Assm. Jim Silva (67th AD), who was an Orange County Supervisor during the the bankruptcy, made this statement after the Orange County delegation delivered a wheelbarrow with over 50,000 signatures to Gov. Schwarzenegger asking to stop the sale of the OC Fairgrounds. January 12, 2010 was a critical day in the fight to save the Fairgrounds. AB 1590, the bill introduced by Assm. Jose Solorio (69th AD) to stop the sale, received a unanimous vote from the Business and Professions Committee, and the pressure built to stop the sale built up even more.
The Wheelbarrow of Signatures
Outside the Capitol, in the Sacramento rain, the Orange County delegation gathered to bring the wheelbarrow with over 50,000 signatures to the Governor. As Assm. Van Tran (68th AD) and Jose Solorio, walked with the postcards and petitions, Sen. Lou Correa (34th SD) , Assm. Diane Harkey (73rd AD), Assm. Hector De La Torre (50th AD), and Costa Mesa City Councilmember Katrina Foley walked with Orange County residents opposing the sale.
The Sacramento rain was not as chilly as the reception at the Governor's office. Mike Naple, a spokesperson for the Governor, told Assm. Van Tran, "You voted for this." Naple appeared unmoved when Assemblymembers and Senators told him they were here representing the will of the people in wanting to stop the sale. The crowd of twenty people stood by the bear in front of the office and listened as the Orange County delegation explained their problems with the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding this transaction. After about ten minutes, Naple took the mailcart of postcards and petitions into the Governor's office.
"If You Make a Mistake, Own It"
At the press conference that followed, the Orange County delegation talked openly about how they felt about the flawed process and the potential impacts on their constituents. Sandy Genis, a former Mayor of Costa Mesa, started off the press conference, "I have done petitions for 20 years and I have never had people line up to sign a petition,' referring to the 50,000 signatures on petitions and postcards delivered to the Gov.'s office.
Assm. Diane Harkey summed it up best when she said, "If you make a mistake, own it." Like others in the group, she had a big problem with the lack of transparency. "It's a problem with Costa Mesa doesn't know their property is on the chopping block," she added. Assm. Van Tran pointed out, "In a democracy, we must be flexible. The process must be transparent and fair. This process is not transparent and is unfair."
The team also talked about how new information that they did not have when the voted on the ill-conceived AB X4 22 has changed their minds. Sen. Lou Correa, who was on the Orange County Board of Supervisors before moving to the Senate, remarked, "We were in the worst deficit in the history of California. We had to make some hard decisions. This issue was noncontroversial at the time, but now we have new information." "The facts as we knew them at the time we voted for this were incorrect." said Assm. Hector De La Torre.
Selling the Fairgrounds is expected to create a local hit to the economy with people put out of work as small businesses at the Fairgrounds are forced to close. Assm. Solorio, referring to the recent State of the State address by Gov. Schwarzenegger remarked, "This is killing jobs. There has been no cost benefit analysis of the output of the Fairgrounds. Over $180 million a year is generated from the Fairgrounds and Marketplace. Those are jobs." Jeff Teller, the operator of the Orange County Marketplace reminded people that "America was built on the back of small business. The only way California will come thru this crisis it on the backs of small business." Teller stated that the over 3000 small businesses which generate revenue at the Fairgrounds could be jeopardized by the sale.
Councilmember Katrina Foley expressed her frustration with the incorrect information that had been fed to the Legislature. "Costa Mesa City Council passed a resolution in June saying wed didn't want the property sold. In July, people were told Costa Mesa wanted the property sold. Where did the resolution go to? Didn't the Governor and his staff get it?" Foley also added, "This sale is in complete disregard for local control. This sale is the epitome of the lack of local control." The problems in dealing with the current Fair Board, chaired by Kristina Dodge, are very frustrating for Costa Mesa because the Fair Board meetings are held within a block of Costa Mesa City Hall. Costa Mesa was never formally notified that the Fair Board was going to ask for the property to be sold and only found out about the pending sale after the process was started.
