Facing recall, Los Angeles councilman Mike Bonin resorts to gaslighting his constituents

Homelessness is the central issue driving the recall — At the 11th hour of his political career Bonin spins a decade of failure

But people will never forget the night “Bonin turned his back” and a thousand other betrayals

CD 11 residents have seen well how Bonin responds to homelessness. In October 2019, while homeless fires and wildfires were raging statewide, he was captured literally turning his back on a mentally disturbed homeless man in his district as the man started a fire next to a propane tank. Stills from a video by Christopher LeGras

As first reported in the Westside Current, on Wednesday proponents of the campaign to recall Los Angeles city councilman Mike Bonin turned in 39,403 signatures to the City Clerk’s office, representing more than 143% of the number required by city law to trigger the election. Ominously for the councilman, 20% more CD 11 residents signed the recall petition than voted for him in his 2017 reelection. Viewed yet another way, 18% of the entire adult population of the district signed — not 18% of registered voters, 18% of everyone over 18.

It was and is a grassroots effort in every sense of the word, lead by a pair of lifelong Democrats in a district that doesn’t just lean Democrat but positively topples over the left side of things on the vast majority of issues. So much for Bonin’s vast right wing conspiracy.

As the Current described, “The scene that unfolded on Wednesday is true to the grassroots campaign that Ruderman and Schmitt, both lifelong Democrats, have run since taking over the recall campaign this summer. ‘We didn’t have political operatives or consultants working with us,’ said Schmitt. ‘Our community did the work and we got it done.'”

And so, predictably as Groundhog Day, Mike Bonin is blaming his failures on his own constituents while lashing out at them from the safety of social media (Bonin has always been a telephone tough guy).

We’ve seen this same movie many, many times before.

Project much?

As is his wont Bonin has responded with nonsensical attacks against boogeymen in his own fevered imagination. He claimed, without substantiation, that the recall is being funded by “dark money.” Which is quite something coming from an elected official with a track record of betraying his constituents’ trust with millions in dark money of his own (it would be fascinating to see how much he’s received from the likes of Thomas Safran and Aaron Sosnick alone). And he points people to donate via ActBlue, a notoriously shady Leftist fundraising aggregator. RealClearPolitics has reported, “ActBlue’s structure could easily allow illegal donations made online to be broken down into smaller gifts from claimed U.S. sources with little chance of exposure. ActBlue’s design would allow large donors to exceed contribution limits without even triggering the threshold for public reporting.” A psychiatrist might suggest Bonin is projecting a bit by accusing the grassroots recall effort as being floated by dark money: He doth protest too much.

Bonin asserted that the 39,403 residents of CD 11 who want new leadership are actually out to “criminalize” homelessness. Which, again, is quite an assertion given that one of the recall leaders is a social worker with a decade and a half experience working with marginalized people.

Which is where his narrative crashes into the shoals of reality.

Bonin can’t spin his way out of reality

As with so many political falls from grace Bonin’s downward spiral can be traced to a single moment. On the evening of October 15, 2019 he staged a community walk to highlight planned pedestrian and bike features on Centinela Avenue in CD 11’s Del Rey neighborhood (more on Bonin’s anti-car zealotry in a moment). The tour included Bonin, three staffers, and maybe two dozen community members. Halfway through the walk, on the grassy center median on the corner of Culver Boulevard, the group encountered a homeless man trying to start a small fire. He (the homeless man) was clearly mentally impaired, shouting gibberish and laughing as he spilled some kind of accelerant onto the fire and the flames nearly singed his own face.

Mr. Bonin and one of his staffers stood silently, watching the man as he seemed to imitate Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar aflame at Woodstock. After less than 30 seconds Mr. Bonin turned his back and walked away, leaving the man to his fire and propane tank. The punchline, there was an LAPD station directly across the street, 100 feet away. Yet Bonin didn’t so much as send one of his aides to get help. The next day he claimed on social media that he had connected the man with services — a story that residents quickly disproved with a photo of him roaming the area with a huge Bowie knife.

“Bonin turns his back” trended on social media and local news reports. The scene confirmed everything residents had come to believe about their councilman. Some context is important: In the fall of 2019 fire was on everyone’s mind. Homeless fires in CD 11 had become a major concern, with units at Station 62 in Venice routinely handling as many as 10 a day. Meanwhile California was barely 10 months removed from the horrific Camp Fire in Butte County, and the on night of the walk itself the Saddleridge Fire – which would injure eight firefighters and kill one — was reaching its apex in the San Fernando Valley. You could smell the smoke.

Many paths and myriad converged on that grassy median that evening — and Bonin walked away.

Now, at the 11th hour of his political career, he is trying to reframe the conversation. Maybe Mike Bonin really believes he can erase ten years of failure with a few Tweets. Maybe he thinks a few tree giveaways, a few treacly pictures at elder care facility will blight people’s memories, say, of the time he accused his own residents of planting an explosive device at his precious Bridge homeless shelter. Maybe he thinks lashing out at the grassroots neighbors who collected more support for the recall than he mustered in his last election is a winning strategy.

