The CALÓ NEWS opinion editor reached out to both candidates running to be the next mayor of Los Angeles. U.S. Rep. Karen Bass answered our questions on why she wants to be the next mayor of Los Angeles and how she will address issues of concern to Latino voters.
More than a third of the voters in Los Angeles are Latino. If elected mayor, how will you address the concerns of Latino voters?
I plan to address the concerns of the Latino community – and all Angelenos – and will work to make Los Angeles more affordable, more equal and more safe. We need a mayor who will deliver an urgent, real and comprehensive plan to end homelessness. The recent LAHSA census of L.A.’s homeless population showed a rise in Latino homelessness by 26%, the largest increase of any demographic group. As Mayor, I plan to adopt culturally relevant strategies to overcome institutional and cultural barriers (such as immigration status, lack of internet access and language barriers) to accessing rent relief programs and other housing services. Lastly, I plan to work vigorously to unite all Angelenos regardless of race or background.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, Latinos make up 20% of Independents in the state. How would you address the concerns of Latino voters who are not affiliated with the Democratic Party?
If elected mayor, I will be a mayor for ALL Angelenos. At the end of the day, all Angelenos – regardless of their party affiliation – deserve to live in a city that has solved homelessness, where people feel and are safe, and where everyone can afford to live and raise a family.
According to the New American Economy, immigrants accounted for 36.3% of LA City’s population and 41.3% of the working-age population. How will you represent LA Latino residents who are immigrants? How will you represent those who are L.A. residents but non-citizens and thus unable to vote?
The immigrant community is a core part of our city’s fabric and economy. Unfortunately, many immigrant workers have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and many are vulnerable to exploitation by employers because of fears pertaining to their immigration status.
As Mayor, I would enhance the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to promote and advance the economic well-being of immigrant workers, and expand and tailor resources and services to ensure they are linguistically and culturally appropriate for different immigrant communities.
I would also invest and partner with trusted messengers like immigrant rights groups, immigrant worker centers, unions, and educational institutions to provide important know-your-rights workshops in multiple languages to immigrant workers, and launch campaigns to remind employers about their legal responsibilities.
I want to build a Los Angeles where we can all thrive together. To do this, we need to protect the rights of immigrant workers against workplace exploitation, and we need to create economic opportunities for immigrants to prosper.
Latinos make up 44.5% of Los Angeles County’s unhoused population. How will you address this crisis that disproportionately impacts Latinos in Los Angeles?
The rise in Latino homelessness is deeply disturbing. Our response to homelessness must address the unique needs of specific populations, including the Latino community. That includes well-resourced and tailored interventions to address the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on many immigrants and communities of color. While we don’t yet know what specifically caused homelessness to rise in the Latino community, it’s possible that one reason could be legitimate fear of accessing resources due to immigration status. We must ensure that Angelenos are not afraid to access resources because of their status. I have a comprehensive and urgent plan to house over 15,000 Angelenos in my first year in office by building more temporary and permanent housing, providing mental health and substance abuse services, job training and employment assistance, and aligning every level of government to bring home the resources we need to solve this crisis.
The home ownership rate for Latinos in California is around 49%. What policies or programs would you support to increase Latino home ownership?
The chronic lack of affordable housing is a major driver of homelessness and pervasive inequality, and it disproportionately impacts the Latino community. Until we make housing affordable in Los Angeles, the crisis on our streets will only get worse – and our children will continue to wonder whether they can afford to raise their own families in L.A.
As we know, homeownership is one of the key pathways to building intergenerational wealth. As a Congressmember and former California Assemblymember, I have supported legislation that expands homeownership, especially for communities of color.
As Mayor, I will support programs such as Low Income Purchase Assistance and Moderate Income Purchase Assistance Programs for first time homebuyers in our city.
In addition, for those homeowners who want to build an accessory dwelling unit on their own property, I plan to make it easier for homeowners to get permits, and support financing programs to help them build – producing thousands of units quickly and cheaply, while helping grown children and elderly parents stay close to loved ones.
What other measures would you take to build more affordable housing for homeowners and renters in Los Angeles?
A: I plan to expedite approvals, waive development fees and work with the community to build more permanent housing. I will also take targeted reforms to our zoning laws to increase capacity, while ensuring that new construction is consistent with the neighborhood character of each individual community. To read my comprehensive plan to protect renters, preserve our existing housing stock, and build more housing, please visit www.karenbass.com/policies/housing.
