Saturday, August 8, 2015
La Cañada City Council questions ties to SVG-COG
Council weighs dropping out of regional group, citing its 710 stance.
By Sara Cardine, August 5, 2015
(Facebook comment on this article:
According to Barbara Messina, La Canada has "no horse in the race at all." Just proves she hasn't read the DEIR or examined the 2035 traffic predictions after a tunnel (single or dual) is built. By Metro, Caltrans and CH2MHill's own admissions, La Canada would be hammered by traffic!
I hope our city and its allies will evaluate their memberships in the SGVCOG carefully and continue to seek a different opportunity for affiliation with other cities.)
La Cañada City Council members questioned Tuesday the value of continuing the city’s membership in the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments in the wake of that group’s public support of a 710 Freeway tunnel, which the city opposes.
La Cañada Flintridge has been a member of the Council of Governments — a joint powers authority that assembles 31 cities and six area districts to plan and coordinate regional transportation issues — for the past 18 years and has benefited from several grants and programs to which members are entitled.
But in June, the SGV-COG voted 17-6 to publicly support plans for a 4.5-mile underground tunnel connecting the 710 Freeway’s end points, despite requests from La Cañada, Pasadena, South Pasadena and Sierra Madre that it refrain from weighing in on the matter.
“The belief of the four cities was that the COG should not take a position on a matter that has significant detrimental impacts to the various (member) communities,” City Manager Mark Alexander told the Council. “That issue … did cause some concern, at least among La Cañada Flintridge, about whether the San Gabriel Valley COG truly represented the interests of our city.”
The discussion on the table Tuesday was whether La Cañada should pay its annual $11,571 in membership dues for Fiscal Year 2015-16, or withdraw its membership altogether.
Alexander also posed the question of whether the council would be interested in instead seeking membership in the nearby San Fernando COG. Another option would be formalizing an existing relationship with the cities of Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena and South Pasadena, which already convene as the Arroyo Verdugo Subregion, into a new joint powers authority and possibly establishing an Arroyo Verdugo COG.
On the other hand, leaving San Gabriel group now would create for La Cañada an opportunity cost, as the city would no longer be eligible for supplemental benefits provided to its COG members, Alexander told the council.
Councilwoman Terry Walker, who currently represents the city in the San Gabriel Valley COG, supported the idea of the city discontinuing its membership in the regional group.
“I understand that we joined the COG so that we, since we’re a small city, can have a bigger voice on these larger regional issues. However, my experience with the COG was not only did we not have a bigger voice, we had no voice,” Walker said. “I really don’t see that, for the $11,000 we’re paying for membership dues, that we’re going to get $11,000 of support from the COG in the upcoming year.”
Although Walker’s fellow council members shared their dissatisfaction with the regional body’s support of a 710 Freeway tunnel and the apparent lack of voice smaller member cities seem to have, they expressed they were loath to lose the benefits of membership and their voice in a regional forum.
“I realize the impact and the statement we’d be making by discontinuing our membership. (But) as a small city, we’re reliant on larger organizations that help us have more of an impact,” said Councilman Mike Davitt. “My thought would be to stay and seek opportunities to figure out a new avenue, and then make the plan to get out.”
Ultimately, the council voted 4-1 to pay the city’s 2015-16 membership dues to the COG, instructing Alexander to actively pursue with officials in Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena and South Pasadena the formation of a new joint powers authority.
“I think it’s better to be on the inside, in case some other issue comes up, than to be on the outside,” said Mayor Dave Spence, who formerly represented the city on the Council of Governments and was its president for two years.
“I would agree to a 4 to 1 vote only if our city manager goes full steam ahead and makes an extremely aggressive effort to try to form the Arroyo Verdugo COG,” Spence added.
Asked Wednesday about whether it was appropriate for the SGV-COG to show its support for a 710 tunnel when some of its member cities were opposed to the project, Alhambra Vice Mayor Barbara Messina, a pro-tunnel advocate who represents her city on the panel, said solving congestion issues related to the freeway has always been a priority for the group.
“The 710 gap completion has been part of the COG’s main projects, which they’ve always been supportive of. It’s not just a San Gabriel Valley issue, it’s a regional issue,” said Messina, claiming that an underground tunnel wouldn’t negatively impact most of the antitunnel cities, especially La Cañada.
“They have, as far as I’m concerned, no horse in this race at all,” Messina added.