Hahn flips on debate *

A week after saying he couldn't make it, Mayor Jim Hahn has decided to attend the Dec. 2 League of Women Voters campaign debate after all. Spokeswoman Julie Wong says that the previous, unspecified scheduling conflict was resolved. This latest episode in bad PR earns Hahn headlines in the Times and Daily News, and lets rival Bob Hertzberg claim that his website's online petition pressuring Hahn to join the debate had some effect. Hertzberg's site has now added a poll that asks what has been the mayor's best move since taking office. So far the winner is "There haven't been any good moves," but the voting is blind so if Hertzberg's staff wanted to prime the pump, they could.

Also Friday: Noam Levey takes the Fleishman-Hillard story to the Times front page with a story detailing the firm's work to help Hahn's image. The story reports that Fleishman got paid more than $400,000 under its contract with the DWP in 2002 and 2003 "to bolster the mayor's image, craft his responses to civic crises and even develop major policy initiatives." The mayor has recently criticized lack of scrutiny over Fleishman's contract, but the Times story says that in fact, Hahn's office asked for monthly reports on the firm's activities. Factoid: Fleishman was paid $160,000 through the DWP for work and expenses during Hahn's Asia trip in 2002.

* Sign of things to come: I just noticed that the Daily News led the paper with Hahn's change of heart, at least on the city side of the hill. Three-plus months before an election almost no one is talking about yet, a debate that not very many people will watch—the first of several to come—and the mayor's decision to attend is the lead story in the paper. Hmm, ya think the DN is itching for a fight, ala the secession campaign?

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