Friends for Fullerton's Future supports causes that promote intelligent, responsible and accountable government in Fullerton and Orange County
Author: Mr. Peabody
Mr. Peabody is a Child of Aquarius, a former hard drug user, and a devotee of lawn bowling. He abandoned a profitable career as an curb address number painter to fulfill a lifetime dream of mastering the zither.
I came across some choice nuggets in a Daily Pilot article about the OC Fair Fiasco. Apparently the DAs office is at least going through the motions:
the county district attorney is investigating the activities of the fairgrounds’ board, said Susan Schroeder, public affairs counsel at the D.A.’s office.
Well that’s good news – unless your name is Ackerman. At least there’s no overt stonewalling. But in a move that should be just as alarming to the Fair Board, County Counsel Nick Chrisos:
now has instructed the five supervisors to not interact with members of the Orange County Fairgrounds’ board of directors, Supervisor John Moorlach confirmed in a phone interview Thursday. Brooke De Baca, a county spokeswoman, said Thursday that Chrisos could not comment because of attorney-client privilege.
“This has been one of the more heart-rending directives that I have received, as many of the Fair Board members are long-time dear friends,” Moorlach said in an e-mail sent out Wednesday.
Moorlach wouldn’t say more or explain what was behind the counsel’s directive to the supervisors.
Yesterday a truly weird balloon was lofted over the dismal, cratered landscape of the Red County. It was another one of those the Fair Deal is Dead, I Don’t Care Once way or Another, Privatization is Good blog posts done by Matthew J. Cunningham. But Lo and Behold, he finally got around to actually discussing the activities of the Fair Board members who created a “Foundation” behind the scenes so that they could buy the Fairgrounds from themselves.
Here’s the first sparkler:
However, the OC Fair Board directors — or at least most of them — constituting themselves as the directors of a non-profit that would buy the fair was a very delicate political dance that has proved impossible to pull off. Not conducting the non-profit’s initial meeting in public was mistake and a PR black-eye, which fed into sale opponents’ message of “secrecy and corruption.” They have been beaten so badly with the Bad PR stick it’s doubtful their efforts buy the fair ground will ever succeed. At this point, better to stanch the bleeding and pull the plug.
So the real problem is not that they conspired to sell the Fair to themselves, and met secretly to discuss fair business, i.e. The Sale; no, rather that they couldn’t perform a “delicate political dance.” They have earned a “PR black-eye.” And have been beaten with the “Bad PR stick…” Oh, the poor misunderstood Foundation, er Fair Board.
It gets even better:
I do think the Fair Board directors have been unfairly assailed, and do not deserve the pitchfork treatment they’ve received. Sale opponents could and should have been able to mount a sound public policy case without resorting to throwing allegations at the wall in the hopes somehting would stick. Assemblyman Jose Solorio — who not so long ago voted to sell the fairgrounds — could have refrained from this kind of purple rhetoric: “misinformation and misrepresentations, conflicts of interests, questionable legal and ethical activities and a potential constitutional barrier regarding the sale of the property.”
Aha! Poor Fair Board as victims, unfairly assailed, with pitchforks no less (note: PR stick has morphed into pitchfork!). Oh yes, a mob has gathered to demand that such niceties as open meeting laws and conflict of interest rules for government appointees are upheld. Well, anyway, that’s a new approach. Wonder if it will work. And the subtle turn of the Fairground sale opponents into the actual villains of the piece is classic PR schtick, that of course nobody is going to fall for.
Here is Mr. Cunningham trying to disarm through humor. Bad strategy when this sense was apparently strangled in his crib:
If I had a dollar for every time I heard or read accusations of “conflict of interest” or “illegal lobbing,” I could put a down payment on the fairgrounds myself. But I have yet to see anyone produce any evidence to substantiate what are very serious accusations.
