Josef Bray-Ali

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The winds of change

The winds of change are blowing in Los Angeles.

My run for  the city council seat in the 1st district has reached a big milestone today: I qualified for the March 7, 2017 ballot with over 1,000 signatures! Only 500 valid signatures are required to appear on the ballot in a city council election.

There is an urgent need for change in city hall. Our signature gathering effort, powered by over 50 volunteers from the community, proves you don’t need to be bankrolled by developers and special interests to find success in local politics.

I am very honored to have the support of so many concerned people in the community! I would also like to thank my campaign team for coordinating this effort, and my wife and young daughter for hitting the streets to see that this task gets done.

A full press release can be downloaded here.

 

Press Releases and Photo Ops aren’t cutting it

The Lincoln Park Pool and Bathhouse had its reconstruction funding raided. Press stunts and PR promises from the incumbent mean more long, hot, summers for locals.

In 2013, right after the current CD1 incumbent got into office, he raided $5,000,000+ from the Lincoln Park Pool and Bathhouse. You can see the motion for yourself: CF 13-1395-S3. Here are the facts:

  1. The Fiscal Year 2013-2014 Capital Improvement Expenditure Program (CIEP) had $1,992,505 that was set aside for the Lincoln Park Pool. This money was transferred away from the pool to the Community Development Block Grant program.
  2. The Lincoln Park Pool fund was raided a 2nd time in the same motion. The Lincoln Park Pool and Bathhouse Project had $5,900,000 set aside for it in the FY 2013-2014 CIEP. This fund had $3,029,652 taken from it.

The pool, in this one motion, had $5,022,157 taken from it. The CD1 incumbent’s action, taken with zero community input, means the pool has remained closed for the entirety of his term in office and will remain closed for years to come.

After several hot summers in a row, we have received no relief from the heat and no relief from the stonewalling by the CD1 incumbent

Some unfamiliar with the area have recommended our youth travel to the pool at Downey Recreation Center. The young people from the area around Lincoln Park have not followed this recommendation for two reasons. First, the trip from Lincoln Park to the Downey Recreation Center is dangerous due to multiple unsafe intersections that enable speeding and risky driver behavior. Second, Lincoln Park has a long standing gang rivalry with the gang in the Clover neighborhood around the Downey Recreation Center. Faced with peril from broken and dangerous streets, compounded with the added risk of harassment, intimidation, or violence the youth in the area around Lincoln Park Pool have stayed put – paying a steep price for the CD1 incumbent councilman’s actions.

A consistent pattern has played out during the incumbents term in office: ignore and downplay community needs, paper over everything with press releases. The latest media stunt: a “groundbreaking” on Monday, November 7, 2016 with no ground being broken and no construction contracts signed, a promise of “done by 2019!” to put on the shelf with all the other empty promises and press releases. Many more long, hot, summers stand between the youth of Lincoln Heights and a functioning Lincoln Pool and Bathhouse.

On a personal note, this is my neighborhood park. I live just a block away. Making sure our kids have access to amenities like a local pool is critical in this neighborhood. A responsive and concerned council office would openly work with all stakeholders on a project like this. Robbing the construction fund for the Lincoln Park pool in 2013-2014 has cost thousands of local kids many summers worth of healthy fun.

We deserve better in Lincoln Heights. We deserve better in the 1st council district.

-Joe Bray-Ali

Staying Positive in MacArthur Park

How do you stay positive when your day-to-day experiences in the city drag you down? For me, this campaign offers an opportunity to take the negative experiences and channel them into positive change. A recent trip to MacArthur Park tested my ability to stay positive about things in the district.


On a recent trip to MacArthur Park I experienced the discomfort and disgust that is all too common when one tries to use a public restroom at a park in the district. A recent beautification project in the park is a stark reminder of how deeply out-of-touch the current administration is with the human needs of district residents and visitors. Towards the end of my visit, I had a bit of hope restored by a group of volunteers doing a clean up.

macarthurparklevitt

The Levitt Pavillion in MacArthur Park serves as an informal daytime shelter for the homeless.

One recent morning, between meetings in the MacArthur Park, nature called. I rushed over to the bathrooms in the park and had to wait in the sun for about 20 minutes to use the only functioning bathroom (out of three) attached to the Levitt Pavilion. The other two were being used as showers by homeless people or were simply closed with no notice posted.

