LA Mayoral Election: ANCA-WR Publishes Candidates’ Responses to Questionnaire

October 11, 2022

(Los Angeles, California) – With the 2022 Los Angeles Mayoral Election set to take place on November 8, 2022, the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) hereby publishes the responses of Los Angeles Mayoral candidates Karen Bass and Rick Caruso for the edification of our community. These responses were received in August, 2022.

Pursuant to its pre-election protocols, the ANCA-WR Board works in conjunction with its local chapter constituents to carefully review each candidate’s track record and/or responses to a written questionnaire. Subsequently, in-person interviews are conducted to determine which candidates are best able and prepared to serve the needs of the Armenian-American community.

US Representative Bass and Mr. Caruso both responded to ANCA-Western Region’s questionnaire. As the next phase of the evaluation process, ANCA-WR’s board is set to meet with Rep. Bass in the near future and is also in communication with Mr. Caruso’s campaign to set up a time for an in-person interview with him.

Below are the written responses of both candidates to ANCA-Western Region’s candidate questionnaire, verbatim:

Candidates Seeking ANCA-WR Endorsement For Mayor of Los Angeles
# Questions Karen Bass Rick Caruso
1 What has been your experience with the Armenian-American community, and what do you perceive to be some of the most significant issues to the community? As the former Speaker of the State Assembly and a current member of Congress, I have been proud to represent Armenian-American constituents, and stand with the Armenian-American community on issues of importance. In fact, I am a member of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues and am proud to have received an A- on the Armenian National Committee of America’s congressional report card. From officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide to holding Azerbaijan accountable and supporting the people of Artsakh – from combating anti-Armenian hate and celebrating Armenian history through education and cultural institutions – these are some of the significant issues that I will continue to work on, and support, as Mayor of Los Angeles. My experience with the Armenian-American community is like family, especially since my brother is married to an Armenian-American and my nephews and Godsons are half Armenian and Italian. Beyond that I have always valued and appreciated the many personal, professional, and business relationships I have with the Armenian-American community and know first-hand that the issues facing the community are unique in many ways. For example, Armenian is not a federally, state, or locally recognized minority group which means Armenian-American business owners are not given RFP preference points when bidding on public contracts, eliminating a major source of opportunity for business owners. On a larger level, I also know that the Armenian community in Los Angeles is not fairly represented on City commissions, department staffs, or even in the Mayor’s office. To be fully part of the City’s societal fabric, we need to ensure proper representation and participation.
2 What steps would you take to recruit more Armenians for staff positions and increase the level of Armenian presence on various boards, commissions, and committees? Representation is critical, which is why I have hired Armenian Americans to serve in senior staff roles in my elected offices, including my former congressional District Director Maral Karaccusian. As Mayor, diverse representation will continue to be a priority for me and I am committed to creating an Administration that is reflective of the people we serve. I would look forward to partnering with you and other Armenian American community stakeholders to recruit and hire Armenian leaders to be members of my staff, and department and commission leadership. First and foremost, I would come to you at the ANCA for recommendations and referrals for qualified and capable nominees for commissions and staff appointments. Second, I would actively seek out input from organizations like the Armenian Relief Society and for further referrals and recommendations. Lastly, I would discuss internship opportunities with the ANCA and student/professional groups to create a pipeline of qualified and active candidates to develop into future leaders.
3 How will you support policies that tackle Armenophobia as a hate crime? Los Angeles recorded the most hate crimes among large U.S. cities last year, posting a 71% jump in incidents. Hate crimes have no place in the City of Angels. As Mayor, I will elevate hate crime enforcement and prevention within the LAPD. Recognizing that many hate crimes go unreported, I will also work with communities and lead a citywide public education campaign to build trust and awareness and create other opportunities to report acts of hate. In particular, I would work with you to develop policies and strategies to ensure that the community knows how to report, and law enforcement knows how to respond to acts of Armenophobia as the hate crimes they are. I will vigorously protect the right of every Angeleno, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status, to live safely and freely. Hate crimes in Los Angeles are up as a whole and I fully recognize the impact on that to the Armenian-American community and the fear and anxiety it creates. I will work closely with the ANCA, the LAPD, and other agencies to aggressively investigate and capture those who commit these crimes. I know from my time on the LAPD Commission that the best way to discourage and end hate crimes is to immediately and aggressively go after those responsible to ensure there is never a perception of tolerance for these types of crimes. I’d work with LAPD to create an Armenian Hate Crimes Task Force to work directly with the community and the ANCA to create a rapid reporting system and build trust with the community and law enforcement and ensure proper prioritization of these issues.
