Los Angeles City Council District 11 begins at the bluffs of Pacific Palisades and crosses the coral tree-lined median of San Vicente Boulevard. It includes Westchester bungalows in the shadow of jets rumbling into LAX, and the homeless in Venice who bed down blocks away from expensive single-family houses. Apartment buildings — rentals and condos — tower across the region.
The district's popular council member, Bill Rosendahl, has decided not to seek reelection as he battles cancer. His successor should be tough-minded and creative enough to work with the rest of the council on finding solutions to the city's financial crisis, while also focusing on critical issues in the district itself, including development, the treatment of the homeless and the street-choking afternoon and evening traffic that has residents feeling trapped in their homes until it subsides.
Of the four candidates on the March 5 ballot, the best choice is Mike Bonin, Rosendahl's current chief deputy.
Frederick Sutton, at 27, is the youngest contender. He has worked in corporate office leasing and marketing, he has acted, and he is currently a bartender. He was a board member of the West L.A. Neighborhood Council. He is affable, energetic and quick on his feet. But he needs a little more experience in community politics and issues before he is ready to step up to a council seat.
Tina Hess, a prosecutor in the city attorney's office for 25 years, is sharp-minded and savvy about Los Angeles' political system and bureaucracy. She correctly criticizes the Veterans Administration for doing an abysmal job of housing needy veterans in Los Angeles. She says she understands that homelessness is a complex issue that requires balancing the interests of the homeless and homeowners. But 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. And although her plan to bring together teams of people from inside and outside government to address issues of development and traffic is an interesting one, some of Bonin's proposals were more specific and more likely to lead to concrete fixes.
Odysseus Bostick, a middle school teacher, is straightforward, outspoken and independent-minded. He has a website brimming with ideas on how to solve the city's economic problems, not all of them new but most of them sensible. More than any other candidate, he seems willing to zealously guard against poorly planned development that overburdens the local infrastructure.
Bostick's willingness to speak his mind is refreshing, but as a council member, he couldn't be just a flame-thrower. To win battles for his district, he would have to cooperate and compromise with other council members and with residents, not all of whom would agree with him all the time. It's unclear that he has the temperament for the job.
The best choice is Bonin, who has been Rosendahl's top aide for eight years and previously worked for then-Councilwoman Ruth Galanter and then-Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice). For what it's worth, Bonin has their endorsements, plus those of more than a dozen top labor groups and numerous community and environmental leaders. Outsider candidates often criticize opponents who serve in high-ranking staff jobs in City Hall, arguing that they are part of the system that landed the city in its current financial predicament. But being a City Council staffer is not the same thing as being a member of the council. Bonin seems ready and able to take the politicking skills he learned from his bosses and use them as well as — if not better than — they did.
He is a student of the district, well-versed on issues of traffic, homelessness and development. He knows that the homeless need permanent supportive housing and knows how to get projects into the pipeline. He understands that it has to be relatively easy for people to travel to the Expo rail line for them to take advantage of it, and he has some ideas for that. He pushed to bring to congested Venice a pilot program (already in use in Hollywood) for smartphone apps that tell drivers where a parking space is. He doesn't exhibit the same level of passion for the issues and the people (and the animals) that Rosendahl does, but none of the candidates do.
Bonin has a calm and genial manner and offers a nuanced overview of the city as well as the competing interests in his district. Yes, sometimes he's a little too politically slick. (At a recent forum, he unnecessarily praised Rosendahl so lavishly that even Rosendahl might have found it treacly.) But we are banking on Bonin to be a proponent of careful development. He unapologetically says the city needs someone labor trusts — like himself — at the negotiating table more than someone it despises. We don't care, as long as he doesn't give away the store or put the interests of public employees ahead of the fiscal health of the city and the legitimate needs of his constituents. If we could meld some of Bostick's pluck with Bonin's skill, we'd have a perfect candidate. Failing that, The Times endorses Bonin.