The Brentwood News recently met with Bill Rosendahl in his City Hall office to discuss his years in office and to learn of any advice he has for his successor, Mike Bonin.
Very few questions were asked; Bill just started talking and never really stopped for a full hour and a half. The audio interview can be found at BrentwoodNewsOnline.com.
Bill spent a lot of time reminiscing about his days with several local cable television companies here in West Los Angeles. One of which, Time-Warner, was started by Westinghouse, later became Century Cable, then Adelphia â€“ and eventually Time Warner.
Leonard Tow, Bill’s boss in the very early days, was taking a walk along the beach with Bill one day and suggested to him that because of Bill’s passion for politics, Bill should consider hosting a political talk show.
Bill had been involved in several political campaigns, including those of Bobby Kennedy and George McGovern, men who ran for president in 1968 and 1972, respectively.
Bill said he immediately grasped the potential in this opportunity and jumped on to it. â€œI grabbed the brass ring,â€ he said. Over time, the show â€“ â€œWeek in Reviewâ€ â€“ enabled Bill to become something of a local celebrity in his own right.
He said that over the years, just about everywhere he went, people would come up to him to tell him that they had recently seen him on TV. He said he would often ask them what he said. They often could not remember, but they knew he had said something.
One day he walked into a restaurant and Johnny Carson, the comedian, immediately invited Bill to sit down. Johnny Carson lived in Malibu at the time, and said he watched Bill’s show regularly â€“ and even picked up pointers from Bill on interviewing techniques.
Bill said he always wanted participants in his show to feel like they were having conversation in his living room â€“ and the only thing that mattered was the truth.
Bill said he always did his best to approach all interviews from a position of neutrality, and even though people in the room might take different positions, Bill did not. He was there to simply keep the conversation flowing.
â€œMany really didn’t know where I stood on the issues,â€ he said.
â€œI would look people in the eyes, make them feel comfortable and give them a safe space. Before you know it, they forget the camera is even there.â€
He always went into a show with a list of questions â€“ â€œjust in caseâ€ â€“ but he rarely used his questions. He said that the best conversations happened when he simply listened and followed up on what participants said.
He also never imposed a time limit on people; he just did his best to make sure everybody got equal airtime. He made a point of making sure that not only were the invited guests balanced ideologically; he also made sure there were always two men and two women sitting around the table.
Bill said he strongly believes that the world would be a better place if women occupied 50% of the positions of power.
â€œThat show impacted a lot of important people â€“ it had a multiplier effect.â€ Bill said he instinctively got the symbiotic relationship between actors, journalists and politics.
â€œThe show helped to connect people,â€ he said. As important people took note of Bill’s show, the word got out. His goal was always to inform, educate and empower people via the media. There is no doubt in Bill’s mind that the show positioned him perfectly to run for office when he did.
Bill lamented the state of modern-day journalism, which has a tendency to reduce everything down to trivial sound bites. He also said that kids today, who seem to get most or all of their news on cell phones or tablets, really aren’t getting the full story.
He is currently exploring the possibility of getting back into public-service journalism with the hope of giving people sufficient airtime to fully explain the relevance, complexity and importance of issues â€“ kind of an antidote to today’s sound bite format.
Bill called his style of journalism â€œGood News.â€ His style, he believes, helps overcome all of the negativity that exists in our society and on the air. â€œPositive energy is helpful for the human condition â€“ period.â€
Bill then turned highly spiritual: â€œMy philosophy is simple,â€ he said. â€œGod is love. Love yourself. Love your neighbor as yourself. And don’t judge.â€
This philosophy, he said, â€œallows us to connect all of humanity and all of nature into one envelope. And that entwined energy nurtures the human condition. It’s as simple as that.â€
Bill said that over the years, he has taken in several homeless people at his residence in Mar Vista. â€œThe more I help other people, the more it helps me.â€
At his home, he raises chickens, cats, rabbits, birds, bees and frogs. He grows black bamboo and has a little statue of Buddha in his garden.
He said that he can almost always tell you what time of day the sun rose this morning and what time the sun will set tonight. He knows when the full moon is coming.
Every morning, he wakes up with the rising sun, and goes outside to meditate, pray and provide food and water to the animals. He said that when he meets with people later in the day, he is already filled with positive energy.
He does not believe the glass is half-empty; he believes it is either half-full or even completely full. Bill thinks it is important to recognize all the positives that exist in our lives â€“ a beautiful sunny day, the fact that we live in the richest nation on earth and in such an amazing part of the world â€“ West Los Angeles. And, he added, progress really does take place in the public policy arena.
Bill was quite proud about the fact that he recently got the Crenshaw line to stop in Westchester. This will be an important connector for some of his constituents to the rest of Los Angeles, he said.
He was also happy that he helped get a proper burial for Indian remains at Playa Vista and that, by slowing down the development there and asking for concessions, the development, in his view, became better as a result.
