This is a partial transcript of Mayor James Hahn’s interview with the L.A. Weekly’s editorial board. As with all of the candidate interviews, it has been only lightly edited and has not been fact-checked.
L.A. WEEKLY: From the beginning it’s been
important to you about the number of
police officers who are on the streets.
How can we look at your suggestion
that we go to the voters with
a sales tax measure? Is that an
admission of failure to do it in
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Obviously I was disappointed that the budget
mess in Sacramento impacted on my ability to put more police officers on the street.
Certainly it was my goal to put more officers on the street, but as you know that
whole debacle with the DMV license fee which hardly anybody knew was local government
revenues that were being talked about. You know, they robbed us of 67 million
dollars in the first budget year. Additional property tax transfers from the state
of California has taken another 50 million dollars each year. 50 million dollars
would have paid for 500 cops. The difficulty of Los Angeles over the years has
been we’re not in control of our own destiny because of state law. An Interesting
feature of Prop 13, as a matter of fact. It allowed state to reallocate property
taxes to schools away from cities and county. At that further rate by working
with Governor Schwarzenegger of Proposition 1A, they say that local taxes ought
to stay with local jurisdiction. They need to balance their budget by doing what
they need to do. If they need to raise taxes, that’s what they should do. If they
need to cut programs, that’s what they need to do. But in the city of L.A., mayors,
I mean, Los Angeles and cities around the state have to balance their budget every
year without taking it from somebody else…from some other jurisdiction. So, I
was able to reverse the slide that happened before I was mayor, over 800 officer
shrinkage in the four years before I was mayor. There are a number of reasons
for that. I thought we needed to change some things, and as a result, we were
able to add about 289 officers within the first year I was there. We added officers
from the big MTA contract.
L.A. WEEKLY: But ultimately are you telling
the people of L.A. that we can’t
get thousand or however many officers
we need without a tax increase?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Well, we can’t, really. Our general fund
budget, money that we can move around, our discretion budget is a little over
three and a half billion dollars. And over 60 percent of that is going to firefighters
now. If we really want to add more police officers, we need a new revenue source.
I think when 54 percent of the voters say they want to do that we ought to listen
to them. It was very close to the two-thirds majority, and it’s an overwhelming
majority in any other situation.
L.A. WEEKLY: Doesn’t that put L.A. at
a competitive disadvantage in attracting business?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Well a half a cent really doesn’t. If you’re
buying something that cost 20 bucks, what are you talking about with a half percent?
A dime or something. So it’s not going to impact shoppers in the city dramatically.
In fact, voters said they wanted to do that. Somebody who wants to pay more taxes
so they can have more cops in their neighborhood will be glad to shop in their
own neighborhood to make sure that the money’s there.
L.A. WEEKLY: You were close last time
you just needed a couple more points.
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Well, you know, there was a lot of noise
L.A. WEEKLY: What would be different?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: …A lot of noise in the November election
because you had a presidential…you had a lot of other things on the ballot. Even
with the money that we spent on the campaign, I guess close to four million dollars,
didn’t really penetrate. Also, I didn’t think there was a very good grass roots
component to that campaign. You need to tell people in each community what that’s
going to mean to them. There was very little of that. I think if you have the
united City Council out there campaigning for this…remember before they lowered
the school bond to 55 percent, I remember we couldn’t pass a school bond in this
city for years. They worked real hard on one, and just missed. But they didn’t
give up, they came back the very next election with Proposition 3B and it passed
with over 70 percent. I think they realized they were so close the time before
that the momentum was there to push it over. I think we could do that. At least
we should try. Without a new revenue source, there’s just really no way to get
that additional 200 million dollars to put into public safety. There just isn’t.
L.A. WEEKLY: So are we going to have
to look at tax increases for other
things that we want to do to
move the city forward? Fire protection
or cultural fairs, or environmental advances?
