Mayor Karen Bass: ‘L.A. magic is still here’

By Shirley Hawkins

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — Saying “L.A. magic is still here,” Mayor Karen Bass was sworn into office Dec. 11 as the 43rd mayor of the city of Los Angeles — the first woman and the second African American to serve in that role.

Bass was administered the oath of office by Vice President Kamala Harris in a ceremony that was held in the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live after rain forced the ceremony indoors.

In remarks after her swearing-in ceremony, Bass promised to tackle the city’s homeless crisis by declaring a state of emergency on the first day of her term.

“I want a city where people are housed and the tents are gone,” Bass said.

She said the state of emergency order will speed up and centralize the process of deploying resources to get money appropriated and redirected to addressing the homelessness crisis in the city, where more than 42,000 people are considered homeless.

“If we are going to bring Angelenos inside and move our city in a new direction, we must have a single strategy to unite our city and county and engage the state, the federal government, the private sector and every other stakeholder,” Bass said.

The new mayor said she also plans to launch an Office of Community Safety.

“Some neighborhoods have asked for additional [police] officers … but what neighborhoods are asking for and what they need is as diverse as our city is,” Bass said. The Office of Community Safety would have employees who would meet “with neighbors, store clerks, dog walkers, teenagers who know what’s actually going on behind the statistics. We want to have block-by-block information on how to truly keep each neighborhood safe. Is it more officers, better lighting, cleaner streets, a closed alley that you need?

“Let’s partner with the people, ask them what works in their neighborhood and create our public safety policy from the ground up,” she said.

Bass said she is well aware of the problems that plague the city. She urged city and county entities, the federal government and other stakeholders to lock arms to join her in eradicating the city’s challenges, including racial tensions, violent crime, the high cost of living, unemployment and erosion of the environment.

“We know our mission – we must build housing in every neighborhood,” she said. “And the very best way for this to happen is by neighbors working together and deciding where housing should be built. 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 also called for “100% clean power, zero emission buildings and a zero-emission port,” something that she said will help create jobs in the city.

She said she plans to reach out to the business community, calling for the city to work “not against the business community, but with them, side by side to preserve and grow the city’s economic and employment base.

“It takes a fundamental shift away from ‘no, that’s not my problem’ to ‘how can we work together, and get to yes?’

“It starts when we understand that when businesses open, when businesses grow, when businesses thrive, they hire people,” she said.

Bass said that there are “hundreds of jobs” available at City Hall that need to be filled and urged people to apply for those jobs.

“I call on our city to not just dream of the L.A. we want but to participate in making the dream come true,” she said.

The ceremony was attended by most members of the City Council, other city officials as well as Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Gov. Gray Davis, outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti and his predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa.

She addressed the elected officials in attendance.

“Vice President Harris, Gov. Newsom, my colleagues in Congress here today — look for me on your caller ID,” she said.

The ceremony also was a celebration with L.A.’s star power well on display. Legendary musician Stevie Wonder sang “Keep Our Love Alive,” a tribute to Nelson Mandela; and a rousing performance of “Living for the City.” He was followed by Chloe Bailey, who sang the classic Beatles’song “We Can Work it Out.”

Also performing was gospel duo Mary Mary, followed by readings from poets Sophie Szew and Amanda Gorman, who also recited her poetry at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.

The Latino band Las Cafeteras performed “La Bamba” followed by the chamber choir from Bass’ alma mater, Hamilton High School, who performed a rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

A Los Angeles native, Bass grew up in the Venice and Fairfax areas of the city, later attending Cal State Dominguez Hills and USC. She was an emergency room nurse and a physician’s assistant before going into social work.

Her community activism began in the early 1990s when she founded the Community Coalition, a community-based social justice organization in South Los Angeles that empowered the African-American and Latino community to combat substance abuse, poverty and crime.

Her first try for public office came in 2004 when she was elected to the state Assembly. Four years later, she became speaker of the Assembly, the first African-American woman in United States history to serve as the leader of a state legislative body.

She was elected to Congress in 2010, replacing the retiring Diane Watson. She served six terms in Congress. While in Washington, she was chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in 2019 and 2020.

She defeated developer Rick Caruso in the Nov. 8 city election, despite Caruso spending more than $100 million during the campaign.

She becomes the first Black mayor of Los Angeles since Tom Bradley, who served five terms between 1973 and 1993.

Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at