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Fifteenth District Councilwoman Janice Hahn squared off against her opponent Chris Salabaj in a debate recently in Watts in front of a number of members from the community.
Salabaj held his own in the debate, and it appears that he has ideas that could very well work in the community, but Hahn's experience on the job and in the community gave the Councilwoman a clear advantage heading into the March 3rd election.
Numerous times Salabaj, who lives in the South Bay area, said that he wanted to tackle the issues of gangs, employment, and housing. But Councilwoman Hahn, who lives in San Pedro, which is in the district, was able to counter that she is already working to steer youth away from gangs, and to create jobs and more housing.
Salabaj did not appear to be very familiar with the 15th District, and said that he would need to catch up on the issues surrounding the district. Councilwoman Hahn was able to counter by saying that she has worked within the community for the past eight years as an elected official, and that she does not need to "catch up" on the issues surrounding the district.
Where Salabaj had ideas, Councilwoman Hahn had either plans that were being implemented, or plans that have already worked.
The question is whether the community wants to go in a new direction with a candidate that does not have much experience as a Councilman or in the community, or with a candidate that has experience and has worked within the community.
Judging from the applauds that Councilwoman Hahn received after giving her answers, and the statements from audience members, it appears that the latter is true.
"Janice has been there for us," Rev. James Jones said. "She's been accessible. I would use her as an example as what a politician should be. She has a finger on the pulse of the community. She knows everything that is going on. And she has a heart for the people."
"Janice Hahn obviously has a stronger understanding of the Watts community than does her opponent," Delilah Carolina said. "I'm not going to say that he could not bring anything to the Watts community, but she is just a lot stronger than him. She is well versed on the specific needs of Watts."
Councilwoman Hahn has been the 15th District Councilwoman since June of 2001. The district encompasses the communities of Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, San Pedro, Watts and Wilmington.
Councilwoman Hahn serves as the Chair of the Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee, which oversees the Port of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles International Airport and the Convention & Visitors Bureau. She also serves as Vice Chair of the Education & Neighborhoods Committee where she works closely with the citywide network of neighborhood councils to ensure that community stakeholders have a say in local issues.
Salabaj has been a life-long advocate for youth sports, education, and community service. He is currently teaching at LAUSD's Orthopedic Hospital Medical Magnet High School in Downtown Los Angeles. He has served as the chairman of his department, Athletic Director, Parliamentarian of the School Site Council, and is on the LAUSD Physical Education Advisory Board.
Find out more about the candidates at their websites. Councilwoman Hahn at www.janicehahn.com and Salabaj at www.chrissalabaj.com.