Or can all those things be done
within the cost lines of the city
budget as it is now?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Well, unfortunately because the fact that
our tax base has been stolen, we might have to cut things. That’s been my experience,
I’ve had to cut hundreds of positions in the budget that I’ve had so I could add
positions to the police department, and add firefighters and add paramedics. We
had to cut positions in other things. Positions mean services. So, at the same
time we were trying to increase direct services to the public by increasing the
numbers of miles that were being paid increasing support for after school programs,
like L.A.’s Best. We put more money into the $100 million dollar housing trust
fund by cobbling together various sources of funding in the city to do that. Obviously
we’re taking that money from somewhere else to do that. But we thought we needed
to build more housing in this city. I think you don’t want to go to the voters
over and over again for revenue increases. But the lesson I learned from New York
City was they had, I think, a $600 million dollar tax increase for public safety.
That enabled New York City to add, I think, over six thousand more police officers
to the NYPD. There was a broad coalition of people who said let’s do that. As
a result, New York City has gone from one of the most unsafe cities in America,
to the safest city in America. That investment was worth it. Tourists came flocking
back, hotels got going, and jobs came back. A total renaissance. A tax increase
L.A. WEEKLY: One of your opponents opposes
tax increases. In his campaign speeches
he pulled out a pie chart and
mocked you saying why would we need
another tax increase? We can’t find
two percent of the budget?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: If you actually have ever learned anything
you can understand what the issues are. I don’t like the fact that the city’s
worker’s compensation costs keep going up, even though the number of claims is
going down. But that’s because the folks up in Sacramento never really did anything
about worker’s compensation before. I don’t like the fact that when we have to
pay more money for our pension system because the advisors under the previous
administration didn’t know when to get out of the stock market. So you have to
make up for those losses. That is part of public safety, though. There’s the police
and the fire department. We have a contract with them that says that they’re entitled
to certain pension benefits that have been passed by the voters. We have to fund
that. If my opponents would actually take the time to study the city budget, they’d
understand, that there are these kinds of costs increases. We have to buy gasoline
just like everybody else does. Our gasoline costs, obviously for everybody, went
up tremendously in the past year or so. Imagine buying gasoline for the entire
city police, what that does to your cost. He keeps using the five billion plus
figure, a lot of those are grants that we get that we don’t have the discussion???
to move around. Direct patch-throughs from the federal government to us. Like
I said there’s about three and a half billion dollars we can move around. We’re
like most cities. Close to two thirds of that budget is spent on the police department,
the fire department, and their pensions systems. City prosecutors, personnel department
who helps hire police officers and firefighters. Public safety is our priority.
It’s always going to be our priority. We have the 75 million dollar library department.
I’m proud that the voters voted to build more libraries in this city, and we’ve
done a great job of building those libraries. I’ve opened 25 of them since I’ve
been mayor. But the voters only pay a bond issue for the bricks and mortar. They
don’t pay for the books, they don’t pay for the desks, and they don’t pay for
the personnel, the additional staffing, as we’ve expanded every one of these libraries
across the city. You’ve got to find that somewhere in the general fund to pay
for that. If the voters have the confidence to say we want to pay more property
taxes to build more libraries, you know, darn it, we’ve got the obligation to
staff them and stock them, and make them the best libraries that we can. We’ve
increased funding for the library department since I’ve been mayor because of
that faith that the voters had in us. I’ve increased funding for the police department.
I was disappointed two years ago when I proposed an increase in a rubbish fee.
The previous mayors had never wanted to increase any fees or any taxes. I actually
proposed increase in the rubbish fee to pay for 320 police officers. We don’t
believe you do that with one term funding. City Council said thank you very much,
Mayor, for this great idea of increasing the rubbish fee but we’re not going to
have the police officers.
L.A. WEEKLY: Why do you get along
so poorly with the City Council? Your
predecessor didn’t get along with them,
either, and when he left everyone said,
oh good, now we’ll get along.
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: We have on a whole number of issues. This
one we didn’t reach agreement on…funding more police officers. But we have put
together a 100 million dollar housing trust fund, we have done business tax reform.
We have eliminated business taxes for 50 percent of the businesses in the city,
the small businesses that’ve grossed less than a hundred thousand dollars a year.
We’ve invigorated the Neighborhood Council Movement; we’ve got 85 of those neighborhood
councils done. The City Council works with them and gives 50 thousand dollars
to each one of those. We have a very good relationship on a whole number of issues.
This one, we didn’t end up agreeing on.
