In State of City Speech, Bass Declares LA is Not `Where It Needs to Be'

Los Angeles Mayoral Candidate Karen Bass Campaigns

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Mayor Karen Bass delivered her first State of the City Address Monday, saying, "I am 127 days into my administration, and I cannot declare that the state of our city is where it needs to be."

But at the same time, Bass painted a picture of hope and "increased urgency" as the city grapples with major challenges such as homelessness and public safety and takes aim at what she repeatedly called her vision for a "new L.A."

"I am proud to report that together, we have brought change to the city of Los Angeles," said Bass, standing in the Council Chambers of City Hall before council members and an array of city officials.

"We have increased urgency at City Hall. And we have a clarity of purpose, and have focused our work on the people's most pressing challenges. After years of frustration, tonight, we can see a clearer path to a new Los Angeles ... where the state of our city will be stronger, healthier, happier and safer."

The mayor is required annually to address the council on the state of the city before the release of the proposed city budget. Bass is expected to release her first budget proposal on Tuesday -- and she gave some hints of its particulars during her Monday address.

Acknowledging the challenges that lay ahead, Bass said, "The state of our city is really about the state of your neighborhood. It's about the state of your household. It's about your state of mind."

"Do you look over your shoulder when walking after dark?" she said. "Do you feel pride in your local park? Do you have peace of mind because you can pay the rent?

"When the answer is yes, then we can say the state of our city is strong. That's the New L.A. that we're building together."

Not unexpectedly, homelessness -- a major element of her campaign, in which she vowed to house 17,000 people in her first year -- was a major theme of Bass' remarks.

She noted that her administration has brought about 1,000 Angelenos indoors through her Inside Safe Program, and that her proposed budget will aim to build on that.

"Tomorrow, I will release my first budget as mayor," she said. "Building on the success of Inside Safe, my budget includes a $250 million investment to scale Inside Safe citywide.

"Leaning into the new direction we're charting for L.A., my budget includes an unprecedented $1.3 billion investment to accelerate our momentum on homelessness. This is a record for the city of Los Angeles."

Bass also declared her "number one job as mayor "is to keep Angelenos safe" -- but noted, "the unfortunate reality is that LAPD is down hundreds of officers."

Bolstering the LAPD's ranks will also place high on her priorities in the coming year, she said.

"This has been an ongoing trend here in L.A. and in cities across the country -- and so I'm concerned that the department's recent release of information (of officers' photos and other information) will cause more officers to leave.

"My budget proposal calls for urgent action to hire hundreds of officers next year on the way to restoring the department to full strength," she said.

"The situation we currently face means we could see the number of LAPD officers drop below 9,000 -- and we have not seen numbers that low since 2002."

She said she also wants to reduce the number of officer-involved deaths, revamp the LAPD's disciplinary system and provide enhanced mental health training for officers.

In addition, Bass espoused expanding the city's unarmed mental health crisis teams, which offer alternative responses to certain calls for service now handled by police.

Her proposed budget, she said, will fund a new Mayor's Office of Community Safety, aimed at building a force of community intervention workers, social workers, clinical psychologists and other experts to respond when law enforcement is not required.

"This office will organize the community services that break the cycle of violence and crime," she said.

Bass said that, in addition to refilling the ranks of the LAPD, she intends to boost staffing in the city's fire department as well.

That includes the hiring of additional paramedics, with the fire department reporting that calls for emergency medical responses account for 81% of LAFD responses.

"My budget breaks new ground by allowing us to hire and immediately deploy qualified paramedics to answer medical calls," she said. "Currently, paramedics must complete the fire academy before taking a seat in an ambulance.

"My plan still requires all paramedics to become firefighters -- but if you are already a qualified paramedic, we will immediately put you to work, and then you can complete your firefighter training."

Climate change will remain on the city's radar as well, she said.

"We must continue to aggressively confront and adapt to climate change, and to make sure that our city is resilient," she said. "And while we cannot rely on record storms to solve our long-term drought, the city's prior investments have allowed us to capture 28 billion gallons of stormwater -- and I'm committed to doing more, so that this precious rainwater doesn't just wash into the ocean."

Bass said other items she wants to focus on include increasing ridership on Metro, filling potholes, clearing trash from streets and sidewalks and cleaning graffiti.

"I am serious about the physical condition of our city -- because a city that is clean and in good repair is safer, prosperous, and provides Angelnos with a better life," she said.

Timothy O'Reilly, chair of the Los Angeles County Republican Party, gave Bass' remarks a skeptical response.

"Despite her commitments and promises, Los Angeles is not safe or livable for law-abiding, hard-working people who live in many neighborhoods," O'Reilly said in a statement. "In fact, crime and homelessness are getting worse -- much worse.

"What's needed is bold, decisive action to clean the streets and protect our citizens -- not new agencies, more departments, more bureaucracy, more self congratulations and more spending."

Bass returned time and again to her "new L.A." theme.

"People from all over the world seeking a better life come to L.A.," she said. "I want all of them to experience a new L.A. But more importantly, I want Angelenos to experience a new L.A."

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