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

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Newton: An MTA power play

L.A. Supervisor Mike Antonovich and others would like to oust a fellow board member.

By Jim Newton, February 18, 2013


Michael D. Antonovich 

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, joined by representatives of a few local officials in the San Gabriel Valley and elsewhere, are attempting to oust Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian from his MTA seat. Above: Antonovich in 2010.

The transportation future of this region rests, in no small measure, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. And that body's board is about to change.

In part, that is because Los Angeles will be getting a new mayor. That mayor will sit on the MTA board and appoint three other members, giving him or her a sizable voice in directing money and identifying projects, from subways to freeways. Indeed, outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa may be best remembered for his contributions to the area's transportation network and innovative attempts to pay for it.

But even as the mayor's race plays out in full public view, a behind-the-scenes political fight is being
waged that could bring further change to the MTA board. Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, joined by representatives of a few local officials in the San Gabriel Valley and elsewhere, are attempting to oust Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian from his MTA seat — which some see as punishment and others as a power grab.

"My future career in transportation, my future in local politics, really, could come down to this," Najarian told me last week. Najarian believes Antonovich is angry over Najarian's support for a half-cent sales tax for transportation; the supervisor already removed Najarian from the Metrolink board.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a Najarian ally, sees even deeper motives at work. "This," he said, "is an effort to knock off one of the consensus-builders of the board and take control."

To understand the controversy, it's important first to understand how the MTA is governed. In addition to the mayor's four seats, each of the county's five supervisors has a seat on the board. The four remaining spots are allocated by region, with local officials in the region selecting a nominee, who is then confirmed by the countywide League of Cities, which includes elected leaders from each of the county's 87 cities (other than Los Angeles). Najarian has the so-called North seat, which represents the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

Najarian was unanimously nominated last year by his region to continue representing the area. He arrived at a December meeting of the full league confident that the ratification would be, as it had always been, a pro-forma vote.

That's not the way it played out. Duarte Councilman John Fasana, who also sits on the MTA board, rose to oppose Najarian's continued service, arguing that Najarian's opposition to the extension of the 710 Freeway rendered him unfit to continue. He and others urged the full committee to oppose Najarian's reappointment.

"He was in opposition to a project that's very important to San Gabriel Valley cities," Fasana told me last week. Fasana acknowledged that the parliamentary move was unusual — never before in the history of the MTA board has the full league failed to confirm a regional nominee. But Fasana argued that board members have a "dual responsibility" to represent their region while also looking out for the larger interests of the county. Najarian, he said, had failed that test.

Fasana and his allies were successful enough at that meeting to deny Najarian the majority he needed to win reappointment, but because there was no other candidate to consider, the matter was shelved until March 7. Najarian is trying to line up votes for that crucial meeting; if he wins, he then needs to get over one more hurdle: his reelection to his council seat in April.

So where does Antonovich come in? Although he doesn't vote in the League of Cities confirmation process, he has been working behind the scenes to engineer Najarian's ouster. Through an aide, Antonovich denied that he was punishing the Glendale councilman for his position on the 710 Freeway or the sales tax but said he regards Najarian as divisive and unwilling to resist the influence of the city of Los Angeles. Asked whether Antonovich was encouraging elected officials to vote against Najarian, his aide responded in an email, saying the supervisor "has been forthright with everyone interested" about the need for a strong board member who would look out for the North County cities. In other words: Yes.

Najarian sees Antonovich's hand at work in the campaign against him too. "It's his backyard," the councilman said. "He's the supervisor. Nobody wants to run afoul of him."

That's hardball, and there's a lot at stake. The MTA is closely divided, so one vote often matters. More important, Yaroslavsky notes that Najarian helped secure passage of the MTA's long-term plan, which tries to divvy up scarce resources by spreading them across the region. Bouncing him out, Yaroslavsky says, would signal a move away from that plan and back to a continuing battle over money.

