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L.A. Councilman Rosendahl battles cancer, won't seek reelection

Rosendahl, 67, who's represented the coastal district for two terms, announced in August that he was undergoing treatment for transitional cell carcinoma. He's named his chief of staff, Mike Bonin, as his preferred successor.

October 08, 2012|By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times
  • City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, right, becomes emotional Oct. 2 after asking his colleagues to lift a ban on pot dispensaries in L.A. Rosendahl said he's used marijuana in his battle with cancer.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, right, becomes emotional Oct. 2 after… (Genaro Molina, Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said Monday that he has decided not to seek reelection in order to focus on his fight with cancer.

In a statement he planned to send to constituents early Tuesday, Rosendahl said he was "passing the baton" to let a new elected official represent his Westside district, which stretches along the coast from Westchester to Pacific Palisades. He named his longtime chief of staff, Mike Bonin, as his preferred successor, saying, "With Mike ready to fill my shoes, I can step aside with confidence."

Rosendahl, 67, is a famously gregarious people-person who is known for giving hugs on the council floor and for carrying around cartons of fresh eggs laid by the hens he keeps in the backyard of his Mar Vista home. He was the first openly gay man to be elected to the council, and during his two terms in office he has often invoked the death of his partner from AIDS in 1995 to raise awareness about gay and lesbian issues.

More recently, Rosendahl has used his own story to advocate for medical marijuana dispensaries. Last week, he helped persuade his colleagues to overturn a recent ban on storefront pot shops with an emotional speech about his own use of the drug to help relieve nerve pain.

Rosendahl announced that he was undergoing treatment for transitional cell carcinoma in August. Initially, he vowed to run for a third term. But cancer treatments appear to have taken a lot out of him. His once booming voice, tinged with a New Jersey accent, is now gravelly and thin. He has lost considerable weight.

Ruth Galanter, who represented the 11th District before Rosendahl, said she thought his decision not to run for a third term must have been difficult given his gusto. "He loves this job more than most people," she said. "He's got a level of enthusiasm that is hard to match."

Much of Rosendahl's email to constituents is devoted to Bonin, a longtime City Hall staffer whom the councilman has helped groom to take over the job. Bonin was recently named by the council to be the alternate for Rosendahl on the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority board, allowing him to attend meetings when the councilman cannot. And it was Bonin, not Rosendahl, who stood behind Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at an event staged last month by organized labor calling on Latino voters to turn out in the Nov. 6 election.

Bonin, who also lives in Mar Vista, said he planned to officially declare his candidacy Tuesday. At least three other people have announced they also plan to run for Rosendahl's seat: Frederick Sutton, Odysseus Bostick and Mark Ryavec. Ryavec, who has worked as a legislative analyst and political consultant and who heads a Venice neighborhood group, said Rosendahl hasn't done enough to tackle chronic homelessness in the area.

Rosendahl has said he was proud of his work on homeless issues, including his role in funding a new permanent supportive housing project that is due to open this winter. In his email to constituents, he also touted his role in pushing for the modernization of Los Angeles International Airport and for a more comprehensive rail transit system.

Before running for office, Rosendahl was a television executive and talk show host. He said in his statement that he was determined to beat his illness and would like to return to television or radio if his health improves. He spoke of creating a space "where people can finish their sentences, share their thoughts and contribute in a positive way to the public discourse."

"Please know that I don't plan to fade away," he said.

Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.

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