Our Weekly features House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Cory Booker, the California Legislative Black Caucus and the Sierra Club in their support for Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37) for Mayor of the City of Los Angeles. For this publication, the choice is clear between a billionaire or an experienced community leader.
On Wednesday, Bass joined President Joe Biden, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the White House to sign an executive order establishing new rules and regulations for federal law enforcement officers.
Bass twice successfully led the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in the House of Representatives, but it later stalled in the Senate. Bass and Booker then requested that the Biden administration develop an executive order to address the issue.
After working closely with the White House, an executive order was passed to establish new rules and regulations for federal law enforcement officers that will improve transparency and accountability in police work. Bass believes this important performance assignment is a huge step forward.
“I refused to take no for an answer,” Bass said. “Just as my friend and fellow Congressman John Lewis used to say, you have to find a way out. When I saw the Senate refusing to act, we went straight to the White House to make sure that action would be taken to address police reform. We are honoring this day with action on the occasion of two years after the murder of George Floyd.”
The executive order is the latest in a series of feats by Bass to make Los Angeles a safer place, including securing millions of dollars allocated directly to California’s 37th district to prevent crime and tackle homelessness.
Bass’ closest competitor in the mayoral race, Rick Caruso, has spent millions of dollars introducing himself to the Angeleno voters through TV ads. This tactic has allowed him to gain ground and tie Bass, according to polls.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of polls lately,” Bass said during a zoom talk hosted by the Heart of Los Angeles Democratic Club. “Caruso has caught up with me, but he is nowhere near 50 percent. We are both in our 30s. He is trying to create an illusion that he can win in June.”
Any candidate on the June 7 ballot can win the election outright by getting more than 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate passes that threshold, the two best votes, regardless of party affiliation, will face each other in the general election on November 8.
Bass, 69, represented the 37th U.S. Congressional District (Mid City, Westwood, Exposition Park, Baldwin Hills) for six terms. Prior to that, she was elected Speaker of the California State Assembly in 2008, making her the first black woman in U.S. history to head a state legislative body.
She previously founded the Community Coalition and the National Foster Youth Institute, both in Los Angeles.
Her endorsements include the California Legislative Black Caucus; United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA); the California Nurses Association; the Stonewall Democratic Club and the Los Angeles Times.
During the zoom call, Bass, who has represented the 37th District since 2011, addressed her opponents’ recent negative commercials. She noted that the ad sponsored by the Police Protective League is particularly surprising given that she consulted with the league while working on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in Congress.
“This is just an attempt to confuse me,” she said, pointing out that the group should be spending union dues on improving relationships with the communities they serve rather than “trying to link me to something with whom I had no connection.”
Another false ad that Bass said noted the rise in the number of homeless people while she was in Congress. Bass said those numbers were recorded during the country’s recession and, contrary to the ad, “We’ve managed to bring millions of dollars into the LA area.”
Bass noted the expansion of the Operation Room Key and Home Key programs for the displaced, assisted by the D.C. and Sacramento legislative leadership.
“When you see the tiny houses and rented buildings for the homeless… know that this is Congressional money,” she said. “We’ve worked for them.”
During an earlier interview, Bass was asked if the LAPD needed to be reconstructed.
“I have two plans for public safety,” Bass said, pointing out that she doesn’t support defunding the department. “You do have to hire about 200 to 400 officers. The city budget calls for 9,700 officers, but every month it has fallen by 200 officers due to attrition. We have to hire an amount up to what we have budgeted.”
Bass believes in reducing the city’s reliance on the LAPD. Her second plan mentions supporting community-based prevention strategies. Those citizens will use a public health approach to prevent violence and reduce crime and tackle the fundamental problems that cause both: unemployment, income inequality, lack of education, mental health problems and untreated substance abuse.
“But some communities do want greater visibility for agents,” she said. “We could hire those who are now on civilian service to be back on the streets.”
During this week’s LA World Affairs Council and “Meet Karen Bass” event, the host made note that Bass received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for leading California out of the 2009 financial crisis.
The award recognized that she was able to withstand the “extraordinary pressure from her voters and parties that she faced as she worked with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to address California’s severe financial crisis.”
“I consider myself a constructive disruptor,” Bass said during City Hall, pointing to her experience in Sacramento. “My Republican colleagues, even though I am a Democrat, as a speaker, they are all my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans. I had to convince the Republicans to raise taxes. And in our partisan world, the Republicans who voted for taxes knew when they’d get that vote, they’d never be elected to public office again And let people make such a decision, a life-changing decision, but they did it, they sacrificed their future in politics for the good of the state. That’s the way it should be.”
The Congresswoman believes in the power of collaboration, especially when it comes to affordability of homes in the South LA area she represents.
“Historic residents… their children should live elsewhere,” she said. “South LA has become unaffordable.”
“The only way to deal with affordability is to increase supply,” she said at City Hall. “Experts say Los Angeles needs more than 500,000 additional homes. So the reason I don’t believe this problem will be solved if you leave it to politicians alone is because we need the whole city to get a grip on the fact that we need to make room for more people.”
Before and during the meeting, she spoke to a group of teenagers.
“By the time you finish high school and finish college, you’re going to have a hard time wanting to go back to Los Angeles because it’s going to be very expensive,” Bass said. “So my goal is to make sure that by the time you get out of college, if you want to go back to Los Angeles, you can actually afford to live here.”
At the end of City Hall, Bass answered questions from the audience and one of them raised this issue, citing “LA doesn’t need another luxury unit. Not one more.”
“If you want to talk about luxury developments, you have to talk to my opponent,” Bass said.
Bass noted that her opponent’s negative ads don’t deter her.
“Caruso was affiliated with the Democratic party a few weeks before the submission,” Bass said of the other candidate. “Democrat is not a box you tick. It reflects values in life and what you have done in your life.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-28) chimed in and approved the congressman’s campaign.
“The job of the mayor of LA is extremely difficult, so you need someone to bring people together,” says Schiff. “We don’t need anyone who changes political party for election reasons.”
Schiff added that Bass is a lifelong Democrat with a track record of community activism unlike her competition.
“Mr. Caruso is clearly spending millions and millions introducing himself to voters who don’t know him,” Schiff added.
Rep. Added Judy Chu (CA-27) to the conversation about Caruso.
“Who is he really? A luxury real estate developer,” Chu said. “He is partly responsible for the affordability crisis LA is experiencing.”
Chu worked with Bass in the state assembly and also supported her campaign.
“I’ve known Karen Bass for 20 years now,” Chu said. ‘I can tell you one thing: she is authentic. She doesn’t have to spend millions of dollars to tell you she’s an ordinary person.”
Chu added that Bass’ opponent has contributed thousands to the fight against abortion.
“Women should have a choice about their bodies,” she said. “And Caruso has said he’s a pro-life, conservative Catholic.”
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) spoke with Bass’s experience.
“Karen doesn’t just talk, she has a proven track record of walking the walk,” Roybal-Allard said. “She is the only candidate with the personal experience and knowledge of the state legislature and the United States Congress.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (CA-33) was also featured in the zoom call and also worked with Bass in the state meeting.
“Karen has been a Democrat for a long time. She’s in politics for all the right reasons, she wants to do good and help the people,” he said. “Government is not the same as a for-profit corporation. You know who tried to run the government as a corporation, former President Donald Trump .”
Schiff agreed, saying, “Given the experience we had picking a billionaire nationally, I don’t think LA would want that.”