State Senator Seeks Shapiro's Resignation

California state senator Leland Yee introduced a resolution March 29 calling for the resignation of Richard  Shapiro, the chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, following a vote a week earlier causing the likely closure of the historic Bay Meadows horse track in San Mateo.

Yee, a democrat from San Francisco, said Shapiro "orchestrated" the vote to deny Bay Meadows a two-year waiver from a board requirement to install a synthetic surface as a replacement for its main track. The senator said it would result in a loss of about 600 jobs in his district as well as a $25 million loss in revenue.

He said the 4-2 decision created a "major displacement of and uncertainty in the  horseracing industry in general."

Yee said it will also "wreak havoc" in his district. "This is not just about horses, it's about people," the senator said. "We're talking about people's lives. We're talking about uprooting families. This is what really hits home with me."

The resolution is expected to come to the Senate during the week of April 9. Though Shapiro, an appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is not bound by the resolution should it pass, Lee said, "It will be a very clear signal to the chairman of the commission and the full racing board of the senate's power of confirmation."

"I don't relish it, but the fact that Mr. Shapiro, as chairman, orchestrated the passage of a motion to deny Bay Meadows' request basically ends the track," Yee said.

Shapiro responded, "I don't feel like I'm on the hot seat. I think it's obvious that our friends at Bay Meadows are trying to reverse the board's decision and using whatever method they can to do so."

He said he does not plan to resign, adding, "I don't want to see Bay Meadows close anymore than anyone else does."

Yee took exception with the CHRB mandate, passed last year, requiring that Thoroughbred tracks racing continually for a period of four weeks or more install a synthetic track or lose its license to conduct racing. He said the decision creates "a double standard" regarding the safety of  horses and jockeys at major tracks while exempting the  remaining racetracks from the same requirement. He noted that the public fair tracks that have been suggested as possible replacements do not have synthetic tracks.

In addition, he complained, Bay Meadows' barn area facilities are indisputably better than at the other locations, greatly impacting the safety of horses and trainers.

"The country's premiere races, including the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup, continue to run on dirt tracks," said Yee in a press release. "While we are  all concerned with the safety of horses, there has been no move to  require synthetic surfaces at training centers and fairs where horses train  every day.

"Shapiro has incredulously suggested that Bay Meadows racing dates be moved to other tracks that do not have synthetic racing surfaces and  whose facilities for horses and workers are far inferior to those existing at Bay Meadows," Yee continued. "He has failed to apply CHRB regulatory authority in a fair and consistent manner, thereby using the  administrative authority of the Board to accomplish his own personal agenda within the horseracing industry."

Yee's resolution states  that "during public hearings of the Board, Shapiro criticized both  the administrative and legislative branches of state government for providing policy input and advice to the board, exhibiting a complete lack  of respect for, or understanding of the role of those branches of government in the development, implementation and oversight of state policy."

Since Shapiro's tenure began, Yee charged that the CHRB has undergone substantial staff turnover and poor morale, which has weakened the ability of the agency to perform regulatory functions. In addition, he has been unable to maintain appropriate fiscal control over the CHRB budget, Yee said.

Shapiro said he met with 40 trainers at Bay Meadows on March 29 to explain the board's position.

"They were sad. They were disappointed, but they handled it reasonably. They've known that this was going to happen at some point," Shapiro said. "Not one of them called me a dirty name."

As for Yee, Shapiro said he would like to meet with the senator. "If he's a friend of racing, he's a friend of mine."

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