Hahn Answers LAX Questions
In a meeting with writers and editors of The Jewish Journal, Mayor Jim Hahn directly addressed the allegations of scandal at LAX and the Department of Water and Power (DWP).
Hahn referred to a meeting he had with City Controller Laura Chick soon after she announced she'd found questionable practices at LAX (Chick's LAX contracting audit was released in December 2003).
"[Controller Chick] met with me and I said, 'Do you have an instance of someone doing something [wrong]?'" Hahn said. In response, Hahn said that Chick simply told him that "'Everybody knows what's going on.'"
"I'm a prosecutor. I like evidence," Hahn said. "'Everybody knows' doesn't cut it for me."
Hahn said he's never seen any evidence that any LAX contracts were awarded to companies in exchange for campaign contributions and that prosecutors, now over a year into the investigation, have a duty to come forward with facts of wrongdoing or announce that no such facts exist.
Chick agreed that the meeting mentioned by Hahn took place a few weeks after she had passed her preliminary investigation to prosecutors, shortly after her audit of LAX was made public.
"[Hahn] wasn't interested in talking about the audit," Chick said. "He wanted to know more about the investigation, and I made it clear to him that it would be totally inappropriate for me to discuss that."
Chick said that when she tried to instead discuss questions raised by the audit, Hahn sarcastically told her, "We all know that you're in love with your audits, Laura."
Chick said that by ignoring the audit's description of the "environment ripe for abuse" at LAX and worrying instead about the implications of the investigation, Hahn distanced himself from actually solving city problems.
For his part, Hahn said that he introduced a measure to ban contributions from contractors one year ago, but the City Council has not acted.
"I don't think anybody in public life holds themselves to a higher standard of ethics than I do," Hahn said.
In the Jewish Journal discussion, the mayor focused on the allegations against his former fundraiser and Deputy Mayor Troy Edwards, who resigned in spring 2004.
Hahn said that going through the "drudgery" of raising campaign money entitled Edwards to an opportunity to engage in public service. Edwards' task as deputy mayor, according to Hahn, was to push forward the mayor's post-Sept. 11 security agenda at LAX.
"That was his role and he was out of the fundraising business," Hahn said of Edwards.
"If he's done anything wrong, if he has violated any laws, throw the book at Troy," Hahn said. "But so far, we have rumor and innuendo, [and] we have no conclusions."
Chick took a broader view of the problem: "The second-largest city in the USA [is] doing business in an incredibly high-risk, illogical, and bizarre way," Chick said. "There is no reason to be awarding multimillion-dollar contracts and not have documentation to back up why you gave the contract to this company and not that one."
On the parallel issue of controversial public relations contracts with the city of Los Angeles, Hahn told The Journal, "It would have been nice if [Chick] had been the one to discover the over-billings at Fleischman-Hillard instead of waiting for the Los Angeles Times to do it."
Chick responded that she had raised the issue of swelling city public relations contracts with Hahn while performing her audit of the Green Power program at the DWP (released August 2002).
"I called him, not revealing anything in detail about the audit, to ask him to please have his commissioners hold off on [pursuing further public relations contracts]," Chick said, "because I had already seen enough issues to have concerns."
Chick said Hahn told her: "I don't tell my commissioners what to do."
Chick's doubts about the mayor's administration led her to brief all four mayoral contenders at her home, presenting them with audits of questionable city practices under Hahn and notes on Hahn's shortcomings as a problem-solver.
"I don't know what it's about," Hahn said about Chick's meetings. Criticism from Hahn's supporters after the meetings came to light blasted Chick for appearing to use her office to help the mayor's opponents.
Chick responded that all the information she presented was publicly available. "If I had it to do over again I'd find a way to do a public briefing," Chick told The Journal.
– Idan Ivri, Contributing Writer
Happy 80th David Lieber!
On Thursday, Feb. 10, the University of Judaism (UJ) sponsored a gala 80th birthday celebration at the Regent Beverly Wilshire for David Lieber, its president emeritus.
When Lieber arrived at the UJ in 1956, it was a very different place to the venerable institution that it is today. Back then, the UJ was a very small West Coast offshoot of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York, which funded it and controlled its senior faculty. Most of its staff was imported – because, as Lieber said "We needed people who were Hebrew speaking, and we just didn't have them."
Back then the UJ was housed in a five-bedroom house on Sixth Street and Ardmore Avenue, and it essentially consisted of two programs – an adult education program and a school for the training of Hebrew teachers. Its classes were held at night.
Enter Lieber, who came to the UJ after serving a four-year stint as the spiritual leader of Sinai Temple. Highly decorated with a host of degrees from City College in New York, JTS and Columbia University, Lieber became the dean of students and, in 1963, became the UJ's president. Once he entered the UJ scene, things started to change – and grow. He helped develop a two-year program for people wanting to enter the rabbinate – this was before the UJ offered ordination, although years later, Lieber was instrumental in developing the ordination program, too – he created programs in the arts, was one of the founders of the undergraduate college and expanded the number of graduate programs the UJ offered.
