Hahn Reaches Out to Enfold Secessionists
Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn welcomed the San Fernando Valley back to the fold Wednesday, a day after efforts to create new cities there and in Hollywood failed, saying he wants separatists to join with him to move the city forward.
The mayor, who led a multimillion-dollar campaign to defeat the secession efforts, appeared at a Van Nuys hotel Wednesday morning to cheers and a standing ovation from about 250 people, including some elected officials, city department heads, commissioners and community leaders.
Several of them said the mayor’s morning-after speech was among his best. He was interrupted 20 times by applause.
“Yesterday, the voters of Los Angeles sent a strong, strong message to keep Los Angeles united,” Hahn said. “The secession debate has forever changed our city. It already has changed the way the city does business.... Join us in moving Los Angeles forward.”
It was the beginning of another campaign of sorts for the mayor, who plans to roll out several new initiatives to improve city services in the Valley and to prove that he takes seriously secessionists’ complaints that City Hall has been unresponsive.
He announced that he will host a meeting next month with the candidates who ran for council and mayoral offices in the proposed cities.
Hahn also will announce today the establishment of the first phase of the city’s new toll-free 311 system, which is designed to relieve the 911 system of nonemergency calls and to enable residents to access hundreds of city services more easily.
On Friday, the mayor will host a round-table discussion of community policing with the city’s new police chief, William J. Bratton, and others.
Next week, Hahn will hold a series of media events, including one on working with the school district to find new school sites and another to discuss reforms in city departments.
But even some of those who were asked to sit on the stage behind the mayor as he spoke Wednesday said Hahn faces a difficult task in convincing secessionists that City Hall will be responsive.
While both secession measures were soundly defeated citywide, 50.8% of Valley voters supported breaking away, demonstrating a deep reservoir of dissatisfaction with Los Angeles. Hollywood voters overwhelmingly rejected splitting off from the city.
“It will take a lot of work for the mayor,” said Police Commissioner Bert Boeckmann, a Valley car dealer who was a secession supporter but who didn’t contribute as much money to the campaign as some expected. “I think, if he’s sincere, people will see it, and I think that will lessen what I think are their very real concerns.”
Others, however, said the Hahn administration already has made strides in focusing on local city services, including adding more money for such neighborhood improvements as street paving and sidewalk repairs.
“He already is moving the government. It’s less rhetoric and more action than we’ve seen in years,” said George Keiffer, an attorney who has advised the mayor and who served as the former head of the appointed charter reform commission. “He knows how to move this ship.”
In his speech, Hahn highlighted many of the initiatives he has undertaken this year, including creating neighborhood councils and area planning panels to give residents more say in governmental decisions, rebuilding the Los Angeles Police Department by hiring a new chief, implementing a more flexible work schedule, streamlining the hiring process and building new parks and libraries.Hahn also announced that the city’s bond rating had been adjusted from negative to stable by Fitch Ratings. He said the upgrade was a direct result of the failure of the two secession efforts.
Calling the secession vote a wake-up call, nine members of the Los Angeles City Council also pledged from the steps of Van Nuys City Hall to continue neighborhood improvements.
“The people of the San Fernando Valley have spoken,” said Council President Alex Padilla. “We’ve heard the concerns of those who supported secession. We’ve heard you loud and clear. Let us assure you today that we are here to work harder than ever to meet the challenges and needs of all communities in the city of Los Angeles.”
While secessionists suspected that increases in street repairs and tree trimming in recent months were part of an effort to blunt the momentum of secession, City Council members said Wednesday it is part of a continuing improvement being pushed by a “new” council, most of whose members have been elected in the last few years.
Council members also called for a period of healing so that Valley secessionists can be brought into the process of revamping City Hall.
“It seems like we’ve got some making up to do,” said Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, quoting a lyric from the Neil Sedaka song “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.”
The unofficial gathering of a council majority at Van Nuys City Hall will be followed next week by an official council meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Mission College in Sylmar, where the agenda will include a plan to create seven new council committees based on geography.
Under that plan, proposed by Councilman Tom LaBonge, a cluster of north Valley council members would hold a town hall meeting periodically to discuss local issues, as would south Valley council members and those on the Westside and Eastside and in other parts of the city.