4 What will you do to assist Armenian-American cultural institutions and service organizations (e.g. Armenian-American Museum, Armenian Relief Society)? I believe that education is part of the answer to preventing hate, which is why I support efforts to teach the Armenian American story and experience in schools, and to celebrate the beautiful and rich contributions of the Armenian American community through cultural institutions and community organizations. In particular, I was glad to see that Governor Newsom, the State Legislature, and my friend and colleague, Congressman Adam Schiff, were able to successfully secure state and federal funding for the Armenian American Museum and Cultural Center of California. As Mayor, I will encourage the Department of Recreation and Parks and Department of Cultural Affairs to develop additional initiatives to showcase the Armenian American community, and to provide opportunities such as youth centers and community outreach programs. Additionally, I will encourage a city partnership with the Armenian Relief Society, to bolster support for immigrant and refugee services, as well as the services they provide to address domestic violence. The amount of public funding awarded to the institutions compared to the work they accomplish and do is unbalanced and fundamentally unfair. The ARS and other groups provide meaningful and lasting service to many in our communities, not just Armenian-Americans, and we must prioritize funding opportunities through CDBG grants, County grants, and other public funding pipelines to ensure these groups have the resources they need to continue their important work. As Mayor, I pledge to do just that and work directly with you all to make these goals a reality.
5 How would you stand firm against genocide denial and other Armenophobic propaganda disseminated by the Turkish and Azerbaijani governments and their agents in the US? Yes, without a second of pause. In Congress, I co-sponsored H. Res. 1203, which condemns the military offensive launched by Azerbaijani and Turkish-backed forces on Artsakh and calls on all involved parties to honor cease-fire negotiations, as well as H. Res. 1165, which condemns Azerbaijan’s military operations in Artsakh, and denounces Turkey’s participation in the conflict. I believe we need to always call out genocide denial and Armenophobic propaganda at all times and work to ensure that it is not tolerated in our government or media. As Mayor, I will always call those who deny the genocide out and make clear that Los Angeles will not shelter those who deny the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Turkish Government.
6 How would you counter false propaganda against Armenians and misinformation disseminated by Turkish and Azeri lobbyists? I will continue to stand firm against genocide denial, Armenophobic propaganda and misinformation, and join you in working towards the day when the genocide is rightly acknowledged globally. In order to counter propaganda, I would release statements, partner with the Armenian community to host a Day of Dialogue, and work with you to determine other strategies. By speaking forcefully against the propaganda and utilizing the bully pulpit of the Mayor’s office to call out the lies and misinformation.
7 Will you refuse to meet with or accept support from Genocide deniers or those who have publicly engaged in anti-Armenian propaganda? Los Angeles is home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia. As a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I take meetings on a broad array of issues, but I will always support the work of the Armenian community and ANCA. I have enormous respect for your community-based organization, which is able to do so much with so little, and fight for the interests of the Armenian community. Absolutely, I will not tolerate it.
8 How will you ensure that the express intent of the Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide via H.Res.296 and S.Res.150 is implemented locally to end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s ongoing Genocide denial campaign? I was proud to co-sponsor H.Res.296 and sign a letter to President Biden urging him to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Ultimately, he became the first sitting United States President to do so. Fortunately, the City of Los Angeles has also officially recognized the Genocide, but we can’t just never forget – as Mayor, I will join you to build on this progress and ensure that the City of Los Angeles always stands with the Armenian community. I would also look forward to joining you for the annual Armenian Genocide awareness march and recognizing the contributions of the Armenian community during Armenian American History Month. This resolution states that it is U.S. policy to (1) commemorate the Armenian Genocide, the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923; (2) reject efforts to associate the U.S. government with efforts to deny the existence of the Armenian Genocide or any genocide; and (3) encourage education and public understanding about the Armenian Genocide. I will stand by the commitments made in this resolution as Mayor and work with the ANCA to find ways to honor these commitments from the local level. Whether its’s supporting efforts to fund programs at local schools that teach about the genocide, or hosting commemorative events, I will stand by the intent of these resolutions.
9 How will you ensure that the express intent of Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide via H.Res.296 and S.Res.150 is implemented to promote public education locally about the indisputable facts of the Armenian Genocide? I was an original co-sponsor of H.R. 7555, the Armenian Genocide Education Act, which builds on official recognition of the Armenian Genocide from Congress and President Biden by empowering the Library of Congress to support Armenian genocide education programs. It also provides for the development and national dissemination of accurate, relevant, and accessible resources to promote understanding about how and why the Armenian Genocide happened. As Mayor, I will partner with the Los Angeles Unified School District to ensure that the intent of H.Res 296 and H.R. 7555 is reflected in our schools, so that all students learn not only about the Genocide, but also about the broader contributions of the Armenian American community. That includes a need to update outdated history books and provide professional development to educators. As you know, the Mayor of Los Angeles has no role in the public education system. However that does not mean I can’t influence the policies of LAUSD and other institutions and I commit to you that I will do that as needed. Furthermore, as Mayor I can and will organize political support for this cause to ensure our children are taught facts, not propaganda.
10 How would you support policies, initiatives, and/or legislation that halts all future public investments in financial vehicles and firms owned in part or whole by the Government of Turkey? I would support these policies, initiatives and/or legislation, and already have a track record of doing so. Last year, I signed on to a letter written to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that among other priorities, urged the United States to reassess its policy toward Turkey and use every available diplomatic and economic tool to penalize Turkish leaders for their aggressions and abhorrent human right abuses. In July of this year, I also signed a letter to the President opposing the potential sale of next generation F-16 fighter jets and upgrade kits to Turkey. Divestment is an important tool in the fight against Genocide denial and one that has been used effectively for other causes. I would support exploring divestment for LACERS and the Fire and Police Pension funds as Mayor.
