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THE MOST RUTHLESS GAME: Take It or Leave It — My Sunday Column

Here’s a challenge for all you NIMBYers, naysayers, malcontents, apathetics and ignoramuses to contemplate: Put yourself in the shoes of an elected official trying to do what’s best when the power brokers have given you the choice of getting nothing for your community or going along for the ride and maybe getting something.

The easy response is that you would tell the crooks and liars, the special interests and the greed merchants, to go to hell. I know I would, but who would vote for me?

It ain’t that easy in the real world.

Just ask Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian, a veteran on the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metrolink, and chairman of the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments — roles that make him the guardian of the transportation interests of the region’s 2 million people.

Najarian faced a dilemma last month when the downtown L.A. power brokers were steamrolling all opposition to get the MTA board to put on the November ballot an extension of the 2008 Measure R 0.5% sales tax for another 30 years so all the prospective revenue through 2069 can be borrowed against and spent now.

The problem is that this region from Glendale through the San Fernando Valley to Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley — with nearly 20% of the county’s population — will get just 5% of the more than $80 billion that Measure R and Son of Measure R will generate.

For Burbank and Glendale, in particular, it means all that money will provide little more than some long-needed fixes to the Golden State (5) Freeway.

“It’s clear the valley was not getting its ‘fair share,’ that we’re putting in a lot more than we’re getting back, compared to other regions like the Westside and downtown,” Najarian said last week after moderating a forum that brought warring county Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mike Antonovich together to debate the pros and cons of the transportation tax proposal.

“I faced making a decision: ‘Do you want to support an extension on this tax that will make commuting in the county better, but that will not give you in your region — the tri-cities and the valley — much to show?’ It was a tough call.”

What Najarian did was to cut what he thought was the best deal possible, getting a commitment from the valley council of governments and most MTA board members to support a rapid transit bus that would connect the Orange Line busway in North Hollywood to Burbank, Glendale and the Gold Line light rail in Pasadena — the “missing link,” as it has been called — as soon as money becomes available.

His decision to join in an 8-3 vote in support of extending Measure R did not sit well with Antonovich, who took over as MTA board chairman last week and exercised his authority to boot Najarian off the board of Metrolink, the only public transit system that links Burbank and Glendale to the world beyond.

“It was a strong blow and I didn’t think I deserved it,” Najarian said. “The egos on that board are incredible. The power plays — it is theater. I’m just a little guy from Glendale trying to get the best deal I can for the region.”

Transportation is as ruthless a game as there is in L.A. politics because of the money. Billions are at stake on who wins and who loses, who decides the contracts, who gets the benefits — contractors, unions, engineers, lobbyists, consultants of every type and variety, and most of all, the career politicians who live very well on the generosity of those who get rich on taxpayer money.

It’s L.A. Noir — the dark side of public policy . . .


This entry was posted in 2012 Election, 2013 Election, 2013 LA Elections, City Hall, Glendale-Burbank, Hot Topics, LA County, Los Angeles, The Valley, Transportation. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to THE MOST RUTHLESS GAME: Take It or Leave It — My Sunday Column

  1. transit advocate says:

    Najarian you are right. ” You are just a little guy ” who got scooped. I hope next time you are for reelection to the MTA Board ,your colleagues will boot you out, cuz you are a lii\ttle guy and does not deserve to represent the interests of the SFV.

  2. Wayne from Corruptopia says:

    L.A. County is too risky to live in as a homeowner! When I decided to leave the SFV this year, I thought that was enough to cut down on driving and the hell-hole commute. Then I realized that leaving L.A. City itself entirely BECAME A NECESSITY. Now I can clearly see leaving L.A. COUNTY has to be included. If it were possible, I’d be moving out of California completely. The same L.A. County TRASH that runs this asylum also controls the levers of power up in Sacramento. Not much that can be done about that (for now.)
    But I’d say as a homeowner, if you could cut out L.A. City and L.A. County out of your life, You’re way ahead! After all, that’s what all the LAFD and LAPD guys and gals do—they LIVE outside L.A. COUNTY and GET PAID FOR IT BIG TIME!!!! Remember the “Flex-time” schedule the LAPD fought for to get 3 days of 12 hour shifts? THAT’S SO THEY CAN SPEND 4 DAYS OF THE WEEK THE HELL OUT OF L.A!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Can someone give me an explanation on why new MTA board chair Michael Antonovich removed Ara Najarian from the Metrolink board, a member, who, over a six year tenure on the Metrolink board stoutly promoted and supported service and capital improvements for the only commuter rail service serving the no county?

    And can someone give me an explanation on why Najarian was replaced with Mark Ridley-Thomas, an MTA board member with no commuter rail experience and, as a co supervisor from Southeast Los Angeles, has little motivation to fight for new or enhanced commuter rail services for the no county?

    Of course, even the most naive of Los Angeles County transportation observers will answer my questions with “hey, that’s “politics.” Sure, Najarian was a staunch no on SR 710 proponent, and Najarian did not support Antonovich on his no vote at the MTA board meeting last month to extend Measure R, instead suggesting the issue be decided by those who had to pay for it, the voters. So as is often the case, two board members found themselves on different sides of difficult and complex issues.

    So I guess that politics is the answer, that Antonovich’s decision to replace Najarian on the Metrolink board with Ridley-Thomas, a board member representing Southeast Los Angeles and with little motivation to put forward new or enhanced services for no county, is nothing more that political payback. But don’t we in the no county deserve more, that Antonovich ensures that his appointees on the Metrolink board have the experience, the personal investment and desire to contribute to the growth and expansion of Metrolink in the no county, rather than populating the board, with all due respect, with a placeholder from Southeast Los Angeles?

  4. Vote blindly, then complain says:

    Voters love to emote while eschewing all facts. Then as the city crumbles and slides deeper into debt and towards BK, they rely on idiotic shibboleths — like more fixed rail transit.

    The last thing Los Angeles needs is a subway system. NYC is about 28 sq mi. LA city is 500 sq mi and the County is 5,000 sq mi. The City has known since 1915, the people will not use a subway if the station is more than 1/2 mi from their home or destination.

    However, a subway system cannot ignore WeHo, unincorporated parts of the County, Santa Monica, etc. In reality, the “city subway system” would have to cover 1,256 sq. miles — and that is only 20% of the county. That means our core area is 44 times greater than NYC’s core.

    That work outs to over 1,000 subway stations just to cover a 20 mile radius from City Hall, and that number will leave close to 1/2 of the population more than 1/2 miles from a subway station.

    When L.A. had engineers planning for the future back in 1915, they calculated that a subway would be a disaster for Angelenos and warned us against wealthy land owners who would use public money to aggrandize their property values near subways to the detriment of everyone else. Despite this warning, the crooks of the day pushed the City into constructing the Hollywood Subway in 1925. It went bankrupt.

    Then in the 1980′s crooked developers forced a new Hollywood Subway upon Angelenos, and ten years after its opening, Hollywood has lost 7% of its population due to the deterioration which followed in the subway’s wake.

    Subways and corrupt TOD’s go hand in hand, looting the public treasury and worsening the quality of everyone, except for the developers who have homes high in the hills, and Maui, and France, and the Bahamas.

    If Angelenos relied on mathematics, they would understand why a subway is a fool’s goal unless you’re constructing it. Instead, we rely on lies and air-headed buzz words like “revitalize” “street scape,” “new urbanism,” “urban village” which means cut down every single tree and built a one million sq foot Project and call it “green.”

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