Public service

Chasing good people out of public service |

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin seemed to have a lot going for him as he prepares for a re-election campaign for his Westside district. A petty recall effort had aborted and failed. Bonin, who was first elected in 2013, won his last re-election with 71% of the vote.

Then suddenly he announced last week that he would not run for a third term in order to focus on his battle with chronic depression. He did not entirely attribute his decision to his other battle – with fierce and relentless criticism – but said there were times when the work of the council made dealing with his depression “more difficult”.

There has been little about Bonin’s time during his current tenure that hasn’t been difficult. He is progressive on issues of homelessness, police reform and the environment. When other council members voted for an ordinance last summer that would allow them to designate streets and areas off-limits to homeless campers, Bonin voted against it, arguing the council hadn’t spent time determine where the homeless could sleep if they refused. an accommodation offer.

He asked city officials to assess whether a beach parking lot in Pacific Palisades and part of a park in Westchester could be used temporarily to safely camp for the homeless. He also voted with a majority of council in 2020 to cut the police budget and invest much of the money in city services and programs to help poorer communities.

These positions made some people livid. He has been (wrongly) accused of crimes, arson and the proliferation of homeless encampments in his neighborhood – and sometimes beyond. People shouted at him at public meetings and demonstrated outside his house, where he lives with his husband and young son. During a lengthy Westchester ward council meeting last April on Zoom, attended by hundreds of people, Bonin was interrupted and heckled, forcing the organizer to mute attendees to let him finish speaking. of the work he was doing to find shelter and temporary accommodation for the homeless. Later, one person ridiculously said, “He caters to the needs of homeless drug addicts” rather than the needs of his constituents.

Politics is a brutal game, and the people who join it should be tough. But public discourse has become increasingly vitriolic in recent years in a way no one should have to put up with. Members of the public routinely swear and insult City Council members and Los Angeles County supervisors during meetings. When Councilman Kevin de León accused a group of activists of urging homeless people in a downtown location not to accept hotel rooms offered to them, the activists involved flatly denied the ‘charge. It’s not just a Los Angeles problem. Elected officials, from school board members to governors across the country, are reporting a disturbing increase in threats and harassment. In perhaps the most bizarre and surprising case, a group of men plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the fall of 2020 out of anger over her COVID-19 restrictions. The men were arrested before they could carry out their plot and are expected to go to trial soon.

During the pandemic, health officials in California and across the country have faced so much public anger that some have quit. In 2020, Nichole Quick, a senior Orange County health official, resigned after being threatened and having her home address leaked by members of the public opposed to her mask mandate.

None of these tactics should be confused with political debate – or heroic civil disobedience. When the level of talk turns to shouting and bullying, and hard workers decide the price to pay isn’t worth staying in public service, we all lose.

The above editorial was published on January 31 by the Los Angeles Times. His views are his own.