Leon Worden

Frank & Frank and the Flower-Loving Fly

By Leon Worden
Wednesday, March 3, 1999

ill Klajic is right: Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts would make a fine addition to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board. As Lancaster's first elected mayor — the city switched to an elected mayor in 1996 — Roberts has proven himself a consensus builder who can think regionally in a valley where myopic viewpoints tend to dominate the politics of two neighboring and often warring cities.

Klajic, through her letter to other MTA member cities, has successfully submarined any chance the city of Santa Clarita may have had to place one of its own on the MTA board. Other cities in the north county have said they will not vote for Councilwoman Jan Heidt, Klajic's nominee of choice, and while several of them had expressed tacit approval of Councilman Frank Ferry, Klajic's broadcasting of our City Council's immaturity and inability to work together has not only made it the laughingstock of the county, it has also squelched any chance Ferry and this city may have had.

If the Santa Clarita City Council had been united in its support for Ferry, Frank Roberts probably would not have sought the post.

Other cities having voted, the ball was essentially in Glendale's court. Last week the Glendale City Council voted to endorse Roberts over Ferry, giving Roberts the go-ahead run for the MTA title.

And that's OK.

As Klajic has said, Roberts will think beyond his own valley and fight for road money for the whole north county.

And besides.

He's family.

Frank Roberts is my mother's late husband's cousin. (Boy, if that isn't fodder for Count Sauguslavsky, I don't know what is.)

Klajic has long suspected my mom of being a stooge for Newhall Land and Farming; now, I suppose, if Newhall Land wants some MTA road money thrown its way, all it will need to do is give my mom a wink. If Klajic's right about my mom, this gives them an "in."

Knowing that, how long do you suppose it will take Klajic to turn her back on Frank Roberts? My guess is, she'll have done a 180 by the time you get to the end of this column.

* * *

File this one wherever you filed the desert rats that got plowed over by a tractor.

It seems the county of San Bernardino was all set to start building a new, $600 million hospital off the I-10 freeway in Colton. The plans were approved, the bonds sold, it's a day before grading is supposed to begin and who shows up but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They post signs and declare the place off-limits because it's a known habitat of the Delhi Sands Flower-Loving Fly.

At first the USF&WS wanted to shut down the I-10 because the flies lived on both sides of the freeway and wildlife officials feared the flies might go SPLAT! on windshields as they tried to get from one side to the other.

That idea didn't fly, pardon the pun, so next they tried to slow traffic by 10 to 15 mph. No luck there, either.

They did manage to tie up the construction project at a cost of $2.4 million to the hospital while the plans were redrawn and 6 acres were set aside for the fly.

All in all, there were six fly sightings at the hospital, although the same fly may have been spotted more than once.

The Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation took on the USF&WS, arguing in court that the Endangered Species Act shouldn't apply in this case. When Congress adopted the Act, BILD noted, it did so pursuant to its powers over interstate commerce.

Said BILD lawyer Nick Cammarota, "The fly was only found in a 40-square-mile area in Southern California. It doesn't travel to other states. It is not involved in interstate commerce to any significant degree."

Unless, one supposes, some of those cars with some of those windshields where some of those flies went SPLAT! crossed state lines.

BILD lost in federal court in 1997 and lost again on appeal. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

    Leon Worden is The Signal's business editor.

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