Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian is in a fight for his seat on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority after failing to get appointed for another term — an outcome he claimed was orchestrated by officials upset by his opposition to a 710 Freeway extension through Pasadena.
Several representatives for San Gabriel Valley — who’ve been pushing to connect the 710 and 210 freeways — declined to support Najarian at a procedural vote last week of the City Selection Committee, a group of elected officials from cities throughout Los Angeles County that send nominations for confirmation to the MTA board.
Representatives from 10 cities in the San Gabriel Valley banded together to oppose Najarian’s confirmation, even though members of the North Cities sector, which includes Glendale and Burbank, had nominated him for another four-year term on the MTA.
Where he fell short was in votes that truly count — the ones that are weighted by each city’s population.
“It was orchestrated beforehand,” said Najarian, whose current term expires on Jan. 1. “They swung enough of the population vote against me that I didn’t reach the threshold that I needed.”
Najarian needed 2.5 million population votes — about half the number of residents in Los Angeles County, excluding the city of Los Angeles — to approve his nomination, but he received roughly 2.36 million votes.
Representatives from two key northern cities — Palmdale and Lancaster — did not attend the meeting because the vote is generally seen as a rubber-stamp procedure, Najarian said.
Committee members who opposed Najarian’s confirmation represent cities including San Marino, Alhambra, Baldwin Park and Glendora.
MTA member John Fasana, from Duarte, also voted against Najarian — a move that Najarian said has infuriated some other authority members.
Alhambra Mayor Barbara Messina on Tuesday acknowledged that Najarian’s ongoing opposition to the 710 tunnel was the reason she didn’t support him for another term.
She noted that the Southern California Assn. of Governments has agreed that the tunnel is the best way to reach air quality numbers required by the federal government and will help many area freeways run more smoothly.
“There is this missing piece,” she said, referring to the proposed connector between the 710 and 210.
Messina also said the tunnel is a regional issue, pointing out that several cities not located in the San Gabriel Valley — including Culver City, Signal Hill and Diamond Bar — did not vote for Najarian.
“It’s just ridiculous. It’s not just our community,” she said. “I can’t believe Mr. Najarian doesn’t understand that.”
For his part, Najarian said representatives from the North Cities sector are “outraged” because they feel the San Gabriel Valley shouldn’t “dictate who our MTA rep should or should not be.”
Najarian plans to seek a second nomination from the North Cities representatives and then go before the selection committee again, probably sometime in January. And this time, he’ll make sure representatives from Palmdale and Lancaster will be there for the vote.
Each of the cities has approximately 150,000 residents, so a second vote should push him over the top for population votes, Najarian said.
“I’m not going to let the seat go,” he said.
Follow Mark on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam.