By Nick Antonicello
It was only appropriate that Yo! Venice speak with CD-11 council hopeful Mat Smith over the long Memorial Day weekend.
The only registered Republican and conservative in the race to replace retiring Councilmember Mike Bonin, Smith is a combat veteran who served in the United States Army and who runs his own medical supplies and delivery service.
A resident of Westchester, Smith was on one of the original candidates in the race to oppose Bonin.
Candidate: Mat Smith
Occupation: Small Business Owner – primarily medical deliveries, but also rainwater sampling for an environmental company in Carson.
Political preference: “Reagan” Republican.
“Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” – President Ronald Reagan
“You get out of life what you put into it. And nobody owes you anything!” Mort Smith (my Dad)
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right” – Henry Ford
Marital Status: Married
Children: 1 daughter (Lily – 14) and 1 stepson (Scott – 24)
1.The three issues most important to you and why?
Unsheltered (Homeless), neighborhood safety and government waste (corruption).
Unsheltered – I’ve worked hard to find a place in District 11. My father bought 2 homes as a high school dropout (Hamilton High School) and I’ve struggled to rent small apartments in my life. I enlisted in the army in 1992 because I couldn’t afford to live here working at The Fish Market in Marina Del Rey and renting a room from my old little league coach. I returned in 1996 and still couldn’t afford to live here. I found myself living on the 3500 block of Slayton in Hawthorne before lucking into a studio apartment near St Jerome’s Church in 1998. When I heard politicians blame the lack of affordable housing for people shooting up in Westchester park, I knew someone needed to step up and make the right choices. It’s addiction with some mental illness and not a housing issue, despite there not being any affordable housing. Traci Park in October found 3 things more pressing than this crisis and that was a major factor in my decision to run. Jim (Murez) was suggesting people camp north of LAX, Traci had it as her 4th priority and Bonin was Bonin. I knew that this has been fixed elsewhere (Europe has plenty of examples) and figured they’d change their tunes or I’d win. Traci changed her tune after Bonin dropped out.
Safety – I’ve seen this crime wave coming. Police can’t do their job without the communities support and that’s been eroding for years. It goes beyond George Floyd, but the media and the progressives have been beating up law enforcement for years and I’m rather unapologetically pro police. I get there are bad seeds out there, but LAPD has been the gold standard for years and needs to be supported. Personally, I’ve thought the LA Sheriff (Alex Villanueva) has had issues for years but am encouraged by Villanueva and his leadership. I’m not blind to issues in law enforcement but think LAPD is first rate and needs to be supported and fully funded. As a combat veteran, I really did have an epiphany in Somalia after our first ambush. At 20, I was like most kids and didn’t respect the police, but having my life on the line changed my perspective.
Government Waste / Corruption- as a conservative, I’m shocked at how little we get for our tax dollars due to government waste and corruption. The recent example is the rising cost of these affordable housing units and the less than 500 sqft ones recently being $1.4 million. It’s like these politicians stopped hiding their corruption and just do whatever they want now. The road diet started my wheels turning years ago as I literally had to alter my business to bypass going north of LAX. I was fortunate to have that freedom, but taking lanes away was insanity and showed me how little government cared about me.
2. As the only conservative in the race, how are you best qualified to address the issue of rampant homelessness and rising crime?
The Liberal Democrats who have a stranglehold on Los Angeles have a fundamental flaw in their mentality.
By leading with their hearts, they’ve used a “feel good” approach to governance and people from across our country have come to take advantage of this. By removing personal responsibility from those on the streets, our progressive leaders have incentivized people to come here and take advantage of what I describe as our cities “radical hospitality”. We need a system that does the opposite. By using law enforcement, we can incentivize people through sentencing to get the treatment they need and begin to break the cycle that keeps people addicted and untreated. By enforcing existing laws and working with our city council to enact a city wide camping ban, we can clean our streets and provide shelter for those in need.
3. You have been to Centennial Park, what is your impression of the conditions there and what is your plan to remove the tents and encampments?
