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Friday, May 20, 2022

Hahn Backs City’s Valley Role, Targets Tourism Bureau Change

Hahn Backs City’s Valley Role, Targets Tourism Bureau Change

L.A. Mayor James Hahn sat down with Business Journal editors and reporters last week to discuss secession, the selection of a new police chief, his plan to remake Los Angeles International Airport, the economy, the city budget and the attempt to bring football back to L.A.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

On the campaign against secession in the San Fernando Valley:

“I realize this is an uphill battle, because polls show close to 60 percent support (for secession). But it’s a battle worth fighting. If we can convince the people in the Valley and in Hollywood that this is a mistake that we can work on our problems together and that we would create more problems by starting separate cities it really bodes well for our city in the future.”

On governing the proposed breakaway areas if secession fails:

“We want to continue doing what we’ve been doing the last couple of years. We have a new city charter, we have decentralized planning decisions with area planning commissions, we have created a system of neighborhood councils. Those councils are composed of business groups as well as homeowners, all trying to decide how neighborhood priorities should be set. In spite of the worst budget any mayor here has faced in nine years, we have increased the number of miles of sidewalks being repaired, had a record number of miles of street paving, we’ve hired more paramedics, we’ve hired more firefighters, we’ve hired more police. So we’re showing people in these breakaway areas that government is changing.”

On complaints from Valley residents that the Valley doesn’t get its fair share of police deployments:

“We deploy police on the basis of where they are needed most, not on the basis of who pays the most. By that line of reasoning, Bel Air should have hundreds of police patrolling the streets, because the residents of Bel Air pay the most. Places where the need is greater, such as Watts or South Central, would get virtually no police protection, since they couldn’t afford to pay for it.”

On the proposal for a boroughs system:

“That proposal was brought forward by folks who thought they were going to lose the secession fight and were trying to somehow confuse everybody. I wanted this secession issue to be a clear vote. We ought to consider the boroughs idea in a methodical, careful way. This was a rush job that they were just trying to ram through. That’s not the way you do public policy.”

On the city budget:

“The thing that worries me for next year though is if the state continues to have these huge structural budget deficits, their natural inclination is to balance their budget on our backs. They did this 10 years ago with the property tax shift which still hasn’t been readjusted by the way.

“But if nothing changes with the way the economy is going and the property tax still looks very strong, we can have a budget that provides the services we want to provide and we won’t have to make major cuts.”

On his proposed $10 billion overhaul of LAX:

“I presented what I thought was the way to make the airport much safer, to try to eliminate the risk of a car bomb or a truck bomb in the central terminal area, have a more efficient way of getting passengers screened without those long lines snaking outside the terminals. It’s expensive, and it’s tough for the airlines to accept a large expenditure like this when their whole industry is reeling right now. But look at JFK Airport in New York they’re spending $9 billion there and they handle far fewer passengers than LAX. Our proposal is not an expansion plan. It’s a safety plan. And there will no doubt be a lot of tweaks before it’s finalized.”

On his selection of William Bratton as police chief:

“It became clear to me that the person who was most in sync with what I wanted to be head of this police department was Bill Bratton. The second advantage he held was that he clearly had the most experience in running major police organizations.

“Bill Bratton believes in community policing like I do. With only 9,000 officers in a city this spread out, I think you have to have community policing. He believes in police reform as a key to keeping the trust of the community. And, he is unequivocal about bringing crime down. He doesn’t tell you, ‘I’ll do my best.’ He says ‘I have brought crime down in other cities, this is how I’ve done it and I will bring crime down here.'”

On building a Convention Center hotel:

“It should have been built when the Convention Center was expanded in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was crazy not to do it then. I know everybody thinks we have to have this big public subsidy, but I prefer projects that pay their own way. That’s why I liked the Anschutz Entertainment Group’s proposal for a downtown football stadium. It basically paid its own way.”

On prospects for returning professional football to Los Angeles:

“I think we can get a football team here. When I was at the Super Bowl last winter, I said I think we can get a team here in five years. I didn’t say five months because I recognize it’s going to take some time. I think a smart owner will see the tremendous advantage to having a team here in Los Angeles. We’re not going to go out and start enticing them, because I don’t want any of these other cities suing me for interfering in their lease negotiations. But the smart owner will be the one who moves here first.”

On the management of L.A.’s convention business:

“I am not satisfied with the performance of our Convention Center and the Convention & Visitors Bureau. Too few conventions and too few shows have been booked. Why this has happened, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s because the Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Convention Center haven’t worked well together.

“I think we have to go back to the drawing board to see the best structure we can put together to get as many events as possible booked here. We have to realize we don’t have the world’s largest convention center, so we may not be able to go after the biggest events. We need to find out where our niche is and focus in on that like a laser beam.”

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