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Del Mar looks to help state with fairgrounds decisions

DEL MAR — To aid in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to review the ownership, operation and governance of state-owned fairgrounds, Del Mar agreed at the June 6 meeting to create a Legislative Advocacy Subcommittee.
Councilmen Carl Hilliard and Terry Sinnott will provide information, meet with legislators and their staffs and advocate for the city’s position for better regional control and management of the Del Mar Fairgrounds, which the city has proposed to purchase.
Senate Bill 1, authorizing the sale of the fairgrounds, was put on hold until state budget issues have been worked out.
Hilliard and Sinnott will also monitor bills pertinent to the fairgrounds sale and travel to Sacramento when necessary.
“I think we have a big opportunity to influence the process,” Hilliard said.
Sinnott described it as a have bag packed, will travel effort. “To be remote from Sacramento and not be able to communicate, or to be able to only communicate through a third party, is not as effective as being able to go eyeball to eyeball with people and … represent the community in talks about what is being proposed,” he said.
Brown has proposed a review of California’s 52 state-owned fairground properties to determine if any should be sold and if the way in which they are managed should be changed.
The state plans to eliminate $32 million in general fund support to local and county agricultural activities and fairs.
Sen. Christine Kehoe, who introduced SB 1, met with Hilliard and Sinnott, recommending Del Mar become “actively involved” in the governor’s review, according to a city staff report.
“I think this is an excellent idea,” resident Bud Emerson said. “You are really impressive people and I think when you represent a city directly…you have ‘cred’ that nobody else has. So if you’re up there talking to people, it seems to me it has impact.”
Emerson recommended appointing council members who represent views from both political parties.
“What you’re talking about doing is something very rational,” he said. “Sacramento is not rational. Sacramento is bitterly partisan and I think we came within a hair’s width of getting that fairgrounds when we had a bipartisan tandem of Carl and Crystal (Crawford), because you can talk to both sides of the aisle.
“We can rise above partisanship here,” Emerson said. “They cannot. Those people are crazy.”
“I don’t think these are Republican or Democrat issues,” Councilman Mark Filanc said. “This is just a matter of local control and doing the right thing and that’s not a partisan issue.”
Sinnott agreed. “I think it really boils down to solid people going in making good impressions on people, talking basic information that people can use and helping them solve their problems,” he said.
The city’s travel budget allows each council member to spend $500 annually. Council members acknowledged that they would likely end up using their own funds for trips to Sacramento, as Hilliard and Sinnott said they did during their recent trip.
This will be the city’s fourth subcommittee to deal with the fairgrounds. There are currently two-member committees to address the potential purchase, the 22nd District Agricultural Association development and the 22nd DAA in general.