By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Voters, of course, don’t base their votes on historical epochs, but on the candidates‘ records, positions, affiliations, race and, well, vibrations. (We can say that in L.A.) Herewith, a quick look at them all.
III. Kenny’s Boy
On a Sunday morning in mid-March, James Kenneth Hahn, for 16 years the Los Angeles city attorney, and for the four years before that the city controller, is making the obligatory rounds at black churches. And making them fast; he actually leaves the Union Baptist Church, a venerable congregation in the center of Watts, a full half-hour before his press schedule says he is to arrive.
And so it goes, one after another congregant discussing only Hahn‘s son-ness, until I reach the Rev. Milton Marshall Sr., pastor at Union Baptist for the past 53 years. “So, Hahn was here,” I begin.
“Oh, Lord,” says Marshall, “he came here for every election!”
“His father! I knew him all those years! [The late Kenny Hahn was first elected supervisor in 1952.] He was one of the best we ever had. Ain’t nobody can replace him, though that woman [Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, his successor as supervisor] is doing a fine job. He was unbeatable! He‘s still living, you know, still living in this world!”
I’m not sure if this is a reference to the elder Hahn‘s good works generally, or to such tangible legacies as the 911 call boxes he got installed on freeways. But the question is: How is his son, also still living in this world, faring?
“I knew his son when he was a little boy,” Marshall answers. “He followed his dad around at election time. I introduced him today as Kenneth Hahn’s son, and everyone clapped.”
A lesser campaign might view Jim Hahn‘s unbearable lightness of being as a weakness, but the consummate pros running him for mayor have converted it into a strength: In black L.A., Hahn’s calling card is his father‘s good name.
Hahn is a tribune for the African-American community in one other, unfortunate particular: Alone among the mayoral candidates, he remains largely supportive of a Police Chief Bernard Parks. The chief, he told the Weekly, is “a man of integrity, fearless in rooting out police corruption, who fired more officers than the last two chiefs combined.” Parks will have to enact genuine reform, Hahn adds, but he’s more hopeful than most that Parks will be up to this task. (One of the oddities of this election is that the black community‘s historical emphasis on police reform -- a major factor enabling such mayoral candidates as Bradley and Mike Woo to amass huge black majorities -- is nowhere in evidence now that the chief is black and the victims of the latest spate of police violence are largely Latino.)
To his credit, Hahn fought off the mayor’s opposition and devised the consent decree enabling a federal court to oversee the reform of the LAPD. He played a significant role in the omnibus lawsuits that states and cities brought against tobacco companies and gun manufacturers; he helped craft the settlement with Smith & Wesson. Critics note, however, that his office systematically refused to alert the LAPD about those officers who‘d been sued for misconduct. The Feminist Majority’s Katherine Spillar notes with “anger” that the City Attorney‘s Office “put the brakes on the council’s support for creating greater gender balance on the LAPD.” And “anger” certainly describes the feelings of a number of L.A. Unified School District and City Hall officials trying to accelerate the construction of new schools. Describing one deal to convert a government office building into a school site, one school-district official says, “The City Attorney‘s Office was a disaster. They are so slow to respond, they don’t want to take any chances. Around here, that office is known as the black hole of city governance.”
By most measures, Hahn‘s office hasn’t been a particularly innovative civic law firm. Environmentalists express frustration that Hahn hasn‘t had much of an environmental-enforcement operation; just this week, the Sierra Club complained that he’s done nothing to stop what they contend is the illegal bulldozing of Playa Vista. Anti-sweatshop activists decry his inattention to workplace violations.
While not particularly adventuresome, Hahn is well within the city‘s Democratic mainstream. He supported the living-wage ordinance and marched with the janitors during their strike. When it comes to affordable housing, he supports the creation of a city trust fund for such housing, but, like all the candidates except Villaraigosa, refuses to commit to imposing a one-time fee on major developers as a way to put some money in that fund. (This policy of “linkage” has led to the creation of a significant number of housing units in Boston and other major cities.)
Neither Hahn nor his critics contend that a Hahn mayoralty will be exciting. For all that, he is breaking new ground in campaigning -- in the uncorporeality of his candidacy. People look at Jim Hahn, and see -- his father.
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