To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cities vote to oust Metro Board Member Ara Najarian for 710 stance 


 By Lauren Gold Staff Writer
Updated:   12/07/2012 05:53:29 PM PST
  Longtime Long Beach (710) Freeway protester Ara Najarian could be ousted from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, after a committee of local city officials Thursday rejected a nomination to extend his tenure.

Najarian, whose term ends in January, was nominated to serve another term on the board by the 12 northern cities he represents, including Glendale and La Canada Flintridge. The Glendale city councilman is one of four Metro board members selected by the L.A. County City Selection Committee.

He said he was surprised by the vote, especially that a majority of the cities in the San Gabriel Valley rejected his nomination, including Claremont, Alhambra, Azusa and Monterey Park.

"It has almost always been just a rubber stamp because if the one group of cities says this is who we want to represent us on the MTA the city selection committee 99 percent of the time honors that," Najarian said.

Najarian has been outspoken in his opposition to the 710 N. Gap Closure that Metro is currently studying for environmental impacts. He has been especially opposed to the twin-bore underground freeway tunnel that is one of Metro's final five options to close the gap in the freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena.

"It brings to issue clearly what they are trying to do is silence an individual who believes that there is a better alternative to the 710 tunnel," Najarian said.

Najarian said he was especially upset by the vote against him from his fellow Metro Board Member John Fasana, mayor of Duarte, who he said spoke out against him before the vote took place.
"It's very crazy and just out of form, to have my own colleague at the MTA, with whom I really worked hard for that Gold Line, vote against me," Najarian said. "And for someone from Azusa or Claremont that is going to benefit directly from the Gold Line to vote against me is just wrong on so many levels."

Fasana said Najarian's adamant opposition to the 710 study is premature, and is hurting the San Gabriel Valley cities that would benefit from the freeway completion. The area Najarian represents, he added, has a smaller population than the San Gabriel Valley and other areas that support the 710 extension.

"His continuing opposition to the 710 freeway process, to allowing it to move forward even in terms of the environmental review is really a problem in terms of San Gabriel Valley cities," Fasana said. "The 710 has long been and remains to be a strong priority of the San Gabriel Valley cities and I think it was just felt that the continued opposition was putting the project at risk."

Alhambra Mayor Barbara Messina agreed that Najarian's stance and tactics on the long fought-over freeway are "not right," and that he should no longer be on the Metro board.

"I can accept somebody voting contrary to what I would like to see, I can respect their opinion, but when they take it to the degree that he has as a board member and constantly work to oppose the 710, I have a problem with that," Messina said. "To go to the degree that he has gone in opposing the 710 is just not right."

Messina added that she thinks Najarian has engaged in "back room politics" - which she declined to specify - regarding the 710, and that it was more than just the San Gabriel Valley cities that opposed his appointment to the Metro board Thursday night.

Najarian said many of the meetings attendees told him that Messina was discussing the vote with other committee members before the meeting began. He said he plans to challenge her actions as a possible violation of California's public meeting law.

Messina said during the two-hour holiday party before the 8 p.m. meeting, "we were talking about a lot of things."

Najarian said he still has support from the 12 northern cities he represents, and will fight to keep his board seat. He will retain his seat until he is replaced.

Continuing his fight against the 710 tunnel, he said he has proposed a resolution at Metro's Thursday meeting asking to stop the project until Metro staff reveals the "true cost" of the project.

Letter to Pasadena City Council from Weston DeWalt

Will Council member Madison rise to the occasion and openly challenge the legal opinion?

