Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Metro Board Report for October 2012

The October meeting of the Metro Board focused on Measure J, and the continuing rift between those members of the Board that are supporting same and those who are vocally opposed to it (even to the point of unfairly identifying as Metro Board members in the course of their opposition).

What Was And Wasn’t In The Measure J Legislation:  Regular readers of this report know that Measure J was authorized to be on the November 6 ballot because of AB 1446 (Feuer), which gave the Metro Board the ability to do so … just as the original Measure R was authorized in 2008 by a similar state bill.

The amendment by John Fasana that would allow for the easier transfer of highway project money to transit projects (and vice-versa) required AB 1446 to contain language allowing same, else Measure J conflict with state law. And what was supposed to be a “receive and file” on that language addition turned into a new debate on the process, led by Supervisor Don Knabe, one of the Board members who is opposed to the ballot measure.

Knabe expressed his concerns that AB 1446 was “manipulated” and claimed that the Board was never given the legislation’s amendment language before it was passed by the Legislature. He also thought the two-thirds’ vote of the Board required before any shift of funds would be changed to a simple majority; after County Counsel Charles Safer assured him it was not, Knabe quoted a section of the bill that turned out to be for a related, but otherwise separate provision. (Thank you, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, for knowing the difference between an “expenditure plan” and a “funding reallocation”.)

Metro Director of Government Relations Michael Turner managed to clear the whole matter up by pointing out that, since the Board created a new expenditure plan for Measure J – which did require only a simple majority vote – the Feuer bill had to be made consistent with the Board’s action.  That settled the matter, until …

Anyone Interested In A Nice Game Of Leapfrog?: The accelerated Measure J project timelines notwithstanding, Knabe believes that “connecting LAX directly to the Metro Green Line should be among our higher priorities.” At least, that is how the convoluted motion he presented to the Board begins.

At the heart of the motion is a Knabe proposal to complete the LAX/Airport Metro Connector Project (which used to be called the Green Line extension project) no later than 2020, even though Measure J already would accelerate the original timeline for that project by five years; Knabe’s motion, based on the original completion date of 2028, has as its only sentence punctuated by an exclamation point “… 16 years from now!”

The discussion began at the Executive Management Committee and spilled over to the main Board meeting a week later despite Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ call for “renewed prioritization” (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean) and his feeling that there is a “lack of motivation on prioritization” (again, whatever …). Supervisor and Board Chair Michael Antonovich claimed that the passage of Measure J wouldn’t matter, ignoring completely the aforementioned acceleration of the timeline. Antonovich then made a bizarre comparison of the LAX connector to a proposed expansion of the Pico Blue/Expo Line Station if the “Farmers Field” stadium project goes through, which I am still trying to figure out, two weeks after he made the comparison.

CEO Art Leahy suggested a joint meeting of the Board with the Federal Aviation Administration, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), and the Federal Transit Administration, but that was met with a call by Ridley-Thomas for a “repositioning of the project” and carrying the discussion to the full Board.

By that time, Mel Wilson started to predict mixed signals from the Board and LAWA and took a thinly veiled dig at Knabe by saying “some will not support Measure J, but then want this to be a priority.” That was enough for Yaroslavsky to attack the Knabe motion as reopening the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP): “We promised that no project would leapfrog. Which projects suffer?”

That led to a heated discussion of whether the Knabe motion would undo the project order defined in Measure R. Ara Najarian chimed in with his vision of a “fragile agreement on the LRTP unraveling” and Antonovich humorously suggesting that “we should let (Brad) Sherman and (Howard) Berman referee this argument.”* The best moment came when Richard Katz started to make a point, then decided after only a few words to remain neutral, saying “I should just shut up.”

In the end, the Knabe motion passed with its controversial provision deleted: While it calls for a detailed action plan including funding alternatives and formal arrangements with LAWA and local, state and federal partners to accelerate the schedule for funding and implementing the schedule (but with a timeline that complements the Crenshaw Corridor and South Bay Extension projects, scheduled for completion in 2018 and 2020, respectively, if Measure J passes) and for a specific approach to advocacy efforts with the relevant federal agencies, the paragraph calling for a detailed timeline and Board actions to accelerate the environmental review and amendments to the expenditure plan and the LRTP was removed by Knabe under pressure from Yaroslavsky.

The question now is what Knabe will attempt once the action plan is brought to the Board in a few months.

(*-The reference in Antonovich’s quip is to the October 11 debate between the candidates for the 30th Congressional District where Sherman put his arm around Berman’s shoulder and asked him “do you want to get into this?”)

Quote Of The Month: Katz, during discussion of the Measure J question about whether or not the funding reallocation amendment required a two-thirds vote or not: “Why don’t we just ask Fasana?” (John was present at the time of the discussion but for some reason was never asked the question.)

As is always the case during the holidays, the November Board meeting – which would fall on Thanksgiving if held on the usual “fourth Thursday” schedule – has been rescheduled to a December date. So there won’t be a new post here for about six weeks. (Please hold the cracks on how I sometimes go that long between posts even when the Board is on its regular schedule.)

Next Metro Board Committee Meetings: Wednesday and Thursday, November 14 and 15
Next Metro Board Meeting: Thursday, December 13

A note about identification of Directors in the report: Diane DuBois, John Fasana, Ara Najarian and Pam O’Connor are City Councilmembers from the cities of Lakewood, Duarte. Glendale and Santa Monica, respectively, and are elected to the Metro Board by the Los Angeles County City Selection Committee, per state law. Richard Katz and Mel Wilson are appointees of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as is José Huizar (one of the Mayor's appointments must be a member of the Los Angeles City Council). Only the five County Supervisors – Michael Antonovich, Don Knabe, Gloris Molina, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky – and the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles hold ex officio positions on the Board.