Another View: State Fair is on the right track

In response to The Bee’s recent editorial (“Few fresh ideas at California’s slightly stale State Fair,” July 12), we too have high hopes for the California State Fair. But unlike the editorial board, we see great progress and ways the Sacramento community can help build on Gov. Jerry Brown’s solid board appointments and excellent additions to the fair’s staff, including General Manager Rick Pickering.

From this foundation, the State Fair seeks to stabilize, grow attendance and boost year-round use. We still need to address the core subject identified by the editorial – infrastructure.

Partial responsibility definitely lies with the state: Cal Expo needs an infusion of funds for facility maintenance and upgrades. As a major state asset, the State Fair deserves the same financial attention as state parks, which recently received a $40 million investment in infrastructure.

There’s also a local dimension: Cal Expo is home to the “State” Fair, but it’s also a major regional economic engine deserving of local support. Through year-round events, Cal Expo generates jobs, local taxes and small business support on par with the Kings, the Community Center Theater and the Convention Center.

We applaud the editorial board for elevating the discussion on the State Fair and hope it will encourage state leaders to invest in Cal Expo – a state property employing state workers that generates a massive amount of tax dollars – far more than it receives. Creative local solutions could include allocating some hotel tax revenue to Cal Expo since it supports the local travel industry.

In addition, 76 California communities are struggling with the elimination of fair funding since 2011. The network of county fairs has fought to survive without public funding; as many as 30 fairgrounds are at risk of closing over the next five years. This will hurt local economies and kill a consistent revenue stream for the public sector and nonprofits reliant on local fairs for fundraising.

State and local leaders need to recognize the important role that fairs properties play – social and educational, economic and emergency services, including serving as staging areas to fight wildfires and respond to such natural disasters as earthquakes.

The editorial board can help by calling for a combined state-local effort that provides fair executives with the tools and financial resources to be successful.