Mailbag: Wait for engineer input on 710 plan

Glendale News Press

An editorial in the May 23 edition of the Los Angeles Times discussed the controversy over extending the 710 Freeway from Alhambra to one of three freeways to the north, probably to the Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena.

The editorial stated that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority would meet to consider whether to approve a study of project alternatives. It indicated that a surface extension was essentially off the table due to insurmountable opposition from various quarters. It explained that, if the extension is to be done, a tunnel is the only viable option.

The News-Press has carried a number of stories about the opposition to an extension of the 710 Freeway by Mayor Ara Najarian ("Najarian fights 710 idea," May 27) and other Glendale City Council members. In their public comments they have based their opposition on the concerns of residents in the Crescenta Valley that the extension would cause an increase in truck traffic on the 210 Freeway.

I agree with the Los Angeles Times' characterization of the increased-traffic argument as being "a bit bizarre." The Times noted that completion of the freeway connection could not help but have an overall effect of reducing congestion and pollution in the Los Angeles Basin.

I don't understand the compelling interest that requires the city of Glendale to be involved in this dispute at this time. The tunnel may be impractical or too costly, but the sum of its effects on Glendale would seem likely to be positive rather than negative.

It would provide improved freeway access for Glendale residents having San Gabriel Valley destinations or having southerly destinations served by the 710 Freeway. While it would undoubtedly increase truck traffic on the 210 Freeway in north Glendale, a compensating reduction in truck traffic should occur on the more congested I-5 Freeway in south Glendale.

I can't imagine that anyone in a position of responsibility with regard to transportation issues would be against the project based on the potential increased usage of one of the least congested freeways in the L.A. Basin — the 210 Freeway in Crescenta Valley.

Najarian's passionate opposition must have more to do with concerns about cost and safety than congestion. Opposition grounded on these concerns is premature.

Sufficient information to make a judgment based on cost and safety is not yet available. As Glendale City Councilman Dave Weaver has contended in the past, the city should wait for the engineers and other technical experts to report on these issues before forming a hardened position on the 710-extension proposal.



Cooperation is best strategy for schools Today, we face dismal financial times — the worst fiscal crisis schools have faced since the Great Depression. Despite the great challenges facing us today, improving student achievement and maintaining a safe learning environment remain my main priorities for each of our 26,659 students from kindergarten through grade 12.

The consistent increases to health-care costs and rate hikes for utilities continue to strain our district.

For example, in 2005-06 our total utility cost was $4.2 million, and in 2009-10, we are at $5.35 million. That is an additional $1.15 million ongoing expense to our district.

We have already swept millions from other parts of the budget away from the classroom; unfortunately, we have come to a major crossroad in being able to avoid layoffs and distance the financial impact on some of our programs.

We continue to work harder and do more with less; we just can't sustain this indefinitely. We have to identify our most essential services and set priorities to protect them for student achievement.

Throughout the past five years, our Board of Education has cut more than 115 jobs in our district office. We will continue to consolidate more administrative jobs for next year to save another $1 million per year ongoing.

To date, we have currently removed 27 teachers from the original list of 105 teachers who received pink slips, and will continue to rescind notices as possibilities arise and as we wait for a ratified contract (to help save jobs).

We, as responsible trustees of our children's education, well-being and future, should not be intimidated by aggressive labor union tactics. The out-of-area union organizer that the teachers' union has brought in to organize marches on my residence ("Protest gets personal, May 27), and literally bring this labor dispute to my doorstep in front of my children, does not know our community.

My main responsibility is to be a protecting husband to my wife and as a parent to keep my children safe from harm's way and concern for their well-being should never be borne of my role as an elected public official.

There are still opportunities for our district to maintain student achievement, reduce class size and provide sustainability. We all have to adjust to the fact that our state and our country aren't as financially healthy as they have been. We must continue to look for creative approaches and put the collective needs of all of our students first, even if it means painful decisions.

The only way we can be successful is for the collective leadership of the school board, teachers and support staff all to work together.



Editor's note: Kirkorian is president of the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education.

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