Sun, Jun

L.A. Mayor Karen Bass: A coalition builder

Karen Bass giving her first speech after winning the mayoral election. Photos by Jason Lewis


Bass’ work with every level of politics and with local community service organizations will bring much needed resources to Black communities in Los Angeles.



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By Jason Lewis

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has worked on or with every level of politics.  On the state level she was a California State Assemblymember from 2004 to 2010.  On the federal level she served in Congress from 2011 until she was elected as mayor of Los Angeles.  On the county level she has formed partnerships to work on various initiatives.  Community service wise, she is the founder of Community Coalition, which worked closely with many local organizations.  During her campaign last year to become mayor, she conveyed the message in various ways that she will utilize her relationships to better serve Black communities.

“I think that it is a huge advantage to have a mayor who has been the Speaker of the State Assembly, and has served as a congresswoman,” said Joseph T. Rouzan, III., Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation (VSEDC) executive director   “Karen Bass is a coalition builder.  One thing that the mayor is known for is working across the aisle and working with people who have different opinions.”

In Bass’ various political roles, she has served Black communities of Los Angeles.  She is the first Black mayor of Los Angeles since Tom Bradley, who was in office from 1973 through 1993.

“It’s been over 20 years since we’ve had anybody in the mayor’s office from our part of town,” said Los Angeles Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson (CD-8).  “It’s nice to get some balance.  It’s an exciting opportunity because in South L.A., more than a lot of other folks, we’ve been able to watch Karen all the time.  So for us this is a part of a longer journey.  It’s nice to see that people who do the work, commit to the people; that you can end up playing a larger role.”

Bass with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson at Community Build in 2016 at Community Coalition in South Los Angeles

Curbing crime, preventing younger people from joining gangs, and lowering the recidivism rate are major issues in Black communities.  Before leaving congress, Bass secured funds for gang prevention and recidivism programs and she said that she would continue to support those programs as mayor.  Programs such as Community Build, Inc. in Leimert Park, which is a part of Los Angeles’ Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) program, and also has a program to help the recently incarcerated find employment and stay out of prison.

“I fully support Mayor Bass in her efforts to disrupt the systemic pipeline to prison industrial complex that is rampant in underserved communities like South Los Angeles,” Community Build, Inc., President Robert Sausedo said.  “First and foremost, we need to focus on supporting youth and young adults by providing them with the tools they need to be self-sufficient and independent.  That includes wraparound services like after-school programs, tutoring, job-training and counseling.  Secondly, when individuals do make a mistake and have paid their debt to society, upon release, there needs to be a pathway to get back on track.  Too often, after serving time, people are blocked at every turn – from housing and earning a livable wage – because of their record. This has got to stop.  So, yes, I look forward to the mayor and working with her on initiatives and programs to end this destructive cycle.”

Los Angeles Councilmember Heather Hutt (CD-10) also sees how Black communities will benefit from Bass’ plans to curb violence.

“Studies have shown that communities who deploy multiple gang intervention strategies and services can help to prevent youth from joining gangs – and the mayor’s plan to secure funding can only continue to create safe spaces for our children and invest in their futures,” Hutt said.  “I look forward to working alongside my fellow councilmembers and Mayor Karen Bass with collective nimbleness, unity and compassion in the months ahead to address the myriad of issues facing our magnificent, complex and diverse city – specifically with the issue of homelessness.”

Homelessness is the most pressing issue in Los Angeles.  During Bass’ campaign she said that if elected, she would declare a state of emergency.  That’s what she did in her first week, and shortly after the County of Los Angeles followed suit.  This was important because Bass said that historically the city of Los Angeles and the county of Los Angeles have not worked closely together.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of working with the county,” Rouzan said.  “The city and the county do now work close enough.  I say that as one that was a city bureaucrat.  I spent 29 years with the city and retired in economic and workforce development.  It was almost a competition (between the city and county) as opposed to a consortium of departments working together.  What’s most evident of this is homelessness.  This homeless crisis is going to force us into having allegiances with other municipal governments.”  

"When we work together with Mayor Bass, (Long Beach) Mayor (Rex) Richardson and our regional partners... we will get people into housing for good.  We'll get them the care they need and deserve and results for every community in L.A. County,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath.

County Supervisor Holly Mitchell agrees that a partnership between the city and county is needed.

“Delivering on solutions for homelessness and progress that can be seen and felt cannot be done without collaboration between L.A. City and L.A. County,” Mitchell said.  “Karen Bass understands this and is an effective coalition builder.  I look forward to continuing to work with the city during this pivotal time when our shared constituency is looking to government to lead with integrity and be intentional about getting resources and services to their communities.”

Bass was sworn in as the Speaker of the California State Assembly in 2008.

While Bass has a four-year term, she is working on a condensed schedule to make a major impact on the homelessness crisis because of the uncertainty on the federal level beyond 2024.  

“Who knows what’s going to happen in 2025, especially with the way the electoral process is being distorted in different states,” Bass said on the “Gimme Shelter:The California Housing Crisis Podcast.” “So I need to work as close as possible with the Biden administration, not knowing what’s going to happen in 2025.”

Supporting local small businesses is also a pressing matter in Black communities of Los Angeles.  Mark J. Robertson, Sr. president and CEO of Pacific Coast Regional Business Finance, which helps local entrepreneurs with their business needs, is excited that Bass won the election because of her support of small businesses.

“She has a demonstrated commitment to small businesses which was evident in her support of the CARES Act and its PPP loan program, The American Rescue Plan, and most recently the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, all of which provide substantial support to small businesses as they recover from COVID,” Robertson said.  “We truly look forward to supporting Mayor Bass as she moves the city forward”.

At VSEDC, Rouzan believes that the lack of information and knowledge “of what is required, and how to do business in a fashion to where you can scale up,” is just as important to securing financial resources to start and maintain a business.

“What the mayor can do is making sure that there is a balance with technical assistance to go along with capital.”

Stay updated on the work that Bass is doing by visiting mayor.lacity.gov and follow her on social media.