The Big Lie: No, Bonin Did Not Steal Measure M Money for Vision Zero

Bonin's street safety efforts are in line with Measure M's clear multi-modal plan. Measure M promotional image via Metro
Bonin's street safety efforts are in line with Measure M's clear multi-modal plan. Measure M promotional image via Metro

There’s a pernicious lie being spread about Councilmember Mike Bonin as part of the “Recall Bonin” campaign. This lie is a centerpiece of the campaign’s messaging and a repeated talking point on the alt-right radio program that supports the recall. As with most Big Lies it both resembles the truth enough that it might confuse people and is crazy enough that people would believe it because “hey, who would lie about something that audacious?”

The lie is that Mike Bonin stole money from Measure M that was meant for transit projects and redirected them towards Vision Zero and the safety projects in Playa del Rey and Mar Vista.

Sometimes the lie is stated vaguely, such as in the notice to file for recall which states, “To pay for these unpaid projects, he has raided the coffers of Measure M, meant for mass transit and repairing damaged streets without asking voters.”

Other times it is more specific, such as on this Recall Bonin webpage: “To make matters worse, Councilman Mike Bonin, led a vote in the Transportation Committee to reallocate two thirds of the funds for Measure M passed last November by the city voters for mass transportation to their Vision Zero plan.”

These statements are lies.

They cannot be considered mere confusion or misstatements, because people (myself – Damien – included) have tried to correct the record with KFI and Recall Bonin proponents. While it may be politically expedient to spread this lie, it does not make it true. It is a lie. Someone that tells it to you is either a liar or has been lied to.

Let’s break down what’s really going on here.

First, that Measure M funds have been misused for the road diet projects in Playa del Rey (or Venice Blvd) is the easiest to debunk. This lie was raised at a June Westchester/Playa Neighborhood Council meeting, and was included in Keep L.A. Moving’s lawsuit which alleges “Measure M funds were, in fact, used for all of the aforementioned changes to Vista Del Mar, Culver, Jefferson and Pershing…”

A simple understanding of the Measure M timeline disproves this lie.

The Playa Del Rey safety improvement projects were implemented in June 2017.  Mar Vista’s Venice Boulevard improvements were implemented February through May 2017. L.A. County began collecting Measure M sales tax on July 1, 2017.

Both projects were already on the ground before Measure M started.

The Bigger Lie, that Bonin has somehow stolen Measure M transit funds for Vision Zero takes a little more explaining.

In 2016, L.A. County voters were asked to approve Measure M, a sales tax increase that would fund a variety of transportation projects. The budget for Measure M is locked in by voters and cannot be changed without either voter approval or a super-majority of the Metro Board of Directors (where Bonin is one of 13 votes).

However, 17 percent of the budget for Measure M is for “local return,” which is monies that Metro passes along to cities in proportion to their population. Of that 17 percent, one percent can only be used for transit projects, leaving 16 percent of cities’ local return budget to spend on local transportation projects – which range from road and sidewalk repair, to traffic signals, to bike lanes, etc. L.A. City has roughly 40 percent of the population of L.A. County, so the city’s local return ends up accounting for roughly six percent (40 percent of 16 percent) of the overall Measure M budget.

Data via the proposed ordinance for the Metro Transportation Improvement Plan outlining the expenditures for Measure M. Passed in 2016. Click on the image and scroll to page 24.
Data via the proposed ordinance for the Metro Transportation Improvement Plan outlining the expenditures for Measure M. Passed in 2016. Click on the image and scroll to page 24.

L.A.’s 15-member city council votes on how to spend the city’s local return funding.

At the city council Transportation Committee, and then the full city council, there was a debate over what percent of the city’s Measure M local return should be spent on Vision Zero projects. The city council approved a motion, proposed by Bonin and councilmember Paul Krekorian, budgeting L.A. Measure M local return funding for Vision Zero for Fiscal Year 2017-18. The Bonin/Krekorian motion allocates $22.8 million to Vision Zero. Of that $22.8 million, only $5.5 million are from Measure M; rounding out the city’s FY17-18 Vision Zero budget is funding from Measure R, S.B.1, and Prop A and about $2 million (for LAPD enforcement and safety lighting) from the city’s General Fund.


L.A. City Council FY2017-18 budget for Vision Zero. Note that counting only 15% of street reconstruction (see 9th row), the total drops to $22.84M. Image via earlier SBLA article.

