Cedillo Claims Victory With 70% of Vote

May 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

After widely being expected to win re-election outright in March, Councilman Gilbert “Gil” Cedillo finally declared victory Tuesday, crushing challenger Joe Bray-Ali in the 1st Council District runoff, completing the downfall of a once-hopeful challenger.

Unofficial results posted Wednesday on the Los Angeles City Clerk website had Cedillo with a commanding lead, 70.5 percent to Bray-Ali’s 29.4 percent. Too few votes remain to be counted to put a dent in Cedillo’s landslide win.

The 1st Council District includes Chinatown, Highland Park, Lincoln Heights, Pico-Union, Westlake and other east and northeast neighborhoods.

(Gil Cedillo Twitter)

(Gil Cedillo Twitter)

Workers from both campaigns were out in full force Election Day, knocking on doors and making phone calls on behalf of their candidate right up to the polls closing.

Standing outside his polling place at the Lincoln Heights Senior Center Tuesday, Adrian Aceves said he voted for Cedillo because the councilman does what’s right for Latinos: “Who else can we trust,” the 72-year-old said in Spanish.

“I’m here [at the center] all the time and all the seniors like me are voting for him because he’s really cleaning things up and making things better.”

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the center was nearly deserted. Aceves said it had been like that all day. Poll workers said the turnout had been “steady,” with a short rush around 5 p.m.

There are 2,075,452 registered voters in the city, but only 175,683 votes were cast citywide, putting the turnout at about 8.46 percent. Over half the ballots, 107,413 were vote-by-mail. In Council District 1, with just 12,481 ballots to count election night, it did not take long for the election results to start rolling in.

Claiming victory early Tuesday night in front of a packed room of supporters gathered at the Tree House Lounge in Chinatown, Cedillo said voters in the 1st District “…chose experience, they chose an incredible record.” He said voters selected the candidate “who wants to bring people together.”

The incumbent councilman pledged to continue working closely with the community on making progress in Council District 1.

Cedillo’s challenger, Bray-Ali, turned heads when he forced Cedillo into the runoff because he has never held elective office, and no incumbent has been beaten in a City Council election since 2003.

But Bray-Ali’s post primary momentum took a major hit in late April when a series of racist and derogatory statements he had made online came to light, causing him to lose a number of key endorsements, despite his attempts to explain away the comments as having been taken out of context.

One of the posts included the racial slur known as the N-word, and others appeared to mock overweight people and the transgender community. Following the revelations, Bray-Ali was denounced by numerous civil rights and LGBT leaders in Los Angeles, and seven City Council members called for him to drop out of the race.

Outside the Highland Park Recreation Center Tuesday, about an hour before the polls closed, Martha, who preferred not to use her last name, said she voted for Bray-Ali because at least “he could make a fresh start for the district.”

“I had a lot of hope when I voted for Cedillo when he first ran, but he let me down,” Martha said.

“My family is all immigrants, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing I care about,” she said. “Joe has a lot of bad stuff to make up for, so maybe we can pressure him into doing more things for us,” the mother of three told EGP.

Cedillo supporters say the councilman has not been given enough credit for what he has done in the district, pointing out that his trash hauling and bulky item removal programs have been expanded citywide by Mayor Garcetti. They hailed his decades of work on behalf of undocumented immigrants and workers.

In a Facebook post Monday appealing to voters to turn out, Becca Dotten praised Cedillo’s “long commitment to the environment, in particularly ensuring environmental justice in low-income communities. He has helped create and revitalize acres upon acres of park space, including along the LA River and LA State Park.” She also praised his efforts to build affordable housing.

Celebrating with Cedillo Tuesday was a who’s who of progressive current and former elected officials, business interests, labor groups, and immigrant rights and community activists.

Cedillo had a long list of endorsements, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, eight City Council members, Gov. Jerry Brown and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California.

“Congratulations to Gil Cedillo on his well-deserved re-election that ensures we can continue building stronger neighborhoods and standing up for the most vulnerable Angelenos,” Garcetti said.

Cedillo also had the support of the powerful, 600,000 member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which through a committee spent $300,000 on the incumbent’s campaign, on top of the over $500,000 Cedillo’s campaign raised from other sources.

“The voters showed that experience, ability and empathy matter. Council District One remains in good hands,” wrote Dotten Tuesday.

