October 1, 2001 - From the October, 2001 issue

First 100 Days & Nights In L.A.; Mayor James K. Hahn Opines

The first 100 days of L.A. Mayor James Hahn's administration has been criticized by some in the media. Yet despite that criticism, Hahn and his staff have attempted to stick to their guns by focusing on campaign promises and moving forward with their agenda. While the road has not always been smooth and the events of Sept. 11 have obviously altered his short-term plans, his long-term agenda for uniting and improving L.A. is, according to him, still progressing. In an attempt to give the Mayor a venue to set the record straight, TPR is pleased to offer this excerpt of a speech he gave at Fleishman Hillard's Millennium Speaker Series re: his first 100 days.


James K. Hahn

If nothing else, Sept. 11 reminds us of how important it is to feel safe in our own communities. As Mayor, I've been working with all of the City's leadership to see what we can do to make sure that if you're in Los Angeles, you're safe and secure. We want to make sure that we're linking all our communities together. We want to make sure that, as Americans, we stay united.

We're working closely with the Airport Commission to ensure airport security. We're looking forward to a day we could open the central terminal parking areas. But before we get to that point, I want to make sure that we remember that safety has to be our top priority. The airport's a very powerful engine for our local economy, and we've got to do everything we can to make sure that it continues to be that powerful engine.

In addition to the 4 alternatives that we're looking at now in the LAX Master Plan, which I was never a big fan of, I propose that we look at a 5th alternative, based on the idea of making LAX the safest airport we can make it. I think we can set the standard. We'd be the national model for what you should do to make an airport as safe as you can make it.

The principles I want the Commission to look at will start by making it as safe as we can make it. We then will work on the other parameters, decreasing noise and traffic impacts on the surrounding communities. Again, paramount in every design issue that you deal with is security

The Port of Los Angeles is also a key economic engine. It generates $10 billion in our local economy and $1.5 billion in overall tax revenues from all those businesses I also went down and asked the President of the Port Commission to convene a task force to focus on our security. So we have the Coast Guard, Customs, INS, our police department, Port police, as well as the police department of Long Beach to make sure our ports are secure. We want to do everything we can to continue the kind of economic progress that we've seen. We're really dependent, to a large degree, on those two vital economic engines.

I have also asked a task force of business representatives to report back to me on some ideas on what we need to do to keep our economy going. We all know that things have slowed down, they probably began to slow down even before 9/11. What I want to hear from these business community leaders is what we need to do to rev it back up. What are the kinds of things the city needs to do to help small businesses and help other businesses move forward? We want to keep the economy growing.

When I was sworn into office I said, "Let's go to work." That's exactly what we've done since we came in. We think that it's important to solve problems. I think that's what being Mayor is about, working on tough problems.

I think there are problems, like how do we improve schools? How do we reconnect neighborhoods to civic life? And how do we improve city services in the process? How do we compete with other cities to attract new jobs? How do we make this a safer city? How do our diverse people move forward as one city together? I think we tackle these issues one by one, step by step, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, and in doing so, I think we make Los Angeles stronger and make it more livable.

Because the future of the city depends on its children, I started right off on my commitment to work on expanding after school programs. With the generous support of Eli Broad and the Broad Foundation, we were able to add 23 new schools to the L.A.'s Best Program. This is a program Mayor Tom Bradley started, Mayor Riordan continued. But we were able to get right off the bat 23 new schools added this year. Four of them have already started in San Pedro, Van Nuys, Tujunga and North Hollywood.

[W]e want a safe and nurturing environment for kids. That's going to enhance what they're already learning at school. And we want to make sure that they are protected, so that they are not victims of criminal behavior, and they're not lured into the kinds of bad decisions that can affect them forever. So giving them a safe place in those after school hours is critical for their future and I think it benefits the community as well.

It's also important to see what we can do to work on the problem of how to make people excited about living in their neighborhoods. To do that, let's get people reconnected to government. Let's have neighborhood councils come together to focus on community problems. It links people with one voice, one vision, so they get the attention of city government. The biggest distance in the City of Los Angeles is the distance between neighborhoods and City Hall. I'm working to close that gap. I think neighborhood councils are a big part of that.

