United States

Karen Bass: The Recast Power List

Few jobs in government are as unforgiving as being mayor of Los Angeles. Leading America’s second-largest city is a gig that has for decades derailed promising political careers. An ever-growing, seemingly intractable homelessness crisis has only made the job more difficult.

But don’t tell that to Karen Bass.

The longtime congresswoman and vice presidential finalist took what many political observers classify as an unusual step: She left a safe seat to lead a city in turmoil. Los Angeles’ homeless population has ballooned to nearly 42,000 people, a population larger than many California cities. Of the 230,000 unsheltered homeless people across the U.S., 1 in 5 is in Los Angeles County — and most live in the city of Los Angeles.

Rather than scare Bass off, these issues pushed her back to the city where she got her start as an activist and community organizer more than three decades ago. Her main motivation: anger over the city’s inability to tackle homelessness.

“If we had addressed it and taken care of it, I wouldn’t be running for mayor,” she said in an interview during the campaign. “I’d be running for reelection to the House.”

Bass didn’t waste any time in her new gig, launching an outreach program that has placed around 1,000 previously unsheltered people in temporary housing, and declaring a state of emergency that gives her office more decision-making authority that would typically be shared with an often fractious city council.

She’ll face her first big test this year, as the county’s Covid-era moratorium on evictions is set to expire, putting thousands more at risk of losing their homes.

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