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Paging Little Caesar

California is making preparations to hold a fire sale of some its most iconic properties as it continues to grapple with a gargantuan state budget shortfall.

The nation’s largest state, which patched together an emergency budget fix in February that closed a $42-billion deficit, now projects at least $15 billion in red ink for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signaled that his initial strategy for dealing with the latest budget gap may include deep cuts in state education spending and the auctioning off of some of the most famous state-owned addresses in California.

The potential for-sale list released by the governor’s office this week includes the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which has hosted two Olympics and can seat almost 100,000 patrons, and San Quentin Prison, currently home to some of the state’s most hardened criminals. Also under consideration for privatization are the Cow Palace concert hall in Daly, CA, and the Orange County fairgrounds.

According to reports, San Quentin isn’t considered an attractive property simply because it evokes memories of tough guys and machine guns. The legendary prison sits on a prime piece of scenic waterfront real estate north of San Francisco. So, presumably, the prison would be shut down if the property is purchased by private developers.

However, there may be a considerable snag to any plan to raise money by selling San Quentin. Gov. Schwarzenegger has hinted that the sale of the prison would be accompanied by an early-release program that would spring about 40,000 inmates currently incarcerated in the state’s overcrowded prison system. California legislators have rejected the early-release idea in each of the past four years, most recently in April.

The proposed $400-million price tag for the Coliseum also may prove to be unrealistic: according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a 2001 appraisal of the landmark stadium pegged its value at just $16 million—a figure that may drop when currently depressed market levels are included in the calculation.

We’ve given some thought to the identity of the ideal buyer for both the Coliseum and San Quentin. Since we assume that it would need to be someone with a ”Caeser-like” persona who also may be comfortable in a prison setting, the first name that came to mind was…Edward G. Robinson!

Unfortunately, the star of one of our all-time favorite gangster flicks died in 1973. So that leaves us with—

Donald Trump in a fedora?

 

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