May 9, 2005
The first two weeks of May are very interesting this year
for two big reasons. First of all, theres a birthday
to celebrate around here and secondly, the second largest
city in America is about to welcome a new leader into its
Lets talk about the birthday first. Information is
the lifeblood of a free society. So is communication, the
free flow of that information. On this, the fourth anniversary
of HalEisner.Com, we are indeed fortunate to be communicators
in the information business at all levels: print, radio, television,
and the Internet, and to have a guy like Hal Eisner as the
Birthdays and anniversaries are sometimes like the weather
- always changing and unpredictable - but always worth celebrating.
And we should all be thankful that our host, veteran Los Angeles
newsman Hal Eisner, thinks, eats, sleeps, and loves news so
much, that he had to develop a website to promote it.
Celebrations can also bring about change and a couple of
weeks ago, we saw this site take on a totally new look, sort
of a sprucing up of the place before the big party.
Hal Eisner not only took on the difficult task of maintaining
a relevant and current website for fellow members of the media
and those who aspire to enter the industry, but he also decided
to develop the APTRA (Associated Press Television-Radio Association)
Academy to train future reporters, anchors, photographers,
producers, writers, assignment editors, police officers, firefighters,
public information officers, and others who enter the world
Never content with just one ground-breaking achievement,
Hal then developed the successful APTRA Academy En Espanol.
And then he caps it all with a spectacular holiday party at
Universal Studios. Leave it to Hal to never settle for just
one level of accomplishment.
I became a columnist here on HalEisner.Com because our host
was convinced I had a point of view he wanted on this site.
We had met before I became a commentator on Channel 13, the
UPN station in L.A. in the mid-90s. I had been a journalist
and an activist who ended up in front of the cameras enough
times so that when I showed up at Channel 13, Hal and I were
I had never worked in television and some of the contraptions
and processes were new to me, so the ever-helping Hal was
always willing to help me between getting his own stories
ready for air. Thats the kind of guy Hal is, forever
the willing teacher to news newbies. Hes truly one of
the nicest guys in a business full of egomaniacs and were
lucky to know him and work with him.
Happy Birthday, Hal. Youre a hell of a newsman, a heck
of a guy, and a workaholic who likes to make people smile.
And thanks for the forum.
Moving on to the world of political information and communication,
there is another deadline coming along next week for all of
us. May 17th is Election Day in Los Angeles, the second largest
Spanish speaking city in the world (after Mexico City) and
the second largest city in America, after New York.
Both of those little factoids come into play when you talk
about who will go govern what is arguably the largest and
most creative enclave in the free world, probably the most
ethnically diverse city on the planet, and yet, one of the
most divided and Balkanized communities this side of Africa
or Bosnia Herzegovina.
Many of us are used to dirty political campaigns and people
who will stoop to any depth to win a race for a government
office. There are a lot of no-nos in the political business
and blatant racist attacks on your opponent are supposed to
be taboo. Subtle racism is also not part of the rules and
it is expected that in a best case scenario, candidates will
talk about issues and why they deserve the vote of the people
instead of trolling the gutters.
This race for Mayor has apparently ignored those rules and
perhaps explains why with less than two weeks before voters
hit the voting booths, a poll conducted by one of the leading
television stations in town finds the challenger, Councilman
Antonio Villaraigosa, 29 points ahead of the incumbent, James
For the uninitiated, if Villaraigosa sounds ethnic, he is
- - a Mexican-American born and raised on the citys
historically Latino East side (except for the 1940s
and 50s when it was predominantly Russian and Jewish).
If Hahn sounds white, he is. As bland as vanilla and living
off a family name of political success, Jimmy (as his friends
call him) was destined for political greatness.
Alas, after just four years in office, many pundits say Jimmys
famous political dad, the late Kenny Hahn, must be rolling
over in his grave watching his wonder boys gaffs, lost
opportunities, lack of control of his staff and appointed
commissioners, and his general screw-ups.
One big question is how he got away with so much inaction,
and the reported corruption that has become the centerpiece
of federal and state investigations. The answer is a lot simpler
than how Jimmy Hahns road to self-destruction began.
The answer to this folly is the media, mostly the Los Angeles
Times, which fell in political love with the lifelong politician
and deemed him a younger version of his revered father.
As has often been observed in this column, the Times is the
defacto assignment editor for news organizations in all of
Los Angeles County, if not the entire southern half of the
State of California. In these days where ratings and entertainment
speak louder than true hard news in too many stations, where
investigative reporters are the exception and not the rule,
and where news stations discover hot topics in
order to hype their May and November ratings sweeps, its
no wonder we have so many problems.
Politicians have learned to play to the cameras of the stations
with the biggest ratings, or for convenience sake, play to
all of them. It helps raise political funds and is a sure
way to get free media attention in order to help ensure re-election.
But the ugliest part of this story is that the news media
has treated elements of this mayoral election like a full
blown case of AIDS, with the disease so painfully obvious,
but no one willing to call it like it what it is - - a tragic
ignorance of reality and the need to cure L.A.s multiple
ills. This has been, to a certain extent, a campaign about
re-electing the White Man and trying to convince
non-ethnics that voting for the Mexican is dangerous
Both finalists for Mayor of L.A. are proven, dyed-in-the-wool
liberal Democrats, but Jimmy Hahn chose to play Mr. Conservative
(to get Republican votes) and to appeal to the worst fears
of rednecks, anti-illegal immigration zealots, and xenophobes
who are sick and tired of the Brown Tide (that means Latinos)
that has swept into El Lay over the past 10 to 15 years.