I’ve walked Centennial Park multiple times in the last few months, both with and without security. I’ve talked to the people down there and had an aggressive camper try to intimidate my wife and I last month.
Once elected, I will immediately construct FEMA style shelters as far removed from our residential zones as possible, as required by the Martin vs City of Boise case. These shelters can be built in 24-48 hours and will allow us to enforce our No-camping ordinances and begin clearing encampments. If 30 day notices are required, as some have stated, I will serve those and do whatever is necessary to clear CD11 of all encampments, both large and small. There have been open lands identified north of Lancaster that are city owned that could be used.
This is the city of Los Angeles and I will do everything in our power to find permanent solutions for those suffering in more affordable and less dense areas.
This process will also allow us to provide rehabilitation for those in need and for us to triage those on the streets. Despite what Mike Bonin and the progressives say, my experience has taught me that many, if not most, of the people on our streets have come to CD11 to take advantage of what’s being allowed. I do not believe that it our responsibility to fix and provide for those who have traveled here to openly use drugs in our community.
4. You oppose the Venice median project. What will you do to stop it and what is your plan for that property so close to the beach?
I’ll exhaust all legal remedies to permanently close the Venice Median project and return safety to that community.
I will work closely with the surrounding neighborhood, something Mike Bonin refused to do, regarding an appropriate development for that space. I’ve long said that our most precious resource, besides the amazing people of CD11, is our land. We need to learn from the mistakes of Mar Vista Gardens and not repeat them with poorly planned developments that don’t fit in our communities.
5. Traci Park is the perceived frontrunner in this race. Are her ideas and proposals any different from the incumbent Mike Bonin? Can another liberal Democrat solve the problems created by these policies regarding rising crime and homelessness?
Traci Park was backed by special interest groups and residents who were desperate to have someone besides Mike Bonin in charge. Unfortunately, they backed a Democrat lawyer whose only qualification seemed to be living across the street from the failed Ramada Inn housing experiment. She lost her lawsuit and decided to run for office, and with only Mike Bonin as opposition, gained lots of support.
I honestly wanted to support Traci Park when I was contemplating this run for office. I knew that Mike Bonin was a bad idea with his “housing first” plan so went to Traci Parks website. It clearly put her to the right of Mike Bonin, but it was light on specifics and barely addressed the addiction crisis that fuels what we see on the streets. Here’s a link to her page in October:https://web.archive.org/web/20211012072516/https://tracipark.com/
I read that page and told my wife I would run and win against her or Bonin. Imagine her still singing this tune now?
Her ideas are what THEY tell her they are and she doesn’t have a real plan. She’s stated in debates that she’s a “fiscal conservative” while sending mailers that tout her as a “Proud Democrat”. It reminds me of the old expression “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for ANYTHING.” I’m running and spending my own money to get elected because Traci Park doesn’t stand for anything and CD11 deserves better.
I don’t believe a liberal can fix this for a very basic reason and it goes back to the difference in the parties. The left, for better or worse, leads a lot with their hearts. It’s about what feels good. The Republicans tend to be more about logic and what makes sense. Fiscal Responsibility may not “feel good” but it keeps my family comfortable and my business running. Traci and every other liberal, will have a hard time standing up and doing the right thing as it’s not what feels good. “Tough Love” is what’s needed and people like me live for that.
6. You are the only combat veteran in this race with a background similar to the responsibilities of law enforcement and public safety officials. Why did you not receive the endorsement of the many police organizations that weighed-in on this race to succeed Mike Bonin?
I entered this race with a different strategy based on what I knew about the political process. A Republican hasn’t been elected in this area since 1957 and the days of Elvis, so I figured the only way to win was from the outside.
It would be political suicide for the Law Enforcement unions who endorse candidates (not officers, but unions) to endorse me, so I’m not offended or surprised. Once elected, I’ll work with them as if they endorsed me and don’t hold this process against them in any way.
