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Del Mar works for fairgrounds purchase

DEL MAR — As legislation authorizing the sale of the Del Mar Fairgrounds moves through the Senate at what some consider a snail’s pace, the city of Del Mar continues working to ensure its proposed purchase of the state-owned property is successful.
At the March 28 meeting, council members unanimously agreed to spend $5,000 on a second month of services from California Strategies LLC.
In February the council authorized a three-month agreement with the consulting firm to provide strategic counsel regarding communications, outreach and policy development related to the purchase.
It was subject to reauthorization, based on progress and anticipated achievement, at one-month increments and not to exceed $15,000.
In her staff report, Gretchen Crowson, assistant to the city manager, said during the first month California Strategies helped the city prepare for a March 9 public workshop, provided “much-needed” support with media inquiries, met with legislative staff to develop strategies and met with regional elected officials, stakeholders and staff representatives for educational briefings.
Going forward the firm “will continue to provide support in communications and policy by developing supporting media materials to disseminate information and refute misinformation,” Crowson said. Plans also call for media training for council and staff to ensure the city’s message is conveyed.
Councilman Terry Sinnott said he supported the expenditure with the expectation that funding for the purchase will begin to decrease.
“I do hope as we proceed our time and money commitments begin to wind down,” Sinnott said.
“I know that the sentiment is not to throw good money after bad,” Councilman Mark Filanc said. “Addressing the comments from the community, perhaps we probably should have done this much sooner and I think that that did hurt us.
“I think that our citizens have been frustrated by all the misinformation that’s been spread around,” he said. “This is helping us turn that around. We’ve got a strategy now. We have a message. We’re on point and that’s really helped.”
Mayor Don Mosier agreed. “This support has been very useful … correcting misinformation,” he said. “I think not having this advice at this time would be a step backwards.”
Hoping to gain support from the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, Del Mar council members also adopted at the March 28 meeting a resolution of intention stating the city’s commitment to four key principles requested by that organization.
In December the city adopted a resolution stating that all existing labor contracts with fairgrounds and race track employees “will be honored, and existing compensation and benefits will be preserved for all current employees.”
According to the new resolution, Senate Bill 1, the legislation that authorizes the sale, will include language that honors prevailing wages and employees will retain public employee status, seniority and bumping rights and health care and retirement coverage.
The city also agreed to adopt worker retention and labor peace and harmony principles, and honor existing convention, trade show and exhibit work agreements.
Council members were slated to adopt a similar resolution with Unite Here, the union representing gaming and food-service employees, however, that agreement required additional legal review.
After that resolution was presented, “there were some comments back that require additional meetings with them to clarify the issues and make sure that we’re all on the same page,” Filanc said.
“We need to allow the process a little bit more time to mature and go through that before we bring this resolution back,” he said.