In her first mayoral address Sunday, after being sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris, Mayor Karen Bass shared her vision for leading Los Angeles in a new direction by housing people immediately and making neighborhoods safer, healthier and filled with opportunity.
The inauguration event, held in the Microsoft Theater downtown, also included “I’ve Come Too Far from Where I Started From,” performed by singers Mary Mary; a selection from National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman; the Hamilton High School Chamber Choir, from Bass’ alma mater; and a special performance of “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder, who supported Bass throughout her campaign on his radio station.
The mayor was overwhelmed.
“Oh my gosh,” said Bass. “Stevie Wonder, Mary Mary, Amanda Gorman? And I hope everybody saw them dancing over there,” she said, referring to a portion of the audience which took their Electric Slide to the floor during Wonder’s performance.
“Today is a monumental moment in my life and in Los Angeles,” she added after thanking the host of elected officials present, including Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Board of Supervisors, who she said she plans to work with to get things done. Bass seemed especially grateful for Harris.
“You chose to be here in your home city and you were kind enough to bring several members of Congress on Air Force Two,” Bass said after the Vice President swore her into office. “Know that we appreciate you.”
Social and political background
Bass is an LA native who served as a healthcare provider; founded the Community Coalition; represented LA in the Sate Assembly; and later in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Up until her run for mayor, Bass worked closely with Harris and President Joe Biden while in Congress, creating policy to drive local jobs from federal infrastructure funding and leading the passage of a significant child welfare policy reform.
Bass also thanked Mayor Eric Garcetti for his 21 years of service to Los Angeles.
“When we light the Olympic Torch in 2028, when we take public transit to the airport, when we go to bed in apartments safer from earthquakes, and when we breathe in cleaner air, Angelenos will be benefiting from your legacy,” she said. “And to those remaining and newly taking office, I look forward to a closely aligned relationship as we create opportunities for the people of this great city.”
Earlier in the program, City Council President Paul Krekorian swore in City Controller Kenneth Mejia and City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto, and later remarked that Los Angeles has three incoming brand new city officials.
As one performer noted, it’s a new day in L.A.
“To right a wrong, she will fight to bring others along
To make our cities, country and world all the stronger
It is our honor to witness her strength, her story, her spirit.”
— Amanda Gorman
In her speech, Bass said that the people of Los Angeles have asked her to serve at an inflection point in our history, during a pandemic; with a rapidly changing economy; in a rapidly changing climate; with 40,000 people sleeping on the street.
“I believe that times of inflection require reflection,” she said. “I believe it’s time for Angelenos to remind ourselves where we come from and who we are.”
Bass added that through difficulties and challenges and earthquakes, Angelenos have never given up.
“And our magic, L.A. magic, it’s still here,” she said. “Just think about how the goods coming through L.A.’s port stock the shelves of America coast to coast. The ideas and inventions spinning out from our Silicon Beach are powering our future. We stir the soul of the world – we make the movies, the music, the culture that entertains and influences people all across the globe.”
She mentioned that even though the city has earned the “shameful crown as being home to some of the most crowded neighborhoods in the nation,” the mission now is to build housing in every neighborhood.
“And the very best way for this to happen is by neighbors working together and deciding where housing should be built.” Bass said. “We cannot continue to overcrowd neighborhoods that are already overcrowded. This is my call to you, L.A. – to welcome housing in every neighborhood.”
Bass called on the city council, the new city attorney and city controller, to work on a unified and urgent strategy to solve homelessness.
“So let it be said
That light will be shed
Where our world is led
By leaders ahead of the headlines.”
— Amanda Gorman
That call included the County of Los Angeles, with its authority over health, including mental health and substance abuse, along with the mayors and council members of the 87 other cities in the county.
“Lock arms with me, too, because we know that problems don’t stop at our city limits,” she said before reminding the elected officials in the room that she will be in touch with them frequently.
“Look for me on your caller ID,” said Bass. “If we come together and focus on solutions rather than jurisdiction, on linking arms rather than pointing fingers – if we just focus on bringing people inside, comprehensively addressing their needs, and moving them to permanent housing with a way to pay their bills — we will save lives and save our city — that is my mission as your mayor.
“The time of never before is officially past
For the world must learn this, and learn it fast
While we may be the first,
we are far from the last
The way forward isn’t a road we take
The way forward is a road we make.”
— Amanda Gorman
Bass also called on all of the city’s residents.
“But I am also asking you, Angelenos, to join me in moving our city forward,” she added. “I am also calling on you to lock arms with me to make our neighborhoods — every neighborhood — safe, through a strategy that is informed by our communities.”
The mayor quoted the founder of Homeboy Industries, Father Greg Boyle, who famously said, “nothing stops a bullet like a job.”
“Let me be so bold as to add that we can prevent crime and community violence by addressing the social, the health, and the economic conditions that compromise a safe environment,” she added, admitting that the tasks ahead would take a fundamental shift. “away from ‘no, that’s not my problem’ and to ‘how can we work together, and get to yes?’”
Bass stressed that there is a role for everyone to participate in making the L.A. dream come true.
“Please join me in this effort,” she said. “A city where people are housed and tents are gone. A city where people are comfortable walking and shopping in all neighborhoods at all hours. A city where murals replace graffiti; A city where we lock arms with each other until we get the job done.
“That’s the reality we can build, Los Angeles,” Bass concluded. “Let’s build it together. Thank you Los Angeles for the honor and the opportunity.”