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Karen Bass Sworn In As LA’s First Woman Mayor

Karen Bass, a light-skinned Black woman wearing a blue pantsuit, shakes hands with Vice President Kamala Harris, a light-skinned Black woman in a black pantsuit. Several people stand behind them clapping.
Vice President Kamala Harris, right, congratulates Mayor-elect Karen Bass at the swearing in.
(Brian Feinzimer
for LAist)
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Karen Bass took the oath of office as Los Angeles’ first woman mayor Sunday during an inauguration ceremony at the Microsoft Theater that included performances by Stevie Wonder, Mary Mary, and poet Amanda Gorman. Bass, who was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris, officially assumes office Monday.

Bass said she will visit the city's emergency operations center Monday to declare a state of emergency on homelessness, something she had previously promised to do.

“The people of Los Angeles have asked me to serve at an inflection point in our history,” Bass told several thousand people who came to witness the event, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Gov. Gray Davis, and an array of other elected and community leaders.

She called on all Angelenos to not just dream of a better L.A. but help build one. “Please join me in this effort,” she said, asking people to help her build “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.”

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Inaugural Speech: Housing Is Needed ‘In Every Neighborhood’

Bass offered what might be seen as two ideas in tension with each other. She said she wanted people in individual neighborhoods to decide where new housing would be built, but also said it must be built “in every neighborhood.”

“This is my call to Los Angeles, to welcome housing in every neighborhood,” she said.

In addition to the unprecedented homelessness and housing crisis, many Angelenos are concerned about a rise in violent crime in recent years (a trend that has plagued cities nationwide).

Bass signaled she did not intend to push solely for more police patrols as a way to combat crime.

“Some neighborhoods have asked for additional officers,” she said.  “But what neighborhoods are asking for and what they need for safety is as diverse as our city is.”

Bass said she will launch a new Office of Community Safety that will “meet with neighbors, store clerks, dog walkers, teenagers, who know what’s actually going on behind the statistics.” She said people may need better street lighting, cleaner streets or a closed alley to be safer.

The City Council Tapes Scandal

Another challenge facing the new mayor: political turmoil at City Hall over leaked tape recordings of a conversation among three council members that included racist, homophobic, and anti-renter remarks.

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Nury Martinez, the worst offender, resigned as council president. Gil Cedillo lost in the primary before the recording was released and leaves office Monday. Council member Kevin de León has refused to step down, despite calls from top Democratic Party leaders —including President Biden — for him to do so.

Bass did not address the scandal in her remarks.

Bass To Newsom: 'You Can Expect Me To Call On You'

“You know you can expect me to call on you again and again,” Bass told Newsom, saying she would need a lot of help addressing the challenges facing the city. “I got to call on you too,” she said to a group of about a dozen members of Congress sitting in the front row. Bass served in Congress for 12 years, leaving her seat this year to run for mayor.

Throughout her speech, the one-time speaker of the California Assembly and founder of the Community Coalition emphasized coalition building — including with the business community. “When businesses open, when businesses grow, when businesses thrive, they hire people,” Bass said.

“So to the business community, I am ready to partner with you,” said the longtime political progressive.

Support From Black Angelenos

Black people showed up in large numbers to celebrate Bass.

“I am excited she is the first Black woman mayor for the city,” said Page Briscol, expressing the sentiments of many in the audience.

“I showed up for history-making,” said Lucille Thomas.

“She is the first female mayor of Los Angeles and that’s something to celebrate,” said Curtis Atkins.

Others recognized the tough challenges facing Bass.

“I think that she is taking office at a time when there have been laid bare some very raw emotions and divisions,” said Chris Rhie, who expressed hope the new mayor can unite the city.

Given Bass’ roots in community organizing, many progressive activists showed up to witness her elevation to mayor.

“We are here to honor the occasion and to be celebratory,” said Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition. He said he and other grassroots progressive organizers are hopeful Bass will advance their agendas, but also intend to hold her feet to the fire.

“You know where her heart is,” he said. “Sometimes you just need to be able to convince her mind.”

Others Were Sworn In To Office

Hydee Feldstein Soto was sworn in as the new city attorney and Kenneth Mejia was sworn in as the new city controller.

Five new members of the city council also were sworn in, including Tim McKosker, Traci Park, Katy Young Yaroslavsky, Hugo Soto-Martinez, and Eunisses Hernandez.

All officially begin their duties Monday.

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