Maybe he thinks voters in CD 11 have extremely short memories. In that case, below are a few snapshots of “Mike Bonin’s Greatest Hits,” from his shameless hoovering of developer money to his staffer’s assault (captured on video) of a local news reporter, to his attempt to buy neighborhood council votes with In ‘n Out, to his routine lashing out at his own constituents.

Never forget, CD 11, this is the kind of individual you are dealing with. The recall organizers have done their part, now it’s time for the voters to do theirs. Remove Mike Bonin before he does any more damage to the communities and neighbors we love.

L.A. Meltdown: Councilman Mike Bonin turns his back on a mentally disturbed homeless man playing with fire (video below)

Bonin’s lack of leadership was on display last night on the streets of CD11

DEL REY (October 15, 2019) Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin and one of his staffers stand by as a mentally ill homeless man lights a fire. Photograph by Travis Binen.

What was billed as a community walking tour of Councilman Mike Bonin’s latest planned road diet, this one on Centinela Avenue, took a bizarre and ultimately tragic turn last night as the tour group encountered a homeless man playing with fire on a streed median. The man, who clearly was mentally disturbed, sat amidst dead grass and his own (flammable) belongings a few yards from the Culver Boulevard bike path.

He lit what appeared to be a ceremonial flame, coaxing it like Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar at Woodstock. Then, as the Councilman approached, the man poured accelerant on the fire, causing it to flare up. Mr. Bonin walked over to the scene and stood awkwardly for about 20 seconds, watching the flames as the man rambled incoherently while brandishing a whiskey bottle. Despite the fact that he had a half dozen staff with him on the tour, despite the presence of a police station just across the street, Mr. Bonin turned his back on the man and walked away without saying a word much less doing anything. One staffer lingered, obviously concerned, until Mr. Bonin summoned him to the other side of the street to continue the tour. The homeless man kept playing with the fire.

DEL REY (October 15, 2019) A close-up of the homeless man pouring accelerant on his fire as Councilman Bonin watches. Photograph by Travis Binen.

Mr. Bonin could have shown leadership or empathy. He could have attempted to engage the man. He could have showed basic human decency by pausing the walking tour and requesting help for someone obviously in deep distress.

Instead, he couldn’t even be bothered to pull out his phone and call one of the dozen city agencies that could have helped. He didn’t call 911, or walk over to the police station across the street. He did nothing.

Click below for a video of the encounter. Here’s a link to the video on YouTube.

Mr. Bonin – who once was homeless himself – claims that the issue is paramount to his council tenure. He has boasted, “I made a promise to voters that I would not be a seat warmer or an empty suit — that I would actually tackle the real chronic problems in Los Angeles, and delve into them even if they were going to be tough ones that people generally shy away from because they’re difficult.”

Big words, yet when presented with a chance to help an actual homeless person in obvious distress on the streets of his own district, he was the one who shied away. He literally turned his back on one of the most vulnerable members of society, who was endangering himself and countless others. Then he went on to preen in front of a friendly audience in a safe auditorium a couple blocks away. It’s difficult to imagine an emptier suit.

This is the kind of man Mike Bonin is. He is the kind of person who represents Los Angeles these days. Let that sink in for a long, long minute. To call his actions – or rather, lack thereof – disgraceful doesn’t begin to cover it.

It’s hard to tell which was more callous: Mr. Bonin’s disregard for a homeless individual in obvious distress, or his apparent obliviousness to the threat to public safety.

Mr. Bonin’s cowardice not only endangered the man himself, it put the entire neighborhood at risk. According to a July investigation by KNBC at least 2,300 fires in the City of Los Angeles were attributable to homeless activity in 2018. Of course, those were just the ones that were recorded. As previously reported in these pages, the vast majority of homeless fires are put out by the homeless themselves. If there were 2,300 reported the actual number likely was several times as many.

Homeless fires in L.A. in 2018. Image courtesty of KNBC.

Who is to say the man on the median didn’t start fires elsewhere last night, or any night? Who can say he isn’t a disturbed firebug who does this all the time? Mr. Bonin certainly can’t say as much. Not that he cares: The homeless man, clearly in desperate need of help, submerged his hand in the flames multiple times (watch the video). And Mr. Bonin walked away. He walked away and summoned his staff to follow. Nothing to see here, folks, move along.

Again, this is an elected official whose own brushes with homelessness he says makes him particularly sensitive to the issue. Who has said that he has “a sense of how easy it is to go from being housed to un-housed, and a sense of how easy it is to go from sort of teetering on the edge to falling into the abyss.”

Yet when confronted with someone who has plummeted into that very abyss, he walked away with his staff. When given a chance to intervene, intercede, do something, he turned his back in less than thirty seconds. He turned his back on the homeless man, and turned his back on us.

This is an elected official who has previously said, “I can’t accept the idea that there is an inextricable link between crime and homelessness. It is wrong, it is not backed up by the data, and it leads to bad policy.” Apparently arson no longer counts as a crime in CD11, even in the height of fire season.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Mr. Bonin’s district at the same time:

All in all it was just another evening in Mike Bonin’s paradise.

(10/17/19 Update: The man was still on the street three days later, this time wielding an enormous hunting knife.)

Photograph by Demetrios Mavromichalis.