Sunday, December 06, 2009


By Diana L. Chapman

Now that Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn revealed her ambitions for lieutenant governor, I’d like her to know the reality of what I think her leadership was representing the 15th District on the L.A. City Council -- and what I got out of it.


It’s sad for me, as I’ve always thought she is beautiful, glamorous, articulate – and I wanted to believe in her. But she was never there for peons like me, the volunteers, the folks in the trenches, the true activists who don’t make a dime, the smaller businesses trying to make it with less than a dime or the non-profits that didn’t interest her. She’d pat us on the back , smile a lot and act like she supported us. Then reality would hit. She did nothing at all.

Nada. Naught. Nil. Zero. Zilch.

And I believe many other residents here in San Pedro feel that way, too. If you’re a hard-core politician, a wealthy developer, a union leader, a big wig at a non-profit , an executive at a large business or just someone with bucks or clout – you got respect – and help. You have Janice’s ear.

If you’re someone like me, you may get into her office. When you do, you see Janice, who listens with lots of smiles, and let’s everything flow right back out or tucks it away for later use. I suspect it was a way to appease us and to pretend she was doing something to help – when she was doing nothing at all.

One of my many friends who volunteers kept asking me why city officials don’t help. “Do they think I’m doing all this for myself?” he asked.

Frankly, I answered as honestly as I could: They would rather have you go away, vanish, disappear, move on, give up. Get out of their lives, for God sake! Who do you think you are!?

I wanted to believe in Janice. Truly I did. But the growing list of things not done began to reverberate around me until I finally realized I’ve been had and let down by a beautiful, classy politician who fails to understand there is a coach section on the plane while she spends her time working in first class. So have many others. Here are a few examples:

--Janice failed to support residents opposing the plans for a 7-11 store on Pacific Avenue at 19th Street – even though the Coastal Neighborhood Council backed the residents. Residents feared it would attract more late-night trouble and questioned the need for another store in the area. Within a five block radius of that intersection, I recently counted three liquor stores and two bars. No wonder the residents pleaded to prevent another operation that in the end will sell alcohol. City officials argued it will enhance our community. Well, I guess they haven’t visited recently the grim, constantly littered 7-11 store at Gaffey and Ninth Street. It’s not pleasant!

“It all fell on deaf ears,” said John Stinson, the Coastal Neighborhood Council treasurer who was one of many who spoke against the 7-11. “The argument was that anything is better than nothing and it went downhill from there. Following that logic, a massage parlor or nudie bar should be OK.”

--For a long time, it seemed Janice favored two non-profits, Gang Alternatives Program (GAP) and Toberman Settlement House. These groups enjoyed a tremendous amount of support from her offices, which is fine as they are both excellent operations, but naturally there are many other such organizations in town that she rarely helped or visited. Not until she decided to run for lieutenant governor did several non-profits tell me she was helping them suddenly, attending their events or working to aid them with city services. It just made me wonder where she’d been the last, let’s see, 10 years.

--Lest we forget, I’m here to remind you of the gunning down of a 14-year-old African-American girl, Cheryl Green, in Harbor Gateway. The killing was allegedly committed by a Latino gang member and racially motivated. Cheryl was standing on a street corner in 2006 with three friends after school when she was shot. The story raged on with television crews and cameras everywhere – and so were Janice and the mayor. The politicos stood firm that the Harbor Gateway, a much ignored strip of land, would get much more support after this outrageous killing. Janice later helped to open a Boys and Girls Club youth center there. But soon after – when the city ran into financial issues, Janice immediately opted to close down her Harbor Gateway office, forcing those who live in the gateway to drive to either Watts or San Pedro. “It just seemed like another symbolic slap in the face,” said resident Rosalie Preston at the time.” I don’t know how else residents there were supposed to take it.

--When the Target store moved into San Pedro with its mighty boxing gloves on – and boxed out Eastview Little League which had operated on the property for decades, it turned as most things do here, a battle of the big dogs against the little dogs. Instead of negotiating terms with Target that might have helped maintain the baseball site there – or some other financially appealing arrangement – Janice helped the Eastview league obtain “temporary” property at Knoll Hill. The port poured thousands of dollars into building baseballs diamonds.

The problem with this solution is that it booted out the group who worked for years to get a dog park. They were bitten down to a tiny pocket at the foot of Knoll Hill, a crushing defeat after years of work. Eastview Little League, a much leaner, stronger, meaner organization, had the backing of the ILWU. Add to this another complication: Knoll Hill might not be a solution for either groups because state law requires the use of port property to have a marine-related component to it.

--Lastly, I went to Janice on numerous occasions asking for help to pull resources in town together to build after-school programs at Dana Middle School and other middle schools in her district. The various resources out there needed someone to connect the dots. Tired of so many kids getting killed, maimed or enticed by gang members, my friends and I built a template how it was done at Dana and could be done elsewhere. We needed a leader to pull everyone together, and I asked Janice to do that, point blank. In return, I received that same beaming smile. Once again, nothing happened. I asked several times, but it died at the table until I became sick and could no longer work on the programs. Janice then announced her latest arrangement publicly to pull together the city, the school district and the Boys and Girls Club to begin after school programs to keep kids out of gangs. Ouch! I’d been waiting for her to do just that, so I was disappointed. The grassroots people, whose feet were stuck solidly in the earth to help children, are the people who truly care and aren’t tainted with hidden agendas. They don’t get paid. They don’t understand politics. They just want to keep kids out of gangs – and from getting killed. I know that one non-profit is not enough to fill this giant void. We need everyone.

There are many other illustrations, but I will conclude with this observation: Janice hasn’t been there for those riding in coach.

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