L.A. WEEKLY: What’s the best single thing
that you’ve done as mayor?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: The one thing that’s probably cost me most
politically was changing the direction of LAPD.
L.A. WEEKLY: And by that you mean
getting rid of (former Chief Bernard)
Parks and picking another chief?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Absolutely.
L.A. WEEKLY: Why would you put that
over defeating valley secession?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Well I think that both those decisions
ended up costing me politically, but I think they were the right things to do.
The difference is, in terms of the quality of life for the people who live in
the areas of the city that are most plagued by crime, I think that making a police
department that is actually making a difference in their lives is more important.
The fundamental basis of if is why it has to be safety. Making those communities
safer makes a huge difference. Last year, for instance, with part one crimes down,
that meant there were 6,500 fewer victims of serious crimes in the city of Los
Angeles than the year before. That makes a huge difference. I also think it would
have been a mistake to break up this great city of Los Angeles, that’s why I fought
to keep the city together.
L.A. WEEKLY: Given another four years, what
would you like to be able to
say at the end of those four
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Obviously everybody knows I said I’d love
Los Angeles to be known as America’s safest big city, and we’re not there yet.
If our homicide rate is twice that of New York City’s we’ve got some work to do.
But I think we can get there. I think a whole bunch of things spoke from that,
and I think that’s how you get jobs and investment to come to communities to where
they’re afraid to come now is to improve the quality of life by making it safer.
I announced the idea of a 500 million dollar housing bond. I’m going to try to
build support from the business community, community activists and housing community.
Over the next year they’re talking about doing a housing bond in the city of Los
Angeles. Proposition 46 funds are probably going to run out in the next couple
of years. We need to talk about how we house people in this city. The supply and
demand is very critical right now. The demand is huge. Supply is very hard to
come by. Housing prices have gone up almost 25 percent in this city. You almost
need to make 30 bucks an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment in this city.
Clearly we need to build more housing. I’d like to be able to say we did that.
And that we did what we needed to do to have the city work for future generations
by cleaning it up. That’s why I told DWP to stop investing in coal. We don’t need
a new coal plant in Utah; we can spend that money on clean energy. Look at conservation
as an opportunity to build a virtual power plant by decreasing the need for energy.
L.A. WEEKLY: When the first of the
indictments in the Fleishman-Hilliard came
down, you said that the city was
the victim. In retrospect, do you think
it was a wise decision for you
to have appointed a fundraiser to oversee
so many city departments? Doesn’t that
open a door to all sorts of bad
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: I don’t think so. I think the position
had never really existed before. It wasn’t overseeing departments at all… was
a liaison between the mayor’s office and these departments to help me push my
agenda. I wanted to push clean energy at DWP. I wanted to push cleaning up the
Port of Los Angeles. I wanted to make LAX a safer airport. It’s important for
the mayor’s office to have a liaison with those departments to do that. There
was no oversight responsibility it was the opportunity for us to be able to push
our agenda to these lead departments in directions that we wanted to go. And with
somebody who’d worked very close with me on a daily basis who I had confidence
in. Obviously somebody I could say ‘make sure they get this done.’ Let’s get the
alternative green power program going at the Port of Los Angeles. Let’s get this
airport plan moving. It stalled for 10 years. Let’s move DWP towards more clean
energy and away from coal. And certainly I had the confidence I had somebody who
was going to see that those things were done.
L.A. WEEKLY: Your opponents and some media
sources are mischaracterizing it when they
say that Troy Edwards was in charge
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Oh, absolutely. I mean the people that
are charged in that department were the wards who oversee those departments and
the general managers who run those departments.
L.A. WEEKLY: You were talking about the
homicide rates. The city attorney recently
evicted people from a building because
of how bad it had gotten. What
have you done to improve the quality
of life in high-homicide areas?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Well they’re shocking, but they’re down
from where they used to be. They’re down 20 percent from where they were two years
ago. The key is to identify locations. I developed this whole idea when I was
city attorney of trying to fix a location. You’d like to work with the building
owner and the building manager to say get the bad people out of your building
so that the nice people can have peace and quiet. If they won’t do that, sometimes
you have to take extremely drastic action. I never had to do what city Delgadillo
did in terms of that. We were usually able to move people and evict the bad tenants.