Well of course he hasn’t seen any evidence to substantiate anything. He obviously hasn’t looked for any. But others have, such as Nick Chrisos, the County Counsel, and the sequence of events point to the Board using public resources to incorporate itself as the “Foundation,” and hire Dick Ackerman to work to get AB22 passed; and then later (finally) in public, and as the Fair Board, hire a “consultant” (Ackerman’s firm, again) to go lobby the Governor for favorable conditions in the Request for Proposals from would-be buyers.
But our boy’s not done yet:
After funding a “Derail the Sale” campaign that has subjected the OC Fair Board directors to a hail of abuse, it will be interesting to see if Tel Phil Enterprises approaches the Fair Board for yet another rent reduction — and how such a request will be received. I think Tel Phil’s role has been one of the most interesting, and least remarked upon aspects of this imbroglio — after all, it isn’t often you see a government lessee going after its landlord.
A hail of abuse! Outrage: the old stand-by. Go on the offensive and attack! But wait, that won’t work – that will just make the ignorant pitchfork wielding villagers even madder! And nobody gives’s a rat’s ass about “Tel Phil.” Big plop sound.
And in conclusion:
In the meantime, there’ll be much sturm und drang that’ll will provide enough blog fodder for everyone, but in my humble opinion, were already at the Appomattox stage of this war.
Sarcastic sturm und drang. Blog fodder. Appomatox. In other words, lots of aimless speculation, and the deal’s done anyway, so break it up folks, go on home, nothing to see here!
But let’s hope this is not the end of the story. Many wars are followed up with legal proceedings to hash out things like reparations and responsibility. Let’s hope the end comes only after legal investigation into the doings of the Fair Board/Foundation and their “consultant” Dick Ackerman; and only after a plausible explanation is given as to why the public was billed over $19,000 to pay for legal/lobbying services that benefit the Fair Board directors who are also Foundation members.
Using computers to arrange and sort data is useful for all sorts of things – especially when in comes to creating three dimensional imagery. Nobody can deny the impact of presenting scanned data for medical diagnostic purposes; or the use of scaled multi-disciplinary construction models that can simulate a 3D environment: very useful for ascertaining “clashes” between different trades as well as presenting the architect and client with views of his proposed effort.
But despite the technology drum beater’s boosterism (think laptops for kids, FSD style) there reaches a point in every computer application where the information is either too dense or voluminous to be assimilated or analyzed by those looking at it; or is just plain non-effective compared to traditional approaches; or worst, lends itself to misinterpretation or deliberate misrepresentation. This point of diminishing returns is reached quickest when the recipients of data just don’t know what to do with it. When that occurs they’re bound to do something bad with it.
Such may very well be the case with a City of Fullerton program that promises to create a three dimensional model of downtown Fullerton. We received an e-mail the other day from Al Zelinka, who works for the Planning Department. We point out that Mr. Zelinka is very careful to explain that the pilot program is being paid for by SCAG, not the City (where SCAG got the money is obviously not a point of interest for Mr. Zelinka, or, presumably, us).
First, we are inevitably forced to ask why. Who will benefit from the necessary resources plowed into such a program? It’s hard to answer. And who will be able to use the information? We can envisage all sorts of staff (and consultant) time going into creating maintaining and manipulating such data; and then the inevitable jargon and rhetoric tossed back to the public to foist staff driven projects onto the public. The Council: aha! See? The 3D model supports (fill in the name of the Redevelopment Agency’s favored project).
Perhaps the most important question is whether, once the model is done, it needs to be tended and updated by the City. If not, the effort going into seems to be something of a waste.
In any case the public are invited to a meeting on December 16th @ 6 PM in the Council Chambers to see the wonders of 3D modeling. No doubt all of our questions will be answered with sparkling clarity.
At the bottom of his e-mail Mr. Zelinka (AICP) includes a quotation that ought to give pause to even the biggest Planning Department cheerleader:
“Dedicated to Making a Difference.”
