LOS ANGELES (CN) — Backers of a campaign to recall west Los Angeles City Council representative Mike Bonin turned in a petition with more 39,000 signatures to the city clerk’s office on Wednesday.
Should 27,317 of them prove to be valid signatures of registered voters living in the 11th council district, the recall will move to a special election sometime next year.
“People that live in the 11th district, they look out their window, and say, ‘Something has to be done,’” said Jimmy Camp, the recall campaign’s political consultant. Camp said homelessness is the primary purpose of the recall drive.
“It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse,” said Camp. “Whatever [Bonin’s] plan is, it’s not working.”
Councilman Bonin could not be reached for comment, but in a Twitter thread, he called backers of the recall “opponents of homeless housing on the Westside, backed by anonymous ‘dark money’ donors.” He added that the recall “isn’t really about me. It’s about how we, as a city, should respond to homelessness.”
As of 2020, there were more than 40,000 homeless people living in Los Angeles, sleeping on the streets, in cars and in shelters. That number has been ticking steadily upward for years. Though homelessness has been rising in most American cities, Los Angeles is largely believed to have one of the worst homeless crises.
During the pandemic, the city took a largely hands-off approach to homeless encampments. As a result, they grew larger and more pervasive, becoming a common sight under freeway overpasses and even in parks. One encampment on the Venice Beach boardwalk, a popular tourist attraction, was described by the Los Angeles Times as “milelong ribbon of tents and shanties” that “is now held up as the hallmark of everything broken about Los Angeles.”
Recently, the city council adopted a new policy of removing certain encampments. Bonin opposed that move, saying that he preferred to focus on services and the construction of supportive housing, rather than enforcement of laws that ban sleeping in public.
On homelessness, and on many other issues, Bonin is seen as one of the most progressive council representatives. Years ago, he drew heat from constituents for supporting “road diets” — the practice of removing car lanes and adding bike lanes or widening sidewalks, for the purpose of reengineering streets to slow down traffic.
The city clerk said it could take nearly two months to verify the petition’s signatures. Should the recall go before voters, the election could take place months or even weeks before LA’s regularly scheduled city election, in June 2022, in which Bonin is set to run for his third and final term. In other words, he would run for reelection twice in a matter of months.
When asked if the double-election would be redundant, Camp disagreed.
“No. It sends a message to people. His term goes to the end of the year, and every minute counts,” Camp said. “If it’s one day he’s out of office, then it’s worth it.”
Jesse Zwick, Bonin’s campaign spokesperson, issued a statement on the matter.
“This is what happens when the obstructionists who have battled Mike Bonin for years to stop homeless housing and services on the Westside get funding from secret donors and guidance from professional right-wing operatives. Mike’s opponents are weaponizing the recall process and trying to take out a courageous, compassionate public official who is fighting for smart, proven solutions to the homelessness crisis,” Zwick said.
Bonin’s recall comes months after the effort to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom was rejected by voters. A number of other recalls targeting local officials like district attorney George Gascón and city council representative Nithya Raman failed to get the requisite number of signatures.
Though Bonin has sought to paint the recall against him as a “right-wing” campaign, similar to the Newsom recall, its two chief backers say they are registered Democrats.
“Recalling Gavin Newsom, that was ridiculous,” said Camp. “Or Gascón. But this is a different kind of recall. This isn’t a bunch of Trumpers or right-wingers. These are just neighborhood people, who recently became activists.”