On September 13, 2022, Congresswoman and Mayoral candidate Karen Bass sat with the founder of Blackbird House, Bridget Coulter-Cheadle and talked. They talked about policy, they talked about the campaign, they talked the way that people talk when they care deeply about something they know a lot about.
Blackbird House, a community and co-working space that re-opened in the Arts District after having to close a previous Culver City location because of the pandemic, is a thoughtfully curated space, warm and welcoming. Blackbird is “for women of color and their allies,” and the room was filled with people, listening intently.
Bass, who grew up in L.A. and has been Culver City’s congressional representative since 2008, spoke about her inspiration to take on the job of mayor and how her time in Congress had strengthened her original focus on public policy that serves the needs of the people. “When I was in Congress, I studied Social Work remotely at USC, because it was important to me to learn as much as I could about all the aspects of it; I knew about city and county, but I did not know nearly as much about national policy. And the big challenge – how to connect it all in a way that would really work.” Pre-empting questions about the negative campaign spin from her opponent, she offered “Rick Caruso [who was on the USC Board of Trustees at the time] even gave me an honorary doctorate.”
The intersecting problems of homelessness, social policy, and the long term impacts of the pandemic were all discussed. Coulter-Cheadle even volunteered that she had been “unhoused” in her early days as an actress. “I slept on my friends’s couches, and I slept in the theater, because knew I was safe in the theater. People need a place to feel safe.”
The diverse audience asked about everything from voter registration to potholes in the streets, and Bass responded with insight and ingenuity. Using her ‘town-hall style’ of taking multiple questions and offering adjoining answers shows constituents how both challenges and solutions are interrelated.
She offered a financial snapshot of the primary election, saying “Caruso spent $40 million dollars of his own money, and then the [LAPD] police union spent another $4 million. My campaign spent $5 million, all told. On a 44 to 5 ratio, I won, by a very comfortable percentage.” Bass also highlighted the multiple occasions that Caruso has changed his party affiliation, going from Republican to Independent to Democratic, back to Republican (as a part of the Trump administration) and then back to Democratic to run for office in L.A. “There is only one Democrat in this race.”
She takes nothing for granted. “I know the polls have me up by 11 points, but you’ve got to run like you are 11 points behind.”
If elected, Bass will be the first woman to serve as the Mayor of Los Angeles.
Photo caption: (l to r) Karen Bass and Bridget Coulter-Cheadle