A group of Westside residents campaigning to recall Los Angeles Councilmember Mike Bonin says it is holding off on circulating a petition until the end of the year.
Although organizers originally aimed to collect 27,000 signatures to trigger a special election in June, they need more time to raise some $300,000 for the effort, said co-chair Alexis Edelstein.
The group now plans to resubmit paperwork in November, when there’s less demand for professional signature gatherers after the statewide primary and general elections, he said.
“The cost right now is astronomical,” Edelstein said, adding that the campaign hasn’t attracted the backing of a political party or major donor to ease the financial challenge.
According to campaign finance filings, the recall committee raised about $41,500 in contributions and $20,000 in loans from July to the end of September.
The group says the total is now closer to $100,000, but that, after expenditures, it has about $20,600 on hand.
“Nothing would be worse than initiating the signature-gathering process, spending thousands of dollars and coming up short,” organizers said in an email to supporters on Monday.
‘Road diet’ rage
Bonin, 50, was elected in March 2017 to a second term with 71 percent of the vote in the city’s 11th Council District, which takes in Venice, Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista. He defeated two challengers, Mark Ryavec and Robin Rudisill, who are now both members of the recall committee.
The recall effort emerged in September after the backlash over a series of “road diets,” aimed at preventing pedestrian fatalities, was implemented on major streets in Playa del Rey over the summer.
Traffic lane reductions designed to slow down motorists and make room for bike lanes resulted in gridlock and outrage from commuters and small-business owners, and two lawsuits. Manhattan Beach officials who were blindsided by the narrowing of Vista del Mar, a major oceanfront artery connecting the South Bay to the Westside, led a coalition of cities that threatened litigation.
Bonin apologized for the months-long headache, announcing the changes would be slowly undone and alternatives would be implemented. He pledged to find ways to improve safety while minimizing traffic congestion.
The recall organizers held a news conference in late October announcing they were filing a notice of intent to recall Bonin with the Los Angeles City Clerk’s Office.
But the paperwork was rejected because it was missing a page of signatures from the committee members, according to Mayra Puchalski of the City Clerk’s Office. Organizers say the page was left out by mistake. They don’t think the delay—an entire year after they originally planned to gather signatures—will hurt their chances.
“There are 19 roads planned in the district (for road diets) and they’ve only started on a few,” Edelstein said.
The group says it plans to keep the campaign active with town hall meetings in every neighborhood of the district.
“Let there be no mistake,” organizers said in the New Year’s Day email update. “The recall campaign is moving forward. It will not cease until Mike Bonin is replaced.”
Steve Barkan, Bonin’s campaign consultant, accused Edelstein of delaying the recall so he can personally profit from the campaign.
According to the campaign finance filing, Edelstein received about $6,000 for consulting work from July to the end of September. He also provided the $20,000 loan.
“Of course, Alexis wants to extend this absurd crusade as long as possible—it is a moneymaking scam,” Barkan said in an email. “He has paid himself thousands of dollars of his donors’ money without a single signature to show for it.”
Edelstein said he’s been working 60 hours a week organizing the campaign.
He countered that filings show Bonin’s re-election and ballot measure committees paid Barkan’s consulting firm, SG&A Campaigns, tens of thousands of dollars last year.
“To me, this is a passion project. I’m not doing this for the money and those accusations are completely baseless,” Edelstein said.
A June special election would have cost the city about $1.5 million, according to the City Clerk’s Office.