I did have to evacuate buildings, though, sometimes when they were so unfit for
human habitation. I remember the Olympia Hotel downtown and places like that.
That were just rat infested…exposed electrical wiring. It was unsafe for people
to live there. I think the city attorney felt the same way here. It was unsafe
for people to live here, just as if it was a health hazard. Economic development
is key. We created 40 thousand new jobs here in Los Angeles over the four years
I’ve been mayor. That’s pulling out of a recession; it’s going to help…
L.A. WEEKLY: 40 thousand?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Mm hmm.
L.A. WEEKLY: In what areas did you
see that civic job growth?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: It’s been all over the city. I’d like to
see it more in areas of high unemployment like South L.A. That’s where, I think,
a real opportunity exists for this whole new modernization and safety plan at
LAX. Part of our community agreement, which is over 500 million dollars for soundproofing
the schools in Lennox and Inglewood, …environmental studies. But also part of
it is going to be a jobs program that looks to hire people from areas who’ve been
impacted by the airport over the years. And just like the PD jobs project…
L.A. WEEKLY: How much money is involved
in that jobs program?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: I don’t know the exact number. We can get
you that. The idea is that we’re going to create 49 thousand construction jobs
over the lifetime of that project at LAX. And I want to see jobs offered. I mention
the PD jobs programs because that was something I worked on when I was city attorney.
That was a whole controversy; we had a lot of interest and opposition. Part of
the concessions that the city wanted for that development was we want a jobs program
that’s going to hire people who otherwise wouldn’t have been hired. And it’s been
L.A. WEEKLY: Do you have mandatory set-asides
in the program?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: No.
L.A. WEEKLY: Why not?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: That’s not what we ended up negotiating.
L.A. WEEKLY: Backing up to the issue
of the folks who were evicted, where
do those people go?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: I don’t know all the details of that, but
obviously, I believe the city attorney is going to work to get relocation systems
for people to move to other places. The difficulty will be a lot of them will
say ‘well the rent was so cheap here because the place was so bad, we’ll not be
able to find, find rent’…The question has been ‘do you let somebody live in
a place where kids are going to be shot at all the time?’
L.A. WEEKLY: Why not go to some other
places like that?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Occasionally we have. Some of those are
controversial. When the police have gone in and arrested people who have outstanding
warrants, and people who are causing problems. People, wherever they live, whether
it’s in the projects or somewhere else ought to be able to enjoy some peace and
quiet. I was disappointed that the Bush administration ended the Hope Fix program.
Because if you look what’s happened with Aliso Village or Vermont Terrace Housing
Projects, you can change the character of the entire community by these projects.
Where half of them become home ownership opportunities. There’s very little difference
between the amount of money they’re paying in rent, and the ability to actually
own something. I think that’s what we’d like to do with every housing project.
I’m interested in seeing how we can develop a program to replace what Hope Six
was, but figure out some other way. I hope this can be part of the discussion
when we’re talking about this 500 million dollar housing bond as well. Have the
Housing Authority engaged and see how we revamp these housing projects that were
built in World War II to make them communities that really are friendly to the
families who are living there. You can see what we’ve done in these other locations
and the difference in the communities. I think that’s what we need to do. We need
to build more new housing in the city. I think that’s part of the whole agenda.
That’s why we’ve doubled the pace of housing in this city. When I came in as mayor
I think we were building five thousand units a year. We’ve got 12 thousand units
permitted this year.
L.A. WEEKLY: You’ve never seemed enthusiastic
for mandatory inclusionary building. Would
you veto any mandatory inclusionary building
bill that the council sends to you?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Well I’d have to see what they would send
me to look at. I’ll tell you why I’m not enthusiastic about it. We’ve built over
20 thousand housing units since I’ve been mayor, and 30 percent of those have
been in 80 percent of medium and below. Of that 30 percent, close to 80 percent
of that 30 percent is below 60 percent. I’m kind of the mind if it ain’t broke,
what are we trying to fix? No inclusionary zoning policy that I’ve seen goes anywhere
near 30 percent affordable. I’d like to stay on track with what’s working right
now. We’ve cut red tape. We’ve got a housing trust fund. They’re able to leverage
more funds. We’ve gotten developers enthusiastic about building housing. We’re
doing it. Obviously I wouldn’t want to slow down.
