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Thursday, June 13, 2024

LA Mayor Bass addresses homelessness and police shooting death concerns

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The Korea Daily, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, had a special interview with Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, based on questions collected from its readers during May.

In response to the police shooting death of Yong Yang, Mayor Bass said the city would “look into the protocol” and “make sure the department has the resources” for programs like SMART or CIRCLE that deal with mental illness issues.

The mayor also said she would like to showcase different communities and promote Koreatown to visitors during the 2028 Olympics. She confirmed that she will run for re-election to help end homelessness and make the Olympics a success.

You went to Paris to learn about the Olympics to prepare for LA’s in 2028. How was it, and how are we doing?
“It was wonderful being there because the mayor of Paris was so welcoming. She introduced us to her top staff, so we could get an idea as to what we were in for. I’m going back for the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as closing for the Paralympics. Because the diaspora from around the world is here, I want to promote our different communities when visitors come from around the world. I want to make sure that we promote Koreatown. Of course, we want them to go to Hollywood and the beach, but we also want people to know about the diverse communities we have here.”

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass told the Korea Daily that she will seek re-election to address homelessness and host a successful Olympics. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]

The Korean American community was shocked about the death of a mentally ill Korean American man, Yong Yang. Do you see the protocol on Yang as effective in securing the safety of a person with mental health issues?
“I am very concerned and very committed about mental illness in our city and the lack of resources that we have had. If you’re suffering from a mental illness and somebody shows up just in the uniform alone, that can be challenging and can trigger that person. It’s important that we have people who specialize in this there. We have CIRCLE (Crisis and Incident Response Through Community-led Engagement) and SMART (Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team) but we don’t have enough. And we need them 24 hours a day. I am absolutely going to look at the protocols, look to make sure that they are okay and that the department has the resources they need.”

The city is spending still a tremendous amount of money to solve homelessness over the years, and people are worried about it.
“I understand. We still have too many people on the street. We have people in motels and they’re expensive. We are fast-tracking buildings, but in the meantime, we want to place people somewhere they will stay for a year and a half. But we have to make better use of the money that we have.”

Some people say we should treat them differently depending on whether they are willing to get back on track.
“We do have to look at people differently, but here’s the thing. There’s no segment that we can just give up on and say, ‘You just don’t want any help, forget you’. Then what are we saying? Are we saying they should just stay on the street forever? We have to make a decision to solve the problem and not just separate and hide.”

One of our readers says he owns a bakery in the Fashion District and his store is intruded every night and stolen.
“He should absolutely call the police. Even if the police can’t come out right away, if he has a camera in the store, he can go to the police department with the footage and arrest them for robbery or theft.”

A Korean American student says that the streetlights in front of his condo have been broken for a year now, and reported to city works, but didn’t work out.
“We’re having a terrible problem in this city with copper theft. And that’s one of the main reasons why the lights are out. And now there’s a new kind with fire hydrants as well. We have to find out where the market is. When they are selling stolen copper, somebody’s buying it. We have to stop the market first.”

Have you been told about the prostitution on Western Avenue?
“Not only have I heard about it, but I’ve been out with the officers. We’ve got to talk about who’s behind this. It’s because there are demands. And some of them are not women, they’re girls, they’re children. When it comes to crime, you look at the whole picture.”

Some small business owners are complaining about some street vendors interrupting their businesses, asking for a tighter regulation.
“It’s a challenge, but I do think we can still find a way to coexist and we should do that. And I do know that in some cases they can be a problem because it’s not fair for them. I would like to help some of the street vendors move up and become brick and mortar and have a place.”

Residents are reporting that people at private drug rehabilitation centers are causing multiple problems in the neighborhood such as loud noises, altercations, and violence.
“It might be an unlicensed situation. The city doesn’t sponsor drug treatment. That’s the county. There is no licensed drug rehabilitation center in Koreatown. We will look into the further details.”

Big corporations are buying up properties in Koreatown, building expensive residential units and commercial spaces. What is the city’s standpoint?
“We certainly need more housing, but we don’t need people to come in and move out the people that are there now, either if that is a business or housing. There are always those people that will exploit something that was intended to be positive. We are keeping an eye on it.”

What will be Los Angeles’ driving force of economy of the future?
“It will continue to be entertainment, but it’s also going to be technology and manufacturing. There’s a new phenomenon called the ‘blue economy’. It’s an economy that comes from the ocean, looking at ways that the ocean can provide technological innovation. I believe we can become the center of the blue economy in the nation. We might be the Silicon Valley of the ocean.”

Are you running for reelection?
“Yes, I will run for reelection in 2026. I ran, to begin with, because I did not want to see more Angelenos on the street. I know very well this problem cannot be solved in four years, and I want to continue to solve this problem.”

BY BRIAN CHOI, HOONSIK WOO [ichoi@koreadaily.com]