Candidate Profile: Mike Bonin looks to be the public face of District 11
By Gary Walker
Working for a legislator is one thing, but running for office yourself is quite another.
Mike Bonin is learning that on the campaign trail as he goes from one community to another in his quest to succeed his boss, Councilman Bill Rosendahl, in representing District 11 on the Los Angeles City Council next month.
Other challengers for Rosendahl’s seat in the March 5 primary include former teacher Odysseus Bostick, city attorney Tina Hess and community advocate Frederick Sutton.
Bonin has worked under two members of the Los Angeles City Council and a former United States congresswoman as chief of staff and as a field deputy. He believes that his experience at different levels of government gives him an understanding of how those in public service can improve the lives of their constituents, and now he is taking his maiden voyage into electoral politics himself for the first time as a candidate.
He had planned to continue working with his boss again at City Hall through the next election when Rosendahl revealed late last year that he was ill with cancer of the ureter and would not be seeking a third term. The councilman then tapped Bonin as his preferred successor.
“I never grew up wanting to do this. I always wanted to be a reporter,” Bonin began on a recent day in Mar Vista at his campaign office.
It was during his tenure reporting on corruption in local government in Compton nearly 20 years ago that Bonin decided a career change was in order. “I felt a call to public service after watching so many good people in Compton with a government that had failed them,” Bonin recalled.
His first job was working with former Councilwoman Ruth Galanter as legislative deputy, district director, and deputy chief of staff.
“Mike Bonin knows this district and has a history of fighting for it and delivering for it,” Galanter said. “He sees public service as a mission, and he approaches it with heart, energy and passion.”
Bonin has racked up a slew of endorsements, from labor to businesses leaders, including Steve Soboroff, the former president of Playa Capital. Soboroff’s support is significant due to the fact that Rosendahl butted heads with Playa Vista officials over their second stage of development, which he voted against in 2010.
As Rosendahl’s chief of staff, Bonin has been involved at some level of the district’s most important – and often – controversial topics.
Some of Bonin’s opponents have stated that the council office has failed Venice residents on the matter of homelessness. Bostick accuses Rosendahl, and by extension Bonin, of “dropping the ball” after implementing the “Roadmap to Housing” initiative, an effort by Rosendahl to move homeless individuals and families living in RVs to temporary and eventually permanent housing.
“Through the ‘Roadmap to Housing,’ we have placed over 100 people from Venice and Westchester in temporary and permanent housing and several more who were living in their vehicles,” Bonin countered.
The community care facilities ordinance is another hot-button topic that has generated a great deal of heat and one that the next person to represent District 11 could vote on later this year.
The ordinance would prohibit sober living homes in residential areas. But a former Department of Housing and Urban Development official told the City Council last month that the proposed ordinance could violate federal housing laws.
Bonin is clear on how he would vote on the proposal if it were to come before the council and he were elected.
“I could not in good conscience vote for something that could be unconstitutional,” the candidate said.
Not surprisingly, Bonin does not support the position of Los Angeles World Airports and the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce regarding moving the northernmost runway of Los Angeles International Airport 260 feet towards Westchester and Playa del Rey, a position that Rosendahl has long held.
Hundreds of residents in both communities have also spoken against moving the runway and in favor of another alternative, which improves the infrastructure around the runway and nearby Westchester.
Bonin says that despite what some of his detractors say, he has been heavily involved on airport matters since Rosendahl was elected in 2005.
“I was in the meetings where the city settled lawsuits that would have cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in 2005,” the councilman’s chief of staff said.
One of his ideas for reducing overtime costs for police officers is by using technology. Bonin said he would recommend giving police officers in the field iPads where they could file reports onsite, and this would reduce the time spent writing field reports at the precinct.
Galanter remembers Bonin as a member of her staff who not only wanted to learn the inner workings of government but also as someone who wanted to work directly in the neighborhoods.
“Mike had worked for me for about a year when he came into my office, sat down and said ‘I want you to send me out to the district so I can make things happen,’” recalled the former councilwoman, now a professor at Loyola Marymount University.
“And whether it was renovating Venice Beach, creating anti-crime programs, or cleaning up Santa Monica Bay, Mike made things happen. He is a passionate advocate for our neighborhoods.”
Bonin said he hopes to incorporate a little of what he has learned from the three legislators with whom he has worked and hopes to be seen as a public figure that is accessible like Rosendahl, who is well known throughout the district for his weekend visits to community gatherings and holding office hours for constituents during the week.
“He’s created a level of visibility and access, and it’s a high bar to reach,” Bonin admitted. “I hope to continue that aspect as well as all of the good work that we’ve done in District 11, but I want to do it with my own style.”