Hahn Sworn In as Mayor, Lays Out Course of Action


James K. Hahn was sworn in as the 40th mayor of Los Angeles Monday, reaching out to those who voted against him and promising a host of nuts-and-bolts solutions to the problems he says confront the city--from its shortage of affordable housing to its threatened breakup.

Dressed in a blue suit and gold tie and smiling in the hot morning sun, Hahn spoke in plain language to the more than 1,000 people who gathered on the south lawn of the newly renovated City Hall. He used his appearance to try to mend fences from a tough mayoral campaign even as he looked ahead to holding an office he has long dreamed of occupying.

"For those who did not support me, I will work every day to make sure you know that I am truly your mayor," Hahn said, standing on a stage decked out in red, white and blue bunting.

"We will make the great city of Los Angeles strong by making the people of this city understand that we're stronger together than if we go our separate ways," he added. "We're going to do this not by scaring or threatening our fellow citizens, but the old-fashioned way: by earning the trust of every single community."

Hahn's address symbolically launched his administration and marked the opening of a new period at City Hall. For 20 years, Democratic Mayor Tom Bradley governed with a generally liberal and Democratic City Council, only to have that hegemony overturned by Richard Riordan, a Republican who won the mayor's office in 1993 after Bradley retired.

With his election, Hahn, a Democrat who was allied with Bradley, turns City Hall from some of the preoccupations of the Riordan years. Hahn's speech, for instance, emphasized reform of the Los Angeles Police Department and his promise to create a $100-million housing trust fund--two ideas that Riordan was sometimes faulted for pursuing without enthusiasm.

Almost a month after he beat opponent Antonio Villaraigosa in a tough, rhetorically sharp campaign, Hahn praised his onetime rival--who was among those in attendance--and attempted to sound an inclusive tone. The new mayor even spoke briefly in carefully enunciated Spanish, a gesture that was greeted warmly by the audience.

Villaraigosa, who sat in the front row during the ceremony, stood up and waved when Hahn called him "someone I truly respect." The former Assembly speaker is recovering from throat surgery and could not speak, but released a statement offering the new mayor "my undivided support."

With the City Council seated behind him, Hahn also promised to work in partnership with his fellow officials. That was not always the case in the 1990s, when the council often was at odds with Riordan, who sat next to Hahn during much of the ceremony Monday, usually with arms crossed but often applauding during the new mayor's speech.

"As mayor, I'm not going to head an isolated, separate branch of government," Hahn said. "I will listen to the city's elected officials because they, too, speak for the people."

Monday's ceremony opened with an ebullient Hahn bounding down the steps of City Hall and into the crowd, where he shook hands and posed for photos. Returning to the stage, he joined his wife, children, mother and sister Janice, who was sworn in as a City Council member. Seven other council members also took the oath Monday, as did City Controller Laura Chick and City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo.

Federal Judge Harry Pregerson, an old friend of the Hahn family, then swore in the new mayor, whose family joined him for the event. Hahn's young son fidgeted impatiently through the event, at one point leaning his elbows on the dais. His aunt, Councilwoman Hahn, gently pulled him back.

"Amen, thanks!" Hahn concluded heartily after taking the oath. He then turned and addressed his constituents.

With his family looking on, Hahn paid homage to his father, the late county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.

"I've never been more proud of my family's name or more proud of my father's legacy of public service," he said. "But what matters is not just the name my father gave me, but what I learned from him: that politics and public service are about people."

Hahn's speech was packed with references to specific tasks he pledged to take on as mayor, referring in general terms to two of the city's toughest challenges: the efforts to split up Los Angeles, and the ongoing attempts to get to the bottom of police corruption while maintaining morale in the LAPD.

The new mayor made it clear that rehabilitating the Police Department is one of his top priorities, an issue he has emphasized in the weeks since his election. He vowed to implement the federal consent decree that mandates reforms of the department--Hahn and his office helped negotiate that decree--and to stem the attrition that is dwindling the department's ranks.

Hahn has promised to implement a compressed work schedule for police officers within 90 days, a proposal that drew controversy during the election and that is opposed by some council members and others.

The new mayor also pledged to:

* Increase the number of after-school programs available to Los Angeles students.

* Work with the school district to build new campuses.

* Tackle gridlock and build a better public transportation system.

* Reform the business tax code and lure new firms to the city.

* Create a $100-million housing trust fund.

* Back the newly forming neighborhood councils, created by the enactment of Los Angeles' new city charter.

But the emotional power of the day was shaped by various pleas for Hahn to bring together Los Angeles' disparate groups, which split largely along ethnic lines in the mayor's race. Though Hahn won the bulk of African American support, Villaraigosa was supported overwhelming by the city's Latinos.

Monday's inaugural ceremony seemed carefully crafted to bridge that divide. Nancy Agosto, morning anchor for Spanish-language television station KMEX-TV, acted as master of ceremonies, while many African American ministers who supported Hahn surrounded him on stage. Catholic, Protestant and Jewish leaders each offered their prayers for the new mayor.

"You and we enter an agreement today, Mr. Mayor," said Rabbi Allen Freehling of University Synagogue. "Together, let us move Los Angeles to become a magnificent mosaic of diversity . . . to become an interactive community in which men, women and children rely upon on their multiplicity of ethnic backgrounds to strive together."

The new mayor echoed those sentiments, saying that the most important lesson he gleaned from the campaign was "that there is much more that unites us than divides us."

Hahn's inauguration was also buoyed by a sense of a political rebirth for African Americans, who figured prominently in the day's ceremony and promise to be staunch supporters of his administration, at least in its early days.

"James Hahn does not come to us as a stranger," intoned the Rev. Cecil "Chip" Murray of the First AME Church, calling him "tested, tried, proven."

"So today, we join our hands, we join our hearts with James Hahn, asking him to lift us up where we belong, where eagles fly," he said.

"Fly, Jimmy, fly!" Murray added, urging to the audience to join him in the chant.

Hahn approached Monday's event emphasizing his commitment to blacks.

"The African American community, I think, felt a little bit left out maybe the last eight years," Hahn said at a Sunday church service in South Los Angeles. Congregants nodded and clapped. "We want to make sure everybody gets left in."

In his speech Monday, Hahn quoted former Mayor Bradley, the city's first and only African American mayor, saying, "If it is possible, we will do it here."

Hahn's speech was brief, just 11 minutes. Concluding, he promised to "speak less and work more," and then added with gusto: "Let's get to work!"

Hundreds of supporters, many clad in white inaugural baseball caps, crowded under the jacaranda trees on the lawn and cheered on Hahn, interrupting his address with applause at least 17 times.

"I like the simplicity of the speech, and the hands-on feeling about it," said Louise Frankel, a Westside resident who hurried to get in line to shake the new mayor's hand. "It was friendly; it wasn't pretentious."

Hahn's conciliatory tone and specific promises for progress won over some city leaders who had supported Villaraigosa.

"I thought he hit on all the right notes," said Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski. "He talked about housing and police recruitment and neighborhoods. He knows this is a government that also includes council members, the city attorney and the controller. We are all a team."

City Councilman Eric Garcetti said Hahn is going to "knock some people out with how well he does" on addressing issues such as housing, transportation and police reform, and called the inaugural address "classic Jim Hahn."

"It was, 'Let's get down to business,' " he said. "It was not about the flowery rhetoric; it was about the actual accomplishments."


Times staff writer Tina Daunt contributed to this story.



A new style: The day was modest and paid tribute to diversity. A14

Patt Morrison: How very Hollywood of us. A14

Inaugural address: Excerpts from the mayor's speech. A14

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World