Whittier City Councilmember Fernando Dutra Elected to Metro Board, Again

Bell Mayor Ali Saleh steps back as competing nominee, clearing path for Dutra's approval

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

This morning, leaders from Southeast Los Angeles cities – known as the Gateway Cities sub-region – elected Fernando Dutra for the second time to the Metro board of directors. This time, Dutra was approved unanimously, after Bell Mayor Ali Saleh, the sole competitor for the seat, decided to not to run for the nomination, clearing a path for Dutra’s approval.

Dutra’s nomination will now return to the countywide committee for ratification.

Today’s meeting was a second attempt to nominate a Metro board representative to the Gateway Cities sub-region – technically called the Southeast Long Beach sector. On January 6, the leadership of the Gateway Cities elected Dutra to the Metro board of directors. But on January 26, Dutra failed to get countywide approval from the L.A. County City Selection Committee, after elected officials from Southeast Cities pushed other committee members to vote against ratification of the sector’s decision.

“Metro is making a lot of decisions that will impact all our constituents’ quality of life for the foreseeable future and we need to make sure that our region has a voice that will advocate for all our needs irrespective of our population size or socio-economic status,” said Saleh at the meeting. “We need somebody that is really going to focus on our cities and I’m proud of the southeast for sticking together”

Each sector of the county meets and votes using a weighted vote system where cities get one vote per 10,000 population. Once a sector selects its Metro board representative, the full countywide City Selection Committee needs to ratify the sector’s selection.

While the path was cleared for Dutra’s nomination, multiple city officials spoke during the public comment about the need to center the Southeast Cities and communities that have been underrepresented. “This frustration is warranted, and I think it came to a boiling point,” said Cudahy Vice Mayor Elizabeth Alcantar about the pushback by Southeast Cities. “That’s why we’re here today, to emphasize equity, emphasize communities that have historically been underrepresented, under resourced, underfunded.”

City of Commerce Mayor Pro Tem Oralia Rebollo said that Southeast Los Angeles Cities have often been ignored, even among officials who have served only recently to those who have served for multiple years. “We are tired of it and we need a voice and we need a place at the table.”

Since 2012, Dutra has served on the Whittier City Council, having been most recently re-elected in 2018. Dutra has served on the city’s planning commission from 2006 to 2012, chaired the Metro Eastside Gold Line Extension project Washington Boulevard Coalition, and sits on the Whittier YMCA board of directors. Read Streetsblog’s recent extended interview with Dutra.

After the vote, Dutra said he intends to work with the Southeast Cities representatives and that their concerns will be reflected in his board appointment. “Those that were initially concerned about my dedication and my focus, please don’t be.” Dutra said. “You have my commitment that I will be there until we get things that we need and get get things that we deserve.”

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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