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THE HAHN INAUGURAL | PATT MORRISON

L.A. Goes for Show: Inaugural, Take 2

July 03, 2001|PATT MORRISON

Jim Hahn inauguration. Take 2.

How very Hollywood of us. How very us of us.

We restage publicly a ceremony that already had taken place in private. The new mayor and most of the city's freshly elected elect had been sworn in over the weekend, when their terms legally began.

Now even the Rose Parade piously refuses to roll its posy-wagons on a Sunday, so how could Los Angeles in good conscience put on a Sunday inauguration? More to the point, how could it put on a Sunday inauguration and draw a crowd numbering much more than pigeons and street people?

So we shot a retake on Monday, just for show, just for verisimilitude. It was out on the South Lawn of City Hall, which is not so grand a setting as it sounds, bringing the White House to mind and all. The wardrobe mistress wisely dressed James Kenneth Hahn in a camera-friendly blue shirt. The prop master set out potted ferns and withering hydrangeas, but not a single bloom of the city flower, the bird of paradise. The set decorator had shrouded in opaque plastic the Frank Putnam Flint fountain, drained of water these many years since a homeless man fell into it and drowned. The LAPD concert band didn't play "I Love L.A.," the song that had Hahn so astonishingly animated on election night. But it did play, with great zest, Canada's unofficial national anthem, "The Maple Leaf Forever."

Take 2.

Tom Bradley has not left the building. His spirit was very much there on Monday, a presence once again: in the City Hall he ran so phlegmatically for 20 years; in the African American power players and loyalists; and in the same cautious rhetoric of a new mayor who will be conscientious about winding the clocks but doesn't always believe it's his job to reset them.

Eight years ago, Richard Riordan arrived at City Hall as a cipher. A cipher Jim Hahn is not. City Hall is putting him on like a favorite old pair of jeans. Hahn's problem, having campaigned as Kenny's son, is reminding people that he is his own man, now elected to a man's estate. To that end, the word has gone out--subtly but insistently--that henceforth it is "James" or "Jim," not the short-pants "Jimmy.' (Pastor Chip Murray of First AME, the city's politically potent make-you-or-break-you black church, nonetheless exuberantly exhorted the new mayor to "fly, Jimmy, fly!")

Take 2.

It was a family reunion. It was a political convention. Stand in one place on Monday and two decades of civic history passed by, joking and jockeying: Janice Hahn, new City Council member, the new mayor's sister, the charmer and the live wire in the Hahn family; Maureen Kindel, head of Bradley's board of public works and now a five-star lobbyist; the mother of Congresswoman Diane Watson; two ex-D.A.s and the current one; political consultants working the crowd. During one prayer for the Lord's favor and guidance, someone slipped me a handwritten tout sheet predicting how votes will break in the very inside-City-Hall campaign for City Council president.

The only power broker I didn't see there was Danny Bakewell, head of the Brotherhood Crusade and a man of unquestionable power but with a reputation for sometimes questionable follow-through. When I mentioned his absence to a politico standing next to me, the man retorted sarcastically: "He's probably running the booths."

In a line that Jesse Jackson could have crafted, Chip Murray said in memorable rhythms that "diversity . . . does not mean adversity."

Chip Murray was Tom Bradley's pastor. In Bradley's heyday, diversity seemed as easy as Mexican food and Chinese dragon dancers, and power was as simple as black and white.

The Mexican food was there on Monday, and the dragon dancers, but now power is much more broadly and gingerly dispersed. Hahn made a stab at it, inviting a KMEX-TV news anchor to be master of ceremonies and reciting his stump-speech standard, the Thomas Bros.-compass points of the city, San Pedro to Sylmar, Mar Vista to El Sereno, Watts to Canoga Park in guidebook-precise Spanish.

The new city attorney, Rocky Delgadillo, the first citywide Latino official elected since a school board election in 1967, took his oath swearing fealty to "Los-AN-heh-less."

Down in front of him, the man who strove to be the first Latino mayor in about 130 years sat in the front row. Someone with a sense of humor had put Antonio Villaraigosa next to Arnold Schwarzenegger--the terminated and the terminator.

It was 88 degrees on Monday morning, and they were handing out bottles of water, passing them down rows like peanuts at a Dodger game. It was Aquafina water, bottled in Riverside, not Sparkletts, bottled in Eagle Rock.

By noon, the crowd was gone. The homeless could move back onto the South Lawn, and do their scavenger work, collecting the discarded bottles. The empties bring five cents each.

*

Columnist Patt Morrison's e-mail address is patt.morrison@latimes.com

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