LOS ANGELES (AP) — Karen Ruth Bass, a former medical assistant who broke glass ceilings with her rise to a leadership position in the California legislature and later a prominent place in Congress, was sworn in Sunday as as mayor of Los Angeles.
A progressive Democrat, Bass becomes the first woman and second black person to hold the city’s top job and will officially take office on Monday amid multiple crises in the nation’s second-most populous city.
She was ceremonially sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris, a longtime friend and former California attorney general. The official oath was administered privately by the town clerk.
Bass will be tasked with mitigating rising crime rates, restoring faith in a city hall rocked by racism and corruption scandals, and solving the problem of more than 40,000 people living in trash-strewn encampments. or rusty RVs that have spread through virtually every neighborhood.
Striking a tone of unity, Bass said the many disparate branches of government must come together to address homelessness.
To move in a new direction, “we need to have a single strategy” that brings together government, the private sector and other stakeholders,” Bass said, speaking at a downtown theater near the hotel. of town.
She said if people joined arms rather than pointing, lives would be saved. She called it “my mission” as mayor.
She also urged residents to get involved in city government, echoing John F. Kennedy’s presidential inaugural address in which he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.
“I call on the people of our city to not just dream of the LA we want, but to participate in making that dream come true,” Bass said.
Bass – who was on President-elect Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice president – claimed the job last month after overcoming more than $100 million in spending by rival Rick Caruso, a billionaire developer and Republican-turned-Democrat who campaigned as a centrist and promised a strong focus on public safety.
Caruso would have represented a shift to the political right for the heavily Democratic city. Bass swayed voters by saying she would be a coalition builder to help heal a struggling city of nearly 4 million people.
“We’re going to build a new Los Angeles,” Bass promised at an election night rally.
A marquee outside the theater featured a photo of a beaming bass with the slogan “A New Day for Los Angeles”. The backdrop to the scene, topped with American flags, was an oversized shot of the steps and columns of City Hall.
In a surprise appearance, Stevie Wonder got the crowd dancing while performing “Living for the City.” He and Bass shared a hug.
Bass, 69, ran as the Democratic establishment’s consensus pick and was endorsed by Biden, former President Barack Obama and former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Despite her close ties to the Democratic political community, she has described herself as an agent of change who plans to declare a state of emergency on her first day in office to address homelessness. She signaled that she will seek to bring together “all the resources, all the skills, the knowledge, the talent in the city” to bring the homeless into housing.
Details on the emergency ordinance have yet to emerge, although she said she aims to house more than 17,000 homeless people in her first year through a mix of temporary and permanent installations.
It will also have to deal with entrenched urban problems, including a housing shortage, crumbling streets and some of the worst traffic in the country.
“The mayor’s first priority and probably the main one for some time to come is homelessness,” said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University in Los Angeles.
“Voters are not expecting a miracle but will be looking for a clear and credible path to measurable and visible improvement,” Sonenshein said. “This is an opportunity for a forceful reset on a crisis that seemed stalled, and also a chance to restore confidence in local government in Los Angeles.”
She replaces beleaguered Democrat Eric Garcetti, who is finishing two bumpy terms with his nomination for US ambassador to India stalled in the Senate, reportedly following allegations of sexual misconduct against a former top Garcetti adviser.
Bass takes office as the city council grapples with a racist scandal that led to the resignation of its former president and a powerful union leader, while a city councilor caught up in the scandal resisted calls to resignation. Meanwhile, three current or former council members have been charged or pleaded guilty to corruption charges.
Bass made history in the state assembly by becoming the first black woman to serve as speaker of a state legislature. She also served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in 2019 and 2020.