Fairgrounds Victory: A Lady has sung, but is she the Fat One?

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So, given that yesterday’s hearing on the Great Fairgrounds Swindle went exactly as we hoped, given that the Fourth District Appellate Court agreed to hear the case on Jan. 10, meaning that the state and FMW cannot proceed with the sale until that date which is a week after Governor Jerry Brown takes office … is it premature for us to celebrate and declare victory?

Perhaps, tantalizingly premature.  Because, are any of us 100% sure that the sale won’t proceed under Governor Brown?  Not really.  Pretty sure, but not 100%.  Let’s go over what we do know.

  1. When my friend Gus Ayer ran into then-Attorney General Brown late last year and filled him in on all the details of the Swindle thus far, especially relating to the Fair Board’s shenanigans, it was obviously the first time the issue had been on his radar, and he listened with interest and concern and said he would do something about it.  A couple of weeks later his office withdrew its legal representation from the Board due to its conflict of interest in simultaneously running the Fairgrounds, lobbying for its sale, and attempting to buy it themselves.
  2. Governor Schwarzenegger and his DGS (Department of General Services) does not seem to simply be hellbent on selling the Fairgrounds, or on selling it for the best price – they are hellbent on selling it to a particular group, Facilities Management West (FMW) who are personally connected to Arnold.  Jerry has no connection to this gang (that we know of) and owes them nothing.
  3. Brown’s allies and fellow Democrats, Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Controller John Chiang, are currently fighting a similar stupid scam of Arnold’s, the sale of 22 state buildings which will have to be leased back from the new owners at a loss for decades.  (See “None Dare Call It Sleasing.“)  It’s not much of a leap to think the same folks, and their new governor, would also see the folly and crookedness of selling off this public treasure at a fire sale price at the bottom of the market.
  4. Senator Lou Correa and Assemblyman Jose Solorio, who have become champions of the Derail-the-Sale cause, totally have Governor Brown’s ear, in a way they never had Arnold’s.
  5. Our final auspicious clue (that I can think of) is the obvious panicky rush FMW and Arnold’s DGS have shown, to get the deal consummated as soon as possible.  They’ve as much as admitted, themselves, that it may not happen if it doesn’t happen before Jan. 3 – although yesterday FMW’s lead attorney Tom Gibbs managed to pull himself together enough to sneer that it’s a “vain hope” Brown will scuttle the deal.  It’s unlikely these folks haven’t already begun trying to get to Jerry, but I suspect they’ll find he is far less corruptible than Arnold.

But today, the Register‘s cigar-chomping courtier-columnist Frank Mickadeit drops sage advice on all of Orange County: “Don’t Open the Fairgrounds present too soon.”  Laboring under whatever’s his current man-crush (Lemmon?  Fait?  Riggy?) he spins all manner of scenarios under which the sale could still go forward.  It’s true that we don’t know how the court could yet rule, or where the new Governor stands, or even for sure if he could stop it.  And we sure aren’t taking our final success for granted.

The next arrow in our quiver is Jose Solorio’s AB 35, which turns thirty days old on Jan. 5 and can then proceed hastily through the legislature.  When this bill is passed it will make it very clear to the Court that it was never the legislature’s intent to just rubber stamp this whole travesty on a late July night in the middle of 2009’s crazy budget negotiations.  And when it’s passed and signed by our new governor, that will be a clear indication that the sale is illegitimate.  Oh, and Jerry can then name a whole new Fair Board who will take their charge as stewards of our public property seriously.

Stay tuned – we may be needing to phone, fax and e-mail our new governor;  and we may be needing to pressure all our own legislators to back Jose’s AB 35.  Nelson: OUT!


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.