LA mayoral debate: Karen Bass and Rick Caruso discuss homelessness, corruption, crime

Two months prior to the November general election, Congresswoman Karen Bass met with Rick Caruso, a businessman.

According to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, Bass leads Caruso by double digits in polling results from UC Berkeley, and the Los Angeles Times, despite Caruso spending over 10 times more on his campaign than Bass.

Here are the positions of the candidates on these issues.


Bass opened the discussion by pledging to address the problem of homelessness.

She said, “We have an urgent situation.” “We have forty-thousand homeless people on our streets. This seems to me like an urgent matter… We can make a city that addresses homelessness. A city where people feel safe can be achieved. It is possible to have a city that does not price out people.

Both Caruso and Bass agreed that getting homeless people off the streets is the first step. Both Caruso and Bass want to improve housing options for those who are most in need. Bass, however, criticized Caruso’s plan for focusing on getting people inside while neglecting mental health services. Caruso said however that mental health services would be covered under his plan but that getting people off the streets is the first step.

The cost of providing services on the streets is three times that of providing services when someone is sheltered. Caruso stated that shelters could provide three times as many people treatment than if they kept them on the streets.


Caruso stated that Los Angeles affordability is “upside-down”. He said that despite working hard, he got a good job and can’t afford to rent an apartment or buy a house. Caruso stated that he would like to eliminate building regulations to reduce the rising cost of living. He said he deals with them every day.

Bass, should she become LA Mayor, has vowed to create a “separate” line for people who want to have affordable housing.

She said, “For anyone who wants to build housing, especially for the homeless or affordable housing,” “One, you don’t have to go to the front, we need to have a separate line for your needs.”

Bass said that the key to affordable housing is more well-paid jobs and lower rents. Bass stated that there are regulations that must be changed, but he believes the process should change.

Both Caruso and Bass were supportive of renter protections, including an extension of the eviction moratorium.

Caruso stated that he has spoken with landlords who support renting to tenants who can’t pay rent. However, he called the current moratorium unfair to landlords. He said, “If someone is making money and can afford rent, they shouldn’t have to be carried.” Caruso stated that he would extend his moratorium if it was changed to be fairer for everyone.

Bass spoke out in support of the extension of the eviction moratorium, saying that while we cannot allow more people to become homeless, we must also help landlords. We don’t have to default on their mortgages. Then you have two people without housing.

Public Safety

Bass stated that her three-fold approach to increasing public safety is to remove officers from administrative duties, hire more officers, and invest in crime prevention strategies such as community coalitions.

Caruso reiterated that more officers are needed and stated that more should be hired due to decreasing academy class numbers. He stated that the highest homicide rate for 15 years is currently being experienced in his country.


Caruso is blaming Bass for her corruption of a scholarship she received a decade ago from the University of Southern California. The Los Angeles Times reports that Bass was awarded a $100,000 scholarship by the School of Social Work at USC. Similar scholarships led to an investigation into Mark Ridley Thomas, former LA County Supervisor, and a guilty plea by the former dean at that school of social work.

Flynn was accused of offering Ridley Thomas a scholarship in exchange for school county contracts. Prosecutors, in this case, used an email from Flynn, in which she allegedly confessed to doing something similar to Bass to establish a pattern.

“We will offer full scholarships between the two schools. Flynn stated in an email to the Times that he did the same thing for Karen Bass. “We will offer a full scholarship for our funds.”

Bass stated Wednesday that accepting the scholarship was not a bad decision.

“I was offered the scholarship to help me be a better legislator to care for the nation’s most vulnerable kids,” she said. She applied for that scholarship, worked hard, and received good grades. “I did not apply for an MBA to become a venture capitalist. It’s a degree in social work that I was awarded on merit.

Candidates were also asked about corruption at City Hall. Caruso replied flatly that “The system was broken.” “And that’s the reason we have the problems today. The system is, quite frankly, corrupt. With all due respect, my opponent is part of that system.”

Bass and Caruso both stated that they would appoint “czars” to monitor corruption at the mayor’s office, City Hall and City Hall in order to improve transparency.

It was clear that Bass and Caruso were both aware of the seriousness of the issues facing Los Angeles. While they may have different ideas about how to address them, the two agreed at the end of the evening. Both Caruso and Bass agreed that the word “crisis” would be the best way to describe Los Angeles’ current situation.

The general election will be held on November 8.

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