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Weston DeWalt <weston.dewalt@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Subject: Pasadena City Council Kicks the 710 Can Down the Road
Cc: "Bogaard, Bill" <bbogaard@cityofpasadena.net>, "Madison, Steve" <smadison@cityofpasadena.net>, "Gordo, Victor" <vgordo@cityofpasadena.net>, "Masuda, Gene" <gmasuda@cityofpasadena.net>, "McAustin, Margaret" <mmcaustin@cityofpasadena.net>, "Tornek, Terry" <ttornek@cityofpasadena.net>

In my email of December 4, I said:

Finally, it must be considered that the City Council might decide to kick the can down the road by arguing that the Measure A/710 extension issue is just too complex to allow a clear decision as to what action the City Council could take and will advise that a ballot measure is the only option available to those who want to challenge the proposed F-7 tunnel. The attorneys with whom I have spoken about the Measure A/710 extension issue have all said that taking such a position would be nothing but a dodge, an effort on the part of Councilmembers to avoid having to publicly declare their positions.

If you have seen the Agenda for the 10 December, you will see that the "kick the can" option has been chosen.http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/councilagendas/2012%20agendas/Dec_10_12/AR%201.pdf

As many of you will recall, Councilmember Madison has on a number of occasions said that he believes the passage of Measure A (2001) should not preclude the City Council from considering opposition to METRO's proposed F-7 tunnel. It seems, however, that the long promised outside opinion promotes a different view. As the author of that outside opinion - we've been told - is to be present on Monday evening, my hope is that Councilmember Madison will rise to the occasion and openly challenge that opinion, so that for our efforts we will at least see a spirited debate..

Surprisingly, I find myself more saddened than angered by the City Council's decision to avoid the taking of a vote on the F-7 tunnel. Despite my openly stated frustrations and suspicions about certain of the  Councilmember's  motivations, I thought that - when finally at the front of this conflict - the Councilmembers would find the courage to address the matter head on. 

My thanks to all of you for your efforts. Your spirited fight to preserve the neighborhoods and environment of Pasadena and surrounding communities is appreciated more than you know.


Pasadena's legal opinion on Measure A and the SR-710.


 Dear Neighbors ~
Before you read below, please let me put into context that Mr. Woocher is a lawyer.  He is not a judge, and has no legal bearing on this situation. 
I would like to know how much Mr. Woocher was paid for this  consultation, when the city already has an attorney who is already  paid for her opinions. 
Once again, I am sending the quote from our own attorney, Pasadena resident Howard Rosenblatt, as he quotes Supreme Court Justice Antonin  Scalia (Mr. Rosenblatt's legal research was given pro bono to the city) ~
"As stated by Justice Scalia in his concurring opinion in Green v. Bock Laundry Machine Co., 490 US 504, 528 (1989), the meaning of a statute should be determined by the meaning most in accord with its context and the meaning most likely to have been understood by, inter alia, the citizens subject to it (i.e. the voters).  Accordingly, to suggest that Section 1 of Measure A should be interpreted in any other fashion (i.e. that the voters favored a 710 completion policy regardless of which route it took ... is not only ludicrous, but is contrary to the context in which Measure A was presented [given that] ... at the time Measure A was presented and voted upon there existed only one [proposed] route through Pasadena for the 710 extension)."
~Carla Riggs
 SR-719 Environmental Studies, December 10, 2012
"The City has retained Fredric Woocher of the Strumwasser & Woocher law firm to provide legal advice regarding the issues involving Measure A and Mr. Woocher has assisted in the legal opinions expressed in this Agenda Report. Mr. Woocher has concluded that Measure A prohibits the City from taking a position against completion of all freeway proposals that would connect the 1-1 0 and 1-210 Freeways. However, Measure A does not limit City advocacy for or against alternative freeway routes other than between the 1-10 and 1-210 Freeways, as well as alternatives that do not involve construction of a "freeway," such as highway/arterial or transit alternatives."
 Read the report on the site below:

Pasadena Unified hires independent auditor to conduct billing probe 


 By James Figueroa, Staff Writer 

 Posted:   12/06/2012 06:48:02 PM PST
Updated:   12/06/2012 09:13:18 PM PST
  Pasadena Unified School District has hired an independent auditor to investigate improper billing practices related to its $350 million Measure TT capital improvement program.

The district has turned to Glendora-based Vicenti Lloyd Stutzman, spokesman Adam Wolfson said Thursday.

