Glendale City Councilman Najarian Takes Over as Metro Board Chair

7_1_09_najaraian.jpg

Every year on July 1, the Chairmanship of the Metro Board of Directors changes hands.  This year, Glendale City Councilman, and former Mayor, Ara Najarian takes the helm.  While outgoing Chair Villaraigosa is rightly proud of his steering of the Board during the Metro debate, he often seemed bored at meetings and liked to skip "open comment" and just show up to vote.

Najarian’s ascension could be good news for bicycle and pedestrian advocates.  Recently, the City of Glendale has forged a partnership with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition to make Glendale streets more safe for everyone and Coalition staff has nothing but good things to say of the Councilman.  Also, Najarian is one of the few Metro Board members to take time out for events such as "Bike to Work" week kickoffs.

Regionally, Najarian isn’t one to make waves; but recently he did earn headlines for his opposition to the I-710 Tunnel Project.  As a matter of fact, a search of the Streetsblog archives only reveals three stories that mention him by name.

With Najarian officially in the Chairman’s seat, it will be interesting to see what, if any, changes occur at the policy level or in the way Board meetings are run.  If anyone has any more information on Najarian or wants to give the new Board Chair some advice, feel free to use the comments section as a forum.  Since it wasn’t available online at the moment of publication, you can find Metro’s press release after the jump.

GLENDALE CITY COUNCILMAN ARA NAJARIAN
BECOMES

NEW CHAIR OF THE LOS ANGELES
COUNTY METROPOLITAN
TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY

Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian takes over as chairman
of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Board
of Directors effective today, July 1. He replaces outgoing Board Chairman, Los
Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

“As the new Board Chair, I look forward to
providing the leadership necessary to enhance transportation options throughout
the region,” said Najarian. “This next year will be both
challenging and rewarding as we move the agency through difficult financial
times while at the same time, begin implementing transportation improvement
projects voted by the public with the passage of Measure R, the half-cent sales
tax initiative.”

Najarian was elected to the Glendale City Council in
2005 and served as Mayor from 2007 to 2008. He is currently Chair of the
Glendale Housing Authority and previously served as Chair of the Glendale
Redevelopment Agency. He also served on the Glendale Community College Board of
Trustees from 2003 to 2005 and was Chair of the Glendale Transportation and Parking
Commission.  Najarian has served as a director since 2006 and also currently
serves on Metrolink’s Board of Directors.  

Najarian
has been an attorney in private practice in Glendale
for 20 years and attended Occidental
College where he received
a BA degree in Economics and later earned his JD from USC School of Law.

        Metro
is the third largest public transportation agency in the United States.
It has a $3.9 billion annual budget and more than 9,000 employees. It operates
approximately 200 bus routes serving a 1,433 square mile service area and five
subway and light rail lines that crisscross Los Angeles County.
Metro’s total annual bus and rail ridership exceeds 400 million boardings.

  • The 60 second rule is not going anywhere, because MTA board members don’t really want to be there. If you notice the disturbing frequency that they wander off to the lounge to shoot the breeze or chat with their staff members, you’d know that. The faster than can get John Walsh off the podium, the better – damned the collateral damage.

    One of the more interesting things with Najarian as chair is whether he will try to push for more funding for the local, non-included operators. There is a complicated formula that divvies up public transportation funding and basically all the transit agencies that started before 1980 get a share of it, while everyone after 1980 doesn’t. Glendale Beeline is bigger than Commerce and Gardena now, yet Gardena and Commerce get money that Glendale and Pasadena don’t. Of course, the incumbent operators have an incentive to oppose any changes to this. Still, Najarian snuck a motion when developing the budget to evaluate expanding the scope of “included” operators to include more agencies. It will be interesting if he can convince the rest of the Board to go along with this.

  • limit

    I am curious about his future input on the proposed 710 tunnel that may outlet to the edge of Glendale. From a regional perspective it has massive impact for the region and minimal impact for Glendale. However, from a Glendale NIMBY perspective it is outrageous.

  • As long as it takes 7 votes to get anything passed, this will remain a board run by the Mayor, regardless of whether he has the gavel or not.

    And the 60 second rule is ridiculous and insulting. But what makes it even worse is that they don’t allow members of the public to give away their time. It’s very difficult to near impossible to make a point about an important issue in just 60 seconds. If they were really interested in the public’s opinion each person would get 3-5 mins. I understand that could be difficult, but to go down to 60 second AND not allow people to give away their time – well it is a clear expression of the board’s overall lack of concern for the public.

    And all the meetings need to moved to the night/late hours, with public comment at the opening AND closing. L.A. is the only place I know of where every major government body meets during the day: City Council, Board of Supervisors, major boards/commission, etc. Of course it’s intentional.

