Metro Board Members John Fasana and Gloria Molina almost pulled the ultimate fast one earlier today at the Metro Board Meeting. Fasana offered an amendment to Glendale Mayor and Metro Board Member Ara Najarian’s motion to require that the 710 Tunnel Project receive a full cost-estimate analysis before undergoing a $90 million dollar environmental study. Their ammendment would have required such an analysis for all Measure R projects, including those already under study, before an environmental study would begin.
It took nearly twenty minutes, and plenty of the theater we’ve come to expect from the Board of Directors, before Metro CEO Art Leahy warned that because this new motion amounted to a policy change for Metro that was being sprung at the last moment, there was no idea how it would effect delivery of Measure R and the 30/10 initiative. Board Chair Don Knabe also repeatedly warned that such a policy change is a major decision and shouldn’t be rushed. Eventually Molina offered a “substitute motion to the amendment to the original motion” to delay the vote on this policy change until the February Board Meeting so that Metro staff could study the impact on the Measure R delivery timeline.
The big winner of the vote wasn’t just Najarian and the “NO on 710″ coalition who won at least another two month delay before the environmental studies for the 710 Tunnel would begin; but also for Fasana, Molina and the other critics of Measure R who will have at least one more chance to question the transit tax along several different lines. How long after these studies reveal that most of the transit money will go towards the Westside will it take for other members of the Board to join Molina in a chorus of “it’s not fair,” even though the Westside, nor any part of the City of Los Angeles, is receiving any highway funds from the proposal?
The loser of the vote is everyone else that lives, works, or plays in Los Angeles County. The Board of Directors nearly voted to make a major change in its policy without a public hearing, public notice, or consulting with anyone outside of their insular circle of elected and appointed officials. Not only would it have been a clear violation of the Brown Act, it’s another reminder that the Metro Board of Directors, which started it’s meeting a mere 24 minutes after the announced start time, exists in its own world, insulated from the views of others.
After all, the Board was gung-ho to pass the motion before Leahy stepped in and warned them they had no idea what its actual impact would be. It’s not like they paused for a moment to consider that a major policy change, enacted with no notice or public input, would be a violation of state law.
Some highlights from the debate? After L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar complained he had no idea where the Tunnel Project would begin or end, Molina offered to draw him a map at her podium and promptly began doing just that. Later, Najarian went after some aspects of the Fasana/Molina motion until she stopped him pointing out that “I’m on your side! I agree with your motion!” Najarian immediately joked that “I take back all my criticism of the Supervisor’s position.” Molina is a long time backer of the 710 project.