By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian received a shock on Monday when his confirmation to another term on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was blocked. Najarian is a vocal opponent to the controversial Long Beach (710) Freeway extension project.
“I was very disappointed,” Najarian said of the blocked confirmation. He added that there was no indication that there was going to be challenge to the nomination. “I was shocked. It came out of left field.”
Najarian was nominated unanimously for another term by Los Angeles County’s North Valley/San Fernando Valley Sector cities representing over one million constituents. The confirmation was blocked by Duarte City Councilmember John Fasana and Alhambra Mayor Barbara Messina, elected officials representing the San Gabriel Valley region. According to a statement released by the No 710 Action Committee, the pair urged City Selection Committee members to vote against confirming Najarian because of his vocal opposition to the 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 said he was particularly stung by the comments of Fasana, who sits on the MTA board with him.
“When [John] stood up to speak, I thought, ‘How nice – he’s going to say something positive about the nomination,’” said Najarian. But to the contrary, Fasana blasted the nomination ending his comments by urging City Selection Committee members to vote against Najarian.
“It felt like a sneak attack,” Najarian said. He added that though Fasana and he disagree on the 710 matter, he didn’t feel the disagreement was grounds for his removal from the MTA.
The No 710 Action Committee stated that 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 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. The project would connect the 710 and Foothill (210) freeways but opponents question the purpose and need, cost estimates and truck traffic.
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.”
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 Dec. 6, the L.A. 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 has 65 days to seek a re-nomination and confirmation.
“I’ll keep fighting to secure another nomination and will make sure to get the people to the meeting to support me,” said Najarian. “I’m confident that there will be an overwhelming show of support.”