"If the region doesn't have a collaborative approach … it's going to be civil war," he said. "The real question is: Who controls the MTA board?"

Two upcoming elections — Najarian's and that of Los Angeles mayor — will supply the answer.

In L.A.'s mayoral race, battleground areas have common concerns

Residents of the Westside, West Valley and Wilmington say they want the next mayor to improve their daily lives. Topics include traffic, potholes, safety, schools, small businesses and clean air.



February 16, 2013

With the Los Angeles mayoral primary just over two weeks away, candidates are fine-tuning their appeals to diverse groups across the city's vast expanse of neighborhoods.
On the Westside, longtime city officials Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel and Jan Perry are vying for dominance among affluent liberals and moderates.

Along the northern and western rims of the San Fernando Valley, moderates and conservatives are key targets for Greuel, the city controller who represented parts of the area when she was on the City Council; Republican Kevin James, a former radio talk-show host; and Perry, a downtown councilwoman presenting herself as a business-friendly budget hawk.

Garcetti, who has Mexican roots, is trying to woo voters in heavily Latino communities including Wilmington. Perry also is looking to Latinos to expand her base of support, which is strong among African Americans, and Greuel hopes to capitalize on endorsements from prominent Latino elected officials. Former tech executive Emanuel Pleitez also is appealing to Latinos, particularly in what he calls underserved communities.

Visits to three mayoral battlegrounds found common complaints and big expectations. In shops and along sidewalks, dozens of interviews underscored the challenges facing the candidates. They also were a reminder that voters often measure progress by the simple metrics of daily life: how long it takes to drive to a friend's house, whether their small business is making it and whether their neighborhoods feel clean and safe.


Nothing sparks the passion of residents here quite like the daily clog of traffic in the prosperous neighborhoods straddling the 405, one of America's most congested freeways.

"If you don't get out of your house and do your errands before 3 o'clock, it takes you about 40 minutes to go one mile," said Karen Murphy, a Brentwood art dealer and 19-year resident of the area.
From the Pacific Palisades to the Los Angeles International Airport and Beverly Hills to Venice Beach, residents griped about crime, bumpy roads and unsatisfactory public schools.

But demands for traffic relief reverberated the loudest. Advertising art director Joanna Bennink of Brentwood hopes the next mayor will expand public transit with the vigor of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has made train line extensions to the Westside a hallmark of his tenure.

Increasingly dense Westside development has been exacerbating traffic congestion for decades. Nearly 123,000 vehicles crossed the Westwood intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue on a typical Wednesday in 2009, making it one of the busiest corners in Los Angeles, according to the city's most recent data. In Venice, 75,000 cars and trucks passed the intersection of Lincoln and Washington boulevards. Outside a nearby Whole Foods, Lisa Ench, an executive assistant at a perfume company, described public transportation in L.A. as "horrible."

On one Red Line subway trip "there was a crack pipe at my feet," she said. Loading groceries and bouquets of flowers into her hatchback, Ench, 25, said using that vehicle was her better option: "I treat my car almost as a big purse. You can bring everything with you."

In Westwood, Bob Halavi, 49, stopped outside a public library and shared his pet peeve: what he called the city's "Mickey Mouse patching" of cracked pavement on his winding Bel-Air street. "It's shameful that our streets are like a Third World country," said Halavi, a developer. Complaints to the city yield nothing, he said.

"Our houses are in the higher end of the city's values, and yet when it comes time to achieving some service in exchange for the property taxes that we pay, we kept getting this excuse that the city does not have the money," he said.

West Valley

Day after day, Paula Cracium dodges a large pothole on Rinaldi Street in Chatsworth on her way to work as a church development director. The city did a quick patch job after she reported it, but the pothole soon returned — and grew.

That reflects a larger, enduring problem to Cracium: City Hall is too downtown-centric, treating the Valley less seriously than it should.

