MOORLACH UPDATE — Barbara Venezia — April 16, 2010

Barbara Venezia writes a weekly column for the Friday Orange County Register insert in the Newport Beach/Costa Mesa area, called “The Current.”

She has been very insightful over the past year on the discussion of the proposed sale of the OC Fair.

Earlier this week she taped a three-minute interview with me.  However, the link takes you to various YouTube videos of me, but not the interview.

Let’s hope that the OC Register’s IT staff gets this corrected by the time you click on the link.

If they don’t, the gist of my comments revolve around the craziness of selling the property at all.  It’s generating revenues, let Sacramento take a sizable monthly tribute, hypothecate the income stream, use the borrowed cash to address a drip in the ocean of their budget deficits, but still keep the land!

There are also a couple of articles on the Treasurer-Tax Collector race on today’s paperless newspaper website, The Voice of OC.  However, during campaign season I will not be forwarding any articles related to local elections (unless an exception is warranted).

What I will do is provide an e-mail, after the appropriate election cycle, with a compilation of these news articles and personal commentary from an historical perspective.

Venezia: OC Fair advocates must face some ‘what ifs’




Barbara Venezia

> Click the ‘videos’ tab above for my interview with OC Sup. John Moorlach on how the fairgrounds can be saved and a warning to Costa Mesa.

Ever want something so badly you can taste it? Ready to move heaven and earth to get it? That’s when rational thinking takes a back seat to obsession and the danger of bad decisions sets in.

It’s been almost a year since I wrote my first article regarding the sale of the OC Fairgrounds. These past months, we’ve watched a series of bad decisions and questionable agendas snowball into a colossal mess.

With each article, I’ve heard from various players behind the scenes. Some weren’t happy with what I’d written while others were too timid to speak up fearing political retribution. And then there were those who felt they had an inside track in Sacramento certain they could steer this in the right direction if things went left. Well, we all know how well that worked out. Now Costa Mesa’s trying to hit the rewind button attempting a final save on several fronts.

Tonight, (April 16), you can show support at the "Save the Fair Rally" at Skosh Monahan’s in Costa Mesa. Gary Monahan hopes this event will "gather volunteers to help the movement walk precincts, hand out fliers, and get the vote out for Costa Mesa’s June ballot initiative," (approving the General Plan Update designation keeping the fairgrounds as a fairgrounds/event center). Organizers are hoping to also raise money for printing and mailing as with any political campaign.

But the rally is only a small part of what’s going on as CM attempts a last-ditch effort to un-ring this bell.

They’ve got a month to negotiate a deal with the state to buy the fairgrounds, or it goes back on the sale rack. The county, once partnering with the city here, pulled away. Supervisor John Moorlach has made it clear the state’s not offering a great deal, cautioning CM not to pay too much because they want it so badly.

How will CM afford the debt service? City leaders aren’t talking, only saying it won’t come out of city pockets, but in reality it has to come out of someone’s.

So let’s play "What If." What if they raise ticket prices at the fair? Some estimate even a 50 cent increase could generate up to $1 million, if fair attendance doesn’t decrease.

What if they lay off at least one-third of fairgrounds staff? This could generate another $1 million, but that means folks lose jobs and that won’t sit well.

What if they increase the ticket prices at the amphitheater? Show attendance could decrease making this a push or even a loss.

What if they renegotiate with vendors like the OC Marketplace? There’s speculation the Marketplace and other seasonal events like the fair might walk away and find new homes at the Great Park, leaving CM high and dry. What then?

Negotiations with the state right now are hush hush. There are questions about the legality of the city’s subcommittee and how that was formed. Mayor Mansoor chastised councilwoman Foley publically for having loose lips on KOCE. Jim Righeimer left a sensitive message on the wrong guy’s voice mail revealing too much about an adviser to the advisers. Geez!

Bottom line … What If this is a bad deal? Can the fairgrounds really be saved?

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


April 16


Jean Pasco and David Reyes of the Los Angeles Times also jumped into the Board’s CEO vote, with “Wilson Taking Flak From All Sides After Sparing Mittermeier—Supervisor finds anti-airport convictions questioned anew even as he insists his decisive vote helps the cause.” Here are a few selected paragraphs.

                Supervisor Tom Wilson is feeling political heat for casting the swing vote to retain County Executive Officer Jan Mittermeier, whom critics see as the driving force behind plans to build an airport at the retired El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

                Wilson issued a press release insisting his vote was a vote against the airport:  He said that if Mittermeier were replaced by someone more successful at juggling the planning schedule and its many demands, it could provide renewed momentum for the airport at a critical juncture.

                That explanation drew its share of critics—and supporters.

                Voting to keep someone in office because you believe that person incompetent, and therefore less able to complete a task you oppose, is ridiculous, said Mark P. Petracca, a professor of political science at UCI.

                “He straddled it,” county Treasurer-Tax Collector John M. W. Moorlach said of Wilson’s vote.  “He said [Mittermeier is] not doing a good job but let’s keep her there because it’s to his advantage.  The reaction I’m getting from people . . . is, ‘Why didn’t you finish the job?’”

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