L.A. WEEKLY: You are the ranking democratic
mayor in the United States.
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Nobody knows that though, except for you.
L.A. WEEKLY: It’s a nonpartisan office,
but we know that.
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: That’s probably why.
L.A. WEEKLY: Well, that’s part of my
question. What difference did it make
that you didn’t get the endorsement
at the County Democratic Party??, or
the majority of votes?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Well, obviously, I didn’t get it last time,
and I didn’t have the support of organized labor last time. And here I am…because
democrats voted for me last time as well as republicans and independents. There
were pockets of support for all the candidates. We vigorously contested for that
and worked very hard on that. Nobody got to 60 percent.
L.A. WEEKLY: Does it matter?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: It may not matter as much because I was
reading in the paper today that I was a little surprised last time of what that
county committee endorsement was worth. Before last time I ran, it was a nice
line on your endorsement list, and you got some volunteers, and it was great to
have this enthusiastic support of your county democrats. But that’s about as far
as it went. What happened last time was because of Prop? 34 or one of those state
L.A. WEEKLY: Prop? 34.
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: That meant that the state party could get
involved so the contribution limits were meaningless in the mayor’s race, and
people were able to give a hundred thousand dollars to the party, and it went
directly into my opponents campaign for mayor. It was worth a lot then. Clearly
that put me at a disadvantage last time with the County Federation? of Labor?
and the Democratic Party??. They were spending enormous sums on behalf of my opponent.
But you know what I tried to say was, you know, just because the County Central
Committee? wasn’t with me didn’t mean that I was abandoning the principals that
I think that they believe in. I wanted to build more housing. I want to get more
kids in after school programs. We want to fight for better wages and better benefits
for people who live in this city. I believe in a bottom up economy, not a top
down economy. That’s why I got the support of organized labor. They saw me out
there marching with the pickets with UFCW workers at grocery stores. They saw
me campaign on behalf of security guards. They saw me out there with the long
L.A. WEEKLY: In talking with the UFCW
workers, are there any conditions in
which you think it would be okay
for Wal-Mart? to open a store in
the city limits of Los Angeles?? And
what would those be?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Well good question, we had an ordinance
passed in the city that people described as an anti-Wal-Mart? ordinance here,
but it actually doesn’t mention Wal-Mart. It just talks about big block stores
that come into the city have to basically do kind of a community impact statement.
What’s going to be the impact of this store coming in the community? What’s going
to be the impact on other businesses? What’s going to be the impact on jobs? If
a store can go through that impact analysis, whether it be a Wal-Mart? or anyone
else then they can locate in the city. So we aren’t banning Wal-Mart’s? in the
city of Los Angeles?. What we are saying is that if a big company wants to drop
a big box store in a neighborhood, we’re going to assess all the impacts of that
decision, and decide whether or not that’s in the best interest of that community,
or whether or not those impacts can be mitigated sufficiently to allow the store
to go forward. If a Wal-Mart? or any other company for that matter would come
into the city of Los Angeles?, and understand that they can’t come in and depress
wages in that community, that they can’t have negative environmental impacts with
traffic and congestion, that they’re not going to do things that are going to
basically leave us with a deterioration in that community, then they’re free to
L.A. WEEKLY: What’s the city’s level of
encouragement and support for small businesses
at this time?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Well again, one of the things I thought
was important was to eliminate business taxes for our small businesses. So we’ve
done that. And that’s 60 percent of our business license holders who are now paying
no business tax. I just formed a small and local business advisory commission
patterned after other such small business commissions we’ve seen around the country,
to see what other hurdles are here. We think that the airport presents an opportunity
for some small business also to participate as vendors. If that project gets its
final approval from FAA. I also saw a problem with small businesses that didn’t
like to do business with the city because it took too long for them to get paid.
I worked on a project to make sure our small vendors got paid properly. That was
very discouraging to other small businesses doing business with the city. Other
things that are discouraging are too high of a bonding requirement. Like you pointed
out, trying to bundle these things into huge contracts.
