County Committee: Dutra Appointment to Metro Board Not Ratified, Sandoval and Najarian Approved

Whittier City Councilmember Fernando Dutra - via Dutra website
Whittier City Councilmember Fernando Dutra - via Dutra website

Today, an obscure committee failed to approve Whittier City Councilmember Fernando Dutra’s appointment to the Metro board.

The L.A. County City Selection Committee manages the appointments of city officials to various county bodies – including Metro, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), and others. City Selection Committee meetings are infrequent and generally uncontentious. Often the drama there is whether enough people will show up so a quorum is present, allowing business to proceed.

The City Selection Committee consists of representatives – typically mayors – of the 80+ cities throughout L.A. County. Votes for Metro appointments are weighted; cities get one vote for every 10,000 residents.

On the agenda for today’s City Selection Committee meeting were approvals of the appointments of three Metro boardmembers: Whittier City Councilmember Fernando Dutra, Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian, and Pomona Mayor Tim Sandoval.

The committee did approve Najarian, the incumbent representative for North County/San Fernando Valley sector. Najarian has served on the Metro board for more than a decade.

The committee also approved Tim Sandoval, whose first Metro board meeting will be this Thursday. Sandoval replaces the retiring John Fasana of the city of Duarte. On January 6, Sandoval was unanimously approved by his San Gabriel Valley sector’s representatives.

In a somewhat unexpected twist, the overall City Selection Committee failed to ratify Fernando Dutra‘s appointment to the Metro board. Today Dutra received 243 votes out of 262 needed for ratification. This keeps the outgoing representative, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (who chose not to vie for re-election to the seat when his term ended), on the board indefinitely. The Southeast Long Beach sector (more or less the Gateway Cities) must reconvene to re-select their representative, whose appointment would come back to the full county City Selection Committee.

On January 6, Dutra prevailed in a two-person race to represent the Southeast Long Beach sector. There, Dutra received weighted votes totaling 87, while his opponent, city of Bell Mayor Ali Saleh, received 74.

Today, just prior to the Dutra ratification vote, city of Cudahy Vice Mayor Elizabeth Alcantar – an ally of Saleh – signaled her intent to vote ‘no’ and urged other city representatives to vote ‘no’ or abstain. Alcantar stressed the the Southeast Cities have been underrepresented and under-resourced. She pointed to the outsized role that Long Beach plays in selecting the Gateway representative. The Cudahy Vice Mayor later posted her remarks as a Twitter thread.

Several city representatives commented, with Whittier and Signal Hill expressing support for Dutra, and South Gate respectfully opposing. During the debate, Metro Boardmember Ara Najarian tried to play peacemaker, noting that he represents a broad range of cities from Malibu to Lancaster, and urging the “quote unquote Southeast Cities” to work together with rest of the Southeast sector. A Southeast Cities representative, apparently South Gate Mayor Maria Davila Bell Gardens Councilmember Lisseth Flores, corrected Najarian listing the names of her fellow Southeast Cities. For some non-SE Cities speakers, there did appear to be some confusion in the discussion between the overlapping entities; the Southeast Cities (including Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lynwood, and South Gate) are within the Gateway Cities Council of Governments (GCCOG) sub-region, which is within the Southeast Long Beach sector.

The Southeast Cities all voted ‘no’ to ratifying Dutra. They were joined by a handful of other cities. With a dozen cities abstaining and nearly two dozen city no-shows, though Dutra’s appointment received ‘yes’ votes from more than 30 cities, it failed to clear the threshold for ratification.

There were some confusing points in the vote. The city of Carson representative changed their vote from ‘no’ to ‘yes’ after the vote had concluded (upping Dutra’s total from 234 to 243.) The city of Montebello apparently had two representatives attending who both tried to vote. Mayor Kimberly Ann Cobos-Cawthorne voted ‘no,’ and Councilmember Angie Jimenez voted ‘yes.’ Ultimately the mayor’s vote was the one that counted.

It is unclear when the Southeast Long Beach sector will reconvene to select a new representative, which could well be re-selecting Dutra. In 2013, Najarian was returned to the board after being rejected by the overall City Selection Committee, then selected by his sector for a second time.

1/25 5:20 p.m. Article updated with correct name of speaker – Bell Gardens Councilmember Flores. 

SBLA San Gabriel Valley coverage, including this article and SGV Connect, is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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