MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Fair — November 25, 2009

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men” don’t often pan out as planned.  I’m taking the liberty of quoting from Robert Burns’ poem, which became the basis for the title of the novella and play script, “Of Mice and Men,” as I was in “Steinbeck Country” last week.  In his book, John Steinbeck tries to point out “that no plan is fool-proof and no one can be completely prepared for the future.”

Now that the sale of the fairgrounds is going sideways, let’s put it out of its misery.  Our interpretation of the legislation authorizing the sale of the fairgrounds is that it is permissive and the sale can be rescinded by the Governor.  The General Services Administration has been late in providing information to bidders.  It would appear that they are getting exhausted from all of the commotion.  One can only hope.  The stories by the three major dailies are provided below.

RED FLAG ALERT

Our hike with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy may be cancelled due to the Santa Ana conditions, as I warned in our invitation.

We have filled up our available slots.  Those who signed up, please check your e-mails before driving to the trailhead.

A fire broke out at 9 p.m. along the 241 Toll Road in Anaheim Hills last evening.  As of the time I’m sending this e-mail, the 60-acre blaze is 15 percent controlled.

During a Red Flag Alert, the staff of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy assume fire watch duties and would be unable to guide our hike.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING WEEKEND!

As the Look Backs below point out, I am grateful for the people in my life.  Thanks for participating in my journey.

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County lobbies against sale of fair site

In effort to save the Orange County Fair, county board of supervisors votes to take its case directly to Gov. Schwarzenegger. Supervisor Norby was absent.

By Mona Shadia

The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday adopted a resolution asking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to cancel the proposed sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds.

The supervisors approved the resolution with a 4-0 vote. Supervisor Chris Norby was absent. In July, the supervisors passed a resolution supporting a fairgrounds’ sale, as long as the prospective buyer kept the 150-acre property in Costa Mesa for fair uses.

The language of the request for proposal, which the state issued for the sale of the fairgrounds, allows for uses other than a fair and goes against the county board’s position to keep the property use as is, Supervisor John Moorlach said.

In the request for proposal, which was issued in October, the state also requires prospective buyers to share a portion of the revenue with the state if the property is developed into something other than a fairground.

“We said in July keep it a fairground, but it’s kind of drifted from what we want,” Moorlach said. “And now it’s beginning to get so contentious that the easiest thing to do is just for the governor to rescind the RFP and cancel the sale.”

The supervisors’ vote comes on the heels of the Costa Mesa City Council’s resolution, which also asked the governor to stop the proposed sale. Costa Mesa unanimously approved its resolution during the Nov. 17 council meeting.

On Tuesday, Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder spoke before the supervisors in support of the board’s resolution and on behalf of the City Council.

Although the board of supervisors met Tuesday morning with the county real estate negotiator to discuss the terms of the state’s request for proposal, no announcements were made.

However, Moorlach said, the county still is considering buying the fairgrounds, in case the governor does not stop the sale.

“We still have plan B in place,” Moorlach said.

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O.C. supervisors, in reversal, ask governor to cancel fairgrounds sale

The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution today asking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to "immediately cancel the proposed sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds."

The 4-0 vote marks a reversal from July, when the board approved a resolution in favor of selling the fairgrounds to a local government agency or nonprofit. Supervisor Chris Norby was absent for today’s action.

The governor earlier this year proposed liquidating half a dozen state properties to raise funds to help ease California’s budget crisis, and the state put the 150-acre Costa Mesa site on the auction block last month, giving bidders a deadline of Jan. 8.

Supervisor John Moorlach said the board initially supported the sale because they thought the terms would allow it to be sold to a local nonprofit or government.

But since then, state officials have indicated through auction documents and letters that they want to maximize profit, possibly by selling the land as something other than a fairgrounds, and that has fueled speculation that it could be sold into private hands and developed.

"It’s creating so much aggravation that the easiest way to keep the fairgrounds a fairgrounds — which was our overarching goal — is just to cancel the sale," Moorlach said.

But that doesn’t mean the county doesn’t have a Plan B: Like the city of Costa Mesa and a nonprofit formed by the governor-appointed fair board, the county is exploring making a bid of its own for the property.

After all, quipped Moorlach, "The governor doesn’t always do what we ask."

–Tony Barboza in Orange County

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Supes to governor: Scrap the fairgrounds sale

The Orange County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to urge Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to block the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds.

The city of Costa Mesa last week agreed to ask the governor to scrap the sale, and advocates call today’s move a critical step toward preserving the fairgrounds. The county’s resolution also asks other Orange County cities to join in solidarity opposing the sale.

“We hope the governor will give us a big Christmas present,” said Reggie Mundekis, a member of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society. “This is a very critical point for us today.”

Schwarzenneger has advocated selling the 150-acre fairgrounds to help close a massive state budget deficit — a move approved by lawmakers.  County supervisors had initially supported selling the land, if the state required the new owner to continue its tradition as a fairground, events center and equestrian facility.

The state didn’t require those conditions when the land went on the market last month. So Supervisors John Moorlach and Bill Campbell asked the board to oppose the sale.

A spokesman for Schwarzenegger said his office had not yet received requests from the county or the city of Costa Mesa, so he couldn’t comment on them. He said the administration plans to move forward with the process to determine if a sale is beneficial to the state. If it’s not, “it’s the administration’s prerogative to halt the process.”

But the governor has said the state shouldn’t be in the real estate business.

“In these difficult economic times, the governor is committed to doing everything to shore up state revenues and realize savings for the people of California,” spokesman Mike Naple said.

The decision to sell the land left local community leaders scrambling – and sometimes fighting – over how to preserve its tradition.