Bill said that, unlike our national and state politics, Los Angeles city politics are, for the most part, non-ideological. It’s all about infrastructure issues â€“ fixing roads, land-use issues, expanding public transportation, giving the police and fire departments the resources they need.
During the interview, Bill’s cell phone rang. He took the call, responding to a lady in West Hollywood who has over 100 cats in her house. Clearly the lady has issues, he noted, but he always tries to be helpful anyway â€“ and in this case the individual was not even a constituent.
Not only did she not live in Council District 11, she does not even live in Los Angeles. But Bill agreed he would talk to someone in West Hollywood in an attempt to help her resolve an issue she was having with the city. After hanging up, he called a staffer into the room and asked for a quick follow-up.
Then Bill returned to his true passion: national politics. He said it was difficult to reconcile the idea that we live in the richest nation on earth, and yet we have so many homeless people â€“ and that we are continually running off to fight pointless overseas wars.
Bill, a social worker by training, served in the US Army and was a counselor to veterans returning from Vietnam. He said huge damage takes place in these conflicts, and that veterans often suffer lifelong physical and psychiatric scars as a result.
He said, in a way, things are worse now than during the Vietnam War because today there is no draft. Since only 1% of our country serves in the military, the other 99% of the citizens don’t worry so much about such matters. During most of the Vietnam conflict, there was a draft in place, which many think fueled the protest movement. Those who opposed the war didn’t hesitate to speak out.
In Bill’s opinion, veterans are not receiving the medical and psychiatric attention they need. He went so far as to say that this is creating a â€œdomestic threat.â€ A frustrated, damaged or angry veteran back from Iraq or Afghanistan can often take it out on friends, spouses and others.
There are many reports, he said, of former soldiers beating up people, shooting people, and abusing drugs or alcohol. This can lead to a downward spiral, with many of these individuals ending up homeless and on the streets. Bill said there are now more suicides per year among those who are serving or who recently served than Americans getting killed in the actual combat.
Bill said he believes our local VA facility in West Los Angeles is highly underutilized, and that much more should be done to provide services and shelter for returning veterans.
Bill said Americans would be smart to think back to what Dwight Eisenhower said â€“ that there is a military-industrial complex that will always push for war.
But, noted Bill, every country that has ever attempted to play the role of world cop inevitably crumbled from within at some point.
â€œThese are crazy wars,â€ he said. â€œIt’s time to do nation-building here in America,â€ he added.
Bill had much to say about Brentwood specifically. He said this neighborhood is â€œa very rich and privileged geographyâ€ that has dramatic impact on world politics. Politicians of all stripes come here from all over the country to do their fundraising, and many showbiz moguls, CEOs, lawyers and elected officials live here.
â€œBrentwood is engaged on all the issues. It is a phenomenally global community.â€ When all of this influence and power are marshaled for a good cause, he added, there can be a huge multiplier effect.
He also noted that Brentwood can be quite confrontational when a divisive issue arises â€“ and that people are not shy about expressing their views. Bill said he is happy to try to mediate issues, but that it is important to let the process play out â€“ and to find out what community members really want.
In an earlier interview with the Brentwood News about a year ago â€“ on a completely different topic â€“ Bill said that democracy, despite its messiness and flaws, is still a very beautiful thing.
His advice for his successor, Mike Bonin, is pretty simple: listen first; do your homework; empower the people. This is Mike’s natural style, said Bill, and Bill is very happy to see Mike succeed him.
Bill said that he would not be giving Mike advice â€“ unless Mike asks for it. For example, Bill said, even though he is in favor of keeping the stop sign at Mayfield and Bundy â€“ â€œpedestrians matter firstâ€ â€“ he said it will now be up to Mike to figure out what to do.
Bill said he did not think that speed bumps or humps would be a good alternative to the stop sign, because fire truck and ambulance drivers really don’t like speed bumps.
And people who live close to them also object to speed bumps and humps, because noise is made every time a vehicle drives over them. â€œThe noise drives people crazy,â€ he said.
He noted that, because of his cancer, he rode a few times in an ambulance. Going over the bumps was â€œmurderous,â€ he said.
Bill said that because council district offices handle so many constituents, either the city should give city council offices more staff â€“ or that the city bureaucracies should take over more of the responsibility for solving problems.
Bill said he prefers the first option, because he thinks elected officials are more accountable to the people.
As Bill begins to explore his next chapter, he is excited to tackle a project he has been thinking about for a long time: He wants to install solar panels on his roof.
He said up until now, the economics didn’t make sense, but we are finally becoming competitive in the solar power arena. He said that in Southern California especially, solar power just makes sense.
So, Bill will now do what he has always done: Keep moving forward, and keep thinking â€“ and projecting â€“ positive thoughts.
â€œThere’s a lot of negativity out there,â€ he said. â€œYou’ve got to throw positivity out there. Every day good stuff happens.â€