We submitted the following op ed piece to the Sacbee on 7/6, prior to the Foon Rhee, Lori Chappell and Dale Colman articles in the Sunday Forum. We’d have thought it a natural for that edition, but the Bee did not choose to print it. However, Foon Rhee did invited us to post it here, and we do so as a contribution to the continuing conversation. More on the ‘Movable Fair’ concept can be read on our blog: https://stopcalexpo.wordpress.com/presentations/movablefair_5-21-10/ Information on The CEAV Project and its principal mission to preserve the public commons that Cal Expo currently occupies, and its proposal for an alternative use of that land can be seen at our website http://www.ceav.us . We are aware that Sacramentans (I am also a resident here) may be dismayed, even angered, at the thought of suggesting ‘our’ State Fair be shared with any other regions or counties. After all, It’s OUR fair, isn’t it? That’s precisely the point and if you think about it with an open mind, I think you will realize it not only is how a statewide fair should operate, but that Sacramento and our region has a lot more to gain with a CEAV-like project (or some better idea that remains to be heard) than it stands to lose by becoming one participant among many in hosting the California State Fair.
[here is the op ed piece:]
‘A Movable Fair’, but is Cal Expo even listening?
Cal Expo cannot market its way out of its dilemma and decades of failed planning and general decline. Gimmicks, slogans and face-lifts will do little to what has become a laughable irrelevance in recent years. Despite finger pointing at the “economy” or other ‘blame-sites’, nothing Cal Expo has done or said for the past several years changes its outlook for the future. Nor can it leverage itself by selling off its land, an irreplaceable state asset, to private developers. In a recent Bee article, associate editor, Foon Rhee, stated that “times demand…an innovative vision for the future and an openness to more dramatic change”. But, as he pointed out, the 11-member, governor appointed Board is comprised of ranchers, agribusiness, media and real estate executives. Hardly the backgrounds from which vision and change are likely to emerge. One member of the Board is CEO of a firm which lobbies for commercial and residential real estate developers, which may explain why up to now all of Cal Expo’s “visions of the future” contain an element that would sell part or all of the public commons land it uses to private developers. In short, Cal Expo continues to persist in trying to save itself by buying what it doesn’t need, a face-lift as a theme park, and trying to sell what it doesn’t own, our land.
Revenues decline, public interest is off, bills are piling up and Cal Expo continues to gamble its future on more marketing gimmicks as it points fingers at the “economy”, some long overdue repairs and anything else but the shortage of vision that has persisted far too long. Instead, they fiddle with ‘Theme Park’ ideas, catchy slogans and exotic land swaps to turn around four decades of failed plans and flagging interest. Theme Parks are nice and may even turn a profit. But they are really a private and very competitive business that should be left to the private sector. The government should not be in the theme park/entertainment business at all. Though the potential mission of the California State Fair& Exposition is as important as when it began in 1854, losing money is but one symptom of how out of touch the current management has become with that mission and with the interests of people in the 21st century. For the past year, The CEAV project has suggested two alternative actions the Cal Expo Board might take. First, the land needs to be preserved , as a public commons and for the good of all the people of the State. The best public use of the land needs to be thoroughly reviewed. The CEAV Project (Cal Expo – An Alternate Vision) has already suggested one alternative to use the site to build a world hub and global destination for all things green: exhibits, products, conferences, science and discovery, presentation of environmental issues, demonstration environments, education and knowledge transfer centers, a university campus for a School of Green Design, green vocational education and other venues that would not only present the best of California to the world, but could well accelerate and amplify efforts at preserving and cleaning up the planet we have so badly damaged. Such a project could also bring in revenues, jobs and all types improvement and revitalization to the region; collateral investment that might easily dwarf any of the proposals presently being considered. In itself, such a concept could become the centerpiece for a new economic infrastructure for the State.
Second, CEAV has proposed that Cal Expo change from a fixed location, Sacramento venue to its original mode as an event that is held at different locations in the state in different years so that every county or region could participate and enjoy the rewards of a State Fair presence in their area. It was how the fair operated for its first five years, from 1854 to 1859. That mode was abandoned due to travel and communications difficulties in 1861, obstacles which no longer exist today. A State Fair, rotated every year or every few years could define its own themes and have some regional focus as well as presenting the statewide offerings of California agriculture, industry, education, culture and other aspects of the state fair mission. Counties and regions wishing to host the State Fair in certain years might have different ways to approach the matter. Some might wish to expand their County Fairs to include the State Fair venues. Some might wish to host a separate fair event. The State component of the effort would serve to facilitate the logistics, programs , public relations and other aspects of the State’s interests in the fair. Economic and revenue sharing arrangements might also differ in different presentations. Whatever the arrangement, it is clear that economic, cultural and other benefits would be fairly distributed throughout the state and to each of the hosting regions as their turn came due.Though it is probably true that Sacramento might wish to selfishly retain the status quo as the exclusive regional location of the fair, it is clear that the California State Fair should belong to all Californians and that all should have opportunity to directly participate in its creation and to enjoy its benefits. The payoff for Sacramento might well be a CEAV-like project as a new tenant on the Expo site with benefits that would overshadow current plans by several orders of magnitude. As it is, ‘localizing’ Cal Expo as a Sacramento event to the principle benefit of the Sacramento region is both short-sighted and contrary to the State Fair mission If we follow Cal Expo’s lead, and throw our chances away for the promise of momentary gains, land swaps and the like, we will have foreclosed on an unprecedented opportunity for the future generations of the State. They will not thank us for such lack of vision and imagination. On July 30th, Cal Expo has invited The CEAV Project to present its concept of a ‘movable fair’ to its Operations and Planning Committee. We shall see if they are really serious about considering alternatives, or if they merely wish to give the appearance that they are listening to ideas that, thus far, have not been given a seat at their table.