    Wake me when the apathetic public gets off their fricking couches and starts an uprising.

  • I’d be interested in hearing if Najarian supports a rail project that connects the North Hollywood Station with the Gold Line via Burbank and Glendale and how he would connect the Burbank Airport into the system. Of course, the former would be pretty low on the totem pole right now.

    Or run some short-run trains just between the Burbank Airport and downtown.

    I remember him being pretty unselfish about Measure R since there wasn’t a Glendale project on the list.

  • Wad

    I’m sure Najarian supports such a project, but how much sway he has in a single year to get the project ahead is another matter.

  • Wake me up when people get off their soapboxes.

  • Wad

    Damien Goodmon wrote:
    Wake me when the apathetic public gets off their fricking couches and starts an uprising.

    The Lakers would have to win the championships again next year.

  • “As long as it takes 7 votes to get anything passed, this will remain a board run by the Mayor, regardless of whether he has the gavel or not.”

    How does the Mayor and three appointees equal seven votes? That sure is faulty math. If anything the Supervisors with the City Selection appointees are a more decisive block of votes.

    Calwatch, I too am curious whether any move toward changing the FAP for dividing funds among the include/eligible transit operators makes any headway. My guess will be no, especially when funding is a dicey situation anyway.

    Dan W., the residents along the Chandler ROW between N. Hollywood and Burbank already have complaints about the bike path there. I am sure Najarian realizes even a hint of a rail project there would cause huge pushback by the NIMBYs.

  • How does the Mayor and three appointees equal seven votes? That sure is faulty math. If anything the Supervisors with the City Selection appointees are a more decisive block of votes.

    That’s an incredibly simplistic statement. The saying in Washington is “You don’t know how to count,” as in you don’t know how to identify the number of votes necessary to get something to pass. What that really means is you don’t know how to read the political landscape, and to be frank, I’m not surprised Dana. I’ve frequently said that many of the leaders of some of the transit advocacy organizations (SOME not all) are clueless about MTA board politics.

    But I digress. The point is there is no natural political coalition on the board among the Supervisors. Just because they come from the same body (the Board of Sups) doesn’t mean jack! Where is the common interest, common enemy, or common friend among the Supervisors regarding the MTA – the things it takes to build a political coalition? The only issue that collectively impacts the Sups is the Sherriffs budget, because the more MTA gives the less the County Sups must give.

    Comparatively, the mayor has 4 guaranteed votes at any given time. Couple with that at least one County Supervisor (Zev or MRT), and you have the largest voting bloc (5) on the board. It is a true bloc because there are common interests, common constituencies, common enemies, and common friends. And more times than not the bloc is often 6, because the mayor can often with ease tie in both Zev and MRT.

    That leaves a terribly high mountain for any faction to climb that is opposed by the Mayor. Their only power is in coming together against the Mayor’s bloc, where there is absolutely no unifying issue, interest, enemy or ally. Perhaps one could argue subsidies for the muni operators is an issue the anti-Mayor bloc has a collective interest and could benefit from combating the Mayor’s bloc. But as long as Santa Monica, which is landlocked by L.A. is one of those 4 small cities, it’s terribly unlikely. So now the anti-Antonio bloc is faced with trying to break away Zev or MRT, both of which have more MTA service in their boundaries than muni service. Again, that’s terribly unlikely.

    Heck, one doesn’t even need to postulate or some politico to figure this out. Just look at history. Search for an item since Antonio’s been Mayor that something has gone through MTA board opposed by the Mayor’s faction.

    You won’t find one.

    Now comparatively how many items have been successful despite being opposed by the natural anti-Mayoral faction?

  • the residents along the Chandler ROW between N. Hollywood and Burbank already have complaints about the bike path there. I am sure Najarian realizes even a hint of a rail project there would cause huge pushback by the NIMBYs.

    And using the Chandler ROW would not be wise. Olive is the street that serves the commercial heart of Burbank. It has the largest job centers in that gap between the SGV-SFV, and room for growth. Who would seriously advocate traveling miles away from ABC, Disney and the many entertainment businesses along the corridor, just because an old abandoned track is a mile or two away. (Oh yea, I forgot there’s a whole faction of people in L.A. who think avoiding major trip generators on major corridors is smart transit planning…forgive me).

    It confuses me how people take issue with community opposition for track alignments that slice through the middle of low-density single family residential communities, especially when there are countless unserved commercial corridors in the region, especially when several major ones run parallel to these abandoned ROWs in question. A good majority of the Venice-Sepulveda Expo diversion advocates are not and were not NIMBYs but rather people who look at stations smack in the middle of residential areas in large urban areas and legitimately say, “How the heck does that make any sense?” To be clear that’s not to say Venice-Sepulveda was superior or not, but rather that there are legitimate issues with laying tracks on ROWs in the middle of low density communities, and proposing such will generate legitimate criticism. Criticisms like limited space for growth/redevelopment, and limited potential ridership.

