LA councilman Mike Bonin will not run for reelection

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin announced Wednesday he will not run for a third term in the June primary, saying he will instead focus on his health and wellness.

"I've struggled for years with depression. It's a constant companion, and often a heavy one. There are times when this job has made that easier, and times when it has made it more challenging. Instead of seeking another term, it's time for me to focus on health and wellness," Bonin announced on Twitter.

He calls it a "difficult, deeply personal decision," but says he's confident it's "the right choice for the right reasons."

"It is hard for me to speak publicly about mental health, but I’ve always been forthcoming about my addiction and recovery, and about my struggles with housing insecurity. I want to be honest here, too. I believe that sharing about our fragility is how we build common strength," the councilman tweeted Wednesday.

The District 11 councilman, who is one of the City Council's most progressive members, won his last election in 2017 with 71% of the vote. He had previously announced he would seek reelection to the district that includes Venice, Pacific Palisades, Mar Vista and Westchester.

Bonin was the target of a recall effort in 2021. Los Angeles City Clerk Holly L. Wolcott announced Jan. 18 the effort failed to receive enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The recall campaign began by constituents upset with Bonin's handling of the homelessness crisis. Bonin has advocated for a housing-first approach instead of enforcement to remove encampments.

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Bonin has consistently voted against his colleagues' proposals to enforce the city's anti-camping law, which went into effect in September, banning encampments at various locations across the city once a motion for the locations is approved by the City Council.

"This position allows me to make positive, progressive change. It is a great privilege. 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," Bonin tweeted.

"To those who are disappointed by my decision, I am sorry. It is very difficult to walk away from a third term, and the work we have been doing together, but I need to listen to my heart. This is the best decision for me and my family."

Los Angeles County Supervisor, Sheila Keuhl, spoke with FOX 11 following the announcement, calling it a "shame," but also saying she cannot blame Bonin.

"I think it's a shame but I totally understand. This man and his family had been harassed to death by a constant drum beat of people just repeating everything they read on Nextdoor and repeating everything their neighbor told them, whether it's true or not," said Keuhl.

Keuhl said Bonin faced unfair criticism from other leaders like Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

"The Sheriff goes clanking around in his stupid ten gallon hat and claims he cleaned up homeless people. If it was up to him, he'd sweep them up like garbage. They [Bonin's team] actually found housing for people. They moved them in a humane way and everybody says he [Bonin] didn't do anything about homelessness when he's actually the only one who did anything," said Keuhl.

Keuhl said she knows Bonin's family faced harassment.

"I think we have lost an amazing public servant but I can't blame him a bit. His family was so harassed, he and his husband adopted a wonderful little boy who was frightened by these people coming up and yelling at them," said Kuehl.

Political author for Los Angeles Magazine, Jon Regardie, weighed in on the surprising announcement.  

"Los Angeles City councilmembers almost never skip an election to continue in office. It is an incredibly powerful job. People forget how powerful this is. You oversee a district with over 250,000 people, and that is more than many cities across the country," said Regardie.

Regardie said things have changed in Los Angeles following Bonin's landslide re-election bid in 2017, where he received more than 70 percent of the votes.

"A lot of things have changed and like with so many things in Los Angeles, there has been a bitter fight over homelessness and crime and the state of the streets. We all saw how homeless encampments spread across the Venice Beach boardwalk and that ignited a lot of people in the community," said Regardie.

Regardie discussed why Bonin was popular for years.

"He was very community-oriented and folksy and in certain ways, he was not your typical politician. He did not seem to be using the district seat as a launch pad for higher office. He was a politician who never wore a tie," said Bonin.

Mark Ryavec, the President of the Venice Stakeholders Association, who ran against Bonin in 2017, said he is "relieved" to hear Bonin is not seeking re-election.

"I've watched this district, my hometown of Venice, deteriorate dramatically in the last eight years under Mike. There's a failure in the approach to how we deal with the homeless. It is completely self-destructive to cut the police budget like Mike did," said Ryavec.

Ryavec believes there needs to be new leadership and a new approach to address homelessness.

"You simply have to move these people off the street and you have to give them a much safer, healthier environment to live in and at the same time take this terrible burden of crime and home invasions and car break-ins and people using your alley as a toilet. We have to stop this and bring back civilized life back here in Los Angeles to residents," said Ryavec. 

Bonin said he would continue to fight "for a better L.A." and focus on homelessness, racial and economic justice and the climate crisis after leaving office in December.

Bonin said he'll focus his remaining 10 months on the council "fighting for low-wage workers, renters, seniors, students, bus riders, and the unhoused -- who are being demonized and scapegoated by politicians, media figures and some in our neighborhoods."

Along with Bonin's progressive efforts related to the city's homelessness crisis, he was an early leader of the city's efforts to transition the Department of Water and Power to 100% renewable energy by 2035 and increase the minimum wage in the city to $15.

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Bonin co-introduced an April 2017 motion that set the city on a path to ban oil and gas drilling, a first step in the process that resulted in the City Council on Wednesday voting to officially begin the process of banning future oil and gas well and phasing out existing oil drilling sites.

Constituents who tried to recall Bonin cited encampments along the Venice boardwalk and other areas of the Westside. Bonin was praised by progressives for conducting a successful pathway to housing operation over summer on the boardwalk, which brought 213 people indoors with a pathway to permanent housing, instead of enforcement.

Some constituents expressed frustration after tents returned to the boardwalk months after the operation.

Bonin also faced increased backlash from constituents after introducing a motion to have the city explore housing homeless people in temporary cabins and safe camping sites on beach parking lots, including one at Will Rogers State Beach.

Bonin sent an email to constituents in May in an attempt to dispel what he said were rumors that his motion, which asked only for a report on feasibility, would actually create encampments.

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