Further misadventures of Costa Mesa’s inebriated leprechaun Mayor. (and Fairgrounds news)




What a wild ride it’s been for poor Gary “Skosh” Monahan – Costa Mesa councilman for 16 of the last 18 years, and mayor more times than he can count.

As recently as last November he was a man of the people, a friend to workers, and everybody loved him – I can still remember the halting but thoughtful speech he gave when he defied GOP bosses and joined Wendy and Katrina voting in favor of negotiated givebacks from police and firefighters – he had good reasons and expressed them well.

Then, starting this year, the local Republican Party decreed that the bubbling cauldron of Costa Mesa would be Ground Zero in the War Against Public Workers, and the town has been receiving national and international attention for its ruthless evisceration of its work force – the Wisconsin of California cities!  And Gary, loyal Republican that he is, has been going right along with the crusade.

And yet – here’s what’s not fair – it’s the council’s fierce ideologues Jim Righeimer and (the never-elected) Steve Mensinger who get all the credit, fame and celebrity for their “bold stances” against the common man – they get the FOX News interviews, the Register profiles, the swoons from the blue-haired ladies.  While all poor Mayor Gary gets is scorn and ridicule for his goofball behavior in his Irish pub on St Patrick’s Day, the day pink-slipped super-worker Huy Pham dove to his death off the City Hall roof while Gary was enjoying “the most important day of his life” and thoughtlessly cracking that he “hires and fires people all the time.”

Damn it, Gary’s just a regular Catholic working stiff with six kids who has to make a living – not a wealthy unemployed bully like both Riggy and Mensy who can spend all day stomping about City Hall, breathing over the employees’ shoulders, giving ’em the Costa Mesa Stink-Eye, and figuring out who they’re gonna fire next.  (Or maybe chest-bump.)

But one time last year – just about exactly a year ago – Gary did have a brush with greatness. (Or, what he would likely consider one.) You remember this? You must, because it was chronicled by that worshipful scribe of OCGOP sleaze, the cigar-chomping courtier-columnist Frank Mickadeit.  To wit:

One year ago Costa Mesa, in a desperate attempt to forestall losing the OC Fairgrounds to even scarier unknown developers, was having a hell of a time reaching a mutually agreeable partnership arrangement with voracious financiers Facilities Management West [eyes right] whose demands and demeanor were growing ever more predatory.  And then right when all hope seemed lost, per Mickadeit, Gary struck a deal in his pub with an FMW principal, on a cocktail napkin!

A deal on a cocktail napkin, in his own pub, which nearly saved the day! Surely that would go down in history. No wonder Gary retains a great fondness for Facilities Management West, that secretive, shark-like consortium of ill-tempered Newport Beach millionaire developers who’ve been salivating over our Fairgrounds for like nearly forever now.

And then last week…

Oh wait. None of this will make sense if I don’t explain what Assemblyman Jose Solorio’s AB 35 is.

First.  You probably remember that the Costa Mesa / FMW deal fell through, as FMW certainly intended it to, and then promptly FMW with its inside track to irreproachable Governor Schwarzenegger was authorized to buy the property on its own, for pennies on the dollar.  But this deal – well, for convenience’s sake, let’s just call it what we usually do, “The Swindle” – is currently tied up in court;  a panel of judges could decide either way but it would still be up to Governor Brown to okay it, and his signals have been ever more favorable to us Swindle Opponents.

Meanwhile, the idea had been floated, from various quarters, that instead of being sold, the very profitable OC Fairgrounds could agree to a profit-sharing plan with the state, if state revenue were really the concern.   Other county Fairs across the state, while considered by sensitive individuals to be culturally irreplaceable, are a financial drain to the state, to the tune of $35 million a year – but OUR KICKASS FAIR, the 8th most successful in the nation, could easily help subsidize these other runts, while doing our share for the state’s hemorrhaging budget (and still staying solvent.)  Gary or whoever wrote his letter (below) is clueless when he questions how the OC Fairgrounds could afford this – After all, the current reprobate Fair Board has been blowing a comparable amount of money on all manner of things from extravagant legal fees to Beazley’s Weird Al’s Brain. 

Assemblyman Solorio’s AB35 is the legislative incarnation of this profit-sharing idea.  And it would give Governor Brown an easy way out of greenlighting the Swindle for fiscal reasons – a perfect compromise, and a way to drive a stake in the Swindle’s heart.  Therefore, those of us who have been fighting to Derail the Sale since 2009 are supporting Solorio’s profit-sharing AB35!

Wait – profit-sharing?  That sounds eerily familiar to those of us who read (or wrote) my epic post “Who is Dave Ellis?  A Portrait of our Fair Board Chairman.”  Yes, we even referred to Dave’s profit-sharing idea as Dave’s “Plan C” to keep control of the property.  Well, Dave’s plan was a little different and gives himself and the Board, unsurprisingly, more power.  And we should never forget that without his meddling, we would probably never have gotten into this situation.   But still it’s fair to say that at this point, the opponents of the Swindle are in an unlikely alliance with Dave Ellis and cronies.  Where DID that hand sanitizer go?

The irredeemably phallocentric Mickadeit noted this irony and got it predictably backwards, sniggering that with the new agreement on profit-sharing, Derailment Valkyrie Theresa Sears “now found herself on the side of Dave Ellis.”  Actually it’s the other way around:  Dave Ellis is now on our side (for the moment.)

Cynics can theorize on why a scuttling kleptocrat like Ellis would come around to backing public control – some guess he didn’t get offered as sweet a deal from FMW as he would have liked. I prefer to think he read this sentence of mine,had a change of heart, and tried to redeem himself:

 What if [Dave] had actually put his considerable energies and resourcefulness into preventing the sale instead, as so many other similar Boards did?