For those keeping score, for this year for Vision Zero, L.A. is spending about 10 percent of 40 percent of 16 percent (that is about 0.64 percent) of the county’s overall Measure M sales tax revenue. Measure M Vision Zero spending underway is just $5.5 million of about $850 million in countywide Measure M revenue.

The council’s unanimous approval of Bonin and Krekorian’s Vision Zero allocation will have no impact on the various rail, bus, and highway projects funded by Measure M.

In fact, all major Measure M rail, bus, and highway projects are funded through capital categories separate from local return.

To make the Big Lie even worse, and it’s already plenty bad, the buffet of items that are under “Vision Zero” is pretty large and includes street resurfacing (“repairing damaged streets” as the recall language calls it), traffic signals, pedestrian crossings, street lighting, speed surveys, speed enforcement, public education about street safety, streetscape redesigns, curb extensions, and more.

Note that in the FY2017-18 budget, Bonin and his fellow councilmembers approved over $5 million in new funding for street resurfacing: $3.11 million from Measure M local return, and $2.06 million from S.B. 1 state gas tax revenue.

Winding down, consider the assumption behind asserting Measure M was meant narrowly “for mass transportation” or “for mass transit and repairing damaged streets.”

Bonin’s critics are wrong. Metro’s bottom-up, countywide process of developing Measure M went far beyond just cars and transit as legitimate modes in a balanced transportation system. Measure M is decidedly multi-modal, with funding for highways, streets, sidewalks, rail, bus, bike, and more. Measure M’s language is clear on this.

In the actual ordinance language approved by voters, Measure M will “Repave local streets, repair potholes, and synchronize signals; improve neighborhood streets and intersections, and enhance bike and pedestrian connections.” The Measure M ordinance specifies that local return will be spent on “communities’ transportation needs, including transit, streets and roads, storm drains, Green Streets, Active Transportation [i.e. bicycling and walking] Projects, Complete Streets, public transit access to recreational facilities, Transit Oriented Community Investments, and other unmet transit needs.”

Among many selling points, Measure M was promoted to voters as including bicycle and pedestrian improvements; watch this Yes on M campaign video promoting (starting at 1:03) a “more livable… more bikeable” L.A. County.

Keeping pedestrians, cyclists, transit-riders, car-poolers, and drivers safe is an important part of Metro’s balanced multi-modal transportation system spelled out in Measure M.

Bonin’s critics shouldn’t try to tell Anglenos that Measure M was less than what we approved overwhelmingly.

Angelenos shouldn’t fall into the logic of Bonin’s detractors that somehow spending on Vision Zero is taking away from funding spent on L.A. drivers. Vision Zero is about safety for everyone – drivers included. Every year more than 1,000 people are killed or severely injured in L.A. traffic, more than half of these are people driving or riding in cars. Vision Zero is about ending all of L.A.’s traffic deaths. Vision Zero is not some pet project to be dismissed when real stuff – transit and cars – are discussed. Vision Zero is a key part of making sure L.A.’s transportation system serves us all.

So, in conclusion:

No, Mike Bonin did not use Measure M funds for the road diets in Playa Del Rey and Venice Blvd.

No, Mike Bonin did not thwart the will of the voters by taking transit and road expansion funds and spending it on road diets.

These things are not true, and anyone who tells you they are either hasn’t done their homework, or is lying to you and expects you not to do your homework.

  • Toddzilla

    The budget was for a lot of things! Ok ok he didn’t use it for a lot of things which we have been asking for over many years, but it wasn’t used for the road diet, the dates don’t line up! Ok ok, it was used for the road diets, but only a little bit! Squirrel!

  • D Man

    Garcetti and Bonin are using Measure M money for purposes that were not included in the description of Measure M that was on the ballot when we voted for it. Just because it was buried somewhere else doesn’t negate the deception which, of course, is how Bonin and Vision Zero operate. That, Joey, is not a lie.

    “Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan. To improve freeway traffic flow/safety; repair potholes/sidewalks; repave local streets; earthquake retrofit bridges; synchronize signals; keep senior/disabled/student fares affordable; expand rail/subway/bus systems; improve job/school/airport connections; and create jobs; shall voters authorize a Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan through a ½ ¢ sales tax and continue the existing ½ ¢ traffic relief tax until voters decide to end it, with independent audits/oversight and funds controlled locally?”

  • Alexis Edelstein

    As I write this I’m stuck in LA traffic that has only been made worse by Bonin.
    Measure M was sold to the voting public as a program to develop mass transit, fix pot holes and decrease traffic times by 15%.
    Nothing that has come from Bonin does any of those things.

