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Metro's Community Liaison Councils a Sham

Metro is touting their outreach efforts, but community members are feeling left out in the cold.

"What you're seeing on this project is just an unparalleled amount of outreach, moreso than I think we've done on any project ever before. In the old days of roadway projects and environmental documents, you would have a scoping meeting, so you would tell everyone that you're going to do scoping. You'd have two meetings, one in the day that public agencies would go to and then one in the evening that citizens would come to. Then the agencies would disappear, there would be no touch with people until you produced an environmental document. That draft environmental document, maybe several years later, would show up in libraries. Nowadays, it'd be online. You'd call people in, you'd have a couple days of public hearings, then you'd disappear again and people wouldn't hear from you until you had the final environmental document.

"In this case we've developed three different series of outreach that are available. We have our stakeholder outreach advisory committee that we're running policy and decision making through. We have technical advisory committee meetings, and we've actually scheduled community liaison council meetings to help us best understand how to best outreach to the community, make sure we're reaching out to all the groups."

Those are the words of Metro's Executive Director of Highway Projects, Doug Failing, speaking to KPCC's Airtalk on Tuesday morning.

, SR-710 opponents have pilloried Metro both online and in public meetings for what they consider to be insufficient communication regarding the potential highway extension.

member Janet Dodson has called Metro's outreach efforts "a sham." Peter Bedard, a local neighborhood watch captain, said during a community meeting on Monday night that Metro's community liaisons were "failing miserably."

During that same meeting, attendees demanded that their Community Liaison Council (CLC) members stand up and make themselves known. Not surprisingly, no one stood, probably for fear of reprisal from a large and increasingly angry audience.

On Tuesday, we asked Metro spokesperson Anne Killefer if she could provide us with the names of the CLC members, and were turned down.

"To protect the privacy of CLC members, I am unable to provide you with a list of their names or their contact information," Killefer wrote in an e-mail to Patch. "I’m sorry I cannot provide you with any more information at this time."

We recognize that Killefer is only following orders, but Metro's refusal to release the names of people who volunteered for the job of community liaison will surely solidify the opinions of those who have criticized the organization's lack of transparency.

The list of CLC responsibilities listed on the Metro website include:

  • Sharing updates with others
  • Providing feedback to the study team
  • Helping shape improvements proposed for the study area
  • Gathering feedback received from others in your community
  • Recommending outreach activities and making suggestions to enhance the public participation program

How can CLC members fulfill any of these responsibilities if they remain anonymous? Ideally, the CLC would provide community members a chance to give unvarnished feedback to their peers, which would then be relayed to Metro staff. Not everyone is comfortable communicating directly to government agencies, especially those with plans to build highways through their neighborhoods. 

Sam Burgess, a longtime freeway fighter from South Pasadena, said the reason the CLC has been so ineffective is that many of the volunteers who signed up for the job didn't even realize they had done so.

"How did we become members of the CLC? Easy. Upon arrival at a previous CLC meeting we provided our names and e-mail addresses on the sign-in page. Presto! We were your representatives--without knowing it! This now applies to all of you who signed in on the Metro sign-in sheet. You are now a CLC member and are responsible for notifing your community of all things Metro."

Burgess' comments reveals Metro's CLCs to be little more than a trumped up sham, an effort to disguise gathering names and e-mails as meaningful outreach.

It's unlikely that Metro will ever win over residents of Highland Park or South Pasadena, given the potentially devastating impact a freeway extension would have on homeowners. However, telling the truth might be a good place to start.

We think Metro needs to drop the CLC facade and stop holding community meetings like Monday's, where residents were provided little in the way of technical information about the SR-710 extension.

Instead, it's time that residents were provided access to the engineers and executives who are behind the freeway plans. It's time for Metro to stop touting its outreach efforts, and to start providing real answers.

