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The X Files
Xavier Hermosillois the President of CrisisPros, a national Crisis Communications, Marketing, and Management firm he founded 20 years ago ( and is based in his native San Pedro, CA. He is a former political chief of staff, an award-winning print reporter and photographer, and a former radio talk show host and TV commentator in Los Angeles. He is an elected member of the Board of Directors of CGI Holdings, Inc., ( a publicly-traded company that is headquartered in Chicago. He co-founded a NASDAQ company based in Chicago, serves as a Hearing Examiner for the L.A. Police Commission on police officer discipline cases, and holds Honors degrees in Administration of Justice, Marketing and Management. He can be reached at

May 23, 2005

How do you begin one of the strangest stories you’ve ever seen involving corruption, politics, deceit, ego, misuse of government funds, the whole enchilada, and get the media to want to cover it?

That’s the dilemma I face as I write this column because some of what I’m about to tell you is so on the verge of being unbelievable, that if I hadn’t experienced it myself, I would never believe it could happen in today’s America.

Los Angeles, California has been both the butt of jokes as well as the deserved admiration for being a place where dreams come true, not just Hollywood movie dreams, but the American dream that says if you work hard enough, you can succeed. L.A. usually leads the way in national trends – you know the story – no need to repeat it here.

There’s a lot of attention this week on our little burgh because for the first time in 133 years, a Latino has been elected Mayor. But it wasn’t easy nor was it clean. Most political experts will tell you it has been a long time since a political campaign was so negative and so filled with racist code words, that most people cannot bring themselves to believe such racism still exists in such a progressive place as L.A. But it did happen and I’m going to help you understand it and help you see how it was done with so much subtlety.

Last week I shared with you some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that was taking place with our young people to foment racial strife in the schools as a sort of preliminary warning to voters that if they elected a Mexican-American as Mayor, Blacks would suffer politically and economically, the Mexican flag would be hoisted at City Hall, and the Stars and Stripes would be trashed.

But I never expected the level of hate that became a part of the election background and I never thought that the caretakers of the Kenneth Hahn legacy would pull out all the stops just to win an election.

Let me quickly give you the first example of racism so you understand how difficult it has become for the media to expose it. You see, we all know hate when we see it and it makes us so uncomfortable as news purveyors, that we have to pitch in a way that our readers and viewers and listeners will accept, without the risk of being accused of sensationalism or hyping the news for the May sweeps.

On Friday the 13th, four days before the election, Antonio Villaraigosa was between 11 and 24 points ahead in the opinion polls, depending on whether you believed the L.A. Times conservative estimate, or you bought KABC-TV’s bigger numbers.

Since it had become apparent Villaraigosa was going to win the election, and Mayor James Hahn was using fear tactics to solidify his voter base in the Harbor Area, where he sleeps, it occurred to several of us that the people of San Pedro and Wilmington deserved to know the truth.

Was Hahn correct in telling his followers that if he lost the election, Antonio Villaraigosa would kill major projects underway in the Port of Los Angeles communities? After 100 years of waiting for full access to the waterfront, was the Bridge to Breakwater Promenade that would run eight miles from the green Vincent Thomas Bridge to the federal breakwater at Cabrillo Beach, going to fizzle in the hands of a Mexican-American mayor? You may be thinking that was a preposterous question.

However, some of us who call the Harbor Area home, and have lived there all our lives, decided we needed to ask Villaraigosa directly, “put him on the spot” some suggested. The smiling and vastly experienced candidate, whom Hahn liked to derisively refer to as “an empty suit with a big smile”, agreed to meet with his future constituents and take the hard questions. And the audience was composed of both Hahn and Villaraigosa supporters, since the object was not to change voters minds about who they would support, but rather, get a straight answer from the guy who said in his ads that his love for L.A. (and the Harbor) and his plans for L.A. (and the Harbor) came “straight from the heart.”

In a hotly contested campaign, that concept appeared to be more than the incumbent Mayor’s sister could handle. She is Councilmember Janice Hahn, who represents a very diverse district running from the Port and the Harbor Area on the South to Watts at the North end.

On city time and at YOUR taxpayer expense (if you live in L.A.), Sister Janice and three of her staff members parked themselves across the parking lot from the restaurant where the breakfast meeting was to take place. It was an intimidation tactic that caused some attendees to enter quickly fearing that there would be repercussions for daring to express their First Amendment rights of free speech to ask Villaraigosa the hard questions.

When one of the bolder guests asked one of Council-Sister Janice’s city-paid deputies about their not-so-covert presence in the parking lot, he was told, “We want to see who the traitors are”, suggesting that a local resident asking the future Mayor tough questions was somehow a disloyal act to Brother Jim and Sister Janice, and that there would be a price to pay.

We have often interviewed sources who speak on the condition of anonymity because they fear losing their job, a contract, or something else of value from a vindictive politico. They must have had the likes of Janice Hahn and her staff or Mayor Jim on their mind when they expressed this fear.

