Career insiders have joined the race to succeed the disgraced councilman — But the people who helped create our City’s many crises won’t solve them
While no community in Los Angeles has been spared the consequences of the Garcetti Machine’s corruption and incompetence, which has led to FBI investigations and raids, federal indictments that at this point number in the dozens, and the lawlessness and homelessness on display in our communities every day, the residents of Council District 11 in particular have been on one hell of a roller coaster ride. CD 11 Councilman Mike Bonin will go down as one of the most divisive and destructive public servants in Los Angeles history.
The grassroots recall movement succeeded wildly in every way but the City Clerk’s final count — which organizers planned to challenge until Bonin’s surprise announcement last week that he’s not seeking reelection. That whiplash inducing turn of events presents the residents of CD 11 with a golden opportunity to chart a new path for the first time in nearly a decade. The sense of relief, even hope, has been palpable ever since Bonin’s announcement. People feel a cautious optimism that’s been absent for eight years. It’s an opportunity to rebuild a community in which residents often have been literally afraid to leave their homes. Residents have a chance to bring new leadership and new perspectives to the district and our city’s government in general. It truly is a new day.
The Establishment is preparing to strike back. Make no mistake, they’re scared. In the four months between now and the primary they will be all in to protect the status quo. If a Machine insider like Greg Good or Alison Polhill succeeds Bonin the efforts and sacrifices by thousands of residents over many years will have been for naught. They won’t just continue Bonin’s failed polices, they’ll double and trip down on the worst of them. That isn’t mere speculation, it’s based on their own words, actions, and careers.
For those of us in and around CD 11 who have fought for years to heal our wounded communities, the idea of Bonin 2.0 is too awful to contemplate.
At a town hall zoom meeting on Tuesday evening Ms. Polhill ticked most boxes marked “Just Like Mike Bonin.” She’s in favor of “complete streets,” meaning she’s in favor of Bonin’s disastrous road diets in Mar Vista, Playa del Rey, Westchester, and elsewhere that routinely snarl traffic to literal gridlock while providing none of the promised benefits. She then went one better, endorsing the concept of the “15-minute city.” She envisions a Los Angeles in which no one ever travels more than three or four miles from home. She’s in favor of by-right upzoning that amounts to giveaways to well-connected developers. Meanwhile she offered no new ideas when it comes to Bonin’s failed “housing first” model for homelessness, except for a vague allusion to short term housing. She showed that she is on the soon-to-be former councilman’s side on nearly every substantive issue, and on some issues she’s worse.
Good is equally problematic. He’s been a friend and ally of the councilman for at least a decade. On his own Facebook page Bonin has posted about meeting with him “countless times.” There are pictures of them together going back to the early 2010s. Until resigning last week to start his campaign, Good was president of the board of the Department of Public Works. Prior to that he was Mayor Garcetti’s Chief of Legislative & External Affairs — one of the Mayor’s spin people. Before that he was Garcetti’s Executive Officer for the Office of City Services and as Director of Infrastructure. Despite his many years in city government there’s surprisingly little about him online. His campaign website is static home page with no policies, no news, no content. Even his Linkedin page is down. Still, what is available leaves no doubt that like Polhill, Greg Good is Bonin 2.0.
Actually, based on what we know so far it’s a safe bet neither would be an upgrade but an update. They’re Bonin OS 1.0.1.
While thousands of residents in CD 11 were advocating for the safety of their neighborhoods Good was spinning. He attended the infamous town hall in the Westminster Elementary gymnasium in October 2018 where Garcetti and Bonin looked hundreds of concerned neighbors in the eyes and promised the “Bridge Home” they were ramming down the community’s throat would turn the crisis around.
Three and a half years later, residents know that Garcetti and Bonin told lie after lie that night. Greg Good helped craft their deceit, and now wants to represent the people he lied to. That’s some chutzpah right there.
