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L.A. on the Record: Karen Bass tries to hit the ground running

A woman holds broccoli at a farmers market
Karen Bass distributes produce at a farmers market in Los Angeles in early November.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our local elections newsletter. It’s Ben Oreskes and Julia Wick here writing from a rainy Los Angeles.

We learned last week that Karen Bass drew more votes than any mayoral candidate in L.A. history.

Her victory by nearly 10 points comes with a mandate, but the compressed timeline between election day and her first day in office has been a source of stress. Bass announced that the inauguration would be Dec. 11, one day before she takes office as the first woman elected to serve in the city’s top job.

The midday ceremony will take place on the Spring Street steps of City Hall, facing Grand Park, and will include musical and cultural performances. Members of the public are invited to the inauguration, though space is limited and attendees must fill out a digital RSVP form.

In an effort to have as many people still on staff when she gets down to business, Bass sent a letter just before Thanksgiving inviting all staffers in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office to remain in their jobs through April. The atypical move brought some questions (and grumbles) about how Bass would differentiate herself from Garcetti, but the campaign said it’s merely intended to bring stability during a short transition period.

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Though deputy mayors and other senior staffers were included in the invitation, Bass spokesperson Zach Seidl said the incoming mayor will probably fill many of those high-level positions with her own people well before April.

We now know that LA28 senior vice president Christopher Thompson will serve as her chief of staff. Thompson — a former chief of staff to Sen. Dianne Feinstein — starts Monday and will also help guide the transition.

In his role leading government relations for Los Angeles’ 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games organizing committee, Thompson was registered to lobby at City Hall until last week.

But he has no prior experience working inside the building. According to the city clerk’s office, five members of the Bass transition team were also added to Garcetti’s office payroll effective Nov. 21: campaign manager Jenny Delwood, policy director Joey Freeman, scheduler Lizzeth Rosales, communications coordinator Gabby Maarse and operations manager Monique Tello.

Are you interviewing for a job in the Bass administration? Email us: at laontherecord@latimes.com

State of play

— A HARRIS INAUGURATION APPEARANCE? At Garcetti’s inauguration, Kenia Castillo, a 13-year-old constituent who met Garcetti when her mother, a janitor, was striking for better wages, swore him in. It’s not yet clear who will administer Bass’ oath of office, though two sources close to the campaign said there have been discussions about whether Vice President Kamala Harris’ schedule would allow her to participate in the West Coast event.

Seidl and a spokesperson for Harris declined to answer questions about the matter. The two have historically not been thought of as close — Bass was also a contender during the contentious 2020 veepstakes — but Harris campaigned repeatedly for Bass before the mayoral election.

— LAPD INTRIGUE: Days after her election win came into full view, Bass appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and was asked whether she planned to keep LAPD Chief Michel Moore in his post. Her answer was both definitive and confusing.

“There’s no desire on my part to remove the current police chief,” Bass told host Margaret Brennan —adding that her initial focus would be homelessness and that Moore’s contract expires in 2023.

Brennan then clarified with Bass whether she’d revisit the question of Moore staying on and the congresswoman said yes: “Revisit that along with many other general managers as well.”

Moore told us on Thursday that he met with Bass shortly after it was clear that she had won.

If he wants to stay for another term, he must submit a letter to the Board of Police Commissioners by the end of December.

—PATH BREAKERS: “When Karen Bass is sworn in as Los Angeles mayor next month, she’ll be making history in more ways than one. Not only will she be the first woman to lead L.A., Bass will complete a rare tetrafecta of sorts: Black mayors will be running the nation’s four largest cities, with the congresswoman joining Eric Adams of New York, Lori Lightfoot of Chicago and Sylvester Turner of Houston,” Brakkton Booker wrote in Politico last month.

DWP WORKERS GET PAY HIKE: The Los Angeles City Council approved an agreement between the city and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 under which roughly 10,000 workers will receive four “cost of living” pay increases totaling at least 10% and as much as 24% by October 2025, depending on inflation. On top of those raises, other groups will get raises of least 20% to as much as 41%, according to a Times analysis.