Before I tell you about the even more bizarre event that happened courtesy of Council Sister Janice Hahn’s staff, let me say that the breakfast meeting went well, Antonio Villaraigosa assured the attendees he would NOT do all the nasty things the Mayor was touting. The Bridge to Breakwater project was safe, and he shared with the assemblage memories of his Boy Scout days when he had his first experience with the unique Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro.

He spoke fondly of those memories, of the drive from East L.A. to the Harbor, about the importance of L.A. Harbor as the major economic engine of L.A. and the rest of California and the U.S. In case you don’t know it, 40% of this nation’s Gross National Product enters America through the ports of L.A. and Long Beach, the largest port complex in the U.S. ands third largest in the world.

After the breakfast, as the departing attendees thanked the future Mayor for his frankness and plans, it became clear that Villaraigosa needed to get on the road for an appearance in the San Fernando Valley. As his LAPD security detail officers drove away, the ultimate insult came flying out of the mouth of Janice Hahn’s Wilmington deputy, Sergio Carrillo.

Wanting to show his loyalty to his boss, and her Brother the Incumbent Mayor, he yelled at Villaraigosa, “Get out of here and go back to Mexico where you belong” as he added a few expletives that can’t be printed here.

THAT is the depth to which Janice Hahn and her staff stooped in the name of trying to get her Brother Jim reelected. I believe it is that kind of mindset that permeated the campaign on the part of the caretakers of the Kenny Hahn Dynasty. The political legend must be rolling over in his grave – over and over.

The racist remarks by Mr. Carrillo (yes, even ignorant Latinos can make racist remarks against people of their own ethnicity), that Villaraigosa go back to Mexico had a certain irony. One of us could have easily stopped to Carrillo’s level and yelled back that the Hahn’s go back to the South L.A. community where they were raised, and which they abandoned, in order to seek political nirvana in relatively crime-free San Pedro. Antonio, of course, isn’t from Mexico, but that fact was apparently lost on Janice Hahn’s Racist Tar-and-Feather deputy.

The Council Sister had to back-peddle when a reporter asked what she and her staffers were doing stalking the folks at the breakfast meeting. She claimed they always meet at the coffee shop in the area. Of course, those who regularly see her at another coffee shop down the road a couple of miles were shocked to read that excuse in the local newspaper, the only one that bothered to pursue the issue.

The latent racism in this campaign was perhaps not as latent as Villaraigosa’s opponents would have like to keep it. There is an Election Day open chat thread on the Mayor-to-be’s website at where you can see the racist comments that stem directly from Jim Hahn’s hateful assertions that Villaraigosa is pro-gangs and pro-crime.

There are a couple of posts that appear to be phony, where one “poster” claims “I am going to bang with my bros when you win. AK47s listen at 10 or so.” The author claims to be “Felix El Mas Macho” which doesn’t make sense. Imagine an illiterate gang-banger “posting” on a chat board about politics. Yeah!

One Hahn supporter posted: “What (Felix El Mas macho) said is exactly what I am afraid of now… the Mecha member go and the gang troubles get worse……Heaven help us all…….”

We all know that racism still exists, but this election seems to have brought out the worst in the white sheet klan from the Hahn campaign. I have looked high and low for negative posts about Caucasians placed by Latinos, attacking Jim Hahn or his pigment-deprived supporters. No luck.

Los Angeles’ African-American voters were also warned openly by Hahn that Villaraigosa was not their friend. Some Blacks then openly pledged their vote to Hahn, predicting “that Mexican” (Villaraigosa) is going to help “his people” at the expense of Blacks. The mainstream media didn’t have any second thoughts about using those quotes, but it had a hard time buying the notion that Hahn’s continued references to Villaraigosa as pro-gang and pro-crime, coupled with ads reprising the letter written on behalf of convicted drug dealer Carlos Vignali, and the slogan “Los Angeles can’t trust Antonio Villaraigosa”, were racially-tinged.

Fortunately for Villaraigosa, the majority of African-American voters decided they had had enough of Jim Hahn and found they probably had more in common with Villaraigosa’s All Star endorsers, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, former police chief Bernard Parks, county supervisor Yvonne Burke, and former L.A. Laker Magic Johnson.

The vast majority of White voters also found they were uncomfortable with Hahn’s sleaze and decided to take a chance on the former Assembly Speaker to take L.A. in a new direction. Villaraigosa won 13 out of 15 councilmanic districts. In the two districts Hahn won, his margin of victory in the North Hills area of Councilmember Greg Smith was less than 1,000 votes. He did much better in his Harbor Area base, winning by 7,000 votes out of 27,000 total votes cast.

Still, the voters of Los Angeles, wanting change and a new direction, and feeling that L.A. folks can arise above racist political attacks, took a chance on a skinny kid from East L.A. who will validate that those voters rose above the ugliness of the Hahns, and the rest of us will never forget it or forgive the Hahns.

Antonio Villaraigosa will be great mayor, because of his experience, his talent, and his unique skills, and not because he is a Mexican-American. L.A will ultimately find that they didn’t vote for a Mexican, they elected a man who took L.A. to heights that Jim Hahn could never envision, and he happened to come from a Latino background.