece of public land – parks, beaches and museums – is endangered by the way this sale went down. We can look for more public lands to be sold off to real estate developers who will help engineer good deals on a prime property.

What we need you to do:
*  Tell your friends what happened and what it means to their favorite parks and beaches.
*  Write letters to the editor condemning this action and asking for Legislative support to end this deal.
*  Tell your legislators you will do everything you can to help them end this deal now and forever!

This is Ken Fait, the main force behind FMW:

Our fairground is priceless and part of our heritage. Together we can save it!

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About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.