December 14, 2023 - From the December, 2023 issue

Mayor Karen Bass Reflects on First Year in Office

This week, Mayor Karen Bass held a press conference to reflect on her first year in office as the City of Los Angeles' Mayor. TPR here shares a transcript to the Mayor’s full address and comments. In her address, the Mayor offered a progress report on her many initiatives: the Inside Safe program, her office’s executive directives “streamlining” affordable housing development, the commitments being made to building a green economy, as well as her many public safety initiatives.

Mayor Karen Bass

“This year has been anything but business as usual. We've worked with unprecedented urgency to make real change.… So to know if our city is moving in a new direction, just follow the people and that's what I will always do as your mayor.” - Mayor Bass

Karen Bass  

Good morning, everyone. I am so honored to be here, and Councilwoman [Park], it has just been an amazing experience working with you. We didn't know each other before. We were both elected, but got to know each other very quickly. And I have been extremely impressed with your leadership, your fearlessness, your fortitude, to improve the quality of life in your district and joining forces with you in the first few days of the administration, to make sure that the people who were living and dying on the streets right down the street from here were housed and I want to continue that work into our second year. We can get so much more done and Angelenos, the last year has been the honor of my life, to be of service to my neighbors and to my hometown as your mayor. 

A lot has happened and I remain guided by the promises I made to you just a short year ago. I said I would lead a city where we locked arms across government and with each other. I said we would act with urgency. I said we would create change and do things differently. And we have, which is why in our first year we have brought inside more than 21,000 people who are suffering and dying on the street. It's why we funded a historic number of new LAPD officers and attracted a record number to the police academy applications after years of record lows. It's why the Bank of California is moving its headquarters to LA and why 1000s of businesses opened in our city over the last year. This first year was one in which we did the hard work of laying the foundation for a stronger, healthier, happier and safer and more affordable Los Angeles. But the challenges we face cannot wait for us to rebuild and then to begin to address them. We must move people inside, improve city services and restore our cities at the same time that we rebuild the system. And the solutions aren't just coming from City Hall. They are coming from Angelenos. We are listening to their needs. And we are reaching out and asking people what works for their small businesses. What works to make housing more affordable, to make neighborhoods safe, and to help people to come inside and to convince Angelenos to become more involved. 

This year, we made record investments to combat homelessness in public safety and in other areas. But our success is not just about resources. It's about reform. It's about doing things differently so that we can achieve a better result. That's why I started on day one, by declaring a state of emergency and making it clear that I will not accept people living and dying on our streets. The truth is living inside is cleaner, safer, healthier, and more stable for the unhoused and the neighborhoods. So we are doing things differently. We're using motels, hotels, tiny homes, whatever it takes to bring people inside immediately. This is an emergency response. I've talked to people in those tents. Bringing someone inside is life changing and life saving. And I'm so grateful that our city and county’s joint efforts have brought more than 21,000 people inside this year, thousands more than last year. Our Inside Safe initiative has seen dozens and dozens of LA's most entrenched encampments disappear and not come back, just like the one that used to lie in the streets outside. 

I recently spoke with a minister about Thanksgiving Day. He had been collecting food and was going to deliver it to the encampment on Venice Boulevard under the 405. But a few weeks prior, Inside Safe had housed almost 100 people in an encampment living there. And so when he went, there was no one living there anymore because the encampment was gone and the people were housed. There are similar stories in Hollywood, Korea Town, the valley and the East Side. Sidewalks once again for kids walking to school, and people walking their dogs and Angelenos who are suffering are now living inside out of danger with access to health care and food and a path to permanent housing. 

And we have taken bold action to get housing built. Now, I admit I cannot make cement set faster or wood cost less, but I can get City Hall moving faster. My executive directive has cut city approval times for affordable and homeless housing by 75-85%. So far, that means that more than 9000 units of housing are coming online faster by months because we took action that sparked reform. It means I had the pleasure of meeting 69 year old David Mays, who could now move from living in his Chevy to a brand new studio apartment with onsite supportive services this month instead of sometime next year. And we all must do our part and all levels of government have already stepped up and locked arms. And as we move into the next year, I will be calling on the private sector and the philanthropic sector to step up in a big way. Locking arms means action. Like what happened when we were threatened by a hurricane. I made sure Angelenos had information constantly and on every platform and in response Angelenos stayed off the roads that came to our emergency shelters to stay safe and no one lost their lives in the storm. That is how the city locks arms with Angelenos and how we Angelenos lock arms together. And locking arms across government has delivered results to several examples: federal rule changes and hundreds of millions of dollars from Washington for homelessness, clean energy and the decarbonization of our port. 