While I was waiting to use the only available bathroom, a young man shuffled up and rattled the handle on the locked door. I told him they were all occupied. He walked off and urinated in the bushes. The area outside the bathroom has obviously been used as an open air toilet quite recently (the smell gave it away).

When I finally got in, the bathroom was a horrible mess, the door wouldn’t lock properly, and the toilet didn’t flush!

macarthurparkdoor

There are parks employees on site – do they use these toilets during their work day? If so, one would think they have valid grounds for a lawsuit. There is a large soccer field, a performance space pavilion, lots of outdoor seating, two large playgrounds, bus stops and a subway station nearby. Thousands of residents pass by, and through, all day.

macarthurparksigntrash

Overall it was an uncomfortable, humiliating, dehumanizing experience. I can’t imagine how bad it gets in the evenings when everyone is in the park playing and socializing. When there are teams of soccer players and kids with their parents – and this is what we’re met with when nature calls.

MacArthur Park recently had a $2.1 million decorative gate installed by the incumbent councilman. To me, that is a moral crime given the on-the-ground conditions in the park bathrooms.

It’s not all bad news! After my epic wait for the bathroom I ran into a group of people with gloves and plastic bags walking through the park picking up trash. They didn’t have the Parks Department vests all official parks volunteers wear (after being fingerprinted, etc.). It was a group based in Hollywood that believes in public service. The man in charge of the clean-up said it had taken months of dropped email threads and un-returned phone calls with the current councilman to arrange for a city dumpster to be made available to assist his organization in their clean up efforts.

macartherpark-cleanup

This volunteer clean-up group worked quickly, picking up nearly every scrap of paper and debris. “It doesn’t seem to take all that much to make things a bit better,” I thought, “We just need some support from city hall every once in a while.”
We are always told it’s a lack of resources that keep our districts’ parks filthy and broken. I don’t buy it. I don’t believe it. We are the largest most powerful city in the most powerful state in the greatest country on the face of the Earth. We have people banging on the door to volunteer their services to improve park conditions. What is broken, what is lacking, is the stewardship in our local council office.

I’m trying to stay positive, but negative experiences like the one I had that morning in MacArthur Park make it hard.

I want to go on the attack, to yell, to shout, to protest – but when the incumbent has his ears plugged and his heart closed, what is the point of that?

No, We need to do something else.

We need to organize.

We need to fundraise.

We need to come together with our neighbors across the district to meet our collective, and very human, needs.

DONATE HERE

Joe Bray-Ali Speaks In Favor of Affordable Housing Policy

Yesterday at the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, I spoke in favor of Council File CF 14-1325, a joint Huizar/O’Farrell motion to investigate something called “value capture” in the City of Los Angeles. You can hear my comment by clicking on the play button below (I recorded it using my cell phone, so the quality isn’t the greatest).

What is value capture?

Value capture takes a lot of forms in cities across the U.S. What this value capture motion is about is making any big increases in land value due to city council action (like an increased allowance for height, lot coverage, etc.) also come with some strings attached. For example, if the city allowed a big project to get even bigger, a value capture law would require the developers to include affordable housing on-site or pay into a special fund to build affordable housing elsewhere in the city.

A real-life example

I made this short Instagram video to show a site in Chinatown that is a perfect example of where a value capture law could help create affordable housing.

 

This 5.25 acre site, located at 924 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, and is across the street from the Metro Gold Line Chinatown Station. It is called the College Station project and it was featured in a KPCC report last year about developers getting around affordable housing rules and zoning law.

College Street Project in Chinatown

The property was bought in the early 2000’s and the buyers submitted plans for a project much bigger than allowed. The council approved the plans and the project was sold at a considerable profit to the current owner, Atlas Capital. The plans for the site currently include 685 market rate apartments, with exactly zero set-asides for affordable housing.

If a value capture law were in place, some of that big profit would be put into building affordable units on-site, or paid into a special affordable housing fund to build those units somewhere else in the city.

Why did I comment?

Los Angeles is having a housing crisis. The crisis has been building for years, yet the city council has been slow to act on important legislation like this Huizar/O’Farrell value capture proposal. Why has the city council found it so difficult to produce any meaningful answers for a city in crisis? Gil Cedillo, as chair of the Housing Committee, is acting as a road block for any affordable housing policies (value capture, Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) reform and protections, etc.) because they cut into the massive profits of the luxury developers that make up his donor base.