    Too many folk want to and GO OUT OF THEIR WAY TO ignore these legitimate issues and focus on making strawman arguments, and yelling from the mountaintop their rally cry: NIMBYs!!!!! NIMBYs!!!! and their “ridiculous” concerns about community division, noise and vibration. These concerns, which are “SO ABSURD” that most urban areas in the country have laws on the book prohibiting the type of disruption.

    Political bodies across the U.S. have recognized that noise disruption and vibration are legitimate issues and residential communities in particular are in need of protection. A person can get a ticket for blasting a stereo in the middle of the night through a residential community, yet when a citizen expresses concern about trains generating twice as much noise, they’re suddenly worse than Hitler in the eyes of some train aficionados.

  • Wad

    Damien, there is no such thing as an ideal form of representation. When it comes to the Metro board, we should at least aspire to mediocrity. :>

    If you are a resident of the city of L.A., you should feel disempowered as you are underrepresented on the Metro board. Four votes out of 13 equals 31 percent of the bloc. Populationwise, L.A. city is about 40 percent of the county. When it comes to productivity, either in transit ridership or vehicle traffic, we’re talking 60 to 70 percent. Furthermore, despite LADOT being the city’s official transit agency, Angelenos count on Metro for about 90 percent of bus service (100 percent for rail) in the city.

    An L.A. Weekly article several years ago made a good point. It is the L.A. County supervisors who are overrepresented on the Metro board. They are directly responsible for unincorporated areas that represent less than a million people countywide. Otherwise, they are a redundant presence since much of the county lives in an incorporated city.

    What complicates matter is that Metro is a state, not a county, agency. Sacramento determines the composition of the board and Metro’s charter. Changes must come from the people who ruined the state fiscally.

    Here’s how I’d reconstitute the Metro board, using the same 13 seats:

    *5 seats would go to Los Angeles city. There is no obligation for one of the seats to go automatically to the mayor. (Antonio Villaraigosa is one of the more engaged mayors on the Metro board. His successors might not be. His predecessors, Richard Riordan and James Hahn, might as well have had their heads down throughout the meeting.) The only requirement there would be is that each seat must be filled by a person from three contiguous council districts. The mayor, having residency in at least one district, can jockey to be one of the representatives.

    *1 seat goes to one county supervisor automatically. It could be rotated annually among the five.

    *5 seats go to a non-L.A. city and/or unincorporated area based upon county supervisors’ districts. Supervisors will vote on delegates as part of regular county business.

    *1 seat will go to an L.A. County delegate of the Metrolink board.

    *1 seat will go to an L.A. County resident nominated by the governor and approved by the legislature.

  • Oh, Damien. Despite your claim of deep political acumen you fall flat on your face by dismissing out of hand the Supervisor block. The Sheriff’s contract with Metro is millions that is spent poorly. I should know — this is something I have spent years monitoring. But sadly thanks to the Supervisors voting en masse the ability to do anything about this is DOA–staff can count and don’t even want to get burned asking any dangerous questions. This web of influence is why the new contract for the Sheriff took forever to negotiate and lacks many improvements that should have happened.

    You claim deep knowledge and insight then ask “Where is the common interest, common enemy, or common friend among the Supervisors regarding the MTA” The include/eligible transit operators (aka the MUNIS) is the obvious rejoiner. Which shows you haven’t been paying attention to the real politics going on with the Metro Board.

    You condescending dismissal of many of us as clueless is par for the course as your lastest long rambling post proves to be insubstantial and unimpressive. But what should we expect from someone who has despite all his big talk failed in all his stated goals and seems to be quickly fizzling despite the excessive media attention.

    By the way, where is that lawsuit about Expo Phase two environmental clearance you said in public was about to be filed? Hasn’t it been more than 45 days?

  • Wad, I respect your though process. But it is all wasted effort, but I think you already knew that. Sacramento has no interest with changing the Mtro Board makeup. There are no signs that will change anytime soon. Notice how that phony “reform” legislation to give a L.A. seat to Palmdale/Lancaster fizzled.

  • I should note all the Metro Board members have interests that incline them to favor the include/eligible transit operators (aka the MUNIS). Who on the Metro Board actually has the agency as their prime focus and priority? Fundamentally no one, in my view.

  • How does the experience of an elected Board like the Bay Area Rapid Transit District differ from the appointed Board we have?

  • Wad

    Dan Wentzel wrote:

    How does the experience of an elected Board like the Bay Area Rapid Transit District differ from the appointed Board we have?

    How has it worked for the LAUSD or other sub-municipal boards?