“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir [women’s and] men’s blood….” – Daniel Burnham
Why isn’t anyone calling for the removal of the current Orange County Fair Board? Doesn’t personal responsibility matter anymore? When you take into consideration the collateral damage they’ve caused with this ridiculous self-serving shell game of buying the fairgrounds, every single one of them should be held accountable, including the two who were not part of the nonprofit shenanigans.
When I asked board member Julie Vandermost why she wasn’t a part of it, she emailed, “It’s a matter of not having enough bandwidth in my schedule.” David Padilla didn’t return my call; rumor has it he wasn’t even asked to participate in the nonprofit. If true, you have to wonder why.
I’m not buying Julie’s clever excuse and David’s non-response speaks volumes. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out they were probably the first ones who saw something hinky in this plan. Why didn’t they speak up? Was it because they didn’t want to rock the boat and lose the lucrative perks of being on the Fair Board? Or were they afraid of the blow-back speaking against powerful fellow board members could bring?
Does personal responsibility go out the window if you just keep your mouth shut?
This Fair Board’s questionable behavior should be enough ammunition to explore removal. Let’s not forget they were smack dab in the middle of the Mike Carona trial with board member Debbie Carona. Then there was the whole messy ticket/private dinner scandal that some argued amounted to “gifts of public funds,” perks estimated at approximately $40,000 plus. When this was taken away, tongues wagged that 50 percent of the board considered quitting.
Now Costa Mesa’s setting aside beaucoup bucks to create a plan B, (making a bid to buy the fairgrounds), should plan A, (getting the governor to rescind the sale), not work. This exercise in futility could’ve been avoided had the OC Fair Board done their job and not lobbied for the sale or formed their own nonprofit to buy it.
When is someone going to talk about the elephant in the middle of the room? It appears this board is not looking out for the best interest of the public. Politicians generally hate going after those who fund-raise and have political juice, but what if they’re out of control?
Maybe it’s a task for Supervisor John Moorlach; after all, accountability’s something his office has preached repeatedly. Sure his administration’s taken its lumps as they’ve gone after some sacred political cows like pension reform, but whether you agree with them or not, this group seems fearless. It would make sense for Moorlach and company to lead this charge.
But will he? He’s gearing up for a tough re-election bid. Going after political heavyweights on the Fair Board could cause a rift within his party; then again, being pro-active on this issue could give him a leg up with voters. Wonder if he’s a gambling man?
Costa Mesa, coupled with the OC Board of Supervisors, could accomplish rescinding the sale and requesting new board members. So who’ll have the chutzpah to stand up for personal responsibility? We all should.
Freelance writer Barbara Venezia’s opinion column appears online and in The Current every Friday. Email BV at [email protected]
Amen, Barbara, and thank you for saying what no one in the Republican hierarchy has the courage to say. Clean the Augean Stable at the OC Fair. Even if we have to divert the Santa Ana River to do it!
Today Matt Cunningham deigned to visit our humble blog with about eleven hundred comments. Hell, I’m honored, I guess. What dedication! Now that he seems to be following us I thought I’d raise a topic that is becoming more timely than ever – the 4th Supervisor election that now could be decided in June 2010.
Let’s see. The Red County blog is supposed to be a conservative Republican blog. So why hasn’t uber-Republican Matthew Cunningham come out with any endorsement in the OC 4th District Supervisorial race. We know that he just couldn’t find it in himself to go out on a limb and support Chris Norby over the unqualified, dishonest, carpetbagger from Irvine, Linda Ackerman – it was just such a close call; but c’mon now this one’s a freakin’ slam dunk fer crissakes.
Let’s help out Matt by reviewing the would be Supes:
1. Tom Daly – career government worker; Democrat.
2. Rosie Espinosa – Democrat and no doubt as “progressive” as they come.
3. Lorri Galloway – Democrat and no doubt as “progressive’ as the come. Oh, yeah!Carpetbagger!
4. Harry Sidhu – Republican but Carpetbagger; plus Cunningham has been taking shots at him as an unprincipled hack for several years.
