NEW YORK — (NEW YORK) — For the first time in history, black mayors are leading America’s four largest cities.
Jonathan Karl, ABC News’ chief Washington correspondent, recently met with three of them — New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner — in Washington, DC , on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the mayors of the federal states.
“It’s a moment for us,” Adams told Karl in the interview, which aired on ABC’s This Week. “It’s a moment where we’re really taking on those tough challenges and historic issues right now that we’ve fought for many years to be in the driver’s seat.”
Turner, who was first elected in 2016 and is currently serving a second term, said that while his mayorships signal “progress is being made,” he hopes enough black mayors will be elected “to the point where it is no longer noticeable. “
Big cities face the same problems
“What do you think is the number one problem in your city?” Karl asked the three.
Their cities may be scattered across the country, but Turner, Adams, and Bass have similar issues and challenges: For Turner and Adams, it’s “public safety,” while Bass in Los Angeles faces homelessness, they said.
“In Los Angeles, without a doubt, it’s homelessness,” Bass said. “But it is the intersection of income inequality and public safety. And because income inequality is so severe in Los Angeles, 47,000 people is the most extreme manifestation of it [sleeping] on the streets in tents, every night, in the city.”
While Adams was a former crime-fighting police officer in New York, the city still grapples with serious crime, which has risen more than 20% over the past year, despite homicides hitting their lowest level since 2019.
Bass and Turner shared Adams’ idea that managing public safety is key to solving complex problems in their cities. Turner said the approach is about “revitalizing our communities that have been underserved for a long, long time, addressing issues of homelessness and the things that are bringing people onto the streets.”
Karl pressed Bass on her comments about police defunding — a progressive slogan for a push by some Liberals to redirect police funding to other community safety and service programs to reduce crime — while running for mayor.
“You called police defunding ‘probably one of the worst slogans ever’ – why did you say that?” asked Karl.
“What I believe is that over time, federal, state, and city governments, in particular, have divested and defunded welfare,” Bass said. “So I think when a person goes into the academy, they don’t go in to deal with homelessness, addiction or mental illness. And that’s why we need to reimburse our communities and expand the social safety net so people don’t fall into crime.”
Turner said the “Defund the Police” movement, which gained popularity amid the nationwide racial justice protests following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, was given “too much leeway at first.”
“If you look at a lot of the cities, they funded their police force. The city of Houston has never defunded its police force,” Turner said.
“They wanted an increase in police funding,” Karl added.
“In fact, we got a 13% increase right at that point,” Turner said. “It’s not about disappointing the police, it’s about investing in communities.”
Migration puts a strain on big cities
Karl also asked Adams about his recent trip to El Paso, Texas to see the US-Mexico border. His office says more than 40,000 migrants have arrived in his city since the spring, including thousands busted into New York from Texas by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. Adams has warned that the influx of migrants into New York is straining the city’s resources, and he has asked New York State and the federal government for help.
“That shouldn’t happen to any city in America — El Paso, Houston, Chicago, New York, Washington,” he said. “This is a national issue, and our national government, Congress and the White House must adopt a long-term, comprehensive immigration policy. But the White House needs to address the immediate emergency that we have now.”
Turner and Bass sympathized with Adams on the issue, both arguing that Abbott’s buses for migrants north was an ineffective strategy.
“No. 1, you need comprehensive immigration reform,” Turner said. “No. 2, if you’re going to send people anywhere, there has to be dialogue and collaboration — between, say, the governor of New York or Denver or Chicago, wherever that’s happening.”
“And if you want to score politically, that’s one way to do that,” Turner added. “But that doesn’t solve the problem and frankly, migrants shouldn’t be used as political pawns on this chessboard.”
Abbott said he buses migrants to so-called refuge cities, cities that protect local immigrants and refugees from deportation by federal authorities, to show them what border states are up against.
Bass said it was “very cynical” about Abbott and that “it’s an attempt to intentionally undermine New York City and Democrat-run cities that welcome immigrants.”
“But does something need to be done to slow down the flow of migrants across the border?” Karl pressed the mayors.
All three welcomed the immigration plan put forward by the Biden administration earlier this month, which expanded the use of Title 42 and introduced a process for more immigrants to seek asylum if they have a US-based sponsor and an appointment at a port arrange the entry.
“I think we need to take this opportunity now to really look at how we have a real decompression strategy?” said Adams. “If we allow those who have connections here in the country, sponsors, if it’s coordinated in the right way, we can take it up across the country. You can’t take on just a few cities. We are witnessing each of these cities acting independently to address a national crisis. That will not do.”
Karl also asked all three if they would endorse President Joe Biden for a second term. Adams, Bass and Turner all said they would support Biden if he decides to run again.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.