Between 2016 and 2018, Latinos in California made up 39% of the population but represented 46% of deadly police shootings. Do you think there needs to be police reform? Do you support increased or decreased funding of the police? What steps would you take as mayor?
I believe that the Mayor’s most important responsibility is to keep Angelenos safe, while also ending harmful policing practices like racial profiling, which undermine safety & community trust. I plan to re-envision public safety with community input and dialogue. As Mayor, I will establish an Office of Community Safety in the Mayor’s Office to support collaboration between communities to build strong and healthy neighborhoods, and invest deeply in proven crime prevention strategies.
Should local law enforcement play a role in enforcing immigration laws?
No, Los Angeles is and should remain a Sanctuary City and the LAPD should not be burdened with the federal government’s responsibility to enforce immigration law. I do not support an ICE presence in local and state correctional facilities, nor do I support ICE transfers, absent a judicial warrant.
As Mayor, I will also expand and improve the Justice Fund. In 2017, New York City invested $500,000 to create a pilot program to provide legal representation to documented and undocumented immigrants. It now invests $16 million and has expanded the program. The City of Los Angeles is falling behind and must do more to strengthen the immigrant services legal infrastructure.
Do you support abortion rights? If so, what policies or plans do you have to ensure access to abortion rights locally?
Absolutely. I have been a champion of reproductive health and overall wellness throughout my career. Having worked in health clinics and emergency rooms treating women of color from the most underserved communities of Los Angeles, I have seen the challenges within the healthcare system that women face when it comes to accessing reproductive health and wellness resources. This perspective continues to inform my legislative advocacy, which I will continue as Mayor of Los
Angeles, especially as the rights of all women across the country continue to be under attack.
How well are Latinos represented in your campaign staff? If elected, how will you work to ensure Latino promotion and advancement in city government?
Latinos make up a third of Los Angeles voters and at least half of our city’s population. It is essential Latinos have a greater voice in leadership and policy matters, and it starts with ensuring we have representation in leadership.
I believe that diversity in staff appointments is critically important, which is why Latinos serve in leadership capacities in every department of my campaign.
If elected mayor, I am committed to appointing an Administration that reflects the diversity of Los Angeles. That includes the appointment of Latino leaders in staff capacities in the Mayor’s Office and as General Managers, Commissioners, Trustees and Appointees of Governing Bodies, and any other position that is important in governance.
In general, Latina women are compensated just 57% of what non-Hispanic white men were paid in 2020. How would you work to address pay inequity in the city and at large?
Throughout my life, I have fought against wage discrimination, inadequate benefits, and inappropriate workplace misconduct. In Congress, I co-sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act because it is abominable that Latinas are the lowest paid group in the United States, making only 55 cents for every dollar earned by white men. And because I understand that equal pay is not simply a women’s issue; it’s a family issue. Two-thirds of mothers are either the primary breadwinner or a co breadwinner in the household, so their earnings are vital to their families.
I will continue to fight for women’s equal pay, equal access to opportunity, and equal representation in my administration.
I have a plan to create economic opportunity for all communities, including the creation of a Climate Jobs Accelerator to rapidly expand good-paying jobs in climate-critical industries, especially those that have been historically low-wage such as residential energy efficiency, rooftop solar, fire prevention, trucking, and waste.
Spending on clean investments and sustainable infrastructure creates nearly three times more jobs per dollar than other infrastructure investments. But women and people of color are underrepresented in these jobs, and wage disparities have led to persistent workforce inequities – making affordability a real issue.
The Accelerator will be anchored by deep partnerships with labor, community-based organizations, workers, and educational institutions to support a comprehensive, regional approach to workforce development that touches every sector of the clean economy.
Unprecedented climate investments will be available through the Inflation Reduction Act and other federal and state legislation. As Mayor, I will secure and leverage these dollars in underserved areas, scaling the innovation already underway at places like the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator so that more Angelenos have access to lucrative career opportunities that address our climate crisis.
What does diversity, equity and inclusion mean to you? How will you uphold these values if you are elected mayor?
As Mayor I plan to ensure we are always seeking to create equitable, healthy and just communities where people can live and thrive. I believe that in order to empower our communities we must equip them with resources and knowledge to achieve equity and justice through community engagement, coalition building, and policy advocacy.