Hahn has accused Villaraigosa of being pro-gangs, pro-drugs,
anti-police, and just about anything Jimmy felt he could get
away with in the campaign. And his handlers, all veterans
of the political wars, knew Hahn could get away with a lot
because the timid and in some cases, politically correct,
media would fail to challenge him.
Villaraigosa, who took a licking from Hahn four years ago
and was slow to respond to attacks, or in some cases just
failed to respond, took a more aggressive approach this time.
He had the benefit of the federal and county grand juries
conducting proctologic exams of Hahns administration,
and the fact that several Hahn deputy mayors have resigned
in shame, along with two very prominent commissioners who
also exited quickly out the back door.
But the one thing Antonio Villaraigosa has NOT been able
or willing to do is to call a spade a spade. If, in fact,
Antonio were to nail Jimmy for his intonations that the ties
to gangs, crime, and drugs are all designed to bring out the
worst in some people, the ANTI-Mexican vote, he would be crucified
by the media for crossing the line that NO ONE is allowed
The media DOES NOT like anyone like Villaraigosa raising
a topic that the media then is unwilling to cover. And the
penalty for crossing that line is that the media will downplay
or ignore the validity of his claim, but just as quickly,
give credence to any retort from the Hahn camp. Thats
what happened to Villaraigosa when he snapped back at Hahn
for trying to demonize him by tying him to gangs, drugs, and
the ACLU, which Villaraigosa once headed locally.
The media immediately gave Hahn cover. And when Hahn felt
there was even more slime available below the L.A. sewer system,
the media even gave him cover as he accusingly suggested Villaraigosa
had been on the wrong side of the law 29 years ago when he
defended his mothers honor from a man who tried to assault
her. While a misdemeanor charge was filed, Antonio was never
convicted and the circumstances of the case eventually exonerated
him in the court of public opinion as well.
Perhaps the worst result of Hahns race-baiting was
that some elements of the African-American community openly
attacked the notion that a Mexican mayor would
be bad for Blacks. Hahn pimped off that fear by meeting with
Black leaders in a struggle to win back the support he lost
in that community after he fired Bernard Parks as Chief of
Police, breaking his word to African-Americans that he would
keep the 36-year LAPD veteran in place.
There are still many in the African-American community who
openly express fears that a Mexican mayor will only
help Mexicans at the expense of Blacks, as one prominent
Black has erroneously and ignorantly predicted. This divide
and conquer approach by the anti-Mexican camp
has worked in many pockets of the Black community, but it
will fail in the end, because Villaraigosa is a proven commodity
in bring people of different communities together to solve
But the anti Mexican mantra from Hahns
Black supporters has also been blamed for the continuing hostility
in schools and in the streets between L.A.s ethnic youth.
Theres an old adage to be careful what you ask
for because you just may get your wish and that seems
to be coming true in other parts of the mixed ethnic communities
of South L.A. and around the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
Hahns worst fears about Mexicans (and other Latino
groups) have become reality. After recent fights among Latinos
and Blacks at Jefferson High, lucid and non-political parents
from both groups have coalesced behind Villaraigosa.
Another unintended consequence of Hahns conquer and
divided strategy is that Villaraigosa and former mayoral candidate
Bernard Parks have taken their Mutual Admiration Society show
on the road in a very public way. On Cinco de Mayo, the celebration
of a small band of Mexican soldiers defeating a French expeditionary
force in the early 1800s, rumors circulated that there
would be a war between Latino and Black students in many L.A.
To counter those rumors, Villaraigosa and Parks teamed up
with Black and Latino parents to encourage students to go
to school and assure them that the two ethnic groups have
many more things upon which they agree than they have differences
to exploit. This is more proof that Hahns divisive approach
has failed and perhaps more validity to the polling numbers
showing Villaraigosa beating the incumbent mayor by a margin
of two to one.
It was the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, who taught
us that you can fool some of the people some of the
time, and most of the people most of the time, but you cant
fool all of the people all of the time. Jim Hahn has
tried to violate that axiom by trying to fool all the voters
into thinking the more liberal Villaraigosa is the death knelt
Jim Hahn has tried to play off his fathers support
of and popularity with, the African-American community over
the elder Hahns many years as an L.A. City Councilman
and L.A. County Supervisor. But the proverbial Jimmy apple
appears to have fallen quite far from the Kenny Hahn tree.
Election Day is truly going to be Judgment Day for L.A. politics.
In an ironic twist of fate, perhaps it is an East L.A. Mexican-American,
who has suffered the lifelong slings and arrows of being a
minority, who will turn his success as a state legislator,
Assembly speaker, and Eastside Councilman into a badly-needed
L.A. coalition of people of all colors and backgrounds whose
only hope and goal is for a better Los Angeles.
In accomplishing that, history will show Antonio Villaraigosa
took all the disrespect Jimmy Hahn had to offer and turned
that despicable negativity into positive action and unification
that will take Los Angeles to new and productive heights of
As for Jim Hahn, hell have plenty of time after the
election to contemplate how hell try to fool the state
and federal juries pondering his fate when all the corruption
investigations are completed and indictments are handed down
in what history will note as the most corrupt Los Angeles
city municipal administrations in more than 75 years.