Community Commentary: Fairgrounds preservation society will keep working

The Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society (OCFPS) is elated to finally see an end to efforts to sell the Orange County Fairgrounds. On July 5, the 4th District Court of Appeal rejected an appeal of its decision to stop the most current effort to sell the fairgrounds. On July 15, Gov. Jerry Brown's administration indicated that it would not further pursue sale of our fairgrounds.

Plaintiffs in the successful lawsuit to stop the sale included state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana), Newport-Mesa Unified school board Trustee Katrina Foley (joining as an individual, not on behalf of the district), and the OCFPS — who are a group of residents, students, small businessmen, equestrians and others.

Contrary to the Daily Pilot's July 16 story, no city officials were part of the suit nor was the city of Costa Mesa involved. [Editor's note: The Pilot story referred to city officials in reference to Foley, who was on the City Council when the lawsuit was filed. The story should have read city official, singular, as no others were involved.]

Rather than fight to maintain public ownership of the fairgrounds, the majority of the City Council has seemed determined to surrender public control of the fairgrounds. This began with Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer's June 12, 2009, Daily Pilot column ("Rigonomics: Questioning fairgrounds") advocating private purchase of the fairgrounds before the California Legislature even authorized that it be put up for sale. Then, through the summer of 2010, they continued their efforts to hand over the fairgrounds to Facilities Management West for 55 years with minimal public oversight.

Most recently, on May 10, 2011, Mayor Gary Monahan wrote to the Legislature advocating the sale of our O.C. Fairgrounds to a private party. Monahan signed the letter, on city letterhead, as mayor of Costa Mesa and failed to indicate anywhere in the letter that he was acting as a private individual and not on behalf of the city.

In contrast to these city officials, OCFPS volunteers spent thousands of hours working to keep our fairgrounds public. We collected more than 50,000 signatures on postcards and petitions in opposition to the sale. We engaged in letter-writing and leafleting campaigns. We traveled to Sacramento numerous times to knock on doors in the Capitol.

July 15's announcement represents a great victory, but OCFPS is committed to continuing its work to preserve the fairgrounds as a public asset governed with full accountability to the public and to preserve existing and historic uses of the fairgrounds. We appreciate the support of all who have helped in this effort.

SANDRA GENIS of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society is a former Costa Mesa councilwoman.

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