The sentiment lingers, a decade after the Valley tried unsuccessfully to secede from the city.
Cracium, for one, wants less money spent on City Council members' "pet projects," and more devoted to core services such as roads, libraries and public safety.
"Bike lanes and pocket parks are important, but do we need to do them now?" she said.

Sherman Oaks contractor Louis Krokover, whose family has built homes for three generations, echoed the theme that downtown elected officials are too detached: "Will the new mayor take sessions in Van Nuys City Hall? Will the new mayor give the neighborhood councils a little more teeth and claws? That's what we're looking for."

Several West Valley voters expressed skepticism about the city's management of its finances and a March 5 ballot measure that would increase the city sales tax half a cent, to 9.5%, one of the highest in the state.

Jill Barad, a Sherman Oaks fundraising consultant, said she feared the money would go to rising labor costs rather than improving the quality of life in neighborhoods by fixing buckled sidewalks or trimming overgrown trees. "Can't those things be fixed?" Barad said. "Why should we give them more money?"

At a Chatsworth strip mall, Mark Avila of West Hills, who co-owns a small print shop, voiced a common grievance as he stuffed a basket of freshly laundered clothing into the back seat of an old Toyota. He wants the city's next elected chief executive to concentrate on boosting business and economic activity rather than "catering to interest groups" at City Hall.

"If we get our businesses going, everyone will prosper,'' he said. "That will take work ethic and character. I'm looking for that candidate."


At a recent community meeting in Wilmington, a blue-collar, heavily Latino neighborhood north of the Los Angeles harbor, a police officer was updating residents on recent shootings in the area. There had been three in the previous days, she said, including one homicide.
And what about the shooting this morning at 8 o'clock?" a woman in the audience asked.

The officer paused, then acknowledged: "Yes, there were a couple."

Gang violence remains a distressing part of life in Wilmington even though, as the LAPD officer reminded her audience, "violent crime is at its lowest rate in 10 years."

Residents, who last year pressured police to assign more officers to the area after a slew of shootings, say they welcome the drop in crime and other recent city improvements to the community. Several said they hope the next mayor will continue to pursue Villaraigosa's public safety and environmental policies.

Villaraigosa is popular with long-timers like Mona Martinez, 50, who was raised in a family of longshoremen. She credits the mayor with helping to end a December dock strike and his efforts to require lower-emission trucks at the port. "You can see it," she said of the cleaner air. "You can definitely feel it."

But on Avalon Boulevard in the heart of Wilmington, Ignacio Ortiz, 41, said the neighborhood needs a lot of work. He and his wife, Alma, opened Hojas Tea House and Cafe last year, but the prolonged permitting process was "a headache," he said.

They hope to expand the business but might open their next shop beyond the city limits. Neighboring cities have made their commercial streets more alluring, he said: "You come into Wilmington and you've got junkyards and container yards."

Lupe Lopez, 37, who until recently was Wilmington's honorary mayor, wants a close examination of the social, health and economic causes of the area's violence. "What are the gaps?" she said. Schools have improved under Villaraigosa, she said, but more must be done to increase graduation rates and involve parents.

At local campuses, she said, "I would like to see our next mayor come and do some real shaking and rattling."
U.S. DOT’s First-Ever Freight Plan May Include 3,000 New Highway Miles


By Angie Schmitt, February 15, 2013 

It’s hard to believe, but, despite the fact that freight makes up 25 percent of all transportation emissions, the nation has never had a strategic plan for how to move goods.
Will the trucking industry dominate the nation's first ever national freight planning process? 

Under the MAP-21 transportation bill, however, those days are history. Outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on his blog yesterday that U.S. DOT will establish a national freight policy and a National Freight Advisory Committee.

As part of the plan, unfortunately, LaHood floated the idea of adding thousands of miles of highways to the interstate system.

He detailed the woes of truck drivers who struggle with congestion, and instead of recommending a switch to a more multi-modal system, said U.S. DOT would look to road-building as the answer.

