Derail the Sale hauls out the big guns as Correa, Solorio and Foley join the Fairgrounds Swindle Lawsuit.


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Asm. Jim Silva, (useless Van Tran,) Senator Correa, Asm. De La Torre and Solorio, Katrina Foley, and Theresa Sears, back in January. Our heavy hitters.

“After following this issue for over a year and continually fighting to keep the Orange County Fairgrounds under public ownership, I could not sit by and watch the Governor, in his rush before leaving office, sell this important asset when there are too many unanswered questions.

“Why was there no appraisal done to learn the fair market value of the property? Why weren’t the requirements of the original legislation and the Department of General Services’ (DGS) own bid documents followed? How do we know the bid process was fair when the terms of the deal favor one bidder above all others? This whole bid process has been flawed.”

– Assemblyman Jose Solorio

“This sale, just like the $2.1 billion sale [“sleasing”] of state assets, is a blatant giveaway of taxpayer resources and assets. It’s a fire sale, a blue-light special selling off state resources at a deep discount. And it’s going to cost the state much more in the long run.

“In the meantime, somebody will turn around and make a killing on this property. The whole thing just hits me in the gut.

– Senator Lou Correa, to Norberto

You are right, those of you who are paying attention at home and saying, “Hey, wasn’t there already a lawsuit filed to stop the sale of our Fairgrounds?”  THAT one, filed last month by a group of businesses negatively impacted by the Swindle, resulted in a temporary restraining order against the sale, and will be heard at the Santa Ana Courthouse this Wednesday.

But this second suit was necessary because there are other arguments (or “causes of action”) that the first group of plaintiffs lacked standing for, or that came up more recently.  This new lawsuit, filed by state Senator Lou Correa, Assemblyman Jose Solorio, Costa Mesa councilwoman-en-route-to-school-board Katrina Foley, and the OC Fairgrounds Preservation Society (which includes OJ denizens La Femme Wonkita, Gericault, and yours truly) should throw another spanner in the works, as it brings up a few new issues which will hopefully require additional time for the court to consider and the defendants to respond to, running out the clock on the crooked Schwarzenegger administration.

The causes of action in the first suit, which are summarized in this concise BusinessWire article, center around

  • the unconstitutionality of last year’s bill AB 4 X 22, which originally authorized the sale, and violates Section 9 (Article III) of the state Constitution by redirecting the proceeds of this “surplus property” to reducing the budget deficit;
  • the ways in which Arnold’s Department of General Services (DGS) tailor-made the latest auction to favor its cronies Facilities Management West (FMW) with its minimum bid terms and conditions, and its rushed schedule;  and afterwards failed to respond to public records requests regarding the award;
  • and the ever-puzzling question of which state entity actually has the legal authority to convey the title to the property.

The new suit re-iterates all those concerns, but also, as is natural given that two of the main plaintiffs are legislators, focuses on the DGS’s illegal end-run around the legislature.  Most notably, AB 4 X 22 specified that the heads of the committees of both the senate and assembly needed to be presented with a fair market value appraisal of the property thirty days in advance of any sale – this has never happened;  no such appraisal was ever made, and there’s sure no time for it now if they’re gonna rush the sale through this month like they want to.  That’s right, they couldn’t even follow the law they wrote and jammed through themselves!

[I can’t help but note the complete absence of the now-Righeimer-dominated Costa Mesa City Council from these suits, or indeed from any attempts to help stop the Swindle.  This indifference casts a harsh retrospective light on all Riggy’s earlier phoney-baloney “Save The Fair” nonsense.]

Overall both lawsuits – which may end up being consolidated together by the judge – aim to show that the whole process constitutes what’s called an “unconstitutional gift of public funds” to FMW, which should be struck down outright by the court.  Barring that, just three weeks more delay will also be a victory, as the new Governor – name of Jerry Brown – opposes the Swindle.   I can’t wait Wednesday to hear both the judge and our attorneys ask the defendants, “What’s the rush?  Why can’t we do this properly next year?”  LOL.  LMAO.

