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Monday, May 29, 2023

Hahn Pushes Safety, ‘Results’ in Mayor’s Post

This is the second of five interviews in alphabetical order with the major candidates for mayor of Los Angeles. Last time, it was essentially a two man race. James K. Hahn was elected mayor in 2001 after a brutal campaign against Antonio Villaraigosa. This time around, it’s a different story. Heading toward a March 8 primary, Hahn is facing challenges from four opponents, two of them with strong ties in the San Fernando Valley. Villaraigosa entered the race late, but has managed an impressive fundraising effort in a relatively short amount of time. Hahn, who is running on the public safety platform also faces a challenge from a former Los Angeles Police Chief cum councilmember who says the mayor has done little to fight crime. Early polls show that Hahn, Villaraigosa and Parks have the highest city-wide name recognition, but with the bulk of campaigning still to come, the mayor’s office is still up for grabs. Hahn, who fought off a secession movement two years ago, says the city’s attitude toward the Valley has changed and points to increased public works projects and public safety measures as evidence. He said he’s not worried about winning support in the Valley, and area he has historically carried. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote this March, the two top candidates will face each other in a run-off on the May 17 general election ballot. The Business Journal will publish interviews with all the major candidates in the Los Angeles mayoral race before the March primary. Question: What are your top priorities for the Valley upon re-election? Answer: It’s the same priority I have for the entire city, to continue to move to make this a safer city. There’s so much that flows from public safety, there are big economic benefits from improving public safety. That still remains my number one goal, and I’m proud of the successes we’ve had the last three years, The other thing is we’ve seen this tremendous move to neighborhood-based government. City departments are meeting with council offices and neighborhood councils to talk about priorities for their neighborhoods. We want people who live in the city to feel like they have a very user-friendly government that’s why I pushed to implement the 311 system, one call to city hall, that’ why we have services you can take advantage of online. Q: How are you going to counteract the popularity of Bob Hertzberg in the Valley? A: Walk up and down the street and tell me how many people know him. He’s not popular in the Valley, he wasn’t even able to get his own hand-picked successor elected in his own district. I’ve always done very well in the San Fernando Valley, I’ve always won the Valley every time I’ve run, so the question ought to be asked, how are the other candidates going to counteract my popularity in the San Fernando Valley. A lot of folks in the Valley, like Bert Boeckmann and Greig Smith have been part of my support over the years. The Valley’s always going to be vigorously contested, but I’ve always done very well. Q: What else can Valley voters expect from you? A: People are going to see that they have a government that’s much more responsive, that’s listening to their concerns. The frustration over the years in the San Fernando Valley has been that the Valley hasn’t been listened to and I think that we can demonstrate very clearly that we’ve changed, that. Q: What are your top priorities for all of Los Angeles’ businesses? A: We have to do everything we can to keep jobs here, and bring more jobs. Business tax reform is part of that, I signed six business tax reform proposals when I came into office, my proposal passed city council eliminating taxes for small businesses for two full years, I’m proposing that we consider eliminating business taxes for almost 60 percent of businesses throughout the city, including businesses making 100k or less. I also support eliminating taxes on bad debt. I’m also supporting looking at BTAC’s proposal of a 15 percent reduction over five years, with one caveat being whether we can afford it every year. If the economy begins to improve, there’s a good possibility we’ll be able to afford that. (Business tax reform passed the city council in November after this interview was conducted.) Q: What have you done to specifically reach out to Valley businesses? A: Our business and housing team is working closely with business in the San Fernando Valley. They worked with three companies out there, all thinking about moving, and were able to help them with permit streamlining, and gave them other assistance to keep them here. We think our jobs growth fund will be very important, we want to use that fund to leverage workforce training and other funds to keep businesses here in L.A. Here’s where housing makes a big, difference. A lot of the reason companies leave L.A. are is unavailability of housing for employees. We believe that building more housing will have real impact. When I came into office, we were building five thousand units or less of housing, this year we’re building more than 12,000. I think that is a signal to business that we are building housing for employees. Q: What makes business leave L.A.? Business taxes? A: Business taxes are never the main reason people leave. Most of the time businesses say it’s issues like cost of land, unavailable housing, and other issues. Business tax is symbolic but I think it’s important to recognize we need to make that a fair system. Sure there are some smaller cities that don’t have business taxes, but there are other fees and costs that they bear. In the city of L.A. you are using DWP electric, that’s typically a lot less than you’re paying for in surrounding communities. We still have people coming to Los Angeles, unlike some east coast cities that are seeing a decline in population, people still see this as a place of opportunity. Q: Pay-to-play controversies have been of a cloud over the mayoral campaign. How do you respond to that? A: I’ve proposed the most simple effective campaign reform, to end this whole perception problem. Don’t allow people who are bidding on city contracts to contribute to candidates. To date there have been no facts, there is no evidence