7. How is the reaction door-to-door and what is the feedback you are receiving from voters?
It’s been overwhelming since we started getting our petitions signed in February 12th. We started outside of grocery stores collecting petitions and I honestly expected more pushback. Democrats as well as Republicans were quick to sign once I explained my plan and how it’s worked elsewhere. “Housing First” was as unpopular as I thought and I we quickly built momentum. Within a week, we had a team of volunteers and it’s been amazing. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people still answer their doors in 2022 and appreciate all the great talks we’ve had.
8. How will a conservative approach be more effective than that of a Mike Bonin?
By using his approach, Mike Bonin has incentivized people from far and wide to come here and take advantage of our communities misguided hospitality. By making excuses and allowing people to live openly in our cities public spaces, progressive politicians have avoided the real problem and are allowing 5+ people to die daily due to neglect. By directly addressing the addiction and mental health crisis, the conservative approach I’ll bring to CD11 will do the opposite. It will not only discourage people from coming here who want to live in this manner, it will allow those in need to get treatment at a much higher rate than what they’re currently experiencing.
9. Do you oppose the defunding of the LAPD and why?
I Absolutely oppose defunding LAPD. Safety in a civilized society is a #1 priority and without it, we have anarchy. Proper funding, in addition to the communities support and respect, are essential and I’ll work to return these essentials to our neighborhoods.
10. Are you a supporter of LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and why?
I support Sheriff Villanueva due to his hands-on approach to the unsheltered and his tough stance against crime. We need people involved in this process who are willing to stand up for what’s right and Sheriff Villanueva has consistently done that.
11. Are you backing a candidate for LA Mayor?
Yes. Rick Caruso has my support and I believe he’s head and shoulders above his competition in that race.
12. The City of LA employs more individuals than the FBI or American Express. What can you do to contain the cost of city operations and government?
I’ve long feared our government has grown too large over the years. I look forward to playing a role in reducing governments overwhelming presence in so many aspects of our lives. As an outsider, I’m ideally positioned to do this, as I’m not backed by special interest groups that are a part of this problem. Traci Park, Greg Good and the other candidates in this race are part of the problem as their campaigns have largely been funded by groups (independent expenditure committees) that will expect something in return for their investments.
13. Talk to infrastructure. What will you do to maintain streets and highways while fixing sidewalks and curbs?
Though I talk a great deal about eliminating government waste, I understand the need to invest in the local infrastructure you mention. Our tax rates are the highest in America, so the funding is available. Once elected, I’ll sit down with these departments who are responsible and demand action on day one. Much like the “broken windows” theory, our infrastructure reflects out society and we should be good stewards of these assets. It’s difficult to see what’s been allowed to happen and I’ll work to remedy this immediately.
14. Would you consider privatizing the DWP? Is it a cost worth continuing versus selling?
As a conservative, I believe a smaller government is more efficient and beneficial to the people. Aside from the military, law enforcement and other essential government responsibilities, the private sector is our solution. It allows competition that provides better services at a reduced rate. It prevents waste, which in turn benefits the tax payers and the communities. I relish the opportunity to return to private control as many government controlled institutions as possible as it would greatly benefit CD11.
15. What is the one thing you want voters to know about you and why you are different in your approach to public service?
Unlike most of my opponents who are backed by special interest money, I’m here to represent the community; the homeowners, the renters and the business owners. I’ve seen our politicians represent outside developers and people who come here to live off our compassion, but I want to be different. I don’t believe America is fundamentally broken and that we need to reinvent the wheel here on the Westside. The cost of living is so high in CD11 because everyone wants to live here in the best weather on earth. Combine that with a limited amount of land and you have what see today. To think politicians can, or should even try, to change this flies in the face of common sense and I’m here to stop it.
16. Other candidates in this race talk about government experience and how it will be an advantage. What do you say to that?
Traci Park for example, has less experience working in government than myself. As an active duty soldier, I spent 4 years in one of the largest government bureaucracies, often under stressful, life-threatening conditions. Traci Park doesn’t have this (experience) and has misrepresented her career during her campaign.
Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venice resident who is covering the CD-11 race as it impacts the neighborhood of Venice. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com