I spent most of last night speaking with several members of the Latino Caucus in Sacramento about the wrench they just threw into Costa Mesa’s attempt to purchase the Orange County Fairgrounds.
I came away from those conversations with a clear sense that Allan Mansoor and his “rule of law” gambit in Costa Mesa stirred some memories and emotions in this increasingly powerful group of state lawmakers.
The sorts of memories and emotions that can get fairgrounds deals killed.
No one is exactly sure what the “rule of law” resolution means. It is, however, an ironic name for a resolution in a city that has violated a series of open records and meetings laws in its secret negotiations to purchase the 150-acre fairgrounds from the state.
But it definitely got the attention of two dozen key Latino lawmakers in Sacramento who will likely be asked to approve legislation that affects any sale of the fairgrounds — such as altering the status of the 32nd Agricultural District, which governs the fairgrounds, as well as transitioning state workers at the fairgrounds.
This group is not happy. And caucus members are having no problem telling Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that if he comes asking for legislation on the fairgrounds, they aren’t going to bend for a city council that just poked them in the face with an anti-Latino resolution.
Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley — a Democrat and the lead city negotiator on the fairgrounds purchase — has been calling legislators asking them to avoid mixing the two issues. But Latino leaders note they aren’t hearing Foley express public opposition to the resolution, adding that she didn’t show up for the vote on the controversial resolution.
“We have no obligation to accommodate anybody,” said Latino Caucus Chairman Gil Cedillo, a Los Angeles Democrat. “People make political decisions, and there are political consequences for it. And that applies to everyone across the line.”
Earlier this month, the Latino Caucus adopted a resolution criticizing the state of Arizona for its recent law that allows police to ask for proof of citizenship. And the caucus openly questions why it should help a California city that is moving in a similar direction.
Two Latino legislators from Orange County — state Sen. Lou Correa and Assemblyman Jose Solorio — said the governor’s office called them for their opinions, and neither gave Costa Mesa good marks.
“I told them it clearly sheds a different light on the whole issue,” said Correa of his reply to Schwarzenegger’s office.
While Latino legislators are mindful of representing all their constituents on issues like the fairgrounds, Correa said things like the Costa Mesa resolution hit hard because it reminds many of these legislators of the racism they confronted as children.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, most families had bad encounters with immigration officials even though they were citizens.
So when Costa Mesa starts talking about checking documents, these legislators know exactly who will be asked those questions despite what Mansoor and others say about racial profiling.
“It brings back very uncomfortable moments,” Correa said. “I still remember family members who speak with accents getting pulled into paddy wagons. It’s humiliating stuff for an American-born citizen.”
Plus, Correa said, he’s not too excited about selling such large assets in a hurry based on a handful of promises and changing financial figures anyway.
“I’m not there right now in terms of any further action,” Correa said. “This is one factor. Whether it’s a determinative factor, we’ll see.”
State Assemblyman Jose Solorio, on the other hand, has been very supportive of Costa Mesa’s efforts on the county fairgrounds. In fact, he has stated that he has legislation ready to enable a sale.
But these types of actions from Costa Mesa make sponsoring such a bill tough because they offend not just Latinos, but a wide swath of Sacramento.
“I have a bill that I might be helpful with, but I’m definitely watchful of what Costa Mesa has done — and what they’ll do in the next few weeks,” Solorio said. “I hope they don’t put me in a position where I can’t defend Costa Mesa in its endeavors.”
— NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.
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