5. Shawn Nelson – Conservative Republican who stood up to the unions and his RINO pals on the Fullerton City Council and who took a strong position against Fullerton’s phony Redevelopment expansion.
Well this is really a no-brainer for somebody who is supposed to be a conservative Republican. Whatdya say, Matt? Who are you supporting in this election?
(Sung to the tune of “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme song.)
Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Dick,
A rich senateer, with a veneer just like brick.
Then one day when he’s shootin’ for a blog,
His current zip code blew away all the fog.
Don’t look like the 72nd…
While up in Sacramento a feller named Duvall,
Did some heavy breathin’ in the microphone for all,
To hear how he’s been rulin’ for the public right,
And spankin’ those lobbyists long into the night.
Gotta keep on top of ’em…
Give ’em an inch…
They’ll still want more…
Well the first thing you know Dick’s wife has dyed her hair,
Their neighbors said, “Linda, move away from there!”
Up north in Fullerton’s the place you ought to be!”
So they’re packin’ up their bags, getting ready to flee.
Far north OC…
Pork and beans…
Seems his wife wants to pick up where old Dick left off,
Livin’ high in Fullerton, feedin’ from the trough,
They’d like another house, if their landing can be soft,
A mansion, a bungalow, or even a loft.
Anything will do…
Don’t need much…
Just more votes…
Bring ’em on in…
So think about these tales when it come time to vote,
Makes it hard to swallow, like something in your throat,
If Dick and Linda try to make a power grab,
Let’s send ’em back to Irvine with their velvet carpetbag!
Recently Fullerton’s Redevelopment Director, Robert Zur Schmiede (who also serves on the planning commission for Laguna Beach) decided to channel his inner MD for an impromptu prescription to the Laguna Beach City Council to ban all medical marijuana dispensaries from the city. An OC Register article detailing the issue is available here, but here are a couple of noteworthy quotes:
“While acknowledging the needs of ill patients to access marijuana, I will not support — and will, in fact, vehemently oppose — the allowance of collectives in the city,” Commissioner Robert Zur Schmiede said.
“Why anyone with a grain of sense thinks this is something we should do is beyond me,” he added, to some murmurs in the audience.
Let’s get this straight:
the majority of voters in California elected to legalize marijuana for medical use 13 years ago
Zur Schmiede is fully aware that there are ailing citizens who have a legitimate medical need for the drug
Zur Schmiede does not have a medical degree
Despite all that, he actively seeks to deny patients access to a drug that a licensed medical doctor has recommended for treatment.
Does Zur Schmiede really have the public interest in mind here? Can we expect this sort of reefer madness to echo in Fullerton? Or can we reasonably expect our city staff to uphold State law?
08/04/09 UPDATE BY THE FULLERTON HARPOON:
We have delved deep into our photo archives and have uncovered this image. And so continuing in the Robert Young leitmotif we share it with our Friends.
The other day I took my elementary-age children to Cafe West for a cool drink, and found this postcard on the counter:
The triptych above seems to reflect a strategy all too common in the city:
Phase #1: tear out trees (and put in a subsidized fire line for the “night clubs”)
Phase #2: fill holes with temporary asphalt
Phase #3: ask questions later
To most of us, this would seem a bit like putting the cart before the horse, but one has to wonder if the RDA sees it that way.
What’s the mystery here? For goodness sake, this is just an alleyway, all they’ve done is yank out a few trees! What kind of “design” is required here? Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill!
My own kids provided some helpful suggestions as to what to do with the freshly vacated space in the alley. One of them thought a modern sculpture would be appropriate, while the other mused that perhaps another luxury apartment complex could be squeezed into that tiny space. Hey, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
However, given Fullerton’s recent trend of rolling out the red carpet to the bar scene, perhaps a European-styled “pissoir” could not only provide a visually attractive option, but one that’s functional as well.
True, a few fumes may greet the occasional pedestrian walking through the alley, but this would be one project the RDA could actually claim where form follows function.
This triptych seemed to reflect a strategy all too common in the city: