July 11, 2005      

Meet Bill Rosendahl
Paul M. J. Suchecki

To the rhythm of Taiko drums and rousing strains from the Great American Yankee Band, Bill Rosendahl, the newest member of the Los Angeles City Council, was inaugurated on the Venice Boardwalk Saturday, July 2nd.

The ceremony was graced by luminaries, from new Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to Congresswoman Maxine Waters. It was a victory celebration for community activists who propelled this political novice into his new role representing the Eleventh District. He promised greater responsiveness codified in a Constituents' Bill of Rights.

Venice Koshin Taiko Drums - photo by Paul M. J. Suchecki  

Rosendahl’s choice of Venice for his inaugural festivities was appropriate since he took every Venice precinct in the May run off election. The event was timed to coincide with the community’s centennial celebration.

Rosendahl is a big, gregarious man who is as inclined to hug somebody as shake his hand. His politics were shaped in the activism of the 1960’s. Born in New Jersey, by the time he was 22, Rosendahl ran precinct operations in Oregon for Robert F. Kennedy’s Presidential campaign. In 1968 Rosendahl visited Los Angeles for the first time. He was at the Ambassador Hotel the night RFK was assassinated.

A Vietnam-era veteran, by 1972 he campaigned for anti-war candidate George McGovern. For sixteen years, Rosendahl worked on the Westside as a cable television executive and public affairs program host.

  Sworn in with his Nephews' Help - photo by Paul M. J. Suchecki

He could have opted for a comfortable soap box as the Distinguished Professor of Media and Politics at California State University Dominguez Hills, but at the age of sixty he realized that when it came to his city, he was fed up. “I decided to do something as a citizen politician, and for the first time, run for public office.”

The Los Angeles Times dismissed him as being “bombastic,” but he edged out his opponent Flora Gil Krisiloff in the primary, forcing a run off. It didn’t take long for her to make a subtle issue of his being gay. Rosendahl has never denied his orientation, inviting the G.A.Y. band to his inauguration. He considers himself pro-family, showing great affection for his brother’s children who held the bible for his swearing in. During the campaign, Rosendahl refused to go negative, refreshing compared to the mayoral mud bath. In his district, Rosendahl carried 136 of 170 precincts.

Representing the 11th district will require a deft balancing act, from addressing the constituent needs of the renters of Venice, Playa del Rey, Palms and Mar Vista to the affluent home owners of Pacific Palisades and Brentwood.

He Works the Crowd - photo by Paul M. J. Suchecki

Rosendahl represents bay communities from Westchester to the edge of Malibu, excluding Santa Monica. He describes himself as a “Bobby Kennedy Democrat, a coalition politician.” He pointed out that he was “backed by a variety of people, from former L. A. Mayor, Republican Richard Riordan, to Congresswoman Diane Watson. Most issues aren’t ideologically driven.”

He recognizes that traffic and parking are the most frustrating problems confronting Venice residents. “We need to bring mass rail transit to the Westside, extending the Exposition line to the beach in the next ten years and extension of the Green Line to the airport.” The bus system needs an upgrade. “ Culver City and Santa Monica both handle their bus lines better than the city of L.A.”

The Westside’s traffic issues are regional and involve the cities of Santa Monica and Culver City as well. Projects like Colorado Place and the Costco Shopping Plaza have made the Westside “job rich but housing poor.” He urges cross jurisdictional planning.

Flanked by Mayors Past and Present - photo by Paul M. J. Suchecki

Rosendahl wants smart growth that doesn’t allow development until a transportation infrastructure is in place. In that light he opposes the further expansion of Playa Vista. To slow the growth of Westside street traffic, he wants other regional airports to handle more of LAX’s load. There he opposes additional development. He recognizes that Venice Beach residents have an ever more difficult time finding parking. His solution is to take the beach parking lots back from the county, using the revenue for neighborhood improvement. He wants to allow an innovation that is Solomon like in its wise simplicity: Let locals park there overnight. Why not go further and sell monthly parking passes?

Rosendahl supports rent control and has been a major force in the fight to stop Lincoln Place apartments from being turned into condominiums. He accused the owners of not respecting the tenants’ rights. The tenants gave Rosendahl their votes and showed up in gratitude at his swearing in.

He supports adding a third more police to the LAPD, and wants paramedics at every fire station. He’s not ignoring the business community, urging a full city tax exemption for any business that grosses less than $100,000 per year.

Bill Rosendahl's Call to Action - photo by Paul M. J. Suchecki

His political concerns don’t stop at city issues. They include healthcare: “all of us should be on Medicare;” the environment, “eliminate pollution in Santa Monica Bay;” and public education, “make pre-school available for every four year old.”

How can the Democrats take back Washington D.C.? “Define what being a Democrat means. Don’t apologize. Stop jockeying around the edge of an issue. Believe in something, then articulate what you stand for. Kerry didn’t connect with the voters. Bush did. Democrats need a strong vision that’s expressed honestly.”

His coalition building skills will be tested when he takes his seat as a member of Los Angeles’ legislative body. Bill Rosendahl’s proposals could ultimately be as unrecognizable as sausage ingredients by the time they emerge. He is optimistic.

Does he have a political philosophy? “Most people today are skeptical and cynical, since politics is dominated by special interests. But that is why we’ll be setting up an 11th district empowerment congress.I’m all about engaging people, getting the community involved. Politics shouldn’t be about me, but about us.”

Judging from the enthusiastic response at the inauguration, Bill Rosendahl is off to a good start.

Community Activists Give Thanks - photo by Paul M. J. Suchecki