The New Mayor Throws a Party for Everyone


It was inauguration day James K. Hahn style--modest, personal and painstakingly attentive to the city's diverse communities.

He delivered a quick speech then hosted a festive street party with the longest receiving line in civic memory, catering by Roscoe's House of Chicken 'n Waffles, Chef Marilyn's Place and Art's Deli, among others; dancing and music that included Chinese dragons, drummers, an African American dance company and a rhythm and blues band.

Get used to it, Los Angeles.

This is the party Hahn planned, and he appeared to love every hand-pumping, smiling, hot minute of it.

City Hall was literally and figuratively transformed Monday with the swearing-in of the new mayor, city attorney, city controller and eight council members, including the mayor's sister, Janice Hahn.

The post-inaugural bash, held, yes, on Main Street, was set smack in the middle between City Halls, the historic one still being restored where Hahn will work and the nondescript office building where he was city attorney for 16 years.

Between those buildings, movers were unloading boxes as painters, electricians and carpenters toiled inside. Gardeners completed raking the south lawn flower beds just an hour before the ceremony.

Some minor problems were reported: Outgoing Mayor Richard Riordan was briefly trapped in an elevator, emerging after city workers pried open the doors to release him, his wife and a carload of tourists.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky wandered around the fourth floor, looking to visit council members. But hallway after hallway seemed to lead nowhere. "Where are they?" Yaroslavsky asked.

When Councilman Hal Bernson was asked where his new office is located, his wife, Robyn, said: "He hasn't the vaguest idea."

Though it didn't exactly compete with the Lakers' victory parade, which drew about half a million people, the inauguration festivities drew hundreds of optimistic Hahn supporters. They came from nearby office buildings--Caltrans workers on their lunch hour, City Hall employees. Said parking attendant Toby Arias: "There's nothing like having one of your own in the mayor's office."

They even came from Santa Monica, where they couldn't vote for Los Angeles' mayor. "I'm interested in the diversity of the city, his ability to bring together the communities," said Jack Mathews.

Mathews, among hundreds of others, waited in line for a chance to shake hands with the new mayor and his wife, Monica.

While some of Hahn's aides sat on a nearby bench, waiting for the receiving line to end, the city's first couple appeared tireless. They smiled, they shook hands, they posed. And when they were asked--about 45 minutes into it--whether they wanted to stop, both said: "I'm fine, I'm fine."

Some had serious issues to take up with Hahn.

"I really want to ask him to help the homeless people," said Abe Berookhim, who owns a restaurant near City Hall. "They're really suffering. Here, across the street from City Hall, we have people living on the sidewalks. It's really a disgrace. I would even be taxed to make sure people are not suffering in the street."

As people waited in line, many signed a gigantic card for the new mayor. "I couldn't be more proud of you! Love, Cheryl," read an inscription from one. "Congratulations!" said another, "Your dad is really proud of you."

The lines were long as well for the tostadas and chips from Mexicali Cocina Cantina; the chicken, greens and corn bread from Roscoe's, and the brownies and cherry cobbler with homemade ice cream from Reign. Patina's tomato and mozzarella salad went like hot cakes.

Jackie Hawthorne of Baldwin Hills summed it up: "It's not all pomp and circumstance that turns you off and leaves you cold. This is very unifying because that's what we need."

That was exactly Hahn's hope in sponsoring a street party with free food, dancers and musicians. "He wanted something that was accessible to everybody," said Kam Kuwata, Hahn's campaign consultant.

To that end, the new mayor and his wife hosted a sit-down dinner at the official mayoral residence, Getty House, on Monday evening for the City Council, city attorney and city controller.

"With no disrespect to the previous mayor," Kuwata said, "Jim believes there's a need for a good working relationship with city government."

Hahn's tenure as mayor began Sunday morning with a cheery "Good morning, mayor!" from his 8-year-old son Jackson. ("I'm still Daddy," Hahn told him.) Hahn's term officially began at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

He had breakfast at Getty House with the Riordans and then attended a lively gospel choir victory celebration hosted by Brookins AME Church in South Los Angeles. About 150 congregants gathered to congratulate Hahn and his sister.

Hahn spent Sunday night at his home in San Pedro--where he and his family will continue to live--and spent the early part of Monday morning practicing his speech, before heading to City Hall.

There were a few missteps at Monday's ceremony, including the disappointment of supporters who thought they had seats but who only were invited to stand.

"As much as I worked for him to get elected, I'm very disappointed," said Coy Sallis, a Wilshire-area resident.

A few moments later, Sallis saw a friend inside the ropes who helped score him a seat.

Mostly, however, it was a day to look forward.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger--a Republican--got a seat in the front row, next to former mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa. "He is very important for the future of the city," Schwarzenegger said. "He has my full support, and whatever he needs I'll be there helping."

The day could not pass, however, without reminders of Hahn's father, Kenneth, the late and beloved county supervisor whose reputation smoothed the path of his son's election.

From the ceremony to the street party, supporters said they feel like they know the Hahn family. Many fondly remembered the elder Hahn, who died in 1997.

"I came out to see Kenny Hahn's son be sworn in," said Carol Black of Leimert Park.

Hahn clearly was looking forward to working in the new mayor's office. His last line of his speech: "Let's get to work."

So perhaps it was fitting that the last photo the Hahns took was with a group of men in matching green shirts: the Mayflower movers.


Times staff writers Tina Daunt and Matea Gold contributed to this story.

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