Najarian’s MTA Confirmation Threatened by 710 Tunnel Proponents

Ara Najarian at a recent No 710 press conference

BY ELISE KALFAYAN

Nominated unanimously for another term by Los Angeles County’s North Valley/San Fernando Valley Sector cities representing over one million constituents, Metropolitan Transportation Agency Board member Ara Najarian’s confirmation was blocked by Duarte City Council member John Fasana and Alhambra Mayor Barbara Messina. They urged City Selection Committee members to vote against confirming Najarian because of his vocal opposition to a 710 tunnel, ignoring both his significant transportation achievements for the San Gabriel Valley region, and the unanimous support of the North County/San Fernando Valley Sector cities. Najarian has 65 days to seek a re-nomination and confirmation.

Glendale City Council Member Najarian has been a strong supporter of good transportation projects in Los Angeles County. During his tenure on the MTA Board of Directors, in which he has also served as Chair, he was instrumental in bringing projects like the Gold Line to the region. Najarian has been a steadfast critic of the “710 North Gap Closure” study, asking tough questions about purpose and need, cost estimates and truck traffic, while making it clear that he and his constituents have received no credible answers.

Citing Fasana’s and Messina’s action, former State Assembly representative Anthony Portantino said, “When proponents have to resort to removing folks asking legitimate questions, you have to question their motives.” At a Pasadena City Council meeting this week, more than 30 speakers, including Portantino and Sierra Madre Councilman John Harabedian, urged Pasadena to take a stand against MTA’s 710 tunnel study. The meeting concluded with all council members voicing objections to the tunnel and directing the mayor to prepare a letter expressing concerns to the MTA.

Najarian has been the lone MTA Board member insisting on accountability in the SR-710 Study process. The move by officials outside his representative sector calls into question the power of one sector to override the will and vote of another. The No 710 Action Committee strongly condemned Fasana and Messina for attempting to circumvent the rights and silence the voices of constituent sector cities who unanimously chose Najarian to represent them on the Metro Board of Directors. The Committee has also called for further investigation of this matter.

“It’s extremely disconcerting that some San Gabriel Valley transportation bullies are trying to foist an extremely expensive, damaging project off onto their neighbors. They are interfering with another region’s choice of representation exactly because that representative is being fiscally responsible by asking the tough questions that all the Metro Board members should be asking,” said Joanne Nukols, a member of the No 710 Action Committee.

The No 710 Action Committee is a grassroots organization comprised of residents, business owners, healthcare professionals, researchers, and transportation experts who are stakeholders in Los Angeles, El Sereno, Mt. Washington, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, Highland Park, Garvanza, Eagle Rock, Sunland-Tujunga, Hermon, South Pasadena, Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose and Glendale. The goal of the Committee is to work with civic leaders and transportation officials to encourage modern transportation solutions that are environmentally and fiscally responsible.

Najarian’s current term is up in January 2013. In October, he was unanimously re-nominated to the Board by his constituent cities in the North County/San Fernando Valley Sector. On Thursday, December 6, the Los Angeles County City Selection Committee met to conduct business. Although Najarian received a numerical majority of votes, according to the population-weighted vote formula, he fell short of the number needed for confirmation. Najarian intends to seek a second nomination and a second vote to retain his seat.

Elise Kalfayan is a Glendale resident, a native Southern Californian, and a combined first/second generation Armenian-American. She has produced or edited print and online pieces on topics ranging from urban development to Armenian Church history. She is the publisher of a Glendale community news blog,  and works as a contract writer, editor, and publishing consultant for clients including businesses, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and memoirists.

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