SCHEDULING CERTAINTY: The City Council passed a new law that requires large retailers to give employees their work schedule at least two weeks in advance — a move designed to give laborers more certainty about their hours.

MORE HIRES: Incoming Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez is bringing on retiring county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s workforce/economic development deputy Patricia Castellanos as his chief of staff. Soto-Martinez described Castellanos as “a true organizer,” citing her prior work with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education.

— LISTEN!: Bass lead strategist Doug Herman was on the Capitol Weekly podcast talking about the campaign. It’s worth a listen.

— MEJIA MOVES: Incoming City Controller Kenneth Mejia announced much of his leadership team this week, including municipal veteran Rick Cole (a former Santa Monica city manager and former Garcetti budget advisor) as his chief deputy controller. Jane Nguyen, Mejia’s campaign manager, will serve as his chief of staff.

—ANOTHER NEWSMAKING HIRE: Garcetti’s first inspector general for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, who was hired in the wake of a massive contracting and legal scandal at the utility, is leaving after just seven months, as our colleague Dakota Smith reports. Sergio Perez will be stepping down to join the controller’s office as chief of accountability and oversight. Garcetti spokesperson Harrison Wollman told Dakota that the mayor expects the DWP to fill the new inspector general position “quickly” so the “office can continue and accelerate the vital work that has already begun.”

—ARE HOMELESS CLEANUPS EFFECTIVE? “‘Sweeps,’ or sanitation cleanings, as they’re sometimes called, are supposed to keep our city sidewalks clean and help move people living on the streets indoors. But according to new data obtained by L.A. TACO from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the lead agency responsible for homeless housing and services in the city, few unhoused people have been sheltered as a result of outreach associated with the encampment clearings seen regularly across the city,” L.A. Taco’s Lexis-Olivier Ray writes.

Goodbye, Mayor Garcetti

It’s closing time for our outgoing mayor, whose last year has been freighted with uncertainty as Angelenos waited to see whether he’d leave early to become the ambassador of India.

Much of the mayor’s recent tenure has been fixated on this question of whether he’d leave for greener pastures. Now that it’s certain he’ll be seeing out the rest of his term, Garcetti is going to spend some time next week talking up what he sees as the successes of his tenure. That’s on top of several valedictory parties for staff and friends. (One party was also held Friday night for staff.)

Hizzoner plans to spend each day highlighting projects he’s most proud of — including investments in interim and permanent housing, expansions to public transportation he played a role in, and “celebrating historic environmental and economic development projects in South Los Angeles.”

He’ll visit a building the city purchased and turned into housing through Project Homekey, along with a stop at a Proposition HHH-funded affordable housing project at Vermont Avenue and Manchester Boulevard, which is on county-owned land and includes housing, a school, grocery store and a new transit plaza.

On another day, he’ll ride the K Line to the LAX Metro station and test out this newfangled airport people mover, which is still being constructed.

“In his final week, the mayor will highlight generational investments in housing and transportation infrastructure that he led during his time in office,” Wollman, Garcetti’s press secretary, said in a statement.

He will also “show his gratitude to the city leaders, community organizations, and Angelenos that helped make Los Angeles a better city over the past nine years; and celebrate with his team, friends, and family on his last day as mayor.”

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Quick hits

  • Who’s running the city? Still Eric Garcetti. His confirmation as ambassador of India awaits a Senate vote.
  • Line of the week: “If I win, I’m sure she’ll do a recount. And if she wins, I will definitely do a recount,” Anson Williams, who played Potsie on “Happy Days,” says about his opponent in the Ojai mayor’s race. Potsie is currently losing by 36 votes in the race, which is still too close to call.
  • On the docket for next week: The inauguration is Sunday, Dec. 11.

Stay in touch

That’s it for this week! Send your questions, comments and gossip to LAontheRecord@latimes.com. Did a friend forward you this email? Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Saturday morning.


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