Mission Impossible: Defending Mike Bonin

@THE GUSS REPORT-In the past 20 years, nowhere in Los Angeles has quality of life fallen harder than in Venice.

That doesn't mean Venice has the worst quality of life in the City or even the County of Los Angeles. But conditions worsened more in Venice since the beginning of the 21st century than virtually everywhere else in the area. 

LA City Councilmember Mike Bonin gets leveled with the blame as Venice is a unique pocket of chaos within the affluent but widely troubled District 11 that he has represented since 2013. 

Bonin, 54, is a complicated and conflicted soul if ever there was one, having received an undergrad degree from Harvard in 1989, but who also survived a brief battle of quasi-homelessness and continues to survive addiction one day at a time. I don't write that as an excuse for Bonin, but context matters, so bear with me. 

When he first decided to run for office in 2013, Bonin was the longtime chief of staff to his predecessor, Bill Rosendahl, who did not seek a third term due to a battle with cancer that took his life in 2016. 

Bonin won the job with the help of an endorsement from the LA Times, which wrote, "Of the four candidates on the March 5 ballot, the best choice is Mike Bonin." 

His most-qualified opponent, Tina Hess, was a prosecutor with 25 years of experience about whom the Times wrote, "she supports a proposed city ordinance restricting group homes that this page opposed because it could create difficulties for groups such as the United Way that do responsible residential social service work." 

How has that worked out, friends? 

For the people of Venice and its surrounding communities, not too well. But for Bonin, it worked out splendidly, as he won the job -- in the primary -- with 61.84% of the vote against three opponents.   

Hess finished a distant second with just 17.49% in another low-turnout election. It was the second-biggest margin of all City races and either a resounding vote of confidence in Bonin, a surprising degree of voter apathy, or both. 

Bonin, whose progressive policies could, at times, make the liberal Rosendahl seem like Barry Goldwater, pretty much did as he set out to do. There is no denying that the voters approved of his 2013 mandate. 

Despite District 11 being in a severe slump by the end of Bonin's first term, the LA Times in 2017 endorsed him again. 

In a piece entitled, "Endorsement: Mike Bonin should be re-elected to the LA City Council," the Times wrote of LA's most pressing issue, "The entire City Council has become focused on homelessness, but Bonin, particularly, has infused that cause with a sense of urgency." 

I repeat, how has that worked out, friends? 

In the 2017 District 11 primary, even fewer people voted. And Mike Bonin ran away with it once more, scoring a solid 70% of the votes against two under-qualified opponents. 

In case you missed it, Bonin won both of his campaigns without ever running in a general election and won his second term by a roughly 15% bigger margin despite horrid and worsening conditions on the ground. 

The other day, KNBC's Joel Grover, a civic treasure, reached out to Bonin regarding some dangerous, deadly, and fetid homeless conditions but got no response. Why bother? Bonin appears to have a strengthened mandate from his constituents. 

Look at things from Bonin's perspective. He has legislated and led precisely as he promised. And, with the overwhelming support by his constituents and the LA Times, he even felt comfortable during the riot-filled summer of 2020 to share on his social media accounts a meme that read "Fuck The Federal Police." 

I fail to see the problem here; the constituents either didn't vote or voted overwhelmingly and increasingly for Bonin, and the LA Times cheered and continues to cheer him on. A win-win, right? 

Bonin plans on running for a third and final term next year. While it is still too early for candidates to file their declaration to run, they can raise money in advance of doing so, and in CD11, only Mike Bonin has started doing that. 

Jamie Paige of the tiny but mighty Venice Current shines this spotlight on allegedly false claims that Bonin made in his financial disclosure forms. It is worth a read because if Bonin does get another term, he will undoubtedly seek higher office until a larger pool of voters says no more, no más, no way and sayonara. 

But let's keep in mind that while blaming Bonin is fair, he is there because the voters and the LA Times put him there. Who is really to blame for what has become of Venice and its surroundings?


(Daniel Guss, MBA, was runner-up for the 2020 Los Angeles Press Club journalism award for Best Online Political Commentary and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Cumulus Media, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Downtown News, and the Los Angeles Times in its Sports, Opinion and Entertainment sections and Sunday Magazine, among other publishers. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport.) Photo: Mathew Martin. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.