Polhill rests her campaign largely on her experience as president of the board of Pacific Palisades Charter High school and subsequently as an aide to a LAUSD board member. Which would qualify her to run for the LAUSD School Board, as she did in 2017. During the town hall she demonstrated command of the education issue. She identified problems in the LAUSD, like 16,000 students who are homeless (the actual number, according to the L.A. Department of Education, is over 75,000, but at least she raised the issue). She described experiences with the bureaucratic dysfunction in the district, how initiatives raised at the top flounder in implementation. She had war stories about her work, much of which has been laudable. She is pro-school choice, putting her on the side of a majority of Angelenos.
Her deep knowledge of education is commendable. It’s also largely irrelevant to the race in CD 11. The Los Angeles City Council has no authority over the LAUSD, and while it’s nice to have an education wonk in the room her skill set simply is not suited for the position she seeks this time around.
There’s another concern with Good’s candidacy: Even before he resigned from DPW to run for city council he was about to be out of a job. His resume makes clear the extent to which he has depended on Garcetti for work. The mayor is on his way to India and apparently isn’t taking Good along (for that matter Garcetti himself may not be headed to New Delhi after all, with an ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit and claims of perjury hanging over him). Under the circumstances, it’s fair to ask: Is Greg Good running first and foremost to represent the residents of CD 11, or is he running for a paycheck?
Both campaigns reek of opportunism. Good declared his candidacy barely a week after Bonin’s announcement, giving the appearance of being the Establishment’s “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” candidate. Similarly, when she ran for LAUSD Board in 2017 Polhill gushed, “I’ve been in training for this job for 18 years. I’m running because it’s the job I was meant to do.” Having lost that race, apparently City Council is now the job she was meant to do and for which she was training all those years. Convenient, that.
Neither candidate has been there over the long haul. They weren’t there fifteen years ago when community leaders in Mar Vista and Venice were starting farmers markets and building a genuine small business renaissance. They weren’t there years ago when community members were fighting Bonin’s disastrous road diets and other transit fever dreams that inflicted so much pain on neighborhoods and local businesses.
Neither Establishment candidate was there when the community grieved for Nick “Tits” Redman or for Togo the dog, or for the countless other victims of crime and addiction in CD 11. They didn’t stand shoulder to shoulder with residents who tirelessly recorded Bonin’s offenses against his own constituents and shared notes and ideas with ever-expanding grassroots networks of engaged neighbors. They haven’t fought the fires or lifted up neighbors affected by crime and chaos. They haven’t attended neighborhood council meetings or engaged with one of the many local volunteer and neighborhood groups in CD 11. They cannot speak to those battles or others, much less represent the people who’ve lived them.
They weren’t even there over the last few months. Neither were involved in the recall. Unlike so many community members they didn’t donate a single dollar nor a moment of their time. As hundreds of volunteers fanned out through the district over four months, collectively investing thousands of hours and obtaining nearly 40,000 signatures, they were on the sidelines. That fact alone is disqualifying. CD 11 deserves better than opportunists trying to benefit from the hard work and sacrifice of others. They had copious opportunities over many years to show up in the community and they didn’t – not until others had done the heavy lifting and made the sacrifices. Not until other candidates paved the way. The sense of entitlement is noxiously Bonin-esque.
There are other candidates who have shown far more commitment to the district, both through their track records in the community and their actions on the campaign trail. Environmental attorney and longtime Venice resident Traci Park has been meeting with constituents for more than a year. Venice Neighborhood Council President Jim Murez has a years long record of public service in the community. It’s a safe bet both have forgotten more about CD 11 than the Establishment insider candidates will ever know. At one point during her town hall Palisades resident Allison Polhill mispronounced “Ballona wetlands.”
To my friends in CD 11: You know what the Establishment has to offer and what it has in mind. All of the west side has lived with the consequences of a councilmember who cared more about his interest and protecting the machine than the well-being, even the lives, of the people he serves. Bonin’s poison infected adjoining communities and cities as well, and his failure of vision helped hold back an entire city for almost a decade.
You’ve been down that road. We’ve been down that road, and that way be monsters.
It’s a new day in CD 11. We’ve worked too hard, fought too long, and sacrificed too much to now watch a Bonin clone walk through the door we built.