Assm Jim Silva Can - Never Voted for the Sale!
Assm. Jim Silva is a senior statesman of Orange County politics, having served as Mayor of Huntington Beach and three terms on the Board of Supervisors. In 1992, when he was Mayor of Huntington Beach, the landmark Huntington Beach Pier, was destroyed in winter storms. Silva was able to get the pier rebuilt and reopened under budget and on schedule.
He has been thru the Orange County bankruptcy during the 1990's and felt the pressure on him as a Supervisor to come up with a quick cash flow by selling off the County's parks, beaches, harbors and other infrastructure. ""What went on during the bankruptcy is exactly what is going on on California now," he stated. "Government is in business forever."
Silva went on to discuss the value of the ever-shrinking pool of open space in Orange County. "The open space we have, we want to keep that so we can have it forever." He emphasized that the Orange County Fairgrounds is a regional facility used by both County residents and those from surrounding areas. Losing the Fairgrounds to development is a loss to the entire Southern California region.
San Fernando Valley Fair is Now in Santa ClaritaIn the Business and Professions Committee, AB 1590 was met with overwhelming support by the broad coalition that has formed to stop the sale. The hearing went longer than planned because members fo the committee also expressed their support for this effort. Letters of support for AB 1590 were sent by:
- California-Nevada Conference of Operating Engineers (they operate the heavy construction equipment during construction and take care of elevators, boilers and other building systems once the building is completed)
- City of Brea
- City of Costa Mesa
- City of Fountain Valley
- City of La Habra
- City of Laguna Niguel
- City of Lake Forest
- City of Mission Viejo
- City of Newport Beach
- City of San Juan Capistrano
- City of Santa Ana
- City of Yorba Linda
- Coast Community College District
- Councilmember Brad Reese, City of Villa Park
- Friends of Harbors, Beaches, and Parks
- International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, Local Union 416
- Mayor Carolyn V. Cavecche, City of Orange
- Mayor Sukhee Kang, City of Irvine
- Mayor W. Richard Ulmer, City of Villa Park
- Orange Chamber of Commerce
- Orange County Board of Supervisors
- Orange County League of Conservation Voters
- Orange Park Association
- SEIU Local 1000
- Sierra Club
- Student Senate of Orange Coast College
- Tel Phil Enterprises, Inc.
Speakers in support of AB 1590 included:
- Assm. Jim Silva
- Assm. Diane Harkey
- Assm. Jose Solorio
- Assm. Van Tran
- Costa Mesa City Councilmember Katrina Foley
- Former Costa Mesa Mayor Sandy Genis
- Jeff Teller, owner of TelPhil, Inc.
- California Labor Council
- California Nevada Council of Operating Engineers
- SEIU 1000
- Newport Beach
- Lake Forest
- Coast Community College District
- Santa Ana
- Western Association of Fairs
The only group opposed to AB 1590 is DGS, which is administering the sale.
Assm. Pedro Nava (35th AD), who volunteered to judge the next pie eating contest at the Orange County Fair, pointed out that "sometimes you know the price of everything, but the value of nothing" in reference to the high dollar value being placed on the Fairgrounds by the DGS while ignoring the will of the community to keep the property as a Fairground.
Assm. Cameron Smyth (38th AD), represents the Santa Clarita area, and talked about how the San Fernando Valley Fair (which sold their fairgrounds), now migrates from place to place, never being able to find a stable, long term home for the fair. Currently, the San Fernando Valley Fair is in Santa Clarita, over the mountains from the San Fernando Valley.
Assm. De La Torre told the committee that the would be taking up issues of lack of transparency, accountability, conflict of interest and other issues surrounding the highly flawed sale process in the Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review he chairs.
AB 1590 now moves to the Appropriations Committee of the Assembly. The auction is scheduled for 10 AM at the Orange County Fairgrounds, 77 Fair Drive, in the administration building. The public will be admitted on the basis of available seating. The pressure must be kept up to prevent the loss of the Orange County Fairgrounds to more urban in-fill development. Fax Governor Schwarzenegger at 916-558-3160