L.A. WEEKLY: Was that with PRIMA?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: That was pushed by the previous mayor and
Joel Wachs. I’d like to take an analysis of it now and really take a look and
see if we actually are saving the money that we thought we were going to save.
Sometimes you get locked into some of these contracts. I remember the city a long
time ago had a contract with personal computers. They wanted to buy personal computers
from one place…for every department in the city. The problem with that was that
we were paying far more for buying a hundred computers than it would cost you
to buy them if you just walked down the street and bought them at Fry?’s by yourself.
We have to look to see if these contracts really are cost effective. But that’s
what our job is, to make sure we’re delivering value for the money for our taxpayers.
L.A. WEEKLY: One of your opponents pushed
the school breakup front and center.
Should you have some role in shaking
the policies of LAUSD and the schools?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: I think if you look at big city mayors
in America?, New York? City and Chicago?, the mayor is the one who’s in charge
and accountable for the school district. A lot of people in the city think the
mayor is already. That isn’t the government structure that we have. There have
been a lot of things on my plate when I came in as mayor. I said ‘what impact
can I make on the school district that’s positive?’ And so I was a big fan of
the L.A.’s Best Program?? that Tom Bradley? started??. I think that after school
programs are great. I decided I’d concentrate my efforts there and try to raise
more money. I think we’ve added over 40 schools to L.A.’s Best since I’ve been
mayor. I think there were less than 80 when I became mayor. I also thought that
we actually had a situation involved where the CRA was going to have a legal battle
with the school district over a school site out in the valley. I said well this
is not good. The taxpayers paying for two agencies to sue each other. We also
had the Housing Department?? interested in a piece of property for housing that
the school district was interested in for a school in central Los Angeles?. They
talked about going to battle. We worked out a memorandum of understanding, a written
agreement with the school district that said we’re going to be partners in finding
new schools and school development and we’re going to figure out ways that we
can help each other rather than get in the way of each other. We actually helped
somebody in my office who is working with the school district and identifying
sites. I know the school district is in a hurry to build more schools and I appreciate
that, after not building them for 30 years. But we’d like to have input in saying,
‘well maybe you don’t need to take so many houses.’ I saw Riordan spent a lot
of time and energy raising money to elect new members to the school board. I think
one of those still remains on the school board, if I’m correct.
L.A. WEEKLY: Would it be better for
the city if we had a system like
New York? or Chicago? where the mayor
was in charge of the city’s schools?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: I think it would. People are always looking
for that one person they can hold accountable for things. I’d like to figure out
how i can help the school district. Right now with the present governed structure,
…I think Roy Romer? has done a good job. I think the schools are getting better…test
scores are improving. He’s the biggest developer in the city now? building more
construction than anybody else. Brand? new schools are going up everywhere. I
think the school district is doing a better job. I think that the difficulty for
people is that they expect the mayor to be accountable for everything. I think
that there’s no single institution that’s more important to the future of your
city than the schools.
L.A. WEEKLY: I know how you feel
about the question that you’re not crazy
about people who do a lot of
jumping up and down, but people who
get things done. Do you not lose
something in mobilizing support of the
people of the city to have a
common direction by not being more of
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: I do tout the city a lot. We have built
a lot of energy around the idea of making this a safer city. And that’s what we’ve
got neighborhood councils energized about. And I think we have this vision of,
this is what I don’t get when people say there’s no vision. That’s a huge vision
to say I want to make this city the safest big city in America?. That’s as big
as you can get. And we talked about a 100 million dollar housing trust fund, the
largest of its kind in the country…that’s big vision…building housing for this
city. We talked about revamping LAX after 40 years. A construction project that
will have huge benefits for our region for years to come. I think substance is
more important than style. I think results are more important than rhetoric. That
may be a little different than some of the other politicians out there. I watched
my dad for four years in office, and he was a great, gregarious, storytelling,
and fun guy. And I’m not as engaging and as fun as Kenny? is, I know that.he was
just great. But you know what, his campaign platform every year he ran was ‘Hahn???
gets things done.’ That’s what I got from him. At the end of the day you’ve got
to point to stuff and say I did that. That made a difference. I love being city
controller and city attorney, but when I came into the city attorney’s office
I said “I got to Kenny? Hahn??-ize this office’. To be able to do things where
I can see I’ve made a difference. I know that was controversial and your newspaper
wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about it. But that’s what gang injunctions were about.
