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Glendale councilman appeals his removal from Metrolink board

July 19, 2012 |  6:32 pm

Letter from Najarian to Antonovich To his surprise and dismay, Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian has been replaced with Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Metrolink board of directors, where Najarian had served for six years.

In one of his first acts as the new chairman of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich removed Najarian last Friday, saying Ridley-Thomas was more closely aligned with his vision to create a regional transportation system that included rail links to local airports.

MTA board chairmen have the power to appoint three members of the Southern California Regional Rail Authority board, the governing body for the Metrolink commuter railroad that serves six counties. Palmdale City Councilman Tom Lackey will be Ridley-Thomas’ alternate.

“I was very surprised,” Najarian said. “I supported every motion that had to deal with his [Antonovich's] region of concern, the Antelope Valley. We were consistently voting with each other and I thought we had great cooperation in making the line safer and providing more service.” He was so stunned he wrote Antonovich this week, asking him to reconsider.

As an attorney, Najarian said he brought legal expertise to the Metrolink board and was able to handle many of the legal issues surrounding the Chatsworth crash in September 2008, when a Metrolink train hit head-on with a freight train and 25 people died.

Following the deadly accident, he said he worked to improve Metrolink’s management, purchase low emissions locomotives, add trains and boost safety, including the installation of positive train control, a sophisticated collision avoidance system.

“I took my position seriously. I was a productive member of the board,” Najarian said. “But  I was pulled off the board without any warning. I don’t know why he [Antonovich] did that.”

Though he is a member of the MTA board and the board of the construction authority that built the new Expo light rail line, Ridley-Thomas has no experience with heavy rail systems, such as Metrolink, and Metrolink does not serve any part of his supervisorial district.

Najarian pointed that out during a recent Glendale City Council meeting. “If you’re wondering how many miles of Metrolink rail are in Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’s district, that number is zero,” he said.

Tony Bell, a spokesman for Antonovich, said the supervisor selected Ridley-Thomas because he thought he would be a better partner developing a transportation network that serves many areas of the county. He added that Antonovich has prioritized the construction of rail links to local airports, such as Bob Hope in Burbank, LA/Ontario International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport.


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-- Dan Weikel