    In fact Bonin/Krekorian motion allocates $22.8 million to Vision Zero. Of that $22.8 million, only $5.5 million are from Measure M. (This is from this very article)

    Additionally from an article earlier this year. City Council’s Transportation Committee (led by Bonin) voted 3-2 to allocate key Measure M funds toward the Department of Transportation’s Vision Zero initiative.
    Bonin’s plan is starkly different from one put forward by city staff. A report from the city administrative officer and legislative analyst suggested that the city dedicate two-thirds of the local return money to repaving the city’s most deteriorated streets.

    Fact is Bonin took monies from Measure M under the auspicious of Vision Zero and safe streets. Yet he has continued to fail and protect the district. He then allocated these monies to failed programs that actually increase accidents and accident rates making us all more unsafe.
    And why wasn’t any of the $5.5M used to pay for the $10,000 flashing lights crosswalk on Pacific Ave and Sunset Ave that would’ve saved Damon Shears life?

    Bonin is undeserving of holding office and incapable of making common sense decisions. His arrogance and disdain for others blinds him of clear solutions and creates more problematic situations.

    I have said this before and will continue to say this. I invite Bonin to an open and public debate on all these issues. If he has nothing to hide he should welcome the opportunity.
    Just name a time and a place and I’ll be there.
    Alexis Edelstein
    Recall Bonin

  • It was not used for the road diet. The road diets were in place before Measure M money was collected.

  • michael macdonald

    The cognitive dissonance in the insane comments below between attacking funding to eliminate traffic deaths while simultaneously attempting to exploit a the victim of traffic crash is truly astounding.

    Just about as incredible as claiming to be a “Berniecrat” while aligning oneself with right wing A.M. radio personalities and a failed politician who despises people who are homeless.

    I am starting to feel sorry for the guy, and his obsession with being heard, regardless of his allergy to facts. What a sad way to spend one’s time.

  • Joe Linton

    Please don’t drive and type at the same time.

  • Joe Linton

    You either didn’t read the article, the measure text, or you’re deceiving yourself with the false assumption that people don’t actually walk and bike to get to those trains and buses – and to connect to those jobs, schools, and airports. Metro and Measure M voters approved a multi-modal system that safely gets riders to transit. Kudos to Bonin for understanding what Angelenos actually overwhelmingly approved and taking steps to implement it.

  • Stvr

    Damien I miss your writing on this space. You are the blogfather and SBLA sorely misses you. The blog has gone into a ditch since you left (Sahra).

  • Steak

    Got to hand it to you, Alexis. To write such a long response while a car in traffic, in violation of the law and obvious common sense, and to have it simultaneously be so boring and confusing and not actually refuting the story — that takes a special talent. Maybe politics really are your destiny.

  • William Wickwire

    I’m sure he dictated that.

  • William Wickwire

    The very first part of the video says that the goal of Measure M was primarily to reduce traffic by 15%. If one penny was spent slowing cars by using Measure M funds, that was contrary to the stated goal even if it did make it better for bicycling.
    I think it’s interesting that the video also talks about fixing potholes multiple times and that is the same argument that was used for passage of the gas tax increase that started yesterday.

  • sahra

    Even when you read other people’s stories you can’t stop thinking about me.


  • I appreciate your nice thoughts, but by every metric SBLA is more successful with Joe and Sahra than it ever was when I was the editor.

  • Steven Mateer

    It’s okay Alexis. You got caught in a lie. No shame in admitting it.

  • Joe Linton

    To me it seems really arrogant to see you complain about “one penny” making things better for bicycling. From Measure M, drivers are getting $144M a year in highway expansion projects… but when bicyclists get a penny (or more accurately $5.5M – for safety for everyone – including you) you cry foul.

  • William Wickwire

    I did not say that. I said if one penny was used to make driving LESS BETTER, then it was contrary to the stated goal.
    I think you can do both.
    You are picking a fight.

  • Joe Linton

    The money is making drivers safer. Hundreds of drivers are killed and severely injured every year in L.A. Spending some money to slow down some deadly drivers makes driving better.

  • William Wickwire

    We are talking about using Measure M, which was to improve efficiency and transportation times, and that’s how it was SOLD TO TAXPAYERS.
    Safety was not a major talking point, but you are trying to convolute the discussion…by mixing bicycles, safety and commute efficiency.
    People who are in favor of efficiency are not necessarily against safety or bicycles.
    Just stop it already.

    By the way, there are MORE accidents in the Ballona Creek area than before. Anybody who drives that way knows the truth. Data will follow, but of course there is a delay in official numbers.