that anybody got a city contract by making campaign contributions. If there is a perception problem, we need to fix it. Q: How are you going to shed your image as a lackluster leader, or lacking vision? A: I think that people want substance not style. I think they want results not rhetoric. And I think I’m pretty entertaining. I think people are excited to see improvement in their neighborhood, streets are being paved, there are more police officers on the street. I think that’s more pleasing to them than somebody who’s jumping up and down and shouting. There is nobody who has a bigger vision than I do, the idea that Los Angeles could be the safest big city in America. People dismiss that and say “you can’t achieve that.” But we’re on our way, we’ve hard remarkable success since Bill Bratton has been chief. Homicides dropped 22 percent the first year he was chief, they remain at that level this year. The Valley used to be car theft capital of the world, car theft is down 11 percent citywide, 20 percent in the Valley, 30 percent in Devonshire. Q: How are crime and economic issues related? A: In New York City they had a terrible crime problem and a terrible economy, and they fixed their crime problem. By doing that they were able to get tourists back into New York, new hotels got built. It totally turned that city around. They changed the image of that city of being an unsafe one to being the safest big city in America. Bill Bratton is using the same methodology he used in NYC here, the only difficulty he’s had here, is that in New York City you have twice as many police officers per capita than you do here in Los Angeles. The square miles of New York City are fewer than the square miles in L.A. That’s why I support a one-cent sales tax. Some business leaders are lukewarm to it but it could have an enormous economic impact if we were able to have enough police officers to be proactive about crime problems instead of just, as they say, chasing the radio calls. Q: How do we work toward a more educated workforce? A: I started the workforce literacy program, I want to work with Community Colleges and the school district on how we can work together to improve literacy skills. We need to attract these jobs that are going to pay more, that are going to be good career jobs. I want our kids to grow up safe, I want them to get a good education. That’s why I’m a big fan of after-school programs. We expanded L.A.’s best program started by Tom Bradley. I think it was 78 schools when I became mayor we’re now at over 120 schools with an after school program. The programs have been evaluated by UCLA, they found out that kids do better in school, they get good grades and have better attendance, and are more likely to graduate and go onto higher education. Every school that has an after school program has seen juvenile crime in their neighborhoods drop by up to 60 percent. Q: What is your vision for Los Angeles’ economy and general makeup in the next 10 years? A: Because of our location and great infrastructure like our airport and the port of Los Angeles, we’re a major world trade center. We’re going to continue to grow in world trade. We’re probably one of the most, if not the most ethnically diverse cities on the planet, That gives us a great advantage, every language on earth is spoken here so we’re able to engage in global trade at a much higher level than other places. Trade is a big part of our future and one that we need to encourage. Here in the Valley we’ve worked with the VEDC. We have our business team and foreign trade team come out here and work with companies that hadn’t thought about getting involved with world trade and seeing that as an opportunity. Q: What opportunities have we not taken advantage of in Los Angeles? A: We have great assets that we could leverage better. A lot of research dollars come into Los Angeles. That’s still going to be a big economic engine for us. But we could leverage that even better I think. If you look at what happened in the Silicon Valley in terms of high tech and biotech they were able to leverage the research being done at Stanford and Berkeley to actually get industries started. I think we can do an even better job at leveraging those research dollars to actually have the application of that research developed right here. It’s nice to have Amgen in Thousand Oaks, but we think we can get even more. We want companies here to have the synergy between medical universities and their research and actually produce jobs here. Q: What are the attributes of a good leader? A: Honesty. That you are honest with the public, that you tell the truth, don’t mislead people, tell them the truth no matter how painful that is. It’s also very important to have a clear vision of where you’re going, what it is you want to achieve. Another thing a leader has to do is be a good listener and hear others’ concerns. You can’t learn a lot while you’re talking so being able to be quiet and listen to what people are saying is very important. You have to be able to bud partnerships and coalitions and collaborate with people. If you’re not able to build a consensus, you’re not going to be a leader, you’re going to be alone. Q: What do you want your lasting legacy to be? A: I don’t think about that very much. I just like to get stuff done. I’m really pleased when we’re able to get things accomplished, and see the result of my work. I live down in San Pedro which for many years felt a lot like the San Fernando Valley, it felt left out and felt that nobody cared. We’re moving toward changing the waterfront there, incorporating it with downtown building. We’re building on a vacant lot that stood for 34 years. Things are happening, I see that streets are cleaner and are being paved. I also see that there’s a lot more work to do. If I am able to build more housing and get a family out of living in a garage and into a nice clean apartment, they’ll never thank Jim Hahn for that. They’ll never know I had anything to do with it, but I will. If people say, Jim Hahn was a good man and did a good job, that’s good enough for me. James K. Hahn Title: Mayor of Los Angeles Age: 54 Education: B.A. in English and law degree from Pepperdine University Personal: Separated, two children

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