Fair board — rogue government
By Bud Emerson
Del Mar residentThe Del Mar Fair Board has launched a master plan that will radically increase its footprint in the fragile lagoon, which has just received a $100 million rebirth. It will degrade our local streets and the freeway down to a failing grade of “F.” It will dramatically transform our small-town way of life. More than 1 million new square feet is equivalent to 10 new Wal-Marts plopped in the middle of a rich ecological resource. A big hotel, a sports club, large office buildings, huge conference facilities, paved parking in a flood plain, a large neon sign on the freeway, a freeway off ramp in a flood plain — the list goes on.
How can this happen? What can we do about it? Who has such power? Where is the accountability to those affected? Can it be stopped? The answers to these desperate and pertinent questions are quite discouraging.
What we have here is our worst nightmare of government out of control. Political appointees from both parties occupy these fair board seats as rewards for very large amounts of dollars they have donated to political campaigns. These appointments are seen by the governor as harmless ways to give donors perks instead of meaningful positions of responsibility. Qualifications, or lack thereof, are seen as irrelevant.
OK, so far this looks like business as usual — political rewards such as VIP boxes and parking spaces. They meet once a month, rarely open their mouths, and let the staff run the operation. We may not like this kind of ethically challenged government but usually it causes only a little harm.
The big problems occur when these boards start making decisions that radically upset the balance of our natural and man-made environments. Their power is unchecked. They can screw up our lives and we have no way to hold them accountable.
With other governmental agencies, we have checks and balances. We work hard to elect good people. We may not like every decision they make, but we know how to reign them in if they lose touch with their constituency. No one elected these board members. They have enormous power and we are at their mercy. While we experience the damaging results of their mischief-making for years to come, they will be long gone.
Citizens have one lever of influence. Over a decade ago when this board, with a different cast of appointees, tried to launch a big shopping center development, citizen outrage reached the governor’s office. The plan was aborted and appointees were cashiered.
It looks like it is time to raise our voices once again.