By Lauren Victoria Burke
In her first act in office, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass will declare a state of emergency against homelessness in an announcement at Los Angeles’ Emergency Operations Center.
The new Mayor asserts that the move “will allow her to take aggressive executive actions to confront the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. The declaration will recognize the severity of Los Angeles’ crisis and break new ground to maximize the ability to urgently move people inside.”
On November 16, 2021, during an interview on Black Press USA’s daily morning show Let It Be Known, Bass spoke on homelessness saying it was “a humanitarian crisis,” and added that there were “40,000 people in the city unhoused, many living in tents all around the city.”
Clearly Mayor Bass is moving quickly to make homelessness a top priority during her first weeks in power.
On Dec. 11, Bass, 69, was sworn-in as Los Angeles’ 43rd Mayor at a historic ceremony by Vice President Kamala Harris. Her predecessor, Mayor Eric Garcetti, looked on at City Hall with thousands of others taking in the history of the moment. Karen Bass earned more votes than any candidate in the history of Los Angeles.’ Her election was also the most expensive ever, as Bass defeated Rick Caruso, who spent $100 million on his campaign.
Bass served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2011 to 2022 for California’s 33rd congressional district and was Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. She was also a member of the California State Assembly from 2004 to 2010 and spent her final years there as Speaker of the California House.
Bass acknowledged California’s first female Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis in the audience and Los Angeles’ all-female County Board of Supervisors.
“I believe that times of inflection require reflection – I believe, it’s time for Angelenos to remind ourselves where we come from and who we are. My father fled Jim Crow Texas during the great African American migration after World War 2. He worked for the postal service as a letter carrier. It was a union job, and his paycheck supported my brothers and me and allowed my mother to choose to be a homemaker. When I think about the dreams of working people today, I reflect on the fact that my mother and father were able to buy a home in Los Angeles for their family of six with one paycheck,” Bass said in her inaugural speech.
She then commented on the high cost of housing in Los Angeles.
“Tragically, our city has earned the shameful crown as being home to some of the most crowded neighborhoods in the nation—Pico Union, South L.A., East L.A., the East Valley. We know our mission – we must build housing in every neighborhood,” Mayor Bass said.
The new Mayor then focused on homelessness — a huge problem in Los Angeles and across the U.S.
“I will start my first day as mayor at our city’s Emergency Operations Center, where my first act as mayor will be to declare a state of emergency on homelessness. My emergency declaration 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. It will create the structure necessary for us to have a true, unified and citywide strategy to set us on the path to solve homelessness,” Bass announced.
“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. And so I call on our City Council, and our City Attorney and City Controller, to continue the work we started during the transition on a unified and urgent strategy to solve homelessness. I call on the County of Los Angeles, with its authority over health, including mental health and substance abuse, to lock arms with me — and we have already started these discussions,” the new Mayor told the crowd.
In a city of many challenges, Bass’ four-year term will no doubt be eventful. But her long political resume and experience as a community activist and establishment actor in local, state and federal government will no doubt be beneficial as she navigates policy over the next four years in office.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke