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The Freshman Six: Meet First Time City Councilman Mike Bonin
District Eleven’s new representative fills out our questionnaire for City Hall’s fresh faces
The campaign is over but your job has just begun. Which is harder: taking office, or beating your opponent in the primary?
For me, winning a campaign and building a team to govern and make change posed the same fundamental challenge. In both cases, I needed to build a kickass, effective organization from scratch, and to make sure it reflected my values. In both cases, I needed to build a team of people who were positive and forward-looking, creative and strategic, with big hearts, sharp minds, and a passion for neighborhoods. I think I managed to make lightning strike twice—on the campaign and in taking office. It’s about finding and empowering great people who love Los Angeles.
What did you wear on your first day as councilman?
Work boots, gloves, a helmet, and protective goggles! On my first day, I decided to skip City Hall, roll up my sleeves, and get my hands dirty, working with city employees to improve our neighborhoods. My first day was in my district delivering basic city services. I filled potholes, patched streets, emptied trash and recycling bins, visited police and fire stations, served meals to seniors, played with kids at a youth camp, met with small business owners, and talked neighborhood improvement with a group of community leaders. The thinking happens at City Hall; the doing happens in the district.
As you get to know your route to your new office, have you found a place to stop for coffee along the way?
I take mass transit to work a lot, and it’s pretty tough to get the bus driver to pull over! Truth be told, I’m not a coffee drinker, so I usually opt for a fresh squeezed juice, or my worst habit, super-caffeinated energy drinks, like Speed Stack and Monster, followed by a strong dose of Listerine breath spray.
What did you bring with you to make your new desk feel like home?
I actually do not have a desk. I like a more relaxed office, with couches, comfortable chairs and a small table. I usually sit on the couch with my laptop. But I brought some family photos and a small statuette of Ganesha, a Hindu deity revered as the Remover of Obstacles and Lord of Beginnings. In government, you can use all the help you get in removing obstacles.
It’s lunchtime: brown bag, or eat out?
I try to eat lots of raw and organic food, so I bring a lot of food from home, from Westside health food stores, and farmers’ markets. There is a guy named Sergio Nicholas who sells raw, organic vegan Oaxacan food at the Mar Vista Farmers Market and his food is a mainstay of my diet. He makes a mean cacao shake, avocado soup, apple crepe, and veggie nut taco!
What are you most looking forward to in your term?
Making change. Getting things done. Taking the smart, creative, or common sense ideas and solutions I hear from my constituents and making them real.
What are you least looking forward to?
Lack of sleep and the sharp reduction in quality time with my friends, family, and fiancé, Sean.
What is your top priority?
I intend to improve quality of life in our neighborhoods by focusing on transportation, the environment, and technology. I’m chair of the Transportation Committee, and I serve on the Metro Board and Expo Construction Authority, so building mass transit and fighting traffic gridlock will be my main focus. But my first legislative proposal was to move the Fire Department into the 21st Century by equipping firefighters with iPads or similar smart tablets. Our firefighters should not be using ancient, tattered maps; they should be able to use Google Earth to see the structure and the terrain as they speed to the scene of a fire. If they can strategize en route, that saves time, lives, and property. We have firefighters who grew up with smartphones and never saw a Thomas Guide until they joined the LAFD. We need to harness technology to make government smarter, more efficient, and more transparent.
Sum up your feelings about your first few days at work in three words.
Blessed. Exhilarated. Ready.