Members of the Orange County Fair board in October formed a nonprofit foundation to explore buying the fairgrounds. The county is looking how to borrow internally to buy the land if it does go on the market, Moorlach said Tuesday. And the city of Costa Mesa also could bid if the sale moves forward, City Manager Allan Roeder said.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for the county last month accused the fair board and its foundation of going too far in its own efforts to buy the property. In a complaint filed with the state Attorney General, county counsel Nicholas Chrisos alleges fair board members illegally used public money to pay former state Sen. Dick Ackerman and his law firm to influence the sale of the land to ensure their foundation could qualify to bid.

Chrisos believes that fair board members could benefit financially from the contract because if their foundation is the successful buyer, members could enjoy financial perks, such as free parking and concert tickets. The district attorney’s office is looking into the complaint, a spokeswoman said.

Kristina Dodge, who heads both the fair board and the foundation, said Tuesday that the allegations are hurtful and untrue. She said the fair board hired Ackerman to help the fair board navigate the complicated process of selling the fair, not to lobby.

“We would never ever knowingly break any laws let alone bend any laws,” Dodge said. “We felt like we’re here as stewards of the fair, and we want to continue that, so of course it would seem natural to go out and protect the fair. … I think we’re not getting that message out there because people feel like we’re trying to hide something. That’s just not where we’re coming from.”

To that end, Dodge believes that selling the fair might not be such a bad idea – an opportunity to take local control of the fairgrounds and modernize it.

“What worries me is how many years will people be willing to stand up and fight and will the state of California be willing to allow this 150 acres to sit there when it’s not highly profitable,” she said. “We should be planning because I don’t see in the real near future that the state is going to pull themselves out of the mess we’re in.”

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

November 24

1999

The OC Register was kind enough to print my editorial submission on improvements made to the Tax Collector’s office, titled “The tax man cometh—County initiatives take some of the pain out of the filing.” 

It provided for a nice reminder real estate owners that your first property tax installment is due December 10thPlease do not forget to pay long before this date and avoid a ten percent late payment penalty.

November 25

1999

Bill Lobdell, editor of the Daily Pilot (Times Community News) ran an annual Thanksgiving column.  This year’s was titled “Thankful that these people are part of the community.”  It provided a long list of people, in alphabetical order, and started like this:

                The annual Thanksgiving tradition continues.  The people in the Newport-Mesa community I’m thankful for (whether they know it or not):   the Moorlachs.

2004

The tradition continued with S. J. Cahn in his article “Thankful these people are part of community.”

                This year, I get a swing at an old Daily Pilot tradition, once ground covered by former Editor Bill Lobdell.  I edited his version on at least one Thanksgiving eve.  Now, that job is someone else’s.

                So here’s a list of the people in the Newport-Mesa community I’m thank for (whether they know it):  John Moorlach.

All to say, I am thankful for you.  Have a great Thanksgiving!

Jean Pasco of the LA Times covered an interesting personnel nuance in “O.C. Stays With Salary Caps—Supervisors delay action on a bid to widen pay ranges for managers.  Proponents say the change would help recruit and retain execs.”  Put this in the “there’s always something bucket.”  Here are selected paragraphs:

                Orange County supervisors balked this week at a request to increase salary ranges for government managers that could have allowed some executives’ pay to reach $250,000 a year.

                Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector John M. W. Moorlach, who has criticized supervisors for over-sweetening pensions, said he was briefed on the new management classifications and guidelines this month – but said that, at the time, there was no salary chart.

                “Why would you have to have such high salaries when you’ve got such attractive pension benefits?” Moorlach said.  The retirement perks “far outweigh what private companies are offering, so you don’t have to make [salary] concessions.  You have to balance it out.”

                Moorlach said he agreed with the goal of giving department heads more flexibility, particularly in keeping qualified people from moving to another county department.  That can be accomplished by streamlining classifications across government, he said.

                The problem you face is that some of the bigger departments can steal an employee from a smaller department,” he said.

November 27

2004

The Daily Pilot had a fun letter to the editor as a result of the November 22nd article.  It was from a wonderful member of the Newport Beach community, Dr. Michael Arnold Glueck, who is a frequent editorial submitter and in his stride of late on health care reform.  I had a lot of nicknames growing up, but “Johnny” was never one of them (I said with a smile).

                Run Johnny run.              

                On this Thanksgiving that is good news for the people of Newport-Mesa and Orange County.  Imagine having someone who is capable and well-trained for the office of supervisor.  He might even represent us.

                So run Johnny run.  See Johnny run for supervisor.  See the people vote for Johnny.  See the people smile.

November 29

1999

The Orange County Business Journal did a five-year look back on the Orange County “bankruptcy.”  It was their front-page story, with two other articles mentioning me inside.  The front-page declared “Five Years Later, The OC Bankruptcy—A Faded Memory, Already.” 

They had a feature on Citron’s former Assistant Treasurer in “Bob Citron’s Right-Hand Man—Some Say Investment Woes Began When Ray Wells Retired.”

                “Ray Wells was the governor on a carburetor so a car cannot go faster than a certain speed,” said John Moorlach, the current county treasurer.

Another feature included the $1.6 billion question, “Should OC Have Declared Bankruptcy?”  Many community leaders provided responses.  Here was mine:

Not declaring bankruptcy is Merrill Lynch’s argument.  That will be a point that will be debated forever. 

The issue was one of cash flow and getting a sense of leadership and order at the time. 

I don’t see the filing of bankruptcy as the big issue.  The big issue was whether we should have liquidated the pool.  

We never should have been where we were—the Merrill Lynches of the world knew better.

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