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Wanted: A Real Mayor

Photo by Slobodan Dimitrov

Jim Hahn has been mayor about six months now, and the numbness emanating from City Hall has reached saturation level. In neighborhoods as distant as Arleta and Atwater, constituents who have too closely followed the movements of their mayor have been reported turning into stone.

Left to his own devices, Hizzoner might employ the rest of his term morphing into a sort of neutron bomb and boring us all into oblivion — but leaving the Hollywood sign and the Harbor Freeway intact. So, I’m taking it upon myself to offer up a plan that will define this administration. You heard that right. If Mayor Hahn will take this simple advice and come through on just two landmark issues, not only will he have achieved a handsome legacy, but he will also have redeemed himself. I promise we will forget that he ran the sleaziest race-based mayoral campaign since the Yorty era and that he gave voters not a single positive reason to vote for him. We will expunge from collective memory the Jimmy Hahn who stood by Daryl Gates till the bitter end and unwaveringly supported Bernie last year.

Here’s my advice to Hahn: All you have to do is get serious about thwarting Valley secession and force civilian oversight on the LAPD, and we will build a monument to your greatness.

I’m not making this up. In the last few weeks Hahn has taken some promising steps on both these issues. Now it remains to be seen if he’s just politicking, or if he’s really ready to fight. The challenge is awesome.

For a half-decade now, the crybaby San Fernando Valley home-moaner clubs have been holding the rest of the city hostage with the threat of secession. Claiming that Sherman Oaks, Encino and my own neighborhood of Woodland Hills, for example, are somehow oppressed and shortchanged doesn’t pass the giggle test. A fifth of L.A. County ekes by on some sort of welfare, and enough Angelenos are sufficiently pressed that local aid groups have declared a “food emergency.” And we’re supposed to do what now? Worry about liberating Studio City because people out there don’t want to drive all the way downtown to get a zoning variance for one more of their God-awful mini-mansions?

But no one has had the gumption to stand up to the claque of real estate brokers, used-car dealers and suburban Babbitts behind the breakaway movement, to expose secession as a fraud on the scale of the “Chinatown” water-theft scandal that allowed the Valley to be born in the first place.

Without real opposition, the preposterous notion of dismembering L.A. may be something we will have to vote on as soon as within the next few months.

Enter Mayor Hahn. Word comes that he has set up and registered a lobbying organization to specifically defeat secession. He’s got the usual couple of Democratic billionaires to sign on to the cause. And outreach to a fledgling anti-secession Valley-based citizens group is under way. Hahn says he’s going to be tireless in fighting to keep Los Angeles in one piece. Dick Riordan said the same thing and . . . well, you know the rest.

Sticking with this fight won’t be easy for Hahn. The Valley secessionists were a major piece of his electoral coalition. And one of the separatist Poo-Bahs, Galpin Ford magnate Bert Boeckmann, was re-appointed to the Police Commission by Hahn right after his inauguration. So forgive the skepticism surrounding the mayor’s real determination to seriously confront the Valley contras. If he does, and succeeds, he will be a hero. If he gives in, chalk him up as a quisling.

Likewise on the issue of police reform. Hahn was the only mayoral candidate who refused to say he might can Chief Parks. And he shamelessly pandered for rank-and-file LAPD votes by supporting a police work schedule of three 12-hour days (when everyone knows the cops want that schedule primarily to facilitate moonlighting). But last week, it was Clark Kent time as the mild-mannered mayor shed his LAPD-apologist rhetoric and dramatically emerged as the most zealous of police reformers. Hahn is now requesting that the Police Commission draw up a measure — that would have to go before city voters — to abolish the LAPD’s notorious internal Board of Rights procedure for disciplining officers and replace it with a new system that would place the destiny of problem cops in the hands of actual civilians.

Civilian police review has long been the holy grail of local reformers — at times no more than a pipe dream of small covens of anti-abuse activists. The new system proposed by the mayor has its flaws; if enacted, it could turn out to be the single-most important police-reform measure taken in recent city history. No longer would the LAPD foxes be allowed to police their own rogue roosters. The stink from this self-policing sham permeates everything from Parker Center to Rampart. Officers accused of petty transgressions are dealt stiff official and unofficial penalties — everything from “freeway therapy” (re-assignment to the work site furthest from their homes) to outright dismissal while endemically brutal and violent officers are not even tracked.

The mayor’s proposed reform comes as a firm kick in the goo-gahs to Chief Parks, who personally presides over the current system as a sort of local Captain Queeg. And Bernie, if you don’t like it, well, you have our permission to tender your immediate resignation and get the hell out of town.

Jimmy Hahn’s recent words on the police and secession issues are heartening. But let’s not get carried away — at least not yet. Bill Clinton promised us national health care and humane welfare reform and instead handed us HMOs and abolition of the safety net. The mayor can make city history, and the city a better place, if he now follows through on this simple two-item agenda. To his credit, he has put the ball in play. But he should be advised: Those who insist on recklessly playing on both sides of the street usually wind up getting run over.


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