“So we’ll chart a primary network of up to 27,000 miles of existing interstates and other roads,” LaHood wrote. “And we’ll consider adding as many as 3,000 more miles in the future if that’s what it takes to help our truckers deliver the goods.”

LaHood was careful to explain that planning would also include freight that moves over rail and waterways.

The fact that 3,000 new miles of interstate are now on the table makes it more important than ever that the new National Freight Advisory Committee represent multi-modal interests, not just trucking. U.S. DOT is seeking nominations for the committee now.

LaHood hinted that that was the intention: “By engaging stakeholders representing diverse interests — from safety and the environment to labor and industry — the Advisory Committee will provide recommendations on how DOT can improve its freight transportation policies and programs,” he wrote.
Pasadena Star News: No PUSD Vote In Sierra Madre? No Worries!


February 17, 2013

 (Mod: This is the first time an opinion piece of mine has made it to the Sunday editions of the Pasadena Star News, SGV Tribune and Whittier Daily News. Significant as the combined readership of these 3 papers jumps to around 320,000, making it the most widely read post in my storied muckraking career.) 

We here in Sierra Madre have begun to call it "this month's crime of the century." It isn't exactly the noisiest crime of the century since most people wouldn't vote in a Board of Education election even if you held a fully loaded howitzer to their heads, though there are those here who do actually care.

Under the too closely parsed legalities of Measure A, an initiative that passed everywhere in the Pasadena Unified School District except Sierra Madre last spring, only chosen special portions of the district will be allowed to elect new subdistrict representatives next month. Sierra Madre, along with certain other fragmented areas, having been booted off the Board of Ed until a later election in 2015. During this period our city will have no meaningful representation, with the dubious exception of a seventh of Tom Selinske. Or, even worse, perhaps an appointed Chris Chahinian.

That this will occur at so delicate a moment as when all of the remaining $240 million dollars in Measure TT school bond money is to be divvied up is troublesome. An effort in school rehabilitation spending that will be completed over the next two years by a new majority of Board of Ed representatives beholden only to their brand new subdistricts. District-wide Board of Education members, who theoretically cared about all of God's little PUSD children, going the way of the dodo.

But there is one option open to us. While we have somehow been proscribed from voting in the March election, or even an April runoff, no law has been passed so far by the PUSD that prevents us from talking trash about those running in the chosen districts. Candidates who, should they be elected, will likely treat our little voteless town like an unwanted stepchild.

Take the case of District 3 candidate Ruben Hueso. Ruben is very proud of his association with the Boy Scouts of America, so much so that he put a picture of himself on his very first campaign postcard dressed up in Scout leader regalia. Ruben also included a photo of Boy Scouts under his care saluting the flag in a classroom. Politically pleasing I suppose, but in direct violation of the Law of the Pack. The Boy Scout brass was not amused.

Also in District 3 is a youthful candidate named Tyrone Hampton. Tyrone is the only registered Republican running in this district, one where GOP'ers are as rare as residents who vote in Board of Education elections. He recently won the endorsement of the California School Employee Association, which is a union. Being politically ambitious, Tyrone showed up a few days later at the Green Street headquarters of TeaPac, proclaiming that he deserved their help because he is a Republican. Few politicians have the chutzpah to accept the endorsement of a teacher's union, and then go looking for something similar from TeaPac.

Our favorite is District 7 Board of Ed candidate Luis Ayala. Luis had presented the voters with a resume' that claimed a two year period of his legal career for "private practice." Something that came a-cropper when it was discovered he had instead spent that time in the employ of ICE, an organization that is not exactly beloved by recent arrivals to America.

Luis, it turns out, also sent his children to private school. The reason he gave, that the Linda Vista School had closed before his kids could enroll, was also discovered to be false. Luis closed escrow on his home in 2004, while the school in question wasn't shuttered until 2006.

Lots of fun, I suppose. But no substitute for having candidates of our own to kick around. Maybe next time they'll think of including us.