These neighborhood councils [are] really going to revolutionize the way the city government responds to people and how people get involved in city government. If we don't do this, what I'm always worried about is people will just lose their interest in government. The disaffection, the cynicism just continues. What we want to see is how we reconnect people to government. I think that neighborhood councils are a big part of that.

It was mentioned that we're moving forward on business tax reform. 11 days after I took office, the first set of ordinances I signed were 6 new ordinances improving the business tax issue. One of the things that I said was not part of it, "You know what? I want to see an exemption for small community businesses." Any new business that starts in the city [won't] have to pay any business taxes for the first two years. That was implemented and passed by the City Council. I'm proud to send the message that L.A. means business.

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I'm continuing to meet with business leaders on ideas of how we can best position our already-existing assets to take advantage of new emerging industries and make sure they understand that Los Angeles is going to be the leader in a host of these industries.

We've been looking at transportation. We understand that that's one of the big gripes of everybody in this city. I don't think it's a problem you can solve with one simple solution. There are hundreds, if not thousands of little problems that contribute to the overall problem that we all face every day. I announced in August a plan to fix 25 of the worst intersections in the City of Los Angeles. We are going to start now, based on the data, based on the traffic statistics, whether they're accidents or the amount of time it takes to get through. We're going to fix these 25 intersections right now.

I urge my colleagues at the MTA to drop this appeal of the Consent Decree, one that they voluntarily entered into, and get back to putting more buses on the street. We need to understand that the buses are the key part of the transportation system. I'm looking at some other options, but we've got to keep people moving.

One hundred days into the term, I grow a little more optimistic every day about the city's future. What is clear to me is there's commitment in City Hall, not only in my office, but in the City Council and throughout the city government, to get things done. We know the problems, we're committed to finding solutions and I think that committing to take that first step is important. But every step thereafter is important as well.

Some critics say that Los Angeles is ungovernable. I think they're wrong. I don't think that the city is unmanageable. I think that it's not only governable, but more dynamic and more prepared to respond to its changing needs every day. That's where we're going to focus our attention, now and throughout this term.

We've heard the one-way conversation that's gone on for a long time from the secessionists. And I just think their proposal makes no sense whatsoever. I think we saw that again with the LAFCO study that came out. So I think that instead of coming up with a solution that may or may not solve problems, in fact might create more, let's focus on the problems that everybody's upset about. Let's not waste our time and energy and divert that to a very costly and time-consuming and energy-consuming effort to divide up our city. I think that breaking up our city is really the lazy way out. There is no guarantee that this new city will solve any of these problems.

The problems are still going to be the same. How are we going to improve our schools? How do we improve quality of life in neighborhoods? How do we fix our transportation problems? How do we keep our economy growing? How do we make sure that this is a safe city? Those are the problems we have to be focused on It's going to be hard work to make the delivery of services by the city more efficient. It's going to take hard work to connect the diverse communities that make up the city. But it's hard work that needs to be done.

I was elected Mayor of a world-class city with one of the world's most diverse populations. It's one with tremendous possibilities. My challenge, and I think the challenge to all of you who care about the city, who love this city, is to answer the question: How can this diverse population move forward together as one city?

The answer lies in recognizing that the whole is greater than the sum of our individual parts. Something magical happens when you put all of this together, when you add San Pedro to Sylmar and Encino to Boyle Heights. You put all of those different components together, and you come up with a tremendously wonderful city. The sum has a richness and a vibrance that you lose when you divide it.

Now the people who want to divide the city believe that the different parts will be more efficient than the whole. I intend to show that together, this whole city can get the job done. We're going to deliver after school programs to all of our schools. We're going to begin to work on fixing these traffic problems. We're going to create opportunities for people to have a stronger voice in City Hall. And we're going to put more police on the streets. We're going to deliver basic services to San Fernando Valley, Harbor, Hollywood and every neighborhood in between.

We've got a lot of tools to bind this city together as one. We've got a lot of tools in the city toolbox and your toolboxes. It's time to use those tools. We've been putting those tools together, working with all of you to make this great city one. I'm committed to doing that. That's what we started to do. That's what we are doing. And that's what we'll continue to do.

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