Hector Huezo August 09, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Is that seriously how Metro's CLC process works? I'd like to see a fact check because Metro has an online sign up form to be a CLC member. WTF are they doing with the people that actually sign up? ( http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W6PSDST ) Otherwise, great article on these BS "kangaroo outreach meetings". The affected communities of Highland Park, South Pas, etc need real answers from metro and real responses (and a real stance) from elected officials.
Stella Meridian August 09, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Wow! Great reporting.
ChickenBoyFan August 09, 2012 at 11:04 PM
I have attended many Metro meetings. It was a disgraceful day when Metro hiked up the price of bus passes. The bus riders union came out in droves, many of them vets, elderly, and students. They had many impassioned pleas to not raise the price of the passes, citing case by case compelling financial hardships. Metro, almost unanimously, voted to hike up the price. It bothers me that the millions spent on Metro's bogus community outreach PR, could have prevented the price hike passed on to the bus riders. Way to spend those taxpayer dollars, Metro.
Charles Miller August 10, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Want to know who we thought the Metro CLC folks are? The company's name hiring them is Consensus, Inc. http://www.consensusinc.com/ Call them: Los Angeles 213.438.1755 Orange County 949.252.1755 E-mail them too: http://www.consensusinc.com/contact-us/ Its time to hold them accountable for their lousy PR BS on behalf of Metro.
frank van neutra lautner August 10, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Wow... This just keeps on getting more and more bizarre.
frank van neutra lautner August 10, 2012 at 12:39 AM
They change their name to Manufacturing Consensus Inc.
frank van neutra lautner August 10, 2012 at 12:40 AM
They should...
Shawn Richardson August 10, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Well Chickenboyfan, they had to figure out a way to pay for light rail and its massive per trip subsidy. They also cut a bunch of bus routes for that end.
rasputin August 10, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Thank you David for covering this story. Given the history of the 710 project, the intense interest of residents it would affect, and the devastating impact it would have on the communities of Highland Park, South Pasadena and Pasadena it is all but impossible to believe that the $4 million outreach consultants could not figure out a way to inform the community of its "informational" meetings. Then when people find out through word of mouth and show up en masse, the consultants and Metro provide no actual information - other than the claim that 15 or 30 or 70 people showed up at previous open houses and either "supported" the project or expressed "concerns" about aspects of the project. It could not be more clear that the outreach consultants agenda is to suppress and derail public participation, so the unnamed powers that be can steamroll this project through. And why, at an informational meeting for the lay public, would you use traffic engineering terms and acronyms, as if everyone in attendance knows what the hell you are talking about? It is beyond shameful.
Pasadena TH August 11, 2012 at 05:59 AM
I say that if Metro continues with these shady antics, we organize in front of Metro's office in Los Angeles. This is bogus and Metro officials should be embarrassed. Had this been the private sector, the disciplinary process would have already begun for the incompetent officials at Metro. Metro - give the community the information we are asking for. This is not 1960 - certainly the "thinkers" at Metro can be more creative and innovative with ways to get the semis across town to transport their goods.
Pasadena TH August 11, 2012 at 06:01 AM
Keep up the great reporting, David!
David Parsons August 11, 2012 at 06:28 AM
I don't know whether the MTA leadership are knowing liars or just incompetent clowns. Either way, not good.
frank van neutra lautner August 11, 2012 at 07:03 AM
MTA leaders are knowing liars or just incompetent clowns? The evidence I've seen indicate both.
Adrian Balboa August 13, 2012 at 12:32 AM
A No Build 710 extension: Hello, I am a Highland Park resident for the last 15 years, and I live on Ave 64. This is a nice small town community and building a freeway here would hurt the people. Plan and simple it would destroy our way of life here. This area is full of trees and parks. Children are out playing and to have a freeway go right through this little town is just wrong. It is not even for the regular every working men and women, it is just for trucks. Please help our community. Thank you, Adrian Balboa
ChickenBoyFan November 29, 2012 at 07:00 PM
@ Adrian. Just want to let you know that myself and a couple of other people whom attended the El Sereno community meeting,sponsored by Huizar, surrounded Doug Failing(the guy pictured above) after the meeting and he outspokenly admitted to us that the Ave 64 route was never a serious consideration. I asked him if he had pondered the amount of panic and terror his ruse had caused in our communities, and he, in typical sociopathic response mode, looked at me dismissively. But for the grace of God, Allah,Buddha...whatever, he woke up everyone in this area, shedding light on the facts surrounding METRO as an incompetent group of appointees, none of whom have much transportation experience. They have deals working with city contractors, and the most deceitful, Caltrans, whom continue to rip us off on a daily basis. Please feel free to call the State Auditor's office, at (916) 445-0255, and tell them to send you up to 5 copies of the state audit of Caltrans. Read it and you'll see the tip of the iceberg of grift. Get Doug Failing OUT! We deserve transportation experts, not appointees from the mayor, who has also been a failure.

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