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Editorial: Will private deals prevail at Gibson Ranch?

Sacramento County supervisors Roberta MacGlashan, Don Nottoli and Susan Peters are so eager to unload one of Sacramento County's prized public spaces – the Gibson Ranch Regional Park – that they are willing to run roughshod over a public process to determine its future.

That became clear Tuesday, when this trio ignored staff and citizen committee recommendations to reopen the search for a management team to run the park, keeping alive a for-profit proposal from former congressman and real estate developer Doug Ose. The Ose proposal received only an average of 62 points of 100 from the citizen selection committee – and was deemed "nonresponsive" by county staff – but was saved at the bell by MacGlashan, Nottoli and Peters.

Sidestepping what should be an open process for vetting proposals, these supervisors directed interim County Executive Steve Szalay to negotiate a contract with Ose on terms that could be entirely different from what the county sought in advertising the bid – an issue of fairness to others who may have put in a bid under different terms.

Oh, and by the way, the public was not allowed to see the proposal before the county board's decision – only after the decision. Secrecy prevailed.

In case the negotiation with Ose fails, the Gang of Three did order county staff to come up with a "revised request for proposals" by Dec. 7. That's something.

So just what was in the Ose proposal the board released after its decision?

The proposal calls for cell towers, a video arcade, paint ball arenas, motorcycle events and a dog/cat/pet hotel in what is one of the few public parks in Northern California with a historic working ranch.

Incredibly, for an equestrian center that boards 44 horses, the Ose proposal also said the park "shall include" a firearms shooting range. The horses and other farm animals would love that.

No mention of the marsh area in the northwest portion of the park, a valuable wildlife and open space area.

The proposal came from "Gibson Ranch Limited Partnership," which you learn doesn't yet exist and has "no operating history." The sole partner is Ose.

Though the county stipulated a typical five-year agreement with an option for two five-year extensions, Ose proposed a 50-year agreement.

But here is the kicker. As staff told the supervisors, "There is no financial benefit to the county from this proposal."

Quite the opposite. The Ose proposal calls for the county to pay him (Gibson Ranch LP) $220,000 a year for the first five years and $150,000 for the sixth year of operation. He would pay the county a mere $1 a year for the first four years and who knows how much after that.

As the staff report concluded, if it had $220,000 a year to spend, the county could continue operation of the park itself.

The Gang of Three showed on Tuesday that they have no qualms about a for-profit takeover that aims at turning this public asset into a moneymaking amusement park.

Over 20 years, county supervisors have failed the public at Gibson Ranch Regional Park. And on Tuesday they compounded that failure. They need to engage in a do-over, with Supervisor Peters – an advocate for public parks – reconsidering her position. Reopen the process, take new proposals and act as true trustees of this public space that the county has inherited.


Read other editorials in The Bee's series on local parks.