The Fair Board Is TRANSFORMED.

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Excellent news for all of us who care about not only the Orange County Fairgrounds, but also the quaint notions of accountability, open governance, and justice for crooks:  Governor Brown has just replaced two of the Board members intimately involved in the ultimately unsuccessful Great Fairgrounds Swindle, with truly stellar choices!

Gone are Dave Ellis‘ two most dependable remaining allies on the Board, the ancient, ill-tempered foreclosure tycoon Dale Dykema and the hapless Gary Hayakawa, both appointed as wealthy Schwarzenegger donors, and both useful tools in Ellis’ scheme to privatize and profit off the Fairgrounds our grandparents paid for.  For the wise and witty Governor Brown has replaced them, at the end of their terms, with:

  • Ashleigh Aitken, daughter of legendary Democrat lawyer Wylie and an accomplished attorney and former US Attorney herself – as well as an equestrian, something that’s been sorely needed on the Board.  Ms. Aitken’s 4-year old daughter was in the news Friday when she mistakenly assumed President Obama, on his recent OC visit, was a member of her family since his picture was all over her house.
  • and StanTkaczyk, the beloved former CEO of Rainbow Disposal, philanthropist, and husband of the “Irrepressible Barbara Venezia.”®  This appointment by Brown of a prominent Republican marks a break in the long tradition of governors using these appointments as rewards for political loyalists … although given Stan’s and Barbara’s tempestuous history with Ellis, it could also be seen as another jab at Mister Toad.

Ashleigh and Stan join Governor Brown’s splendid previous appointees, fire-breathing OCEA chief Nick Berardino and Santa Ana arts bigwig Gerardo Mouet.  (Way to stick it to Costa Mesa, Jerry – a labor guy and a Mexican!)

Damn near friendless...

Meanwhile, the four remaining Schwarzenegger appointees (besides Ellis) have been less and less dependable allies for Ellis, visibly coming under the influence of Berardino’s relentlessly logical arguments as the months go by, as witness their near-unanimous rejection of Dave’s vendetta against Jeff Teller’s swap meet in November.  Now that we’re looking at a possible majority of reasonable and honest folks, what should be the first order of business?

  • Put an end to the waste of hundreds of thousands of public dollars on the pricey Mannat-Phelps attorneys that were only hired because Attorney General Brown withdrew his reasonably-priced lawyer in ’09 due to the Board’s shady dealings and conflicts of interest.  Now that the new improved Board will have nothing to hide from the public, they can go back to using someone competent and reasonably priced from AG Kamala Harris’ office.
  • Conduct that forensic audit of what really went down in 2009-10 with the nearly-successful Great Fairgrounds Swindle – an audit proposed by Mr. Berardino at his first meeting and quickly shot down.
  • Look again at creating that citizens’ oversight board – another Berardino idea that’s so far been rejected, but will prevent the abuses and secrecy which led to the events of 2009-10.
  • Look at putting an end to the barbaric and inhumane practice of Elephant Rides.  I’ll be writing about that within the week, as I’ve been contacted by a fellow who fights on that front, and who was laughed off by the Ellis-dominated Board as well as the thankfully departing Fair CEO Steve Beazley.

Mostly, it’ll be fun to watch Ellis squirm at the next meeting Thursday morning, when having to share a table with StanTkaczyk whom he savaged so gleefully during Barbara’s 2006 Newport council run, causing Babs to drop out of the race.  Good times ahead…

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, or 714-235-VERN.