Mayor Rex Richardson made history Tuesday night in becoming the city’s first Black mayor—and said in his inaugural speech he will push to declare a state of emergency over homelessness, which rose 62% in the city’s most recent point-in-time count earlier this year.
Richardson didn’t give details about such a declaration would mean. It would require City Council approval.
The city of LA this month declared a state of emergency over homelessness, empowering newly elected Mayor Karen Bass to make quicker decisions on issues such as building housing.
Bass was in attendance at Tuesday’s inaugural, a ceremony that drew thousands of people to the Terrace Theater Downtown.
In addition to Richardson, three new councilmembers also took office: Kristina Duggan in District 3, Megan Kerr in District 5 and Joni Ricks-Oddie in District 9. Mary Zendejas in District 1 and Roberto Uranga in District 7 were also sworn in to new terms.
Richardson devoted much of his first mayoral speech to the impending issue of homelessness, as well as inequality and mental health issues.
“We need every part of our city to go all in,” Richardson said.
Richardson said that his administration would work not only to address homelessness in the city, but would create more opportunities for the city’s youth by providing good-paying jobs for the city’s workforce and look to increase housing production in the city for all income levels.
“We’ll build an economy that leaves no one behind,” he said.
The three new members of the council will usher in the biggest change since 2014, when five new members were sworn in alongside a new mayor and city attorney. The only other citywide office to change hands this election cycle was the City Attorney’s seat, which was won by Assistant City Attorney Dawn McIntosh.
Uranga, who was elected to a third term in June, has not been present at public meetings since suffering a stroke in September. He appeared at Tuesday’s ceremony with his wife and son, offering a few remarks.
The council has voted to excuse him from being absent from the council to avoid his seat becoming vacant, which happens after four consecutive missed meetings, according to the city charter.
It’s unclear when he will return to the City Council. The body is not expected to meet again until the middle of January.
Vice Mayor election
In a brief meeting before the inauguration event Tuesday night, Councilmember Cindy Allen was elected as the next vice mayor by her City Council colleagues in an 8-0 vote.
Allen was nominated by Councilmember Suely Saro, with the move being backed by Councilmembers Mary Zendejas and Joni Ricks-Oddie, who is one of the newest members of the body.
The vice mayor position is ceremonial, but Allen will get to fill in for Richardson when he is absent from public events or meetings. Allen would chair the City Council meetings in Richardson’s absence.
Her selection as the next vice mayor happened quickly with no other members being nominated for the position. Allen said she knew the past few years had been challenging for the city but she looked forward to working with the rest of the council to address the city’s issues.
“I know our community expects that we are all united and work together for our common goals,” Allen said, adding that priorities would be homelessness and economic development. “If each and every one of our districts, succeed, we all succeed.”
Editors note: Councilmember Roberto Uranga was elected to a third term in June. A previous version of this story said it was his second term.