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Karen Bass Pledges To Attack Homelessness, Crime As L.A. Mayor

Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, while vying to become the first woman elected to lead the city of Los Angeles, had to go behind the scenes and work the phones — and in less than 72 hours, convened a meeting at a local community college, bringing together a multiracial group of organizations and advocates to denounce the racism heard on a leaked recording. The group resolved to create an action plan. A few weeks later, Bass won the election, receiving more votes than any candidate before her in the most expensive election in city history. The meeting was a throwback to what has powered Bass’s political career, driving her to leadership posts in the California State Assembly and Congress before her mayoral inauguration Sunday: the instinct to gather disparate parties in the same room to hash out answers to urgent problems. As Bass takes office Monday, she has made audacious promises to the city’s four million residents, pledging to address the interlocking crises of homelessness, affordability and inequity, problems that have grown more acute despite the efforts of a string of previous mayors, reports the Washington Post. “If we just focus on bringing people inside and comprehensively addressing their needs and moving them to permanent housing with a way to pay their bills, we will save lives and we will save our city,” Bass said in her inaugural address.

Bass has pledged to “solve homelessness” and to declare a state of emergency on her first day. In her first year, she said, she will house 17,000 people. She also announced a strategy to prevent crime in part by hiring civilian employees to free up some 250 police officers from clerical work, allowing them to return to city streets. Bass is an L.A. native and lifelong Democrat who grew up in leftist activism. She founded the nonprofit Community Coalition, with a goal of uniting South L.A. residents across racial and ethnic lines, before serving as Assembly speaker, a platform that vaulted her to the U.S. House of Representatives a few years later. In 2020, she was among those Joe Biden considered for his running mate. “Los Angeles is a city at a crossroads,” said Sonja Diaz, the founding director of UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Institute. “We’ve seen great increases in housing insecurity, food insecurity and widening economy inequality.” While these issues are long-standing, Diaz noted that they’ve been “exacerbated because of a lack of leadership from City Hall and coordination across jurisdictions,” especially during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 40,000 people are living on the streets in Los Angeles. Violent crime remains far lower than at its peak in the early 1990s, but gun violence has surged in recent years, and with three weeks left in 2022, the city’s homicide count has topped 350 for the third straight year.


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