Karen Ruth Bass, a former medical assistant who shattered glass ceilings with her rise to a leadership position in the California legislature and later to a prominent place in Congress, was ceremonially sworn in Sunday as mayor of Los Angeles.
Bass, one progressive democratbecomes the first woman and second black person to hold the city’s highest office and will formally assume her duties on Monday in the midst of multiple crises in the second most populous city in the country.
She was ceremonially sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris, a longtime friend and former California attorney general. The formal oath was administered in private by the city clerk.
Bass will be tasked with alleviating soaring crime rates, restoring confidence in a City Council rocked by scandals of racism and corruption, and tackling the problem of more than 40,000 people living in campsites littered with trash or rusting RVs that have spread to virtually every neighborhood.
In a tone of unity, Bass said that the many disparate branches of government they must come together to face homelessness.
To move in a new direction, “we must have a single strategy that brings together the government, the private sector and other stakeholders”Bass said, speaking at a downtown theater near City Hall.
She said that if people link arms instead of pointing fingers, lives will be saved. She called that “my mission” as mayor.
He 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 am calling on the people of our city to not only dream of the LA we want, but also to participate in making that dream come true,” Bass said.
Bass, who was on President-elect Joe Biden‘s short list for vice president, claimed the job last month after outbidding more than $100 million in spending from rival Rick Caruso, a billionaire developer and Republican-turned-Democrat who campaigned as a centrist and promised a strong emphasis on public safety.
Caruso would have represented a swing to the political right for the heavily Democratic city. Bass won over voters by arguing that she would be a coalition builder to help heal a troubled city of nearly 4 million.
“We are going to build a new Los Angeles”Bass promised at an election night rally.
A marquee outside the theater displayed a photo of a beaming Bass with the slogan “A New Day for Los Angeles.” The backdrop for the stage, surmounted by American flags, was a large shot of the steps and columns of City Hall.
In a surprise appearance, Stevie Wonder got the crowd dancing, performing “Living for the City.” He and Bass shared a hug.
Bass, 69, ran as the consensus choice of the Democratic establishment and received endorsements from 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 a change agent He plans to declare a state of emergency on his first day in office to address homelessness. She has indicated that she will seek to gather “all the resources, all the skills, the knowledge, the talent of the city” so that the homeless have homes.
Details about the emergency order have not yet emerged, though she has said she intends for more than 17,000 homeless people to be housed in its first year through a mix of temporary and permanent facilities.
It will also face entrenched urban problems including housing shortages, dilapidated streets and some of the worst traffic in the country.
“The mayor’s first priority and probably the first priority going forward is homelessness,” said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.
“Voters are not expecting a miracle, but they will be looking for a clear and credible path to measurable and visible improvement,” Sonenshein said. “It is an opportunity for a forceful restart of a crisis that seemed stagnant, and also an opportunity to restore confidence in Los Angeles local government.”
She replaces embattled Democrat Eric Garcetti, who ends two bumpy terms with his nomination to become US ambassador to India stalled in the Senate, apparently over sexual misconduct allegations against a former top Garcetti aide.
Bass takes office as the City Council grapples with a racism scandal that has led to the resignation of its former president and a powerful labor leader, while a council member caught up in the scandal has resisted calls to resign. Meanwhile, three current or former members of the council have been indicted or have pleaded guilty to corruption charges.
Bass made state Assembly history by becoming the first black woman to serve as speaker of any state legislature. She also served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in 2019 and 2020.
(with information from AP)
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