It's the same firm that Pasadena City College hired after two administrators were caught in a bribery probe by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office this summer.

PUSD placed facilities supervisor David Azcarraga and bond consultant Robin Brown on leave Wednesday, and terminated four Measure TT contracts.

District board members and administrators have declined to comment about details of the probe, calling it a personnel issue.

The D.A.'s Office is not involved in the PUSD investigation, and no criminal complaints have been filed.

Measure TT, passed by Pasadena voters in 2008, provided enough funding for renovation and construction projects and nearly 30 PUSD schools.

An independent auditor, Vavrinek Trine Day and Co., provides annual reports that are reviewed by a Citizens Oversight Committee, but no billing irregularities were uncovered in a fiscal 2011-12 review.

Larry Wilson: Going to school on construction bond rip-offs 


Updated:   12/06/2012 10:27:16 PM PST
 "SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall," Frost wrote, about a rocky barrier in New England that keeps on falling over.
Well, something there is among the members of the apparently boundlessly large graft community in Southern California that surely does love those who would build new walls in our schools.

If you read the headlines, you know that school construction bonds around here are seemingly built especially to spill out their proceeds to every mobbed-up con artist in the contracting business. Well, not just the contractors - to those on both sides of the financial equation.

Everyone gets a little vigorish except, that is, the students and the teachers and the parents and the taxpayers who are supposed to be enjoying the fruits of their money that was meant to go to our local campuses.

Pasadena Unified School District property owners will not-so-fondly recall the contractor charged with shoring up, to the tune of millions of dollars in fees, my Altadena alma mater, Arthur Amos Noyes Elementary School, hard on the edge of Eaton Canyon.

Designed in the 1950s by the influential school architect Boyd Georgi, who lived on a Loma Alta Drive bluff right above the campus, I suppose it did need a little shoring up by the time the 1997 bond measure known as Measure Y came along. That's why we the people voted for $240 million of our money to be invested in the schools in Altadena, Pasadena and Sierra Madre.

Problem was, Noyes-wise, that the contractors hired to do the work did very little of it before absconding with the money that had been fronted to them - hundreds of thousands of dollars - and flying off to Europe. I don't believe they were ever prosecuted.

Nor were some contractors suspected of taking the money and running in the matter of construction not performed at one of the district's oldest and neediest campuses, Washington, in the Northwest.

That's because record-keeping was so bad on the part of the district that it couldn't be shown what might have been ripped off and by whom.

As we reported in 2008: "Pasadena police Friday blamed shoddy bookkeeping and lack of oversight by the school district in administering the projects funded by Measure Y ... `Nobody was checking, nothing was being done,' Pasadena police detective Lt. John Dewar said. "There was no paper trail verifying work was being done. ... From the beginning of the investigation, police `found some serious issues with lack of control and oversight,' Dewar added. `There was no audit to check what was done,' he said. `The thieves got in and took the money."'

Even one of the suspects in the alleged failure to perform work at Washington said the accounting and the entire project was chaos: "Peterson said Wednesday he was the `13th project manager. Everybody else either went nuts or walked off the project,' which he described as `pandemonium."'

This week comes the news that a Pasadena Unified administrator and a consultant with a $312,000 "contract have been removed from their posts pending an investigation into improper billing practices by contractors on the $350 million Measure TT capital improvement program," as our Brian Charles and James Figueroa reported Thursday.

More: "PUSD Chief Facilities Officer David Azcarraga has been placed on paid administrative leave, and bond consultant Robin Brown's contract has been suspended."

The L.A. community colleges district was recently pummeled over its inability to stop money from walking out the door in the pockets of rip-off artists. PCC administrators in charge of building facilities are under investigation for financial shenanigans involving contractors making bids on school projects.

West Coasters always say that the Mafia-style graft associated with construction in New York and Boston doesn't happen here. It's outrageous that our schools, and we taxpayers, are what's proving that truism false.