I commented in the PLUM committee yesterday to commend the council for pushing through Cedillo’s road block in order to pass laws that will ensure Los Angeles is a city for all people of all economic levels.

As councilmember in CD1, I will fight for policies that help stop the loss of affordable housing.  I am committed to building Safe Streets and Strong Neighborhoods – and we can’t do that if we can’t afford to live in our home town!

NELA to CicLAvia bike ride with Joe Bray-Ali on Sunday, August 14, 2016

CicLAvia is here again! This Sunday, August 14, 2016 at 8 a.m. join city council candidate Joe Bray-Ali on a bike ride from North East Los Angeles to the One Wilshire Hub for CicLAvia.

Meet at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop at 3404 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065 on Sunday, August 14, 2016 at 8 a.m. We will roll out at 8:30 a.m.

There is a Facebook event for this ride.

Kids, cargo bikes, road bikes, tandems, eBikes, come one, come all. No need to make a reservation.

The shop will be open for about 30 minutes before we depart for One Wishire at 8:30 a.m. for last minute tire inflation.

What you will need for this ride:

  • a functioning bicycle;
  • extra water;
  • and a smile!

What you will NOT need for this ride:

  • helmet (CA law = 18 and under need one; 18+ do as you please);
  • signed release;
  • reservations (no need to call ahead).

Parking is available on-street. A lovely cafe, Antigua Cultural Coffee House, will be open if you want to get here early and relax before the ride.

The Flying Pigeon LA bike shop is located adjacent the Metro Gold Line between two stations: Cypress Park/Lincoln Heights or Heritage Square. The address is 3404 N. Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90065.

The shop is also conveniently served by the 24-hour 81 bus and 83 bus lines run by Metro.

There is a Facebook event for this ride.

Any questions? hello@joe4cd1.com or @joe4cd1 on Twitter

David vs. Goliath: a grass roots campaign against a money machine

Today is the Ethics Commission deadline to file campaign contributions forms for the period January 1, 2016 to June 30, 2016. It’s also a good time to share some news from a real grass roots campaign for city council in Los Angeles.

First, the campaign filing info (you can get the official documents at ethics.lacity.org). I filed papers to run for office with the State of California and the LA Ethics Commission in mid-June of 2016. It took extra time to open a proper bank account, get an ActBlue donation page setup, schedule some small meet-and-greet fundraisers and publish this web-site. In that short span, the campaign brought in about $5,500 from individual donors; averaging $100 per donor (these are not exact figures). Most folks donated between $5 and $50, and just about everyone lives in or near the district.

My rival, the incumbent, has raised close to $250,000 – money from special interest groups, big real estate developers, and lots of money from outside the district. This is no surprise: he thinks he can afford to ignore our communities’ interests. It is hard to spot the incumbent or his staff around Council District 1 these days!

A volunteer plants donated seedlings at a "Work Party" I organized at a small community garden in Highland Park.

A volunteer plants donated seedlings at a “Work Party” I organized at a small community garden in Highland Park.

I am committed to being a different kind of councilmember. I have been attending many Neighborhood Council meetings and community events. I have run several gardening work parties. Concerned community members have hosted small group talks, and hikes, with me and their neighbors.

The view from my seat in the audience at a recent Echo Park Neighborhood Council meeting.

The view from my seat in the audience at a recent Echo Park Neighborhood Council meeting.

I’ve been taking notes, getting caught up on all the latest neighborhood gossip, construction news, nuisances, happy stories, and hard luck tales. This district is home to approximately 250,000 people. We deserve a representative that cares about our lives, our stories. We deserve a representative with a vision to improve our quality of life, the safety of our streets, and strengthening the best of what exists in this district.

The money that has been donated to my campaign has been put to work directly – securing the printed material and technology needed to win in 2017. The donations my campaign received come from small donors, from the people, not the corporations and special interests – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I organized a work party to repair a fleet of bicycles for formerly homeless kids living in transitional housing. Here I am fixing a flat tire on one of their bicycles.

I organized a work party to repair a fleet of bicycles for formerly homeless kids living in transitional housing. Here I am fixing a flat tire on one of their bicycles.

This is what a grass roots campaign looks like.

If you’d like to join the movement to have a city council district for the people, not the big money donors, you can add your $20.17 and I’ll deliver that change!

-Josef Bray-Ali

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