11 How would you support greater local awareness and understanding of the history of the Armenian Genocide? In line with my answers above, I would support efforts to strengthen Armenian American cultural institutions, and teach about the Armenian Genocide in schools. As Mayor, I will also expand my lifelong commitment to young Angelenos by increasing investments in child care, summer youth jobs and internship programs, and investing in youth development programs. One of the ways we can support the Armenian American community – and ensure that its history is shared – is by creating these internship and youth development opportunities, and building a pipeline of future leaders. Education and awareness is key and I will do all I can through the bully pulpit of the Mayor’s office to work with the ANCA to raise awareness and educational opportunities. As the leading community and political organization of the Armenian-American community, I would look to you for input on ways we can continue to raise awareness.
12  How will you support the self-determination of the Republic of Artsakh? I support the self-determination of the Republic of Artsakh. The letter to Secretaries Blinken and Austin referenced above also called for more to be done to pursue an enduring settlement based on the fundamental right to self-determination. I will support any and all efforts by local, state, and other governments to recognize Artsakh’s self-determination. I will travel to Artsakh as part of a delegation trip and always stand in support of that endeavor.
13 As of 2021, 10 U.S. States and dozens of cities and counties have recognized the Republic of Artsakh’s independence. What steps would you take to ensure Artsakh’s independence is supported and upheld in your locality? I am proud that the City of Los Angeles formally recognized the Republic of Artsakh as a free, independent and sovereign state, and called upon the international community to do the same, nine years ago in 2013. As Mayor, I will ensure that this is always the official policy of the City of Los Angeles. Los Angeles has already recognized Artsakh’s independence and I will continue to support that position as Mayor.
14 How will you support the expansion of the political, economic and cultural relationship with the Republic of Artsakh and your locality? In 2012, the Los Angeles City Council recognized the city of Shushi, under the governance of the Republic of Artsakh, as a “Friendship City”. As Mayor, I will continue to explore efforts to develop Friendship or Sister Cities, and opportunities for deeper relationships between the Republic of Artsakh and our city. The friendship city status between Los Angeles and Shushi is a good example of how we can do more to strengthen those ties. As Mayor I will work to enhance the relationship to a real Sister-City status in addition to finding more opportunities for cooperation. One small step would be to normalize and regularize delegation trips between the City of LA and Artsakh to ensure sustained information and cultural exchange.
15 What concrete steps will you take to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its ongoing aggression and campaign of ethnic cleansing against both the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh? Through bills and resolutions, letters, diplomacy and the bully pulpit, I will continue to deploy every tool in my toolkit to hold Azerbaijan accountable and support the people of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh. As said before, as Mayor I would have a strong public stage to condemn these types of crimes against humanity and raise more awareness. In addition, I would want to explore ways to divest and cut off local investment as well.
16 How will you support the further expansion of the historic partnership between the people of Armenia and your locality? Questions 1-3 answered jointly. First and foremost, as a current senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I will continue to back efforts to support Armenia, and hold Turkey and Azerbaijan accountable. As Mayor, I will lead trade missions to key markets around the world – including Armenia – promoting L.A., building ties between Armenia and our city, attracting foreign direct investment, and aggressively courting international export opportunities for local businesses, small and large. In 2007, Yerevan, Armenia became L.A’s newest Sister City. I will leverage and build upon that relationship to bolster our partnership and develop economic and cultural opportunities. I have been proud to stand with the Armenian-American community and I would be honored to earn your endorsement. Los Angeles and Yerevan are Sister Cities and I strongly support that relationship and partnership and would build on it with regular delegation trips for City officials and staff, information exchange, and equipment donations to ensure Yerevan has access to the latest standards for municipal equipment. In addition, I would work with the ANCA to create a stronger and more cohesive philanthropic committee to find new and innovative ways for our two cities to work in conjunction.
17  How will you support and expand trade and economic relations with the Republic of Armenia? See above. Trade and economic relations are a key step to enhance the relationship between Los Angeles and Armenia. I would support providing grants, loans, and equipment purchasing support for local businesses who are doing business with Armenian businesses and creating an International Trade Representative role in my office to focus on the region and finding ways to increase trade and break down any barriers to economic partnership.
18 How will you support efforts to preserve Armenia’s democracy and sovereignty in the face of Turkey and Azerbaijan’s ongoing aggression? See above. I believe as a City, we must stand with the Armenian people in supporting their democracy and sovereignty in any way we can. As described in the answers above, strengthening our trade, political, and educational relationships directly with the people and institutions of Armenia will enhance the strategic position of Armenia as a whole and force the US government to more stridently and aggressively support Armenia as well. Fundamentally, the work that the ANCA does will be a beacon for my team and I in finding ways to support Armenian and Artsakh in the face of any and all threats.
For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Sarkis Balkhian
Email / Tel: (818) 863-2353
Armenian National Committee of America - Western Region
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