Karen Bass Sworn In As First Woman Mayor Of Los Angeles, Says She Will Declare State Of Emergency On Homelessness

Karen Bass was sworn in as mayor of Los Angeles on Sunday, becoming the first woman and second Black person to lead the city.

At a large ceremony at Microsoft Theater, against a backdrop of City Hall, Bass took the oath administered by Vice President Kamala Harris, and planned to talk about how Los Angeles was at an “inflection point” as it faces problems of homelessness and housing.

She plans to declare a state of emergency on homelessness on Monday as her first act as mayor that will “recognize the severity of our crisis and break new ground to maximize our ability to urgently move people inside, and do so for good.”

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The move will “create the structure necessary for us to have a true, unified and citywide strategy to set us on the path to solve homelessness,” she said.

“If we are going to bring Angelenos inside and move our city in a new direction, we must have a single strategy to unite our city and county and engage the state, the federal government, the private sector and every other stakeholder,” she said.

She said that she has started discussions with the county and other cities to work on a unified approach.

Bass also plans to call for the creation of an Office of Community Safety.

“Some neighborhoods have asked for additional officers…but what neighborhoods are asking for and what they need is as diverse as our city is,” Bass said. The office, she said, is meant to meet “with neighbors, store clerks, dog walkers, teenagers who know what’s actually going on behind the statistics. We want to have block by block information on how to truly keep each neighborhood safe –– is it more officers, better lighting, cleaner streets, a closed alley that you need?”

“Let me be so bold as to add that we can prevent crime and community violence by addressing the social, the health and the economic conditions that compromise a safe environment,” Bass said.

“So let’s partner with the people, ask them what works in their neighborhood and create our public safety policy from the ground up,” she said.

Bass also called for “100 percent clean power, zero emission buildings and a zero-emission port,” something that she said will help create jobs in the city.

She reached out to the business community, calling for the city work “not against the business community, but with them, side by side to preserve and grow our economic and employment base.”

It also takes a fundamental shift – away from ‘no, away from that’s not my problem’ and to ‘how can we work together, and get to yes?’

“It starts when we understand — when businesses open, when businesses grow, when businesses thrive, they hire people,” she said.

The ceremony had a showbiz flair. It included a performance by Stevie Wonder, who sang Keep Our Love Alive, which he has performed in tribute to Nelson Mandela. Also performing was Mary Mary and Amanda Gorman. The event was moved inside in anticipation of rain, with workers creating a faux backdrop of the steps of City Hall.

Bass defeated Rick Caruso in the November election, even though the real estate developer spent about $100 million on his mayoral bid. Bass was backed by entertainment figures such as Jeffrey Katzenberg, who helped finance an independent expenditure committee to counter Caruso’s deep pockets.

Bass’s speech largely reflected the major issues that arose during the campaign, particularly homelessness and housing affordability. At one point, she suggested that more areas of the city had to do more to build more housing, given the overcrowding of neighborhoods in Pico Union, South L.A., East L.A., the East Valley. 

“We know our mission – we must build housing in every neighborhood,” she said. “And the very best way for this to happen is by neighbors working together and deciding where housing should be built. We cannot continue to overcrowd neighborhoods that are already overcrowded. This is my call to you, L.A. – to welcome housing in every neighborhood.”

In her speech, she thanked the outgoing mayor, Eric Garcetti, and credited him with securing the Olympics for the city in 2028, public transit to the airport, cleaner air and better earthquake safety. Garcetti has been nominated as U.S. Ambassador to India, but that has been stalled in the Senate. It’s unclear if the nomination will reach the floor by the end of the current Congress.

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