On James K. Hahn's 42nd day as mayor, terrorists attacked the United States and propelled Los Angeles into its worst economic crisis since the Northridge earthquake. The aftershocks from Sept. 11 could turn out to be worse than a quake's, with anxiety over the threat of more to come hampering recovery. Hahn is being tested as surely as was former Mayor Richard Riordan, who had been in office all of six months when the 1994 quake struck.
Today's crisis demands as urgent a response.
It took Hahn a while to realize this. Four weeks after the attacks, he appointed a citizen task force to assess the local economic and psychological damage and prescribe remedies. The task force responded with record speed that reflected its key advice. "The message to the entire city," said task force chairman George Kieffer last week, " is: 'Pick up the pace."'
The task force proposes a modest plan: Coordinate the efforts of various public and private groups that offer relief for workers and businesses hurt by the downturn. Invest in--and market--the city.
None of this costs much, which is good because swooning sales, hotel and business taxes and soaring security costs have drained the city's reserves and left it facing a shortfall. The investment proposal, for example, calls on city officials to get off their bureaucratic duffs and start building capital projects that have already been approved and funded--the emergency operations and fire dispatch center, a police station in the San Fernando Valley, children's museums in Little Tokyo and at Hansen Dam. Doing so could provide as many as 11,000 new construction jobs in the short term and needed infrastructure and permanent jobs in the future.