    You have very high incumbency along with voter apathy levels in the high 80s.

    This will lead to what has been called by economists as regulatory capture.

  • @ Wad: Two problems with your proposed Metro Board restructure:

    *5 seats go to a non-L.A. city and/or unincorporated area based upon county supervisors’ districts. Supervisors will vote on delegates as part of regular county business.

    Such seats would have to — by law — be determined by the Los Angeles County City Selection Committee, not the Board of Supervisors. Besides, having them responsible for those five appointees, in addition to their rotating seat, would technically give them six seats instead of their current five.

    *1 seat will go to an L.A. County delegate of the Metrolink board.

    Immediate conflict of interest problem, as the Los Angeles County members of the Metrolink Board are appointed by the Metro Board of Directors.

    And you have me completely confused as to what you mean by having the City of L.A. appointees be “from three contiguous council districts”.

  • Wad

    Kym, you raised some good points about the structural determination of the county and the Metrolink board. And to clarify this: And you have me completely confused as to what you mean by having the City of L.A. appointees be “from three contiguous council districts”.

    With L.A. having 15 council districts, there should be a way of divvying up 5 theoretical seats. The danger of no framework would mean the bloc would be used as a bribe toward a constituency the Mayor or City Council is trying to win. In 2001, all 5 seats would have went to the San Fernando Valley as countersecession bait.

    Three contiguous council districts means that the districts must be next to each other, and that each representative must be a resident of one of these pairs of districts. For instance, the Valley would be guaranteed one delegate by the combination of three Valley council seats, the Eastside would be guaranteed one seat, etc.

  • Thanks for that clarification. I see what you are getting at now and it makes as much sense as any other method that would ensure diversity in terms of having all segments of the city’s residents represented.

    I’ll e-mail you offline with other thoughts that might not be directly in proper context if posted here; if you find those thoughts useful, feel free to incorporate them in whatever “retool” you may choose to post here.

  • Erik G.

    Of course, the fact that a county the population (9.8 million) and size (circa 4,000 square miles) of Los Angeles County has only 5 “supervisors” has to be the record for greatest population per representative.

    Contrast that to the State of New Hampshire, population 1.3 million, about 9,300 square miles, 400 representatives and 24 senators!

  • And you are right, Erik.

    And having such populous districts does not serve the county.

  • Wad

    Dan Wentzel wrote:

    And having such populous districts does not serve the county.

    But what’s the point of counties to begin with? In L.A. County, 88 cities have their own councils. L.A., with about 3.5 million people, has 15 representatives. Unincorporated cities could form their own councils or allow themselves to be annexed.

    If counties were eliminated, nearly every function could either be provided by cities, the state, or special-purpose regional districts.

  • Unincorporated areas don’t want to allow annexation, though, and LAFCO has prohibited the formation of new cities without a means to pay for themselves. If counties were eliminated, who would provide welfare services? The health department? Security for our courts? Would there now be a health authority, a welfare authority, a court security authority? How much more bureaucracy would we need? County government performs as the local government of last resort, and it does a pretty good job. You’ll notice that county government is furloughing anyone, there’s no pension crisis in the county retirement system, and services are being cut only slightly, while in cities, the sky is falling.
    Clearly, you haven’t thought this through completely.

  • County government is NOT furloughing anyone. I stand corrected.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Shakeup at Metrolink Board: Najarian Out. Ridley-Thomas In?

|
One of the powers of the Chair of the Metro Board of Directors, is the right to appoint three members to the Board of the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, commonly known as Metrolink.  Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who took over as Metro Board Chair on July 1, wasted no time in exercising that power, replacing […]

Congressman Weighs in on Metro Board Nomination: Keep Najarian

|
In the odd drama over whether or not Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian will be reappointed to the Metro Board of Directors, there are a lot of conspiracy theories. Some, including the Councilman, believe that Supervisor Mike Antonovich is using Alhambra Mayor Barbara Messina and Duarte City Council Member John Fasana to wage a proxy war […]

Najarian Metro Board Seat in Danger Over Opposition to 710 Big Dig

|
(The original version of the story stated that the League of Cities selects the Metro Board Members. Dana Gabbard points out it is actually The City Selection Committee. The CSC is not a subsidiary of the League of California Cities, Los Angeles Division. Its authority is Sections 50270 through 50281 of the Government Code, and it is administered […]

The Problem(s) with Westlake MacArthur Park

|
Photo:High Snobiety Last week, Metro Chair Ara Najarian penned a piece for The Source announcing that bicycle parking is coming to the Westlake/MacArthur Park T.O.D. at some point in the future.  It’s not everyday that the Metro Board Chair responds to something written on Streetsblog (although Stephen Box and I are debating which one of […]