Welcome to the “Mike & Mark” approach to failing Venice and rest of LA!
By Nick Antonicello
LA Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and his colleague Mike Bonin have anointed themselves as protectors of the homeless, not that solving the problem matters much to either of them, but the allure and perception of defending the down-trodden makes for interesting political theater.
So it was an unusual week as these two embedded, downtown insiders saw one indicted on a twenty-count federal rap that accuses Mark Ridley-Thomas of bribing the University of Southern California (USC) with untold millions in discretionary county funding in exchange for a job and scholarship for his hapless son, who quietly left the California legislature under the cloud of suspicion regarding sexual harassment when he told voters he had the “experience to fight for our communities.”
Instead of fighting for anyone but himself in this apparent quid pro quo of sorts, the elder Ridley-Thomas would be stepping away from his current council duties, but wasn’t shying away from his enormous public salary, the largest of all councils in the United States, more than any state governor, just like his pal, Mike Bonin.
For Bonin was one of just three council members to support allowing Ridley-Thomas to remain on the city payroll even after understanding Ridley-Thomas had no intention of carrying out the responsibilities of his office any longer.
Mike talked in vague terms of “disenfranchisement,” completely ignoring the seriousness of this federal indictment that has rocked LA politics and local government to its core!
And while these charges brought against Ridley-Thomas allegedly occurred when he played “power broker” as one of just five influential supervisors who managed LA County, a place that has a population of some 10 million residents and is the largest county in the United States today.
And as term limits causes this perpetual state of political musical chairs, Ridley-Thomas jumps from one public payroll to another seamlessly and has colleagues like Bonin watching his back even in the throws of another recall attempt that tells us this time, the petition gathering process is well on it’s way to collecting the necessary amount of valid signatures to effectively end Mike’s near decade tenure as a member of the Los Angeles City Council with a special municipal recall election that could be scheduled sometime in early 2022.
For this kind of political culture, and this governing body now has a perpetual light shined upon it.
For the drapes have been cast aside.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, so to speak!
For it seems business as usual now has become very public for all to see.
A political Dad helping his misfit political son and a council colleague thinking it’s just fine for him to be paid to do nothing.
Luckily there were twelve other council members who would not cast a blind eye on the obvious, clubhouse back-scratching and hard core politics at it’s worst and once again Mike Bonin is in the thick of it!
Bonin seems immune from this failed record be it homelessness, high crime or the crumbling quality-of-life episodes on his watch as a councilman or this historic explosion of encampments that have made much of CD-11 and Venice in particular dangerous and unsafe.
He seems above it all as he casts votes to protect the salary of a disgraced colleague by somehow trying to rationalize how Ridley-Thomas should be paid to do nothing.
One wonders if Bonin even took the time to read this federal indictment from the Biden Justice Department or consider the black eye LA has received in lieu of this embarrassment that eats away at a functional city government now laughed at and clearly dysfunctional in every capacity.
The only one seemingly embarrassed by it all is newly minted mayoral hopeful, US Representative Karen Bass, a trilingual political insider of LA, Sacramento and DC, who had to reject the Mark Ridley-Thomas endorsement, but will she do the same when it comes to Mike Bonin’s support?
For if homelessness is the issue, and Venice is Ground Zero for the homeless debacle outside of Skid Row, will the good Congresswoman continue to accept the support of Mike Bonin as well as his advice, acumen and input?
For the ugliness of LA’s political landscape is now for all to see.
A Mayor once promoted for the presidency and then considered for the cabinet now jettisoned to India because no one will have him, Eric Garcetti won’t be seeking elective office anytime soon.
As a Bass mayoral candidacy was supposed to clear the field and bring clarity to what’s next, her entrance has seemingly complicated a campaign filled with underachieving challengers equally dismal in their attempts to break from this pack of the mediocre.
Can this “clown car” of candidates truly turn LA around?
And while many believe the Bonin recall will occur, those diving into that race seem few and far between with the latest entrant being Allison Holdoroff-Polhill, an unsuccessful candidate for the LA school board who now serves as a chief advisor to trustee Nick Melvoin whom beat her in securing his initial first term.
Both Melvoin and Holdorff-Polhill were targets of the teacher’s union in that campaign, both accused of being puppets to the “billionaire class,” both allegedly controlled buy the charter school lobby. Both were accused of supporting efforts to have control shifted to private corporations and less say for parents and taxpayers.
And while Holdorff-Polhill made the usual stale promise of trying to cut “waste, fraud and abuse” at LAUSD, she also supported a move away from what she called “high-stakes” testing to a more collaborative learning environment.
While her council candidacy is in its infancy, she did show the ability to raise money in her school contest and captured meaningful endorsements out of her home turf of the Palisades that will play a critical role in who will replace the controversial incumbent.
And while this candidacy is noteworthy, has she signed the recall petition or endorsed the Bonin recall effort?
Inquiring minds would like to know.
And while protecting neighborhoods like Venice ravaged by homelessness, high crime and quality-of-life missteps and miscalculations is obvious, is there anyone beyond the LA County Sheriff that has actually done that because he has the right experience to cleanup the beach and earn the trust of weary voters?
For it has been Alex Villanueva and Alex Villanueva alone that has safeguarded the public, property and the businesses that were shuttered here at the beach.
His common sense approach was something Bonin promised, but did not deliver.
For listening, meeting and working closely with Venice advocates was bath water thrown out with the baby a long time ago as Bonin has been reduced to political alliances with the likes of Ridley-Thomas and his sorry son.
For the “Mike & Mark” version of LA’s politics as usual is destroying for what is left of the public’s confidence in this city’s ability to get anything done or accomplished.
The writer is a member of the Rules & Selections, Outreach, Parking and Oceanfront Walk Committee of the Venice Neighborhood Council (www.venicenc.org) and can be reached at (310) 621-3775 or firstname.lastname@example.org