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Spot a Pothole, Pocket a Buck From Hahn

January 12, 1988|VICTOR MERINA | Times Staff Writer

Veteran Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who has built his political reputation on such old-style virtues as clean streets and smooth roads, issued a challenge Monday, promising to pay $1 to anyone who can find a pothole in his district.

Hahn said he would use his own money to reward those who can find chuckholes on any street in the unincorporated areas of his 2nd Supervisorial District.

But Hahn, who faces reelection in June, made it clear that he does not expect to have to spend much, if any, of his money.

"Some public officials, if they offer a dollar for every pothole, they go bankrupt, but I offer it knowing that I won't have to pay one dollar," Hahn boasted at a news conference in his Hall of Administration office.

Excluded Highways

Hahn limited his offer only to the 387 miles of roads in the unincorporated areas of his district and excluded state highways or streets governed by the half-dozen cities in his district. Hahn's district covers much of South Los Angeles and extends south to Carson, west to Los Angeles International Airport and the Inglewood community and east to Watts and Lynwood.

Hahn said, "There was no excuse for a pothole" and joked that if he widened his offer to cover city streets, he would go bankrupt.

"I would have to take my grandchildren's money out of their piggy banks if I included the cities," he told reporters.

He would probably have been right as far as Los Angeles is concerned. Last month, Mayor Tom Bradley announced that his aides, during a competition, found 1,833 potholes on city streets during the month of November, including more than 300 reported by one secretary.

Last year, the county spent $170,000 to repair chuckholes and street ruts, according to the Department of Public Works, and on average, street crews repair 20,000 potholes annually. Although officials could not immediately determine how many of those were in the 2nd District, Hahn said he was certain that his district had very few.

Hahn balked when asked why he did not offer a larger reward--such as $100 a pothole--to back up his confidence.

"I'm not that confident, not $100 (worth) because someone will go out there at midnight and dig them (to claim the reward)," he said.

Must Be Verified

In order to claim the $1, the pothole would have to be verified by Hahn or one of his staff members, and employees of the county Public Works Department would be ineligible for the prize.

During his press conference, Hahn said the pothole program was designed to motivate his staff and the Public Works Department to fix any road problems. But with an election scheduled for June 4 and Hahn bidding for his 10th term in office, he admitted that the approaching election was "in the back of my mind" when he came up with the reward.

"There may be a political touch to it," he added, "but politics is politics, and there's no use announcing this reward after June 4."

Hahn had announced that his offer would expire at midnight on Feb. 15. But later Monday, his press deputy said Hahn was thinking of extending it--to Election Day.

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