MOORLACH UPDATE — Barbara Venezia — July 23, 2010

It’s always fun when one of my Updates receives a little media attention.  MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Fair — July 18, 2010 was one of those updates.

Barbara Venezia, who is never afraid to tell you what she really thinks, has set the table for what may happen with the OC Fair over the remainder of the year.

What will make this journey interesting is what Barbara states in one of her observations:  “Just when you thought it couldn’t get any stranger, it did.”

All I can add to this is “Arnold, let it go.”  A person can gain more respect by apologizing and stopping what he’s doing when he’s in the middle of a bad deal, instead of being stubborn about it and frustrating all the parties.  It’s a parenting skill.  When you’ve stepped into it, let your kids know that you made a mistake and apologize.  Your kids will respect you so much more.

Today’s LOOK BACK addresses a major “letting go.”  The participants of Robert Citron’s Investment Pool, after receiving multiples of the going money market rates for years, insisted that they also receive all of their principal back.  Right.  It took them a few months, but they finally let go.  And respect was restored.

Venezia: Fairgrounds deal not smart for Costa Mesa

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BARBARA VENEZIA

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST

bvontv@earthlink.net

It’s the time of year when every newspaper runs warm and fuzzy stories about the OC Fair. Not to be a "Debbie Downer," but I can’t seem to get excited about it this year. After more than a year of writing about the fairgrounds sale, the property’s still in peril and I’m not convinced the current deal on table isn’t the worst one yet.

Since day one, my opinion’s been the fairgrounds shouldn’t be sold. Watching the political game of chicken unfold these past months has been bizarre. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any stranger, it did.

This last go around certainly didn’t disappoint. City Council members jockeying for deal points under the gun of an unrealistic state imposed deadline. Their new OC fairgrounds sale partner, Ken Fait of Facilities Management West, angrily stated, "I want all the money beyond that! It’s simple! I’ve offered you all you’re gonna get!" Sounds like a partnership made in heaven. Or maybe hell.

The city gave away the farm (no pun intended) by relinquishing far too much oversight control in this deal. Supervisor John Moorlach’s e-mail blast this week raised pertinent questions like, what happens if Facilities Management West can’t make a go of it and the payments. What if the property and debt fall back on the city? Moorlach’s said all along that $96 million is too high a price tag.

Bloggers like orangejuice.com are having a field day dissecting the hurriedly made agreement and the players involved. Are there loop holes possibly rendering the newly passed Measure C useless? Even if that’s not the case, fairground usage is slated to increase, as will noise and traffic. How will residents react? And then there’s longtime tenant OC Marketplace. They’ll have to renegotiate with Facilities Management West or be out of business with a stroke of a pen, certainly a worry for the hundreds of families depending on the Marketplace for their livelihood.

Have Costa Mesa leaders gone so far down the rabbit hole on this they can’t find a way out? Maybe not. The deal has to be approved by Sacramento. Now is the time for someone to buy time by bringing issues of concern to these folks.

If legislators start asking questions stalling the approval process, those who brokered this deal might get nervous. Fait’s group could walk. At this late date, could the property be vulnerable to another auction? Time’s on our side. Might the city go back to their first choice in partners, American Fairs and Festivals? Remember, they were the "chosen ones" who abruptly fell out of favor, spurring political gossip mills into hyperdrive.

Those, of course, with less-than-noble agendas in this mix won’t be happy with any stalling or questions. No one’s been comfortable with the way this process has gone down the last few months – neither the public nor those having to negotiate.

Stalling could be the winning strategy in the end for those truly interested in saving the fairgrounds. After all, in about seven months we’ll have a new governor. My guess is at that point the sale will be off the table and this will all just have been a very expensive lesson in stupidity.

Freelance writer Barbara Venezia’s opinion column appears online and in The Current every Friday. Email BV at bvontv@earthlink.net

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

1995

July 24

Michael Utley of The Bond Buyer covered a topic that I had been advocating since day one in “County Officials Say Participants May Give Up On $750 Million.”  Here are the opening and two closing paragraphs; they give a concise overview of the debate going on between the county and the pool investors.

                As Orange County continues to debate the details of a newly proposed bankruptcy recovery plan, officials say it has become increasingly likely that participants in the failed county investment pool will abandon their claims to more than $750 million that the county owes them.

                County Treasurer John Moorlach said Friday that he also agrees with the debt forgiveness plan.  Moorlach has been arguing since the beginning of the bankruptcy crisis that the pool participants should not be repaid in full.

                “I took a lot of flack for that at the time,” said Moorlach.  “I’ve always had a problem with the settlement agreement . . . If everybody gives a little bit, then we might get through this.”

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