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D’oh! Goofiest L.A. Political Gaffes

1 Mayor James Hahn’s bid to strengthen his hand on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board backfires. He ousts his three public appointees and replaces them with City Council members, only to have the MTA’s lawyer disqualify two of them (plus Hahn himself) from taking part in strike talks. Hahn’s board power evaporates until he is rescued by a court order — won by his mayoral opponent, Antonio Villaraigosa, and close Villaraigosa ally Martin Ludlow.

2 Hahn and Police Chief Bill Bratton blow the chance to beef up the LAPD by teeing off the City Council. In a battle over the budget, they call the council irresponsible for questioning the spending plan and ridicule ex-chief and new councilman Bernard Parks. The council stands firm, rejects Hahn’s budget and Bratton’s expansion plan, and welcomes Parks as the new chairman of the council’s powerful budget committee.

3 City Council aide and candidate Deron Williams holds back too much. Williams tells a Los Angeles Times reporter he was holding someone else’s package and was simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time” when he was arrested at the airport for drug possession in 1988. Until a police report showed he had several ounces of cocaine stuffed in his underwear. He also told the reporter he was sent to a rehab center, leaving the impression it was drug rehab. Until records showed it was a jail. Williams was defeated by Martin Ludlow.

4 Governor Gray Davis makes fun of immigrants. Counting on support from Latino Californians in his effort to avoid being recalled, Davis joked in Los Angeles that Arnold Schwarzenegger should not be governor because he could not pronounce the name of the state. Turns out that Arnold’s way of saying “Kollyfonia” probably comes closer to the pronunciation given by the Spaniards who named the place, and by millions of the Latino Democrats Davis thought were behind him. Davis’ “friends” in the state Senate pass a motion demanding an apology. Schwarzenegger becomes governor.

5 The city and the school district get their signals crossed. City officials sign off on a permit for a strip club across the street from the construction site of a new school downtown and another club, near another school, in the Valley. City laws prohibit strip clubs within 500 feet of schools — and now someone will have to pay.

6 Hahn snoozes his power away. The mayor misses a deadline for naming 20 members to city boards and commissions, relinquishing his appointments to council president Alex Padilla under a new city charter provision adopted to keep government moving. Hahn tries to make his appointments anyway, but Padilla won’t play ball and names his own people to the commissions.

7 Rampart probe is left destitute. The Police Commission follows up Police Chief William Bratton’s demand for closure on the Rampart scandal by appointing a committee to conduct a probe. The panel, chaired by attorney Connie Rice, takes no action for nine months, since no funds were provided.

—Robert Greene


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