Gangs? are a public nuisance just as much as a factory spewing out pollution in
a neighborhood is. If you get rid of that public nuisance, you totally change
the character of that neighborhood. Do you go after that apartment where all the
drugs are being sold and fix that? You’re taking out that source of pollution
that’s polluting that whole neighborhood. And then you can come back to that neighborhood
and say I worked hard to make a difference, and I can see that it’s different
now than when I started. And I think that’s the joy of politics for me. And I
think that’s the joy for most politicians who want to be in government. I mean
politics really is the art and science of government. You want to see that you’ve
made a difference. You want to be able to see it with your eyes. And that’s when
I go into Hollywood and MacArthur Park. I see that I’ve made a difference in those
places. I spent a lot of time over the years going all over this city. I know
what this city has been like. I know when it’s gotten worse and when it’s gotten
better. Being able to see that and being able to see that you’ve made a difference
from the hard work is what’s rewarding about this job. I want to get everybody
else excited about that as well. See, this is what we can do together. This is
how we made our neighborhood better, because everybody got involved. If I failed
to communicate that excitement, I guess that’s my fault. I remember one time when
a news reporter asked me at a press conference when I was complaining about the
state government taking our money away. And she asked me a question, “Well, Mayor?,
why are you having such a hard time getting this message across to people?” I
said, ‘what about you? You’ve got to cover this issue. ‘You’ve got to tell people
what’s going on. If you don’t tell them, if the news media doesn’t tell them,
you know, me going around to a hundred community meetings is not going to get
that same kind of impact that a newspaper gets, or a radio show gets, or a TV
show gets. I think you can see the difference of what’s going on in Los Angeles?.
L.A. WEEKLY: Can you critique your opponents?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Oh, no. I got to go.
L.A. WEEKLY: That would take too long.
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Yeah. Who are my opponents again?
L.A. WEEKLY: So you agree that you’re
going to be in a runoff?
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: Yeah. I think the mathematics is pretty
clear there. I would venture to think that it’s probably going to be a repeat
of four years ago. But you never know if things will go on.
L.A. WEEKLY: Answer the question.
MAYOR JAMES HAHN: All right. I think Senator Alarcon is a
very thoughtful individual. Someone, I think has done very well in the debate.
I think he is somebody I worked with on doing things like the gang injunction.
He helped make that neighborhood safer. I’ve worked with Antonio? Villaraigosa
before. When he came on the City Council???, I thought he would be very helpful
at MTA with his background, having served there before. And, he’s somebody who’s
had a long experience in government. The problem I see with Richard, Antonio?
and Bob is they all come out of the Sacramento? mentality. They didn’t think there
was anything wrong in transferring local taxes up to the state of California?
to solve budget problems up there. I think that the difference between me and
them is that I’ve spent my entire career here fighting for people in Los Angeles?.
And they see things in Sacramento?. They’re all people who certainly demonstrated
they’re capable of winning elections and, you know, they’re formidable opponents.
Bernard Parks?? was elected overwhelmingly as a City Councilman?. I didn’t think
he should continue as police chief. He’s a strong candidate, too. I think at the
end of the day, I’m going to be able to talk about what I’ve done. They’re obviously
going to say, I don’t think the mayor’s doing a good job, and elect me. I think
that’s why their negative attacks are all about changing the subject. They don’t
want me to talk about crime going down 18 percent. They don’t want me to talk
about doubling the pace of housing. They don’t want me to be able to talk about
increasing the number of after school programs by 50 percent. They don’t want
me to talk about what we’ve been able to do in places like Hollywood, MacArthur
Park and North Hollywood??. They want to change the subject because they want
to have my job.
This is a partial transcript of Mayor James Hahn’s interview with the L.A. Weekly’s editorial board. As with all of the candidate interviews, it has been only lightly edited and has not been fact-checked.