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Challenges And Opportunities Await Karen Bass As She Takes Over As Mayor

Karen Bass, a Black woman who appears to be in her 50s or 60s, stands behind a clear podium. She is smiling and gesturing with her hands. She wears a red suit with a white shirt, a silver necklace and glasses. Her hair is cut short and she wears red lipstick. Behind her, people holding signs reading "Karen Bass" can be seen.
Karen Bass speaks on stage at the Los Angeles County Democratic Party Election Night party held at the Palladium in Hollywood.
(Brian Feinzimer
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When Karen Bass officially assumes office on Monday, the Hamilton High School graduate — the first woman to lead the nation’s second largest city — will confront challenges and opportunities.

The Los Angeles mayor-elect takes over a city facing an unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis. Not since Richard Riordan became mayor after the 1992 Rodney King uprising has the city faced such a massive problem.

As L.A. Mayor Karen Bass begins her term, tell us what issues feel most urgent to you.

Bass has roots in the far left, but evolved into a pragmatic progressive. She visited Cuba in 1973 to support Fidel Castro's revolution but later went on to become speaker of the State Assembly and helped California through a major budget crisis.

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Bass is a trained emergency room physician assistant who helped start the Community Coalition in 1990. The group sought to close down liquor stores Bass saw as harming her South L.A. community. It also lobbied against discriminatory crack cocaine laws.

To Bishop Craig Worsham of the Agape Church of Los Angeles, she is an inspiring leader. He recalls Bass working with First AME Church, where he attended with his family.

“I remember Karen Bass from my teen years,” he said. To this day, he admires her unique combination of humility and assertiveness to get things done. “She brings people together,” he told LAist.

Money For Los Angeles

Bass has spent the last 12 years in Congress, experience that will help her get federal dollars for building housing and helping unhoused people, said businessman Steve Soboroff, a member of her transition team. “The reputation that she had in Washington and in Sacramento is going to be helpful because it brings funding,” he said. “And we need funding!”

One big question: what effect will a new Republican majority in the U.S. House have on getting any federal funding to deep blue L.A.?

About the Inauguration
  • The forecast for rain on Sunday, Dec. 11 has forced inauguration ceremonies indoors. The ceremony was going to be outside City Hall. Now it will be at the Microsoft Theater in the L.A. Live complex across from Staples Center.

The voter-approved Measure ULA, which raises transfer taxes on properties worth more than $5 million, will provide as much as $1 billion a year for various types of housing — from market rate to shelters. But building costs and city council resistance to zoning changes will be a challenge for Bass.

“They’re going to try to limit zoning allowance increases in their districts and they’re usually pretty successful and fairly rigid on that,” said Michael Lens, a UCLA associate professor of urban planning and public policy.

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Bass also enters a City Hall still reeling from the scandal over the leaked recording of three council members’ racist conversation. Some believe Bass, with her background in multicultural organizing, is well-suited to mend fences.

“Her campaign actually brought the community together around a different vision for Los Angeles that is one of coalition building,” said Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of L.A.

Worsham, the bishop, was a little less optimistic about what Bass might face, predicting she will be “challenged with the various coalitions within City Hall that could possibly attempt to create some type of obstruction.” That would include racial or renter or landlord or police or anti-police coalitions.

What questions do you have about Southern California?