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Ron Kaye: The most ruthless game

July 14, 2012

Here's a challenge for all you NIMBYers, naysayers, malcontents, apathetics and ignoramuses to contemplate: Put yourself in the shoes of an elected official trying to do what's best when the power brokers have given you the choice of getting nothing for your community or going along for the ride and maybe getting something.

The easy response is that you would tell the crooks and liars, the special interests and the greed merchants, to go to hell. I know I would, but who would vote for me?

It ain't that easy in the real world.

Just ask Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian, a veteran on the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metrolink, and chairman of the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments — roles that make him the guardian of the transportation interests of the region's 2 million people.

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Najarian faced a dilemma last month when the downtown L.A. power brokers were steamrolling all opposition to get the MTA board to put on the November ballot an extension of the 2008 Measure R 0.5% sales tax for another 30 years so all the prospective revenue through 2069 can be borrowed against and spent now.

The problem is that this region from Glendale through the San Fernando Valley to Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley — with nearly 20% of the county's population — will get just 5% of the more than $80 billion that Measure R and Son of Measure R will generate.

For Burbank and Glendale, in particular, it means all that money will provide little more than some long-needed fixes to the Golden State (5) Freeway.

“It's clear the valley was not getting its ‘fair share,' that we're putting in a lot more than we're getting back, compared to other regions like the Westside and downtown,” Najarian said last week after moderating a forum that brought warring county Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mike Antonovich together to debate the pros and cons of the transportation tax proposal.

“I faced making a decision: ‘Do you want to support an extension on this tax that will make commuting in the county better, but that will not give you in your region — the tri-cities and the valley — much to show?' It was a tough call.”

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