New LA mayor Bass declares homeless emergency as term begins

Dec 11, 2022, 2:16 AM | Updated: Dec 12, 2022, 6:58 pm
Karen Bass, left, is sworn in as mayor of Los Angeles by Vice President Kamala Harris, a longtime f...

Karen Bass, left, is sworn in as mayor of Los Angeles by Vice President Kamala Harris, a longtime friend and former California attorney general, in Los Angeles, on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. Bass' stepdaughter, Yvette Lechuga, center, holds the Bible used in the swearing in. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass began her first day in office Monday by declaring a state of emergency to grapple with the city’s out-of-control homeless crisis, bidding to move swiftly to get thousands of unhoused people off her city’s streets.

Bass called the declaration “a sea change in how the city tackles homelessness,” making good on a campaign pledge to call the emergency the day she took power. The issue dominated her mayoral race against billionaire developer Rick Caruso and the crisis has continued to worsen despite vast public spending increases.

She said Sunday that the many, disparate arms of government must unite to confront homelessness in the nation’s second-largest city. To move in a new direction “we must have a single strategy” bringing together government, the private sector and other stakeholders, she said at the ceremony.

Trash-strewn encampments and rusting RVs have spread to virtually every neighborhood of Los Angeles, and her declaration on Monday included a grim statistical rundown of the many problems stemming from the homeless crisis.

Fires caused by homeless people constitute a majority of all blazes handled by the Los Angeles Fire Department, averaging 24 a day, according to 2021 figures. About half the homeless population — totaling over 40,000 citywide — suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, and about a third have serious mental illnesses. And homeless deaths average five a day.

Despite more than $1.2 billion in spending for homeless programs in the current city budget, there is scant evidence of change on the streets, and the declaration said the crisis has grown “beyond the control of the normal services, personnel, equipment, and facilities” in Los Angeles.

Advocates for the unhoused cheered the declaration.

Jennifer Hark Dietz, CEO of the homeless services nonprofit PATH, said the city’s previous “piecemeal” approach to the crisis too often involved law enforcement instead of service providers. She expressed hope that the move would cut down on red tape, bolster outreach and include “tangible housing solutions.”

“From individuals just falling into homelessness, to those living outdoors or in interim housing … we know that the affordable housing they need is just not here,” Dietz said in a statement Monday that backed efforts to speed creation of affordable housing.

Janice Hahn, who heads the county Board of Supervisors, credited Bass with “treating the homelessness crisis with the urgency it demands.”

Bass’ election in November represented a historic marker in the city’s 241-year history. She is the first woman and second Black person to hold the job. The former Democratic congresswoman and legislative leader begins work amid multiple crises. Bass also is tasked with easing rising crime rates and restoring trust in a City Hall shaken by racism and corruption scandals.

Bass — who was on President-elect Joe Biden’s short list for vice president — claimed the post last month after overcoming more than $100 million in spending by rival Caruso, a billionaire and Republican-turned-Democrat who campaigned as a centrist and promised a strong emphasis on public safety.

Caruso would have represented a turn to the political right for the heavily Democratic city. Bass swayed voters by arguing she would be a coalition builder to help heal a troubled city of nearly 4 million.

She took her formal oath privately but was sworn in ceremonially at a downtown theater on Sunday by Vice President Kamala Harris, a longtime friend and former California attorney general.

Bass, 69, ran as the consensus pick of the Democratic establishment and was endorsed by Biden, former President Barack Obama and former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite her close ties with the Democratic political community, she has described herself as a change agent who will marshal “all of the resources, all of the skills, the knowledge, the talent of the city” to get homeless people into housing.

She has said she intends to get over 17,000 homeless people into housing in her first year through a mix of interim and permanent facilities.

She also will contend with entrenched urban problems that include a housing shortage, crumbling streets and some of the nation’s worst traffic.

She replaces beleaguered Democrat Eric Garcetti, who ends two bumpy terms with his nomination to become U.S. ambassador to India stalled in the Senate, apparently over sexual misconduct allegations against a former top Garcetti adviser.

Bass takes office as the City Council contends with a racism scandal that led to the resignation of its former president and a powerful labor leader, while one councilman snared in the scandal has resisted calls to resign. Meanwhile, three current or former council members have been indicted or have pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

substation...
Associated Press

Puyallup man accused in substation vandalism is released from custody

A federal judge issued the order for Matthew Greenwood, 32, after renewed efforts by his attorney to get Greenwood into a drug-treatment facility.
24 hours ago
FILE - The sun dial near the Legislative Building is shown under cloudy skies, March 10, 2022, at t...
Associated Press

Democrats in Washington state choose Conrad as new leader

The Washington State Democratic Party has chosen Shasti Conrad, the former leader of King County Democrats, as its new chair.
24 hours ago
Morning service concludes in the annex of the Cathedral Notre Dame du Congo in Kinshasa, Democratic...
Associated Press

Pope’s Africa trip spotlights conflict, and church’s future

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is opening a six-day visit to Congo and South Sudan on Tuesday, aiming to bring a message of peace to two countries riven by poverty, conflict and what Francis has called a lingering “colonialist mentality” that still considers Africa ripe for exploitation. Aid groups are hoping Francis’ trip will […]
24 hours ago
Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquart...
Associated Press

Asian shares fall in muted trading ahead of Fed meeting

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares mostly fell in muted trading Tuesday as investors awaited decisions on interest rates and earnings reports from around the world. Traders were awaiting the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates, expected on Wednesday. They also were watching for indicators on the Chinese economy, the region’s key engine for growth. […]
24 hours ago
Private and home school students, their parents and advocates crowed part of the second floor of th...
Associated Press

‘School choice’ is culture-war focus for Kansas lawmakers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republican legislators in Kansas are focusing on helping conservative parents remove their children from public schools over what’s taught about gender and sexuality rather than pursuing a version of what critics call Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. A proposal to allow parents to use state tax dollars to pay for […]
24 hours ago
FILE - Actor Alec Baldwin attends a news conference at United Nations headquarters, on Sept. 21, 20...
Associated Press

Deadline nears for Alec Baldwin in deadly movie set shooting

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Prosecutors planned to file felony charges of involuntary manslaughter Tuesday in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal on the set of a Western movie in 2021. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died shortly after being wounded at a film set ranch on the outskirts of […]
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
New LA mayor Bass declares homeless emergency as term begins