Cities seek better representation on DAA board

COAST CITIES — With one vacancy and three expired terms on the 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors, officials in Del Mar and Solana Beach are working to ensure that at least one of those appointments is a resident from their cities, something they feel will result in better representation from the agency that governs the state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Del Mar Mayor Carl Hilliard and Councilman Terry Sinnott sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointments secretaries recommending five people based on “their abilities, their experience, and their stature in our region.”

“These candidates also represent a mix of financial, business, governmental, and environmental experience that would substantially contribute to the success of the 22nd  District Agriculture Association,” the letter states.

Topping the list are Del Mar residents and attorneys Dwight Worden, who was appointed by Brown to the California Coastal Commission in 1977, and Wayne Dernetz.

To provide regional representation, Hilliard and Sinnott also recommended Escondido City Councilwoman Olga Diaz, Anthony Joseph, a retired San Diego Superior Court judge and a founding board member of the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy and William Strauss, who owns thoroughbred race horses.

Resident Bud Emerson said he was “distressed” to see names of nonresidents on the list. “I think it’s really critical that we get somebody from Del Mar who understands who we are and what we’re about on that board,” he said.

“Del Mar’s point of view is presented by someone who’s not from Del Mar and is not knowledgeable about our interests and our priorities,” Emerson said.

“We’re never going to get the numbers we want but if we have somebody who knows how to articulate and persuade we’ll have a hell of a lot more influence,” he added. “Right now they just blow us off with nice little comments.

“We want somebody on that board who can credibly talk about what’s important to Del Mar,” Emerson said. “I think Solana Beach is probably going to get somebody. We’re asleep at the switch unless we get out there and say, ‘This is vital to us.’”

Hilliard said he sent the letter without council approval out of a sense of urgency. During an October trip to Sacramento, he said he and Sinnott were asked to submit names of possible appointees but were told there was no hurry.

Hilliard said in December he received two emails in one day from different people telling him his recommendations were needed. He said he also got a voice message from Sonya Logman, the deputy appointments secretary, telling him he should just submit the names verbally.

“We were under the impression that there was an urgent reason to send up these names and if we didn’t then they wouldn’t be considered,” Hilliard said, explaining why the letter was sent without full council approval.

“I was uncomfortable in taking that action without input from the council but we were under extreme pressure to respond immediately,” Hilliard said.

“If it was a sense of urgency then that was the appropriate action,” former Mayor Don Mosier said.

Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown’s office, said he wouldn’t read too much into the urgency factor.

“That was probably just our appointment’s office doing what it does best, which is talking to the candidates and making sure we get the right people in those positions,” Westrup said.

“This process doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “They probably just wanted to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later. It’s an exhaustive process and we want to get feedback from the communities impacted. It’s just part of making sure we have ample time.”

Mosier said he supported Diaz as a candidate for her environmental perspective, especially because she is a San Dieguito River Valley Joint Powers Authority board member.

“There are people outside of Del Mar whose interests align with ours on a lot of the environmental issues,” Mosier said. “I think there are impacts on Del Mar where we would really benefit from having a Del Mar representative but I think that might be an uphill fight.”

“It’s great to have the regional stuff,” Councilman Mark Filanc said. “I’m not downplaying that … I think they’re getting it. Right now we’re talking about what is happening inside our city boundaries,” he said, noting that nearly all of the fairgrounds sits on 20 percent of the city’s land.
“We’re the most impacted so we are squawking the most,” he said. “We’re the squeaking wheel, but we’re the ones being harmed by all the master planning and environmental disregard and all the other things that are going on over there.”

Solana Beach and Del Mar have complained for years that they are not fully reimbursed for services they provide to the fairgrounds, which is adjacent to the wetlands and San Dieguito Lagoon, or for the negative impacts to those cities caused by the 300-plus events held there each year.

The governor appoints directors to the nine-member board. A few months after taking office, Brown replaced five members in 2011. One seat is currently vacant following Michael Alpert’s resignation last year. The terms of President Adam Day, Russ Penniman and Ruben Barrales have expired.

All three are appointees of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, although Penniman was originally named to the board by Gov. Gray Davis in 2003.

Dernetz and Worden have been interviewed for a position. Hilliard and Mosier said they felt if Worden were seriously being considered he would have been appointed by now.

Current board members recently questioned Worden’s relationship with their colleague Tom Chino. Worden serves as his personal attorney and adviser. Although he is retired, Worden’s firm is representing an agency that is suing the 22nd DAA.

Solana Beach resident Jack Hegenauer, chairman of that city’s Clean and Green Committee, has also been interviewed for a board position.

Del Mar officials agreed they need to work with their neighbor on board appointments.

“I think we’d get more traction if we get Solana Beach behind our candidate,” Mosier said.

“And we should support theirs,” Filanc said.

“I think we should support him and find out more about him,” Councilwoman Lee Haydu added.

Hilliard said he would set up a meeting with Solana Beach council members to “find out where they are and what their list says and bring it back to council.”


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