Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian won the fight for what he said was his “future in local politics” Thursday, defeating a movement to unseat him from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority over his staunch opposition to a potential tunnel extending the Long Beach (710) Freeway.
In December, representatives from 10 San Gabriel Valley cities voted against Najarian's confirmation, after members from the North Cities sector, which includes Glendale and Burbank, had nominated him for another four-year term on the MTA Board of Directors.
Representatives from those cites have said that it was Najarian’s public opposition to the MTA’s efforts to close the so-called “710 gap” with a tunnel extension of the 710 Freeway from its terminus in Alhambra to the Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena.
This time around, however, Najarian managed to receive support from those cities — such as Alhambra and Duarte — that had been most vocal in blocking his nomination in the first place.
At the meeting Thursday night in Monterey Park, Barbara Messina, mayor of Alhambra, stood to address the room before the vote to explain that Najarian had softened his stance on the 710 project, which Alhambra has long supported.
“We did come to a meeting of the minds,” Messina said. “[Najarian] has indicated he is willing to look at the region as a whole, and this project is very important to the region.”
With only Lancaster and Palmdale voting “nay,” Najarian received 316 votes — easily clearing the 254 he needed for reelection at the City Selection Committee meeting.
Votes are apportioned to each of the 87 independent cities in Los Angeles County by population.
Najarian did tell the assembled mayors that, although he continues to oppose a tunnel, he has decided that the project’s environmental impact study should be allowed to run its course.
“It’s now we let the experts work to determine the impact [of the project],” Najarian said. “Neither of us is going to roll over, but at least we’ll have the facts.”
On the campaign trail for re-election to the Glendale City Council — which will have to be successful to keep his MTA seat — Najarian has frequently hammered on the 710 tunnel option.
The vote came after a contentious start that saw mayors Rex Parris of Lancaster and Tom Lackey of Palmdale attempt to submit a motion to send Najarian’s nomination back to a subcommittee for reconsideration — a move that generated a rousing chorus of boos from the audience.
Najarian has previously alleged that Palmdale, Lancaster and Santa Clarita were being pressured by county Supervisor Michael Antonovich to oppose his nomination — a claim that Antonovich has vehemently denied.
Santa Clarita did not send a representative to Thursday’s meeting.
-- Daniel Siegal, Times Community News