California Report Suggests Fair Structure Changes

A report to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the state should consider a reorganization of district agricultural associations and the state fair, as well as the sale of the Del Mar Fairgounds to private interests.

The California Performance Review, prepared by a panel of volunteers, looks at the state's fiscal crisis and makes recommendations on how state government can serve the state's residents and operate more efficiently. In total, its recommendations would produce $10.8 billion in general fund savings over a five-year period, according to the report.

The report said state law should be changed so 54 agricultural associations and the California Exposition and State Fair could become public corporations rather than state entities. Under the plan, control would shift to local communities, though the Department of Food and Agriculture would continue to oversee the network of fairs and allocate pari-mutuel licensing revenues.

The move would have no impact on the general fund but would eliminate 495 gubernatorial appointments and "save the governor's office a significant amount of time and energy that it now spends making fair board appointments," the report said.

California has a network of racing fairs, particularly in the northern part of the state. Cal Expo, the state fair, has live racing almost year-round.

As for Del Mar, local officials said they don't envision a sale of the property to private interests soon, if at all, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. The report said the state could raise $1.4 billion from the sale of more than 400 acres.

Del Mar Deputy Mayor Jerry Finnell, who takes over as mayor next month, told the newspaper it's "extremely unlikely" the property could be sold to a private developer because it's on a flood plain. The wetlands fall under state and federal protection.

Operations at the fairgrounds produce about $4 million a year, while the Del Mar race meet generates $11 million for the state, according to a spokeswoman for the 22nd District Agricultural Association.