Meanwhile a contrary opinion pops up from a most unexpected quarter:  Our old friend Art Pedroza has posted a truly baffling piece on his New Santa Ana Blog, entitled “Solorio Fights to Save the Fair, but Does it Really Matter?”  I’m going to assume Art is just trying to be contrarian and provocative when he writes that the Fair sucks and we should just go ahead, throw up our hands and get rid of it, but as his piece is still sitting out there on the Internets, SOMEBODY might conceivably read it, so I can’t help but respond to it briefly:

1.  First, Art questions Solorio’s contention that “hundreds of jobs” are created by our Fairgrounds.  Art asks, “What sort of jobs is he talking about?  Janitorial?  Carnies?  Ticket booth operators?  These don’t seem like very good jobs, and they are temporary at that.”  Of course Art makes the common mistake of confusing the Fairgrounds for just the annual Fair. Countless other events happen year-round on the property.  The Marketplace (swap meet) itself provides a livelihood for over a thousand vendors, many of whom have their own employees;  there are constant Trade Shows;  there are maybe a dozen Equestrian employees, not to mention the 82 full-time and 30 part-time state employees that FMW is trying to buy off by having them fired and then offering them their jobs back “WHEN” they’re in charge.

Art should really (if he cares) look at this Economic Impact Report before he sounds off again on the subject – it documents how the Fairgrounds contributes roughly $185.2 million in economic impact annually to Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, creates over 2000 local jobs and generates more than $2 million in local tax revenues. So Solorio if anything was modest.

2.  Another big chunk of Art’s argument is that HIS KIDS don’t care about farm animals, and just want to waste money on the “overpriced, rickety carnival rides.”  He adds, “Let’s face it – Orange County is no longer even remotely an agricultural county.  We just aren’t.  Most of our farms were paved over years ago.”

Well, I’d first point out that there are other kids in the county besides Art’s teenagers;  and anyway some of us don’t appreciate our county’s rich agricultural heritage until we’re a little older.  His argument about us not being an agricultural county any more reminds me of a similarly incomprehensible statement I once heard Van Tran make:  that the law protecting sea otters as endangered is a stupid pointless law “because there are so few sea otters.”

As Greg Ridge responded elsewhere Sunday morning:

Actually, preserving our Agricultural history is EXACTLY why we need the fairgrounds. In one generation that has been paved over.  My father was a farmer who sold his 160 acres to the Irvine Co.  My wife and kids have a horse boarded at the public equestrian center – one of the last remaining in the county. Many inner-city kids from Stanton and Santa Ana experience their first encounter with a horse through the non-profit Park Place foundation. They use trained professionals through horse therapy to help abused children regain trust and self esteem. The list of community uses and benefits the fairgrounds has is too long to list here.

And THEN Greg got snarky.

3.  Art continues: “The land the Fair sits on, in Costa Mesa, is prime real estate.  Why not sell it and use that money to pay down California’s debt?”  Yeah, right, Art.  Sell it for 100 million at the bottom of the real estate market – what was it, 40 million down?  That’ll really pay off our $20 billion budget gap.  Drop, meet big leaky bucket.

4.  This is pretty irritating too:  “And why is Solorio spending so much time on this?  Is the Fair even in his Assembly District?  I don’t think so.  Odd.”  I suppose we should have left it all up to the do-nothing Van Tran paid-off FMW AssemblyShill Allan Mansoor and flaky Tom Harman?  Jose and Lou are involved because we citizens asked them to be, and they’re the only effective and caring legislators this county has.  (Slight exceptions for Silva and Harkey, but they haven’t joined the suit for some reason.)  Not only that, the Fairgrounds belong to ORANGE COUNTY TAXPAYERS, not just Costa Mesa taxpayers or 68th AD taxpayers.  So thank you, Jose and Lou, from all of us!

Finally, doesn’t PRINCIPLE count for anything any more?  This property, as I never tire of reminding people, was purchased with our grandparents’ tax dollars so that we and our own grandkids could enjoy it, but Art sees no problem with a politically-connected developer snagging it at a fire sale price in the most underhanded way, to make maximum profit off it?

Maybe Art doesn’t mind seeing the whole area turned into condos, a mall, a casino, or an amphitheater.  Well, if that happens the question should first be put to us Orange County voters and taxpayers who properly own the place.  I really doubt Art’s vision would prevail.

And that’s all I have to say about THAT article.  I’m going to go back to assuming Art was kidding.


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.