Friday, July 02, 2010

By Diana L. Chapman

My anti -Janice stories are stamped on its pages. Just check out the website:

Or check another with not much on it except for a photo of our councilwoman with a red circle and a slash:
How about She’s really hung out to dry.

None of these websites lists the names of the people—or--the name of the organization responsible for the website.
For the past couple of years, I’ve written many an article about Councilwoman Janice Hahn for her failure to help the communities she represents or support those who work in the trenches. In particular, she hasn’t demonstrated the ability to respond to the smallest requests, even the slam dunks. She’s an elected official with absolutely no vision. And yes, I do think she’ll leave office without making much of a mark. Why then am I so disturbed by this recall effort when I should be the first to sign up??

Here’s why. For the most part, the recall activities are faceless. None of these websites lists a single name as to who is responsible. I take issue with that. With all the San Pedro community leaders who have been involved in some way or another, only one--Joe Gatlin—has confessed to participating in the recall meetings. He claims partial responsibility for He now says he leads the effort and, sometime in July, will drive to City Hall with four others to sign a petition launching the recall paperwork.

The other four choose to remain nameless until they’ve signed the petition. The larger committee of 20 to 30 folks also don’t want to be named, he added, because they fear retribution and “I respect that.”

That’s hard for me, because I don’t respect it. I respect that Gatlin is upfront about it. I respect that Gatlin and Anthony Santich, a port executive and former San Pedro Chamber of Commerce president, are 100 percent behind the recall. Santich, who like many supported Hahn for a long time, has been open with his criticism over the past few years. He has stepped down from the committee, so it won’t be viewed by others as a personal vendetta, which it’s not, he insists.

The councilwoman, he argues, “tries to make the issues personal between us, and I guess it is personal to the extent that I love San Pedro. I’ve watched my community go backward for years while Hahn misleads the public and plays both sides of every issue. I want progress.”

I ditto Santich’s statements completely, 100 percent, with sugar on top. That’s why I’m so frustrated with Hahn’s leadership. She could have done so much more, whether it was development of our waterfront or supporting the popular vision of one resident to use goats to clean up Peck Park. (It didn’t matter that folks came to the park from everywhere dragging their kids just to see the goats!)

Our community should be a jewel – a city treasure. Instead, chunks of our area still look like a bunch of leftover hiccups from the1950s: rundown mini-malls and drab outlet stores still accent our main drags. While a few things have been done, like the $1 million “Welcome Park” that no one can access safely, other features near the entrance of San Pedro still look like a dump.

It’s not pleasant and there seems to be no larger vision of how to clean up and beautify San Pedro.

In the meantime as the recall effort brewed for the past eight months, there’s a lot of finger-pointing going on. Initially, I was told that former restaurateur John Papadakis and former L.A. assistant police chief David Gascon were involved. Papadakis refuses to comment here. He did tell Daily Breeze reporter Donna Littlejohn that he’s had nothing to do with the recall but is “sympathetic.”

Gascon has met with several friends over the past several years pursuing the issue of leadership and wanting changes at the City Council level, including potentially recalling Hahn. He hasn’t remained involved in the discussions, however, because he travels for weeks at a time. Over the last five years, he says, several people have broached him to run against Hahn.

“People are pretty frustrated and I hear things, but I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Gascon says. “I’m just not sure who will do what or how it will evolve. People expect leadership. But according to those with whom I’ve spoken, she says one thing and does another even on the smallest of issues. It’s disappointing to hear.

“I understand why people are reticent to say too much in the public. They’re afraid of retribution.”

Gascon adds he has personally offered to assist the councilwoman on community issues, an offer that remains open. He was a City Hall insider, he says, since he was in charge of critical LAPD functions.

Former Councilman Rudy Svorinich tried to separate himself from the recall efforts by writing letters to local newspapers that neither he nor anyone in his office was involved. “Over the course of the past many months,” Svorinich wrote, “ there have been rumors and innuendo circulating in a small circle within our community that I, and perhaps members of my staff, are participating in and/or support a surreptitious recall effort against my successor on the Los Angeles City Council, Janice Hahn.

These rumors have no basis in fact and are completely untrue. I take great umbrage, at the least, to what I believe is my good name being used or circulated in a manner in which I do not approve.”

I was given printouts of e-mails, however, that document discussions between Anthony Santich and Svorinich employee Tom Shortridge.

In a series of messages, Shortridge asks: “Do you have PO Box yet? How about a voice mail? I can set up email accounts that come with the account. Rather than have them forward to your regular email, I can just give you the user name and password info and you can use it directly so emails will come from rather than from your personal email. Tom”

I faxed the emails to Svorinich’s staff and asked for the former councilman to call me. I have not heard anything.

As for Gatlin, he has myriad reasons to be angry with the councilwoman. In particular, she let slip through her fingers the chance to build an African-American heritage facility at an abandoned city fire station. Since culture has been such a large part of San Pedro’s history – and is honored at such facilities as the Italian, Croatian and Dalmatian clubs -- I can’t help ponder why she allowed the collapse of this proposal. The black community, Gatlin said, has influenced the region’s development as far back as 1918.

He added that the groundwork with the city’s Cultural Affairs was near completion and and ready to go.

If the recall is successful, Gatlin said, he will run for office. Santich, who once voiced an interest, said he no longer wants to run.

Other reasons Gatlin said he’s angry include that he believes Los Angeles port officials have hired out-of- state workers when so many are unemployed locally. He says he asked Janice to link local folks with the port for those posted jobs. “She’s abandoned this community,” he said.

I agree with that, too. And have written repeatedly about it. Overall, some residents across the board are frustrated that Janice voted to expand council term limits from two terms to three —and after she won 75 percent of the vote last year, ran for lieutenant governor, a race she lost.

Her love affair with Reggie, the escaped alligator in Machado Lake, was embarrassing considering how many more pressing needs could have been addressed. If she spent as much time leading the waterfront development as she did worrying about Reggie, our waterfront might have been finished.

If Gatlin and his nameless crew actually take out the paperwork, I’ll be impressed.

“"If they're serious, they should stop talking and start doing," said Doug Epperhart, who sits on the Coastal Neighborhood Council.

Even if they do file the paperwork, there’s a rocky road ahead. For a recall to succeed, the petitioners need 15 percent of the total votes cast for the candidate in the past election. Gatlin said that’s about 15,000– and they need it within 120 days of filing. If those involved don’t come out and identify themselves, how can the public know who the heck is running this other than Joe Gatlin?

Janice has the right to at least know that. And so do all of us.
Honestly, I’d sign the petition. But I can’t if the accusers don’t step up. That’s the ethical, fair thing to do.