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Salesman Hahn Calls on Valley With Hard Anti-Secession Pitch

Politics: The mayor vows to take care of business and says he'll make weekly visits.

January 11, 2002|MATEA GOLD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn traveled to the San Fernando Valley on Thursday to make the first of what his aides say will be weekly visits to Valley neighborhoods, where some residents have been advocating secession from the city.

The mayor's visit coincides with a stepped-up effort by his administration, in public events and behind-the-scenes politicking, to head off the drive for a breakup.

"I want my customers to stay part of the city of Los Angeles, and I think I demonstrate that by service," Hahn said during a visit to the Valley Economic Development Center in Van Nuys, comparing City Hall to a business.

Hahn's appearance came a day after a commission studying the viability of secession confirmed that it would be financially feasible to create a new city in the Valley. Since his campaign, the mayor has vowed to fight efforts to break apart Los Angeles.

Hahn is coupling his visits to the Valley with a political strategy designed to dampen enthusiasm for secession and win backers for a possible campaign against it.

On Wednesday, he met with Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks), who has been discussed as a possible candidate for mayor of a new Valley city, and asked him to support his efforts.

The speaker told the mayor he is willing to help Hahn address the concerns of frustrated residents, but declined to join Hahn in opposing secession, said Luke Breit, a spokesman for Hertzberg.

Meanwhile, political consultant Bill Carrick said he and other Hahn advisors this month will begin reaching out to potential contributors in their effort to raise $5 million, to be used to defeat a secession initiative that may be placed on the November ballot.

L.A. United, the political action committee Hahn formed to oppose a ballot initiative, recently hired as a fund-raiser Annette Castro, former aide to then-City Councilman Richard Alarcon.

Hahn won his office with significant support in the Valley and has made frequent appearances there since taking office in July. But during the coming months he plans to be even more visible, said Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook.

"There is a sentiment among some that the Valley is estranged from City Hall," Middlebrook said. "The mayor wants to demonstrate that they don't always have to come to City Hall. City Hall will come to them."

Hahn's efforts were met with skepticism by some Valley leaders who say the region has been long ignored by city officials.

"The Valley has wanted the attention of City Hall for decades," said Bonny Herman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., which has many members sympathetic to secession. "But the proof is in the pudding. . . . Everybody is smart enough to look beyond the celebrity status of the mayor or any elected official. They all need to see what's going to happen next."

At the Valley Economic Development Center, Hahn announced that members of his business team will maintain office hours at the Van Nuys nonprofit from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays to answer questions from businesses.

Hahnr also said he will ask the City Council to give the center an additional $174,000 in city money to provide technical assistance to local printing and metal companies.

An hour later, the mayor drove up to a senior center in Reseda in a shiny new white information van run by the city's Department of Aging. About 70 seniors sitting outside on folding chairs in the dappled sunshine applauded as Hahn got out and waved.

The mayor told them that two new vans, purchased with state money, will drive around the city and distribute information about city services available to seniors.

City Councilman Dennis Zine, who has remained neutral on the question of secession, accompanied Hahn to the events and said the efforts will make a difference.

"He's coming out here without any arm-twisting," Zine said. "I think it has impact. Nothing happens overnight. But the fact is the mayor is accessible . . . showing there is a concern here."

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