  • Fast cars does not equal reduced traffic.

  • D Man

    You either didn’t read my comment or simply can’t get past your bias. “Just because it was buried somewhere else doesn’t negate the deception” It wasn’t stated in the description set forth in the ballot…which is what everyone reads.

  • D Man

    So if I’m reading the allocation of funds correctly, the City has more than $12MM it could have used to install a signal at the crosswalk on Pacific Ave at Paloma Ct.? Bonin decided to use that for his pet project on VDM rather than installing a light that would have saved a life. This is now the third death that was caused by a dangerous condition known to the City of LA and not timely corrected. And shame on the road diet activists for politicizing the latest fatality to support their call for a road diet.

  • William Wickwire

    No. Agree.
    Optimal for safety in LA is 20-25MPH, and that’s also optimal for a combination of bike safety and pedestrian safety…compromises made…
    Here is the exact quote: ” reducing motor vehicle speeds to 20–25 mph is a core operational strategy for improving bicycle comfort.”
    That is from another article yesterday…where Joe wrote that at its annual conference Tuesday in Chicago, the National Association of City Transportation Officials released a free 16-page document that makes one of the first comprehensive attempts to answer the question of which bike lanes should be protected AND ““Designing for All Ages and Abilities” suggests slowing autos with a technology most cities already know well: traffic signals. For example, quick red-to-green cycles or a “low-speed signal progression” (in other words, timing the signals so someone traveling at 15 almost always hits green lights) keep traffic flowing but make it pointless for bad drivers to jam the gas pedal between lights.

    Adding green arrows or bike-specific signal phases can reduce biking stress without road space changes, too.”

    SO…stop saying that commuters all think that speed is all that matters.

    In fact, installing signals and those lights that slow cars to a speed such that cars make all the lights if they go that speed WOULD be a good use of Measure M. It improves efficiency, keeps cars from stop-starts (and improves CO2 emissions) and could EASILY be done with Measure M funds. It would be cheaper than constantly striping and restriping roads, or paying off victims of Bonin’s failure to do that in the first place.

  • Steven Mateer

    How is it a deception if you don’t read the ballot measure? The expenditure plan was clear as day.

  • Justin Runia

    This… seems like admission of a crime, unless you have a driver, Mr. Edelstein. Do you have a driver?

  • William Wickwire

    Here’s a link to that Budget and Finance committee meeting where Bonin is pressing for M funds being diverted to Vision Zero. They discuss how all Measure M ads, as well as the Mayor, said the money was for infrastructure and repair. They discuss how the “optics” aren’t right, and that it will be difficult to sell the public on the reallocation because it defies expectations.

  • michael macdonald

    It’s kind of amazing to me that your reading of “Measure M: Metro’s Plan to Transform Transportation in LA” is that it is 100% funding to make driving more convenient. Even Measure R included funding for construction of light rail lines that may have impacts on driving convenience.

    I mean, a 5 second web search will tell you that Measure M is “Metro’s roadmap to improve mobility, provide more transportation options, stimulate our local economy, and create jobs.” Did you think “more transportation options” meant different types of cars? Or that a safer transportation system is unrelated to “improving mobility”?

    You are a funny one.

  • William Wickwire

    I did not pull that out of the hat.

    Did you watch the video attached to this post? I do not think 100% should be to make driving more convenient…and if you read my other posts, it’s clear that I don’t think that.

    What I do think it is that Measure M is supposed to make TRANSPORTATION 15% more efficient and that there is no way that removing 50% of car lanes and making it 50% less efficient is going to achieve that goal.

    In other words, I do not feel that gains in alternative modes of transportation should automatically come at the expense of the driving alternative. Maybe someday, but not now.

  • michael macdonald

    Private autos are the least efficient means of moving people in a city. What other way would the city be able to make transportation more efficient than improving and in some cases reallocating space towards more efficient means of mobility?

    If you intended to vote for roadway widening, you voted for the wrong ballot measure.

  • William Wickwire

    Actually, it’s a perfect example of why taxpayers don’t trust politicians. Repurpoing money that was intended for one purpose to use for another and you should actually read my post about how Mayor Garcetti told Bonin that that is the wrong “optics“.

    I’m not gonna argue that one person per 20 foot piece of hulking steel is efficient.

    I don’t think that and I definitely think other alternative modes of transportation are necessary. But they must be put in place without disrupting the existing infrastructure, because people have jobs, appointments, family obligations. To think that it is going to work any other way is just ignorant. I know you’re not ignorant.

