Representative Karen Bass holds many town hall events throughout the year, and July 16th she held a Congressional Conversation in our community at the Southern Saint Paul Church at 4678 West Adams Boulevard. It was time well spent starting with the welcoming hellos you got upon entering.

Representative Karen Bass (Rep. Bass) stood in front of the crowd of 100 or so constituents with a ready smile and a relaxed manner. Her staff served food, took surveys, gave handouts, and assisted guests as needed, Rep. Bass exudes professionalism and competence with a hint of humor (a necessity to survival both in Congress and at a town hall).  Although she was elected with over 80% of the vote and the crowd was supportive, the questions were tough.


Jobs, homelessness, gun control, the police violence in the news and the Black Lives Matter movement, prison inmates and re-entry, housing, gentrification, prostitution -- the subjects ran the gamut from local to regional and federal with questions posed by thought leaders, organizers, and concerned neighbors. Representative Bass addressed every question with respect and equanimity. Only once did she seemed stumped:

A constituent asked, “I want to know what’s going on with HR 5487?”

Karen Bass: “Could you tell me the name of that one? I’m not sure which one that is….”

A bit of conversation goes by, as the woman describes the proposal.

Karen Bass: “Oh, That’s my proposal! The Student Loan Fairness Act. I proposed that bill. I’ll tell you right here, I’m not up on all the specific proposal numbers, I follow them by their names.”

And then she was off and running, citing the ins and outs, the ups and downs of the proposal; she is once again on track. 

Karen Bass believes in developing relationships, from local figures like Herb Wesson to national, like Barack Obama, and she makes connections with both Democrats and Republicans, crafting bipartisan legislation, always striving to overcome gridlock. She works for what she believes in, and what she can make progress on: the foster-care system, human trafficking, re-entry training for ex-offenders, the Promise Zone, economic and business connections with Africa. 

Here are some of the details from the talk and from her legislative record:

Rep. Bass will be going to Africa during the August break to visit Liberia, Senegal, and Nigeria. This is not a tourist visit, but a fact-finding, listening tour. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter to hear about the trip. The media only covers Africa (and many other places) when disaster strikes, but there is much good to say about economic development in these countries. Stay tuned.

The African American Museum opens soon in Washington DC, next to the Washington Monument and very near the White House. If you are in Washington DC, contact Karen Bass’s office there; she can hook you up with a tour of Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, or other significant places. Even if Rep. Bass is not in town, the office is there to help.

Jobs. Rep. Bass worked to pass legislation allowing contractors who are bidding for federally funded construction projects to offer local hiring as part of their bid. Previously they were not allowed to include this in their proposals. This should kick in with our upcoming transportation infrastructure projects and the Crenshaw Line in particular.  The Karen Bass district office would like to hear from teens and young adults for regularly available internships in Los Angeles and Washington.  You can contact her office at 323-965-1422.

Congressional Black Caucus. The CBC is an active, committed group, although you wouldn’t know it from the news. The CBC actually initiated the recent sit-in on the House floor and continues to advocate for legislation on gun violence. California should be proud of its recent gun laws, including the recent law that requires registering to purchase ammunition, but the country is having a harder time. Barack Obama, Rep. Bass and the CBC are all working diligently and creatively to enforce and develop federal law--for example providing funding to complete background checks in a timely manner.

Black Lives Matter. The high-profile status of this group is itself a tremendous victory. Karen Bass is a seasoned activist, starting in the Coalition Against Police Abuse 40 years ago. Today, cell phone cameras and video monitors change the playing field, and while that doesn't diminish the tragedy of unjustified police shooting, it gives people a powerful tool to combat ignorance and denial of the problem. KB applauds Black Lives Matters for focusing youth energy toward positive change. 

Level-headed and realistic, Representative Bass stays goal-oriented while acknowledging the difficulties of many of today’s problems. Homelessness, poverty, injustice: She works for positive change now, and she argues that Democrats and Republicans alike want positive change as well. 

A Town Hall is for listening, talking, and learning. I came away with a better understanding of my neighbors and about how politics works. We benefit from having a Congresswoman like Karen Bass, but she can’t do it alone. To work correctly, government needs all of us to be informed, engaged, and believing in the possibility of a better future. 

We often want just to sit back, point a finger, and instruct our leaders: Do something about this. Do something about crime. Do something about abuse. Do something about jobs and the economy. Do something about climate change. Make the problem go away.

But an easy quick solution is often not a solution at all. Just make the homeless move on? They just move the encampments to another block. Just arrest the prostitutes? These young trafficked girls--as young as 12 -- will just be re-located, or arrested, labelled criminals and re-victimized. Just make developers stop? The lack of affordable housing in Los Angeles keeps getting worse. Every single problem has roots, and needs carefully thought-out, long-term solutions. 

This town hall was inspiring and motivating because Representative Bass spoke to her audience and spoke of all people (even the other party) compassionately, patiently, respectfully. She argued that a few bad apples notwithstanding, everyone wants fairness, safety, and peaceful neighborhoods. We will all be better off when no-one lives on the streets, when there are no young girls trafficked, when the foster system protects all children, when we move into a renewable-energy future. 

Local, state, and federal actions have the ability to improve our lives measurably and meaningfully. Rep. Bass is a leader that ensures we keep moving in this direction.

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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