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Ron Kaye: Democracy wins a round

March 09, 2013|By Ron Kaye

The setting was beautiful: a hill high above the intersection of the Santa Monica (10) and Long Beach (710) freeways, with panoramic views of downtown L.A. and much of the San Gabriel Valley, even on this dark and misty Thursday night.

But the scene inside the banquet room at Luminarias, the landmark restaurant in Monterey Park, was ugly — dozens of conspirators were set to finish the job they had started back in December when they launched a sneak attack on the reappointment of Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board.

The Cities Selection Committee, the governmental body that represents the 87 cities in the county that are not Los Angeles, had never before denied approval of any nominee from its four sectors to any agency — an action that left the nomination in limbo.

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This is how I started my report on what led up to that dramatic moment:

“Things have come to a pretty pass when we would rather cannibalize each other than respect each other, would rather vilify our opponents than work out some kind of deal that balances our competing interests and values.”

Now the cannibals were ready to devour their prey.

The moment the Najarian appointment came up, an official from Palmdale in the back of the room shouted: “Chair, with all due respect on behalf of Mayor Jim Ledford … I would like to offer a substitute motion and refer this item back to the North County sector for further discussion.”

So began 40 minutes of cheers and jeers, anger and intrigue, parliamentary games and procedural flip-flops.

Here was a roomful of public officials representing 5 million people acting at times like democracy was an alien idea.

When the chair considered taking up the delay motion, Glendale Mayor Frank Quintero got sustained applause when he asked, “Don't we have bylaws?”

When he won his point, the delegate from Rosemead appealed the chair's reversal and Lancaster City Manager Mark Bozigian demanded to know, “What's wrong with sending it back to us so we can take another look at it?”

That set off a minute of boos and hoots and a shouts that he “should sit down,” since he is not an official delegate.

“I'll stand up as long as it takes,” he responded.

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