"When I first came to Los Angeles in 1950, there were as many as 5,000 people moving into Los Angeles every month, so the community was growing, but it was far away from the East Coast," Lieber told The Journal. He said he had three visions: 1) That the community should be self renewing, producing its own leaderhip, ostensibly through a university; 2) That the UJ should put a stamp on a person, and that the undergraduate program would help the student find an orientation in life; 3) And that the graduate program would all have to be geared to service in the Jewish community – to train teachers, rabbis and professional executives.
In the years of Lieber's tenure at the UJ, he oversaw the physical expansion of the UJ property at its current location in Bel Air. He also helped establish the UJ as an institution in its own right – not as a Los Angeles school that was playing second fiddle to JTS in New York. Lieber built created the UJ's Board of Directors, and accepted the responsibility of fundraising for the place, and he also played hardball when JTS, under Chancellor Isidore Schorsch, insisted that UJ Rabbinical students could only spend one year at the UJ before studying in Israel and New York for three years to be ordained.
"I said it was impossible. Why should anyone come here for just one year? It would just destroy the program." Lieber said he was troubled by that. "I felt that on the one hand we were permitted to do what we wanted, but on the other hand we were far from the centers of power and decision making."
So Lieber made the break with JTS.
"I felt that if [the Jewish Theological] Seminary had to choose between the welfare of its programs over our programs, it would always choose the welfare of their programs," Lieber said. "We basically parted amicably at that time  and that the last of my major administrative acts."
In the years since, Lieber has been teaching Torah in the undergraduate and graduate programs at the UJ, and he was also the senior editor of the Conservative movement's first commentary on the Torah, "Etz Chayim."
On his 80th birthday, Lieber doesn't want to hang up his teaching hat just yet.
"I'll teach as long as I am healthy," he said. "In my early years, and even through my middle years, one could have characterized the UJ as a mom-and-pop operation. Now it is a real university."
The Feb. 10 party for Lieber will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills. – Gaby Wenig, Staff Writer
Israel Team Lifts L.A. Hockey Blues
The National Hockey League may be on strike, but the Israeli National Junior Hockey Team is in full swing. The team, made up of 22 14- to 17-year-olds, will be in Los Angeles Feb. 15-21 to play four games against the Mexican National Junior Hockey Team.
The young Israeli hockey players, who live in the Golan Heights, Kiryat Shimona, Northern Galilee and throughout Israel, travel up to two hours to practice twice a week at the Canada Center, Israel's only ice rink in Metulla, near the Lebanese border. Many team members hail from kibbutzim, moshavs and farms and are first-generation hockey players and first-time visitors to the United States.
"With this trip, we're trying to present Israel in a different light," said Dr. Len Silverberg of Tarzana, who sits on the Friends of Israeli Ice Hockey Board. "Everybody thinks of the violence and the bombings, but these are just normal kids who want to play hockey."
While in Los Angeles, the players will stay with host families from Stephen S. Wise Temple, Kehillat Israel and Wilshire Boulevard Temple; attend Shabbat dinners in local homes; enjoy a gala reception in Silverberg's home; and experience a VIP Universal Studios tour compliments of Steven Spielberg's office.
After their U.S. tour, the team will go on to play in the Division 3 2005 world under-18 hockey championships in Bulgaria. Led by volunteer coach Jean Perron, who coached the Quebec Nordiques, led the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup and was an assistant coach for the Canadian Olympic Team, the Israeli Junior Team looks to make an impression on the international hockey scene.
"Our ultimate goal is to have an Israeli presence in the hockey world and an Israeli Olympic Hockey team in a few years," Silverberg said.
So forget the L.A. Kings and come out to support some Jews on Ice.
Games will be held on Feb. 16, 8-9:30 p.m., and Feb. 17, 7-8:30 p.m., at the HealthSouth Center in El Segundo; and on Feb. 19, 5:30-7 p.m., and Feb. 20, 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Iceoplex in Panorama City. Tickets are $15. For ticket information, contact Len Silverberg at email@example.com. – Carin Davis, Contributing Writer
Hol. Denier Causes Protest
A loud war of words occurred between Holocaust deniers and Jewish activists outside the Canadian consulate in downtown Los Angeles at a Feb. 4 protest supporting German Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel.
Zundel was jailed in Canada in 2003 for violating immigration violations. He is now facing deportation to Germany because Canada considers him and his Holocaust denial views a threat to Canadian security,
About 30 police divided a side street near the city's main library branch, between two dozen Zundel supporters and three dozen supporters of Israel, including Jewish Defense League activists and high school students. Zundel supporters waved "Shame on Canada" signs, and their opponents waved American and Israeli flags. Police reported no violence during the 90-minute lunchtime protest at the consulate, – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer