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Karen Bass Vows to Tackle Homelessness and Crime at Her History-Making Inauguration as Mayor of Los Angeles: ’Bring Angelenos Inside’

karen bass
Frederic J. Brown / AFP

Karen Bass took the oath of office as the 43rd mayor of Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon, making history as the city’s first female mayor and the first Black woman to hold L.A.’s top job.

Bass’ inaugural speech focused on her vow to tackle the homelessness and crime that has spread across the city since the pandemic. She committed to making her first act as mayor to be a visit to the city’s emergency operations center to formally declare a state of emergency regarding homelessness.

Bass, a veteran legislator who served in the state assembly and spent the past 12 years representing L.A. in Congress, assured supporters that she will use all of her connections to lead the charge to develop a coordinated strategy to address the estimated 40,000 people sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles every night, with even more across the sprawling L.A. County.

“If we come together and focus on solutions rather than jurisdictions, on locking arms rather than pointing fingers – 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. This is my mission as your mayor,” Bass said.

Bass emphasized her focus on pursuing community-based proposals for building affordable housing and determining what public resources are necessary to improve public safety.

“My call to Los Angeles is to welcome housing in every neighborhood,” Bass said.

Bass’ groundbreaking victory as the first Black woman to run the nation’s second-largest city was underscored by the presence of another history-making politicial leader, Vice President Kamala Harris. Harris, who formerly represented California in the U.S. Senate and served as the state’s Attorney General, handled Bass’ swearing-in ceremony. “Los Angeles has your back,” Bass told Harris afterward.

Bass, 69, contrasted her experience as a kid growing up in Los Angeles at a time when her father was able to buy a home and support a family of six on “one paycheck” from his job as a unionized postal worker.

Bass made little mention of the entertainment industry specifically during her address. She pointed to the need for cooperation among the city’s disparate constituencies to address the public crises of the unhoused and random crime. “If you’re a Hollywood creative, I call on you to help inspire people to get involved in our city,” Bass said.

Bass’ inaugural event was moved from its traditional location on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall to inside the Microsoft Theater of downtown’s L.A. Live complex because of the rain that pounded the region overnight and through late Sunday morning. The event included a performances by poet Amanda Gorman, gospel duo Mary Mary and the legendary Stevie Wonder, who delivered a spirited version of his 1973 classic “Living for the City.”