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Despite immigration crackdown, key Latino legislator backs sale of fairgrounds to Costa Mesa

July 1, 2010 |  7:10 am


A member of the Legislature’s powerful Latino caucus said state lawmakers do not intend to block the planned sale of the state-owned Orange County Fairgrounds to Costa Mesa based on the city’s controversial stance on illegal immigration.

Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) of the Latino Legislative Caucus said that he and other lawmakers are disappointed that the City Council declared Costa Mesa a “rule of law” city, but want the best deal for taxpayers when it comes to the fairgrounds sale.

“I think we’re at the stage that the city has worked in good faith with the state of California,” Solorio said. “And at this point, I’m going to sit down with both the city and the state to learn about the agreement and make sure it’s good for the residents of Orange County, and also good for the taxpayers of California, and find out if I could possibly help the city move forward with the proposal.”

Solorio did not say if his fellow Latino Legislative Caucus members will take the same direction to help the city acquire the 150 acres.

“I think that’s a separate conversation, and I’m very displeased that the City Council took that action,” Solorio said. “But as you know, I’ve been working for a long time on this Orange County issue, and I owe it to the residents of Orange County to look at the proposal and see if it makes sense for Orange County residents and the state of California."

Last week, the state announced it had tentatively accepted Costa Mesa’s $96-million offer after months of negotiations. In an effort to save taxpayers’ money, the city reached a deal with Facilities Management West, a Newport Beach-based real estate company, that plans to finance the purchase and operate the fairgrounds. Although Costa Mesa will not have much oversight over the day-to-day operations of the fairgrounds, the city will financially benefit from the deal.

Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley commended Solorio for his position. “I would expect nothing less from Jose, he’s a reasonable guy,” she said. “To me, this is a nonissue. There’s more important things they are dealing with right now, like a major budget crisis. The issue is simply political grandstanding. Hopefully, everyone saw it for what it was and is going to be practical and pragmatic in terms of the fairgrounds.”

-- Mona Shadia

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times