The following is a transcript of an interview with Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass that aired on “Face the Nation” on August 20, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Los Angeles and that city’s mayor, Karen Bass. Madam Mayor, you have a state of emergency, what is your biggest concern as Hilary moves closer?
MAYOR KAREN BASS: Definitely our biggest concern is tremendous rainfall in a very short period of time. You know, Los Angeles is not used to weather events like this, especially in the summertime. But we are prepared, we are ready.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you asking people to stay where they are? Or how should they prepare for what’s coming?
MAYOR BASS: Yes, we’re asking people to stay home, to be safe, that if they are outside for any reason, and they happen to see fallen trees or power lines, that they stay very far away. If they need assistance, 911 and our 311 for city services. So we are all hands on deck here at the city’s emergency operations center.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There is a lot to get to with you in regard to your city and the impact on the unhoused as well. I want to talk about that after we take this quick commercial break if you’d stay with us. We’ll be back with more questions for the Mayor.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation. We want to continue with Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass. Madam Mayor, your city has an unhoused population of more than 40,000 people, some of them reside in these LA river bed areas. Are you going to have to go in and clear them out because of the rains that are coming?
MAYOR BASS: Well, actually outreach started a couple of days ago, and you are right, we have hundreds of people on our river beds. And every time we have a rain event, helicopters drive by as well as hundreds of outreach workers go by in advance to tell them to seek shelter. And we do have shelters open. And if you talk about our county, that’s just the city. If you add in the county, you are talking about more than 70,000 people who are unhoused and the vast majority of them are living outside in tents.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, when we spoke to you last year, you said your first plan of action was to declare a state of emergency to tackle that homelessness. Why hasn’t it made more of a difference?
MAYOR BASS: Oh, well, you again, you were talking about a tremendous number of people. We did declare a state of emergency on my first day in office. And in my first six months, we housed 14,000 people, but it just shows you the magnitude of the problem. In addition, I am worried because of the COVID protections ending like an eviction moratorium, etc., that we are going to have more people who become housing insecure and hopefully do not fall on our streets. So we are working as fast as we possibly can and especially in a situation like this where lives could be lost because of the weather event.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In terms of economic strain, which is a factor, you have multiple labor strikes in your city. On the writers and actors strike, the two sides are still negotiating. But this has now dragged on, what, longer than the last strike back in 2008. That strike drained more than $2 billion from the economy. How hard is this hitting you? What are you doing to mitigate it?
MAYOR BASS: Well, it is hitting us very hard. And you were just talking about the writers. The writers have been on strike for more than 100 days, but we also have the Screen Actors Guild on strike as well, the- the actors. I will say, though, that negotiations are at least underway. So that is a step in the right direction. But you are absolutely correct, the entertainment industry is our fundamental, foundational industry, to our economy. And so our economy has been hit very hard. In addition to that, hotel workers are on strike.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. Is it time for you to intervene in those?
MAYOR BASS: Oh, I have been deeply involved in conversations with all of the affected parties. And- and so we- I am hopeful that there will be a breakthrough given that negotiations are underway and that’s an advance because that was not happening for many, many weeks.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about your role as a surrogate for President Biden’s reelection campaign. Our latest polling shows 70% of Americans feel things in the country are going somewhat badly or very badly. Why isn’t his message of accomplishment breaking through?
MAYOR BASS: Well, I mean, I think that’s important, my job and other individuals to talk about what has been accomplished during the Biden administration. I mean, for the first time, we’ve had a lot of agreements around climate change, around transportation infrastructure. If you remember the last administration had Infrastructure Week numerous times, but there was never a bill passed. And a historic bill was passed under Biden’s administration and the economy is getting better. Remember, a few weeks ago we were all anticipating, a few months ago, a terrible recession that has not happened. I think that’s indication of the strength of the Biden administration’s policies.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Well, maybe some optimism will break through sometime soon there. Madam Mayor, we gotta leave it. We’ll be back. Thank you.