A winter-break silence enveloped most of the campus, but one spot — the Orchard Conference Center, adjacent to the Orange Grove — was packed Jan. 12. More than 200 of the region’s elected officials, business leaders, CSUN leaders and alumni gathered to welcome Los Angeles’ first-ever “Madam Mayor,” Karen Bass, to campus for the very first time.
In her first official CSUN visit since her election and December swearing-in, the history-making mayor joined CSUN President Erika D. Beck at a “summit” convened by the Valley Economic Alliance. President Beck, who co-chaired the “Our Region, Our Future” summit, welcomed Bass and all the program’s dignitaries to campus.
“It’s a tremendous honor for all of us here at CSUN to be able to host this conversation,” Beck said. The university is committed to working with business, industry and community partners in common cause, to strengthen the regional economy and quality of life through the transformative power of higher education, she said.
Bass discussed her priorities and some of the city’s most pressing issues, including the homelessness crisis and affordable housing, reducing red tape for businesses, building and permitting, and supporting small businesses.
Before her historic election as mayor, Bass served in Congress and the state Assembly, where, as Speaker, she was the first Black woman ever to lead a U.S. state legislature.
“Today is just one month that I’ve been in office,” Bass said. “We have linked arms, and we are going around addressing the encampments with locked arms, the city and county together. You can’t deal with the business community without addressing homelessness. How do you attract businesses if people see 40,000 people on the street?
“The best way to get housing built is to build it with the community [support]. That’s the bottom line,” she said.
In her remarks, Bass advocated for all cities in L.A. County to band together and leverage our collective power, especially political power.
“L.A. County is 88 cities, 11 million people. Do you know how many states we are [in terms of population]?” she said. “I don’t think we maximize our power. Our Congressional delegation is almost 20 members of Congress. The regional approach is so important when it comes to resources and power, and we do not take advantage of it.”
Moderator Fred Gaines, former mayor of Calabasas and chairman of the board for the Valley Economic Alliance, asked the mayor how she would ensure Valley residents — a massive force in terms of L.A.’s population and land — get their fair share of services and attention from City Hall.
“I compliment the Valley on your sophistication and level of organization,” she said. “I will have dedicated staff focused on the Valley, and it will probably be people you’re well aware of. … You will have my support by being at the table in my administration.”
The summit’s keynote speakers included Chandra Subramaniam, dean of the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, which helped sponsor the event, and another newly elected official: Supervisor Lindsey Horvath of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.