DOWNTOWN — A spokesman for the governor’s office on Thursday said there were no plans to reconsider the removal of former Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian from a powerful transportation commission.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on May 21 dropped Zarian after the former chairman of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted against a plan to allow private companies a larger stake in a Northern California freeway construction project.
Zarian, a Republican, served more than four years on the California Transportation Commission. His confirmation to a second four-year term was pending in the state Senate, and a deadline on his term is up next month.
He found himself on the losing end of a 6-5 vote May 20 that allowed private funding in a billion-dollar project to renovate Doyle Drive, a San Francisco freeway leading to the Golden Gate Bridge. The commission’s staff recommended rejecting the proposal.
Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said Zarian’s vote was not aligned with the state’s direction for private investment and infrastructure projects.
“We appreciate his service, but we need people on that commission who are in line with the rest of the state,” McLear said.
Since the governor’s decision, Zarian has kept a low profile, saying he preferred to keep it from becoming a public issue.
“I vote for what’s best for the people of California,” he said Thursday. I have to vote my conscience rather than the way people want me to vote.”
An advocate for the region, Zarian was appointed to the 11-member panel by Schwarzenegger in April 2006. The commissioners allocate funding for all highway, rail and mass transit improvements throughout the state.
A four-time mayor, Zarian also held posts on the Metrolink board and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Authority. Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird called the governor’s decision a tremendous loss for Glendale, for the region and for the Commission.
“Plain and simple, Larry Zarian is a very effective commissioner — he’s fair, he’s balanced, he acts with integrity, he does his homework, and he is effective in his relationships with the staff and the other commissioners,” Starbird said. “In other words, he is everything one would want in a commissioner.”
Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, who serves as chairman of the MTA Board of Directors, was collecting letters urging the governor to reconsider.
Zarian was critical in extending carpool lanes on the Interstate 5 as well as smoothing over state reimbursement issues for the massive Fairmont Avenue flyover bridge, officials have said.
“I really don’t think we could have gotten the funding for those projects without Larry,” Najarian said.