If there is a theme to Mike Bonin's campaign for Los Angeles City Council, it is this: The longtime City Hall insider does not want to take anything for granted.
There is no public polling in the city's 11th Council District, which includes Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Venice, Brentwood, Mar Vista and Pacific Palisades. But Bonin is considered the heavy favorite, in part because of the vocal support he has received from his current boss, incumbent Councilman Bill Rosendahl.
Battling cancer, Rosendahl declined to run for a third term and Bonin said he is doing everything he can to introduce himself to voters in the district, from billboards to lawn signs to glossy brochures. He has raised almost $200,000 and qualified for $100,000 in city matching funds, finance records show.
"Bill's decision not to run was surprising and sad and unexpected," Bonin said. "He definitely has unfinished business that we started together."
Bonin faces three relative political newcomers, all of whom say the council needs fresh faces and ideas. One, Odysseus Bostick, a schoolteacher for most of his career, lives in Westchester. Another, Tina Hess, is a senior lawyer in the City Attorney's Office and a Del Rey resident. The third, Frederick Sutton, works in commercial real estate and lives in West Los Angeles.
All seek to win enough votes in the March 5 nonpartisan election to earn a spot in a two-candidate runoff, which would be necessary
Bonin, Rosendahl's chief deputy, is portraying himself as the logical successor to his boss. His stances are often identical to Rosendahl's - from Los Angeles International Airport issues (both favor modernization but not expansion) to the importance of public transit to the city.
Saying he wants no other City Council members to outwork him, Bonin has pledged to go door to door in the district at least once a month. He also said he will hold open office hours on evenings and weekends in public places like city libraries.
On the council, Bonin said he hopes to convince colleagues to better nurture technological companies, like Google, that have large operations in the Los Angeles area. He said many of those companies can help city government become more efficient and technologically sound.
"We need to get us out of operating like we're in the '70s," he said.
Unlike Bonin, Bostick has little experience with city government. He said he was driven to run because he feels the current crop of council members has not done a good job of fiscal stewardship. Bostick, who has raised a little more than $30,000, said too many politicians feel beholden to labor unions.
"My feeling is the current political clique that has been running L.A. has created the culture where all the politicians that are successful rise up to power by indebting themselves to the union political arms," he said.
Bostick said he would focus on two main issues to keep city costs down. One is city employee pension costs, which Bostick said must be kept lower. The other is employee health insurance premiums, also a large part of the city's budget.
"I'm against any revenue increase until we deal with the pension system, especially the police and fire pensions," he said. "I completely respect their sacrifices. We just can't afford as a city to pay 90 percent pension after age 50."
Hess, meanwhile, said she was driven to run after she realized that, if the established favorites win election, there would be no women on the city council. "I found that rather unacceptable," she said.
As a prosecutor in the City Attorney's Office, Hess said she has more experience than her opponents. Among other duties, she has drafted state and municipal legislation and supervised the city attorney's neighborhood prosecutor program.
"I have spent the better part of 20 years solving neighborhood problems in terms of public safety and community engagement," said Hess, who has raised about $14,000 for the race, records show.
Hess said she would focus on helping homeless residents, fixing the city's fiscal problems, and balancing the needs of developers with the concern that neighborhoods could become overcrowded.
"The city is in a financial pickle," she said. "We need to look at ways ... to spend our money more wisely."
Sutton, who calls himself a lifelong political junkie and policy wonk, grew up in Brentwood and now lives in West Los Angeles. His most unique campaign promise is a pledge to donate 20 percent of his council salary to help pay for sidewalk repairs.
"I want to raise awareness to the failing infrastructure in Los Angeles," said Sutton, who has raised about $35,000 and has qualified for city matching funds. "People can send me pictures of the worse sidewalks they can find. At the end of the year, we will go fix them."
He, too, said the city must improve its budgeting process and negotiate with municipal unions to lower pension and health-care costs.
"There is no funding for anything that is being promised," Sutton said. "I want to have serious budget reform."
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