By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
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By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
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Garcia says one of the councilwoman's "weaknesses" is that she too easily "goes along with the mainstream" sometimes, and Stammreich describes Hahn as someone who "looks to turn every issue into a press conference rather than just solving it." But on the whole, the community activists don't have major beefs.
Others, however, aren't so thrilled with the daughter of Kenneth Hahn.
For the past several weeks, says Broomfield of the Watts Neighborhood Council, he and other activists in Watts, Harbor City and Wilmington have been meeting quietly, planning for the day when Hahn may become lieutenant governor — and hoping she'll no longer represent them on the City Council.
Hahn beat Hector Cepeda nine years ago to represent District 15, winning in part because she was especially popular in heavily black, but now increasingly Latino, southern areas of the city. But the Hahn name has lost much of that old luster.
"In my mother's household," says Broomfield, who has lived in Watts and South Los Angeles for more than 50 years, Kenneth Hahn "was like a King or Kennedy. He was always a supporter of fairness. Not even her or her brother, with all respect, could compare to their dad. He was a people person. They're politicians."
Broomfield complains that Hahn shows up for a quick press conference, then is rarely seen again. "When she walks in," Broomfield says, "she likes to be praised and have people clap for her."
While Broomfield believes Hahn's Watts Gang Task Force has done some good work, he says she hasn't addressed an "undercurrent" of racial tension between Latinos and the area's waning population of blacks. "She has done nothing," says Broomfield.
Hahn's narrow focus on gangs feels more to him like a publicity stunt that lets her off the hook for failing on other counts.
Even before the recession, many businesses with decent-paying jobs had fled Los Angeles, considered among the least business-friendly major cities in the Western U.S., thanks in part to City Hall leaders who appear to confuse attracting good companies with cozying up to land developers. The City Council's long and ineffective efforts to fix the city's tangled business taxes have helped Glendale, Valencia, Thousand Oaks, Pasadena, Burbank and other better-run cities to land new jobs at L.A.'s expense.
When it comes to Watts, Broomfield says Hahn's entire focus is "all about gangs. Fear sells around here. If you stand up and say something against her, you'll have people with the Watts Gang Task Force upset with you because that's their bread and butter."
A few years ago, Hahn made much over posing for the official installation of a glitzy "Welcome to Watts" sign. In the background of some photos is a tire-repair business whose bleak surroundings are typical of the impoverished area. "They were standing there like it was a new skyscraper," Broomfield scoffs. After nine years of Hahn's "dog and pony show," says Broomfield, some activists in Watts feel, "We have gotten accustomed to 'nothing.' Who do you complain to when you don't feel your city councilwoman is doing the job?"
"The Hahn name meant sincerity," Broomfield continues. "Now it means politician. A very capable politician."
When Janice Hahn hitsthe campaign trail in Southern California, she's very likely to mention her father, who, recalls former Los Angeles Times city editor Bill Boyarsky, was "highly informed." Combined with his great rapport with residents, says Boyarsky, "he was very popular."
Kenneth Hahn left office in 1992 and died in 1997, and many voters under 50 are unlikely to remember him. Hahn's camp says her father's name is a magical brand that will not only help her win votes in the primary but in the November general election against either Maldonado or Aanestad. By her camp's calculations, she can also somehow help Attorney General Brown get more votes for governor in the Southland.
But UC Berkeley's Cain says, "There's no evidence that voters link [the lieutenant-governor and governor] races in November." Others believe the Hahn name has lost its shine. "There isn't a Hahn brand," says Republican Hoffenblum. "No one really knows her outside of the city." Jaime Regalado, director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A., says, "It does matter, but not as much as it used to, partly because of Jimmy."
Former mayor James Hahn, Janice's brother, lost a bruising re-election campaign to Villaraigosa in 2005, when he was hit, some say unfairly, with a political-corruption scandal involving public-relations firm Fleishman-Hillard. Although coverage in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere implied that $4.2 million might have been lost from city coffers in an overbilling scheme, a 2006 trial showed the PR firm had overbilled the city by $529,000 for promotional work it performed for such agencies as the DWP.
The half-million dollars in Fleishman-Hillard overbillings, though sizable, would never have garnered the national headlines that implied millions were missing from City Hall, and which helped usher James Hahn's 2005 campaign rival, Villaraigosa, to power. Later, the trial made clear that former mayor Hahn had no role in the overbilling. But the ruling came too late for his re-election race, and James Hahn was later named a judge by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.