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Jewish Journal

Why I’m Supporting Hahn

by Rabbi Allen I. Freehling

May 31, 2001 | 8:00 pm

Several months before he publicly announced his candidacy, Jim Hahn and I met for lunch. As is typical of our conversations that have spanned the years I have lived and served here, we concentrated on what needs to be done to improve the lives of all our diverse peoples.

It was during that meeting Jim told me that he was seriously considering offering his name as a candidate for mayor, and I urged him to do so. Why? Because I was convinced then, just as I am certain now, that the City of Los Angeles will benefit immensely as a result of his serving as our leader.

It is his vision that our city must be the best in the world of architecture, art, music, literature, business and sports. He is convinced that we have the climate, the natural resources, the people and the energy to be the city of the 21st century. But he also knows that as we strive to become that city, it's important to remember the basics -- public safety, public education and economic opportunity.

While Jim was in law school, he spent time as a Legal Aid volunteer, helping protect low-income women from their abusive spouses. He witnessed the slow evolution of confidence that comes to women and their children when they begin to feel safe again. Because he has seen the benefits to individuals and society of getting serious about domestic violence, he labored tirelessly as city attorney to make his department's Domestic Violence Unit one of the best in the nation.

Meanwhile, Jim has seen the power given to people and neighborhoods when their streets and parks are free from gangs, graffiti and abandoned buildings. As a result, he has pioneered the use of the legal weapon of gang injunctions to help people take their neighborhoods back from gangs and stop being victims. Based upon his record on issues such as gangs, domestic violence, graffiti abatement and real penalties for slumlords, he was privileged to receive the overwhelming endorsement of Los Angeles' rank-and-file police officers during this current campaign.

Jim has told me and others that the most critical public-safety problem faced by the next mayor is the loss of our city's best police officers to other states and other agencies. That's why he has devised a plan to put 1,000 new police on our streets. He is also ready to put in place better training and efforts to bolster police morale so that LAPD will retain its best officers.

A key component to building the kind of police force and police officers Los Angeles needs is full compliance to the consent decree, which Jim negotiated on behalf of the city, because it is not acceptable to have renegade police officers violating citizens' rights. Jim knows that more than 99 percent of Los Angeles police officers are good, decent people who work hard to preserve order and protect the public. They, above everyone, want to rid the department of the few who discredit them all. That's why Jim fought hard, over Mayor Riordan's and others' initial objections, to negotiate a consent decree that puts Los Angeles on the path to real police reform once and for all, police reform that includes a very tough anti-racial-profiling provision.

As many of us know, Jim grew up in South Central Los Angeles and attended public school at Manchester Elementary and Horace Mann Junior High School at a time when many were fleeing the inner city. These experiences afforded him a good education in more ways than one, because he learned the importance of commitment and loyalty to friends and neighbors alike.

Because education is more critical to the future of our children and our city than ever before, Jim has created a plan to build schools to ease the overcrowding and environmental conditions that inhibit a student's ability to learn. He also wants to keep more schools open after hours, because it is by this means that children will be kept off the streets and out of gangs. As mayor, he wants to be the voice of Los Angeles' parents. This is more than the promise of a candidate; it is the commitment of a father with two children in L.A. public schools.

Jim acknowledges that economic opportunity includes decent jobs and a tax structure that encourages entrepreneurs. He believes that small business is the engine that drives any economy; it is small businessmen and women who create the jobs and the wealth of a city. That's why he has proposed a two-year tax moratorium for new businesses in Los Angeles, to give each entrepreneur every opportunity to succeed and to create good jobs.

But economic opportunity and growth also depend on transportation systems that work. Jim paid attention when Steve Soboroff talked about common-sense ideas, such as no road construction during rush hour. Jim has proposed changing MTA priorities to spend more money on fixing our roads and putting more buses on the streets, because a transportation system must connect people to jobs and education, and it cannot isolate poor people from those opportunities.

Jim's vision is to see Central Avenue renewed as the "street of sounds; "North Hollywood and Hollywood as a live theater center that rivals Broadway; Pico-Union bustling with entrepreneurial commerce; downtown Los Angeles revived as the world's best convention center; West Los Angeles, the Valley and every part of this city having strong neighborhoods that provide jobs, recreation, arts, school programs and senior citizen services.

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