Rep. Karen Bass, who launched her campaign for mayor of Los Angeles on Monday, highlighted her federal-and state-level experience Friday, saying her relationships with federal leaders could be an asset for Los Angeles as it tackles its homelessness crisis.
“One of the things that I’m looking forward to in coming home through this campaign is really pushing on the federal side to say what are all of the resources and assets that L.A. can use, because to me, what we have is a humanitarian crisis,” Bass told City News Service Friday.
Bass has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011, currently representing the 37th Congressional District, which encompasses Los Angeles neighborhoods west and southwest of downtown including Crenshaw, Baldwin Hills, Miracle Mile, Pico-Robertson, Century City, Cheviot Hills, West Los Angeles, Mar Vista and parts of Westwood, as well as Culver City and Inglewood.
Bass would be the first sitting House member to be elected mayor of Los Angeles since 1953, when Rep. Norris Poulson was elected. Then-reps. James Roosevelt, Alphonzo Bell and Xavier Becerra lost campaigns for mayor in 1965, 1969 and 2001.
Bass was also a member of the State Assembly from 2004-10, serving as its speaker from 2008-10.
She said Friday that she hopes to use her close relationships with officials in the Biden administration, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice to Los Angeles’ advantage if elected the city’s mayor.
“I mean you can go down the list of cabinet members and people in the administration who I’m close to professionally and personally, and I absolutely hope to bring that to the table,” Bass said. She added that she is in Washington, D.C. working to pass the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which would provide more than $300 billion in housing and community development funding nationwide.
“What is in this reconciliation bill can have tremendous impact on the situation in Los Angeles,” she said.
Bass’ focus on the homelessness crisis in her campaign echoes other candidates running for mayor of Los Angeles in 2022, including City Councilmen Joe Buscaino and Kevin de Leon, City Attorney Mike Feuer, Central City Association of Los Angeles President and CEO Jessica Lall and businessman Mel Wilson.
Speaking with City News Service on Friday, Bass didn’t give specifics on how she would tackle the crisis, noting that she has only been in the race for a few days, but she said she would take a nuanced approach to providing services and housing to homeless people.
“If you look at the homeless population, they’re not all the same, and you need different strategies and different approaches for each category,” she said, adding that people in a variety of circumstances become homeless, including people who maintain full time jobs, people who have been incarcerated and people with substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses.
“So we know we need housing, I mean, I can sit here and I can spout off all those things that are easier said than done,” she said. “We passed (Proposition HHH) that provided the housing to be built and then we have found that is very expensive and very difficult to get the housing built.”
Voters in November 2016 passed Proposition HHH to use $1.2 billion to build 10,000 units for homeless Angelenos, more than tripling Los Angeles’ annual production of supportive housing. Some Proposition HHH projects have cost more than $700,000 per unit.
Bass said that as mayor, she would examine the policies that are in effect that need to be “relaxed or waived in order to expedite the building of housing.”
Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Bass said she is “a very big proponent on vaccinations” and that as the city implements requirements for city employees to be vaccinated and a pending ordinance to require proof of full vaccination to enter many indoor public spaces, officials should look to how it has been implemented in other cities, like New York, which began enforcing its proof of vaccination requirement on Sept. 13.
“How you roll it out, you know, with different businesses and public settings and all, I think it’s something that has to be figured out, so I’ll be interested in seeing what the Council is doing,” Bass said. “So, the first thing I want to do is look at the cities that have already gone ahead and done this and see how it’s working out, what are the problems and how do we get everybody vaccinated,” Bass said.
The primary for the 2022 Los Angeles mayoral election will take place on June 7, with the top two finishers squaring off in the election on Nov. 8.