By Gary Walker
Walking in the shoes of a popular elected leader is never easy, so Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin is taking a similar path of a mentor, but in his own shoes, at the beginning of his career in elected office.
Bonin, who officially took office July 1, replaced former Councilman Bill Rosendahl, arguably one of the Westside’s most popular and visible officeholders in recent years. Instead of spending his first day in office downtown, the new councilman trekked from one community to another in Council District 11 to eight different events on his first day in office.
His first stop was assisting sanitation workers near his Mar Vista home collecting refuse containers. At his next stop, the new councilman donned a light green and orange vest, helped pour asphalt and filled in a portion of the street in the 600 block of Crestmoore Drive in Venice.
Danny Leon, a metro region superintendent of the Bureau of Street Services, says Bonin received “hands on experience” by working side by side with Public Works employees as he helped repair the Venice street.
“I think he’s doing fantastic,” Leon said as he watched the new councilman work. “He’s learning to appreciate that it’s not as easy as it looks.”
Bonin had previously stated his intention of being a certain type of elected leader, a hands-on councilman “who gets things done for our neighborhoods.”
“My first obligation and my top priority is to serve my district, and that will be the exclusive focus of my first day in office. I am excited to get to work and hit the ground running,” Bonin added. “There are several obligations to being a council member, but one of the most important is the delivery of city services, being in the neighborhoods and making sure that things are getting taken care of. And some of those basic things are picking up the trash, trimming the trees and filling the potholes.”
Working alongside and having the opportunity to meet city workers also afforded Bonin the occasion to learn some of their difficulties, what they enjoy about their jobs and the chance to get an up close and personal look at work that few elected leaders get to see.
“Not only is it a great way for me to learn about what the city employees are doing, but also to let them know that I honor and respect what they do and how important it is to celebrate our city workers,” Bonin said. “I want them to know that I have their backs.”
Later in the day, he met with Capt. Jon Peters, commander of the Los Angeles Police Department Pacific division in Venice, for a public safety meeting and later joined children at a summer camp in Westchester run by the Del Rey-based Mar Vista Family Center.
In the afternoon, Bonin visited three new small businesses in Westchester – Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., Forty Winks and Jeff Blair Fitness.
LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christina Davis was thrilled that Bonin decided to visit the Westchester businesses. “I think it says a lot about the councilman,” she said.
Davis said Mayor Eric Garcetti also met with several business owners in recent days before officially taking office, and she feels it sets an impressive tone when officeholders show interest in the small business community.
“It’s refreshing to see our new administration putting a priority on small businesses,” Davis said.
Del Rey Neighborhood Council President Eric DeSobe hopes Bonin will continue a tradition of advocacy for neighborhood councils.
“Mike’s enthusiasm for neighborhood councils was clear before he ran for office and I expect it to continue during his entire term,” said DeSobe. “He actually swore in the current Del Rey board and we’re excited to have him return to future meetings as a new city council member.”
Bonin has pledged to visit each neighborhood council in the district, which was frequent practice of his predecessor.
Bonin said he and Garcetti, whom he supported against former City Controller Wendy Greuel in the mayoral campaign, have similar approaches to public service and because there were no meetings at City Hall on his first day, he was free to hit the streets of his communities.
“Our new mayor has said his vision is getting back to the basics and I decided to really live that on my first day,” the councilman explained.
Venice resident Marta Evry was impressed by Bonin’s first day of field work. “I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “It shows that his priority is neighborhoods and I think that’s a great message.”
In an effort to show his commitment to public transportation, Bonin boarded the 733 Rapid Bus that runs on Venice Boulevard to Culver City on July 2, where he then rode the Expo Line Light Rail Line into downtown Los Angeles to City Hall. The rapid bus was brought online by Rosendahl three years ago to provide the Westside with another rush hour commuter bus that takes passengers to and from downtown Los Angeles.
“One of the issues that I’m going to focus on heavily from a legislative standpoint and in terms of constituent services is building out mass transit, alternative transportation and traffic relief,” the councilman pledged.
“Riding the 733 is also an important way to symbolically give another hat tip and a salute to Bill, because it is something he started.”