(But then I’m just a sap.  And a vain, drunk bastard who can empathize with Gary Monahan.)

Okay, so anyway, last week:

On May 10, Mayor Monahan, the leprechaun Mayor, managed to produce an amazingly passionate and eloquent attack on AB35 and defense of the Swindle, in the form of a letter to Assembly Appropriations Committee head Felipe Fuentes, which I hereby laboriously re-type from the PDF for your perusal (with my own emphases) :

Dear Chairman Fuentes:

As Mayor of Costa Mesa, I am deeply concerned about the anticipated and practical effect of AB35 (Solorio).

First, I view it as vague and ill-defined.  It is not at all clear how the operations of the OC Fairgrounds would need to change to produce $100 million in new revenue to “share” with the State.  Clearly there would be new impacts upon our City and our citizens, who already are inconvenienced by its year-round operations.  Almost inevitably it would enable and encourage and end run around our voter-approved General  Plan restrictions on new commercial development at the Fairgrounds.  As such, I oppose AB35 as being contrary to our community and municipal interests.

Second, as a central player in the unsuccessful effort of our City to purchase the OC Fairgrounds, I must confess some irritation that we find ourselves at this point, threatened by a half-baked, economically questionable and pie-in-the-sky alternative that potentially makes things worse for our City.  I am struck by the last-minute nature of this bill on the eve of an appellate court hearing that is likely to clear the air and lead shortly to completion of the State-authorized sale of the property.

At least under the private sale that is close to being completed, our City would exert considerable land use control, subject the Fairgrounds to local ordinances, and share in the $1 million in property tax the private owners would pay for the first time.  We would enjoy cooperation with the Fairgrounds operator, and be assured that long-delayed infrastructure improvements would be made at the Fairgrounds.

In contrast, under the AB35 alternative, we would receive no property tax revenue, have virtually no voice or influence in the operations of the facility, and likely suffer the impacts of new non-fair-oriented commercial development.  I am at a loss to understand why our State representatives would encourage this “plan” with no specifics, and when the bill contains no requirements regarding the payments due the State, and no guarantees or certainty of payment.  Even under the most optimistic “projection,” it appears to me that the State would receive approximately $150 million less under the AB35 alternative.

I’ll finish by noting my deep disappointment in [Here he lets loose on Solorio – ed] the author of this measure.  He originally voted to authorize the sale.  He worked closely with our City to help us fashion a memorandum of understanding with the winning bidder that met all his stated goals and objectives with respect to continuing employment for State workers at the Fairgrounds.  Having achieved these concessions, he abandoned us – and the sale – and now has embraced the status quo, with added uncertainty for our City and the future of the Fairgrounds.  To say the least it has been puzzling and discouraging to me.

At a moment in history when our local and State governments – and our schools – are under tremendous and sustained fiscal pressure, I believe the alternative of completing the sale of Fairgrounds authorized almost two years ago is far preferable to the course outlined by AB35.


Gary Monahan, Mayor.

Okay, there’s your standard “several valid points” swimming about in your standard “stew of bullshit,” but still very nicely written.  What’s most impressive is how much Gary’s wordsmithing style has improved since last time he visited this blog, with this post-midnight comment:

Posted July 7, 2010 at 12:20 AM
as someone who spent a good part of the last 4 months of my life to save the fairgrounds…you are obviously politically motivated Allan had very little to do with it…Katrina and I made the deal and its a heck of a lot better than we thought we had a chance of making…Vern…what’s your tie into this????

The thought that someone else, some high-paid FMW flack or principal, wrote Gary’s latest missive is amusing when you consider all the references to Gary’s personal emotions. “Okay, Gary, how much irritation should we say you feel about this constant stymying of our plans?  SOME?  Okay, some.  And how would you say you feel about Jose Solorio,  puzzled, discouraged, deeply disappointed?  Really, all three?”

More serious than the identity of Gary’s ghost-writer, though, is the fact that this letter and its content is presented as coming from the “Mayor of Costa Mesa.”   This is exacerbated by the fact that, as the Pot Stirrer reported this morning, FMW folks fighting against the bill up in Sacramento this week referred to the letter thus: “[you] also received last week a letter of opposition from the city of Costa Mesa.”

The Pot Stirrer (who’s been ON FIRE LATELY) clearly explains that this is either a LIE – as not only do the citizens of Costa Mesa oppose the Swindle, but the Council has taken no public position or vote on it – OR ELSE this execrable Council DID decide in secret to back the Swindle, meaning yet another Brown Act violation. Which is it?

(Here I gotta get a pet peeve off my chest. This is the ORANGE COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS, paid for by Orange County taxpayers. It is NOT the Costa Mesa Fairgrounds, even if it happens to be located there, and that troubled town gets way too much attention and consideration on this issue. Case in point: Who are the two big legislative heroes doing all the work trying to save the thing? Santa Ana Democrats Jose Solorio and Lou Correa! Well, of course, what would you expect, look at Van Tran, and even worse, look at Allan Mansoor! Just look at them! That’s who Costa Mesa voters go for. Sorry, my handful of CM friends…)

So anyway, how seriously did the Sacramento legislators take Gary’s letter?


Not at all. Jose’s AB35 passed handily out of the Appropriations Committee this week, with bipartisan support. Next stop, full Assembly, then the Senate, then the Moonbeam Sig. The Swindle is on life support, now more than ever, looking wistfully up at balloons with Terri Schiavo eyes. 

¡Qué Viva Solorio!


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.