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Wants answers on 710 abstention

I am on the mayor’s ad hoc committee to promote safe driving in La Cañada. I have taken this commitment seriously and spent many hours in service promoting safe streets in our city.

Last year, at the mayor’s request, many of us on the committee expanded our involvement to include actions opposing the 710 Freeway tunnel project, which could have a potentially devastating effect on our local environment.

I was thrilled that on March 29, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council passed a resolution opposing the proposal to connect the 710 and the 210 freeways with an underground tunnel. The council correctly understands the negative impact this project will have on our community. The city has called on Metro, Caltrans and SCAG to “find other new, effective alternatives to these projects, including those alternatives using rail as the mode of transportation, which will truly solve the region’s congestion problems.” It appears there is a groundswell of community support for the city’s unanimous decision to publicly oppose the 710 Freeway extension.

At the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments meeting April 15, Councilman David Spence — who was supposed to be representing La Cañada Flintridge — abstained when the organization voted to endorse the project. Given that our City Council adopted an official position against the tunnel, it is hard to understand what the councilman had in mind when he abstained.

According to City Manager Mark Alexander’s e-mail response to another concerned citizen, “While Councilman Spence has taken a strong position in opposition to the 710 tunnel project and his position is well-known among the other elected officials who sit on the SGVCOG Board, Mr. Spence abstained from the vote in order to preserve his relationships and effectiveness among the board as it relates to other regional issues that he is dealing with. Given that Mr. Spence’s vote would have been the lone dissenting vote on the issue [due to Pasadena and South Pasadena’s absence], he felt it best to abstain while still articulating his disagreement over the project.”

I did not receive a response from Spence to my e-mail requesting an explanation for his abstention, and I am frankly hoping this forum will elicit one. In spite of “articulating his disagreement” in private to the board members, when all is said and done, clearly it is the vote that has impact, goes on the public record, and is reported in the media. We expect our elected officials to speak for us at just this sort of discussion, whether they are the “lone voice” or in the majority.

I would like to hear from Spence. What was gained by his “abstain” vote, and why did he misrepresent La Cañada’s position on this extremely important issue? — Anne Tryba, La Canada Flintridge.

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