The governor and the state have delivered homeless housing, youth jobs and training, water conservation and infrastructure. The county declared a homeless state of emergency and encampment initiative alongside ours. We are finally building that truly regional strategy. We have locked arms as mayors across California. In the state's largest city, mayors across the country, through the US Conference of Mayors where I was appointed to be the chair of the National homeless task force, we convened here in LA with federal officials last month to harness our collective power to advocate for federal housing, mental health and substance abuse reforms. And so when the 10 freeway was shut down, locking arms wasn't just a slogan, it was a reality. Immediately after the shutdown, Secretary of Transportation Peter Buttigieg called and soon after federal repair dollars were on the way. Governor Newsom was here on the ground daily, flying back and forth to San Francisco, and Angelenos stayed home, used transit and planned ahead. There was no chaos and fortunately, the freeway was open before Thanksgiving. 

There are more than 10,000 emergency calls to our 911 system every day. We're breaking new ground to make sure that we respond. We launched a new program to put paramedics in ambulances much faster than the old way. And we launched our new office of Community Safety, which is asking Angelenos what safety means in their neighborhoods, and fully integrating crime and violence prevention and intervention strategies into the city's public safety approach. Making investments and proving strategies led by community based organizations, increasing deployment of the community of the gang reduction and youth development resources in high need areas and expanding our circle teams around the city. Circle teams respond to non-emergency LAPD calls involving unhoused individuals with mental health clinicians and outreach workers. This frees up officers to tackle and focus on violent crime. Angelenos also need us to respond when they call 311 to get potholes fixed, graffiti painted over or to pick up that couch on the curb. I have told city departments that these everyday services are the backbone of strong neighborhoods and a strong economy and they have responded by addressing 100,000 more service calls this year. To hold us accountable to the business community and ensure our work is in alignment with their needs. We created our small business cabinet and Executive Business cabinet. We directed every relevant department to develop action plans to cut red tape, improve customer service for businesses looking to open or expand in LA. The City of Los Angeles spends an average of $4.5 billion buying goods and services each year. And I want more of that money spent locally. So we created a first of its kind contract financing program. So local small businesses can better compete for city contracts and we stepped in to make sure we now have a permanent outdoor dining program that is streamlined and makes it easy for businesses to bring food, fun and revenues to our main streets. 

We were reminded during the summer of strikes, just how essential entertainment is to our middle class and to our economy. We need fair contracts because those entertainment workers are our neighbors who eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores and contribute to our communities in so many ways to keep these jobs here, as other cities, states and even countries aggressively try to lower our production and Hollywood jobs away. My administration is helping to make sure studio and sound soundstage development is faster and less costly. We've already helped seven projects and we're just getting started. And we know that LA's economy and workers do better when we have transit that works. A couple of weeks ago LA overtook Chicago to have the second busiest transit system in the country. Ridership is roaring back because we are operating trains more frequently, cleaning more frequently. And because we have added hundreds of Metro ambassadors to help users and keep them safe and that also includes the environment. I've been fortunate to have a deep foundation of work to protect the environment that was set by mayor's Villaraigosa and our city through locking arms. We will continue that work and have already delivered hundreds of millions of dollars toward our efforts to build a greener Los Angeles. Angelenos I can rattle off statistics all day, but to really know whether we are changing the direction of city hall and of Los Angeles. Don't listen to me. Listen to the people. Watch what they are doing. Unhoused Angelenos are coming inside. Communities are asking for Inside Safe. They know that we are doing things differently and urgently, a record number of Angelenos applied for our police academy over the summer. They demonstrate our commitment to public safety. 1000s of businesses opened last year. My office welcomed 29 foreign governments, led business delegations and engaged with more than 700 international companies because we want the world to know that LA is open for business. This year has been anything but business as usual. We've worked with unprecedented urgency to make real change. Now, Angelenos are always worried about two things: rain and traffic. But when we are threatened with a hurricane and when the 10 freeway shut down, we came together and kept our city moving. So to know if our city is moving in a new direction, just follow the people and that's what I will always do as your mayor. Thank you.


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