    So, instead of fighting for something that is going to be so viciously opposed, why don’t you try to compromise and figure out a way to build alternate infrastructure without disrupting existing infrastructure?

    My own idea, although not really my own, is to apply the solution of La Paz, Bolivia.

    Small footprint, minimal disruption to existing anything. Design competition for architects to do the design for the stations and the cabs, and the PR will be easy to spin.

    Voters definitely did not tax themselves to make it harder to get around in our own lifetimes. We voted to make it easier to get around for future generations. You must make both easier.

  • michael macdonald

    It’s ok to have had personal aspirations for what a transportation tax might be used towards. It’s clear that your hopes are not matched in the actual funding allocation outlined in the adopted ordinance.

    It also seems that you are not comprehending the flexibility built into the “Local Return” component of funding that was key in the planning of Measure M to allowing individual jurisdictions determine how best to meet their local transportation goals and needs through the tax. This article pretty clearly explains that concept – maybe worth giving it another read if you initially read it selectively with the intention of jumping into the comments.

  • “I’ll gladly repay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

  • If Bonin is recalled, and I suspect the all-hands production of this article indicates that the resignation to this as a probability is setting in, be prepared to watch Vision Zero greatly scaled down, if not eliminated. Major changes to direction given to staff by both the council and the Mayor. There was a massive failure to communicate when and why changes were being made and the methods that could and could not be used. If Bonin is recalled, no other council member currently in office has the guts to touch this topic for the foreseeable future.

  • Richard

    You keep talking about increasing efficiency and that is what lane reductions do.

    When a road’s capacity varies along it’s length compared to demand it creates bottlenecks that lead to congestion. The 101 is 4 lanes each way everywhere except a small section leading around DTLA. Guess where there is a massive backup 16 hours a day?

    In other areas a 2 lane road might expand to 3 for a short period of time. In that section drivers will speed ahead only to have to slow down as they get caught in congestion. If the road was 2 lanes throughout it would be more efficient and travel times would be faster overall.

    Also better road safety makes roads faster on average, because nothing slows things down like a car crash. One that kills someone even more so.

  • William Wickwire

    You are just talking about the effect of bottlenecks on efficiency. If there are a certain number of cars that have to go through, and you have a bottleneck that restricts flow, you will have a backup. That’s what happens in Playa del Rey.

    It doesn’t make it more efficient to have bottlenecks, or to have made the road narrower to begin with.

    It is a simple formula to calculate the total length of vehicles plus gaps that must pass relative to the area of the street. More lanes will allow the same number of cars to pass in the same amount of time at a slower speed. If you decrease the number of lanes, you must INCREASE the speed to have the same amount of car traffic in the same amount of time, Richard.

    The best solution is more lanes with other means to prevent speeding, since, as you imply, cars speed up if they can. You want increased capacity without excessive speed, not decreased capacity.

  • Vooch
  • Jon Patrick

    Do you have a link to the 16-page document?

  • William Wickwire
  • rett bryson

    who cares bonin is still corrupt and has kicked out long term affordable housing residents in venice vis-a-vis carl lambert. besides bonin unilaterally made these decisions along with the horrific venice median project without proper community input. people are sick of politicians ramming things down our throats.

  • SO…stop saying that commuters all think that speed is all that matters.
    Where did I ever say anything remotely close to that? You are the one who keeps going on and on and on about how cars being slowed is “contrary” to the stated goals of Measure M…then directly contradicting yourself and claiming that the City should focus on slowing cars to avoid installing bikeways.

  • You’re conflating the two topics…much like the anti-Bonin propaganda does. As explained in the article above, the Measure M money was NOT used for this road diet project, but will be used for Vision Zero projects in the future.

  • William Wickwire

    You wrote “fast cars does not equal reduced traffic” and I agreed with that. The IMPLICATION there is that you think I believe traffic should be sped up.
    I didn’t say that either.
    I said speed should be optimized, according to experts. And that aligns with common sense.
    I then went on to say that if bikes are to feel comfortable on the road, optimal is 20-25 MPH.
    The other part of common sense is that if you have a certain number of cars that must go through an area in a certain amount of time, that more cars will get through in the same amount of time if they are moving consistently than if they are stopped. So in that regard, commuter traffic should be sped up (per Measure M, synchronized signals and that sort of thing.
    Cars also need to SLOW down at other times of the day to improve safety. It is a delicate balance. Choking cars to a crawl does nothing except making people crazy and extending the peak time of commuting.
    So actually, you need to re-read what i wrote, Marven, and also check out the link I posted that discusses protected bike lanes.