The La Cañada City Council decided to follow its own lead Tuesday in deciding who it will nominate to positions on a new Stakeholder Advisory Committee being organized by the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The committee is being organized as the MTA seeks input for an environmental impact report on the 710 Freeway extension project.
The City Council, which has long taken a firm stance against the tunnel project, voted unanimously on Monday night to allow the city’s ad hoc 710 subcommittee’s members to nominate whomever they want to serve on the new panel, regardless of Metro’s direction.
The committee is supposed to be comprised of members of planning commissions, town councils and L.A. County Dept. of Public Works employees, according to a letter from the MTA.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Del Guercio, who, along with fellow Councilman Donald Voss comprises the city’s 710 subcommittee, said that Metro was out of line to proscribe elected officials from participating in the new stakeholder committee.
“I don’t think it can be restricted to say we can’t send whoever we want,” Del Guercio said. “It is absolutely inconsistent now to say town council members can participate, but La Cañada elected officials can’t.”
The council should unite to “call [Metro’s] bluff. We should be able to send whoever we want. We should be irritated by their arrogance again,” he added.
Del Guercio said he is worried that the Stakeholder Outreach Committee was being set up only to placate the cities affected by the 710 project without giving them real input.
“We have to look at what has gone on throughout the process and see if this is basically propaganda to make it look like there was broad input and support when there wasn’t,” he said.
Metro’s Stakeholder Outreach Advisory Committee will be a counterpart to the already-established Technical Advisory Committee, and will be further complemented by community liaison committees.
Metro spokesperson Lynda Bybee said that the advisory committee was formed as a result of a motion passed by the Metro board. She said there was no intention to prevent elected officials from having input in the environmental impact study process as it enters its alternatives analysis phase.
“I think the intent was to have an opportunity to have those who are involved in the civic process be involved in the committee,” she said. “Obviously there are other roles elected officials will play as the process goes on.”
Bybee said that the Stakeholder Outreach Committee was meant to be at the nexus of the process, getting input from all of the other various committees.
“They’re sort of the repository of all the major activities that are taking place, and they may have recommendations they make to us about specific technical areas that they’re interested in,” she said.
As for getting the input of elected officials, Bybee said that cities, by choosing their representatives, would have a say in what happens.
“We would expect the elected officials in these jurisdictions to channel [their input] to their representatives,” she said.
Jan SooHoo, who represents La Cañada on the No 710 Action Committee, said she thought the city is as proactive as possible in the fight to stop the tunnel from being built.
“They’re working very hard, they are keeping in touch with everything that’s going on, they’re taking every opportunity to provide input to Metro, they’re appointing whenever there’s an opening,” she said. “They’re right there.”
SooHoo said she questioned Metro’s decision to ask for Planning Commissioners and staffers to join the outreach committee.
“Planners don’t know what’s going on with the project, so I question the value of these committees as they’re currently defined,” she said. “I think a lot of it is for appearance sake, honestly.”