Karen Bass speaks on mayoral campaign

Karen Bass stands in front of a podium that reads "Ronald Tutor Campus Center."
Karen Bass, congressmember and Los Angeles mayoral candidate, spoke with students in hopes to promote youth activism and for reforms that she has been working on. (Polina Past | Daily Trojan)

Students gathered several rows in front of a podium Tuesday at Ronald Tutor Campus Center to listen to Representative and Los Angeles mayoral candidate Karen Bass speak about homelessness in L.A., social issues she advocated for in Congress and her aspirations as mayor of L.A.

Hosted by Trojan Democrats, the event, titled “Banter with Bass,” included more than two dozen people in attendance. 

Sydney Brown, president of Trojan Democrats, opened the event by introducing Bass as a USC alumna. During her time as a student in the School of Social Work and Keck School of Medicine, Bass worked as a frontline worker, a physician assistant and focused on combating the impact of the L.A. drug epidemic. 

Brown continued her introduction by describing Bass’ turn towards politics and how many of the issues Bass advocated for as a student are still important to her as a Congressmember.

“She was the first African American woman to be the speaker of the [California] state assembly,” Brown said. “Bass was elected to chair the Congressional Black Caucus and has since been advocating for civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, criminal justice reform, police reform and environmental justice.”

Following the introduction by Brown, Bass began the conversation by explaining that one of the main reasons she came to speak with USC students is her belief in promoting youth activism and advocating for reforms she has spent her life working on. 

“One of my core responsibilities in life is passing the baton to the next generation. And so I feel very invested in you,” Bass said. ”I’m hoping that you’ll pick them up, and then you’ll make a similar commitment that won’t just be about your own personal advancement or wealth, but it will actually be about the commitment to try and make this place a better place.”

During the question and answer section of the event, Bass was asked what she believed was the most pressing issue in L.A., and she said it is profound income inequality. Bass stressed that the homelessness crisis in L.A. was the main reason she chose to run for mayor of the city.

Students sit in rows in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Karen Bass stands at the front of the room.
Dozens of students attended the event at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center hosted by Trojan Democrats. Bass was introduced as an alumna of the School of Social Work and Keck School of Medicine. (Polina Past | Daily Trojan)

“[Homelessness] is actually one of the big reasons that compelled me to say I’m not gonna run for Congress, but I want to come home [to L.A.] … because people are very angry,” Bass said. “[People] don’t understand homelessness. They’re mad at those people out there, and they feel that they’re out there because they choose to be out there and so we just need to clean it up. And cleaning it up to me means they’re going to start mass arrests.”

Bass stressed that the city should focus on long-term solutions that involve helping people who are homeless find a way to improve their situation as opposed to punishing them for their housing situation.

“There are people in this city who are working every day, helping the homeless population, getting them off the streets, getting them into housing and getting the services that they need,” Bass said. ”I want to give and raise the money for people who are doing the work every day that nobody sees, so that they can actually take the work they’re doing now to scale.”

When an audience member asked Bass whether she would defund the Los Angeles Police Department if she became mayor, Bass said no. She went on to emphasize the need to fund community programs as a more viable solution.

“30 years ago we funded communities, but then we shredded the safety net and we imposed all kinds of restrictions and laws that essentially cut what we had before,” Bass said. “When problems happen, we go to the police, and we have no problems funding and building jails … It makes a lot of sense to increase the resources to communities.”

Marco Ramirez, a freshman majoring in journalism, has followed Bass and her policies of reform since high school and attended the event in hopes of hearing her plans for reforming social issues such as justice and police reform.

“When I really started following her, she got some attention as a potential vice president for Joe Biden … and recently she just announced her run for Los Angeles Mayor,” Ramirez said. “So, I wanted to come to this to hear what she had to say about that and her main plan of tackling the homelessness issue.”

Devin Martin, a junior majoring in computer science and business administration, came to the event to hear about her platform as a mayoral candidate.

“I wanted to look at the mayoral candidates and see what their plans are for the future of L.A. Homelessness was a huge issue that needs to be tackled,” Martin said. “I got to hear her stance and what her plans are; It was so great seeing her and meeting her today.”