Mike Bonin Calls It Quits

A week after he survived a recall, LA’s most controversial Councilman heads for the exits

Los Angeles city councilman Mike Bonin announced that he will not seek re-election to the post he has held since 2013.

The two-term councilman, whose District extends from LAX to Venice to the Palisades, announced his departure on Twitter on Wednesday, citing his long term struggle with depression and other personal issues.

“This position allows me to make positive, progressive change. It is a great privilege,” Bonin wrote. “But in the past few years, the job has forced me to focus much more of my time and energy on battling the negative instead of creating the positive. I need to reverse that dynamic.”

The 54-year-old politician, a champion for raising the minimum wage and lowering the number of deaths from traffic collisions, has been one of the council’s most progressive members. He has served as chairman of the City Council Transportation Committee, a member of the LA Metro board of directors, and chairman of the Expo Construction Authority. But it was his position on the growing unhoused community in his district that galvanized opposition to him. Bonin, who has spoken candidly about his own homelessness during his youth, resisted growing calls to remove a highly publicized homeless encampment in Venice Beach, calling instead for a plan relying on social workers instead of cops, with a nonprofit matching the unhoused with temporary housing

Westside residents who have been increasingly aggrieved over the homelessness crisis in his district mounted a well-funded campaign to unseat him. But the bid fell short by just 1,352 signatures.

Bonin was jubilant about his victory. But his chances of presiding over a bitterly contested re-election primary in June were much less certain, so Bonin decided to end his tenure on a high note.

The councilman’s departure caught his supporters by surprise. The Stonewall Democrats, an LGBT group, had endorsed Bonin just last week. Ground Game LA, a nonprofit organization influential in progressive political circles, endorsed Bonin mere hours before he dropped out of the race.  “Thank you for being one of our first allies on council, Mike,” the group tweeted after Bonin’s departure . “And if you’re a progressive in CD11 or know one… hit us up. Like right now.”

An online chorus of prominent Bonin supporters expressed their appreciation for the councilman’s work. Fellow councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, for one, praised Bonin as  “an unparalleled advocate for social justice issues.” LA County supervisor Janice Hahn proclaimed the councilman “the heart of both the LA City Council and the Metro Board”.

But Bonin’s opponents were feeling triumphant at the news. “It feels like we won. Our movement won,” recall organizer Katrina Schmidt told the L.A. Times.

The surprising announcement showed how consensus on solutions to homelessness remains elusive, despite broad support, said L.A. historian Raphael Sonenshein, director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA.  “It’s also a reminder that in politics as well as sports people in the public are still people.”

The front runner at this early stage to assume Bonin’s progressive mantle appears to be Greg Good, a former top aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti who currently serves as a commissioner on the City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works.

Applicants to fill Bonin’s slot have until Monday, Feb. 7 announce their candidacy, and must be residents already living within the boundaries of the district to be eligible.

So far, other hopefuls in the crowded field vying to succeed Bonin include labor lawyer Traci Park; Allison Holdorff Polhill, a lawyer and former aide to LA school board member Nick Melvoin; and Venice Neighborhood Council president Jim Mure.

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