Cedillo closed out his comments Tuesday by thanking supporters, telling them, “I know what you’ve done, I know how hard your worked, I know your prayers, I know your commitments, I know your positive thoughts, I know all that you’ve done to get us to this point, and for that I say thank you and God bless …”

Information from City News Service used in this report.

 

Cedillo Claims Victory With 70% of Vote

May 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

After widely being expected to win re-election outright in March, Councilman Gilbert “Gil” Cedillo finally declared victory Tuesday, crushing challenger Joe Bray-Ali in the 1st Council District runoff, completing the downfall of a once-hopeful challenger.

Unofficial results posted Wednesday on the Los Angeles City Clerk website had Cedillo with a commanding lead, 70.5 percent to Bray-Ali’s 29.4 percent. Too few votes remain to be counted to put a dent in Cedillo’s landslide win.

The 1st Council District includes Chinatown, Highland Park, Lincoln Heights, Pico-Union, Westlake and other east and northeast neighborhoods.

(Gil Cedillo Twitter)

(Gil Cedillo Twitter)

Workers from both campaigns were out in full force Election Day, knocking on doors and making phone calls on behalf of their candidate right up to the polls closing.

Standing outside his polling place at the Lincoln Heights Senior Center Tuesday, Adrian Aceves said he voted for Cedillo because the councilman does what’s right for Latinos: “Who else can we trust,” the 72-year-old said in Spanish.

“I’m here [at the center] all the time and all the seniors like me are voting for him because he’s really cleaning things up and making things better.”

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the center was nearly deserted. Aceves said it had been like that all day. Poll workers said the turnout had been “steady,” with a short rush around 5 p.m.

There are 2,075,452 registered voters in the city, but only 175,683 votes were cast citywide, putting the turnout at about 8.46 percent. Over half the ballots, 107,413 were vote-by-mail. In Council District 1, with just 12,481 ballots to count election night, it did not take long for the election results to start rolling in.

Claiming victory early Tuesday night in front of a packed room of supporters gathered at the Tree House Lounge in Chinatown, Cedillo said voters in the 1st District “…chose experience, they chose an incredible record.” He said voters selected the candidate “who wants to bring people together.”

The incumbent councilman pledged to continue working closely with the community on making progress in Council District 1.

Cedillo’s challenger, Bray-Ali, turned heads when he forced Cedillo into the runoff because he has never held elective office, and no incumbent has been beaten in a City Council election since 2003.

But Bray-Ali’s post primary momentum took a major hit in late April when a series of racist and derogatory statements he had made online came to light, causing him to lose a number of key endorsements, despite his attempts to explain away the comments as having been taken out of context.

One of the posts included the racial slur known as the N-word, and others appeared to mock overweight people and the transgender community. Following the revelations, Bray-Ali was denounced by numerous civil rights and LGBT leaders in Los Angeles, and seven City Council members called for him to drop out of the race.

Outside the Highland Park Recreation Center Tuesday, about an hour before the polls closed, Martha, who preferred not to use her last name, said she voted for Bray-Ali because at least “he could make a fresh start for the district.”

“I had a lot of hope when I voted for Cedillo when he first ran, but he let me down,” Martha said.

“My family is all immigrants, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing I care about,” she said. “Joe has a lot of bad stuff to make up for, so maybe we can pressure him into doing more things for us,” the mother of three told EGP.

Cedillo supporters say the councilman has not been given enough credit for what he has done in the district, pointing out that his trash hauling and bulky item removal programs have been expanded citywide by Mayor Garcetti. They hailed his decades of work on behalf of undocumented immigrants and workers.

In a Facebook post Monday appealing to voters to turn out, Becca Dotten praised Cedillo’s “long commitment to the environment, in particularly ensuring environmental justice in low-income communities. He has helped create and revitalize acres upon acres of park space, including along the LA River and LA State Park.” She also praised his efforts to build affordable housing.

Celebrating with Cedillo Tuesday was a who’s who of progressive current and former elected officials, business interests, labor groups, and immigrant rights and community activists.

Cedillo had a long list of endorsements, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, eight City Council members, Gov. Jerry Brown and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California.

“Congratulations to Gil Cedillo on his well-deserved re-election that ensures we can continue building stronger neighborhoods and standing up for the most vulnerable Angelenos,” Garcetti said.

Cedillo also had the support of the powerful, 600,000 member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which through a committee spent $300,000 on the incumbent’s campaign, on top of the over $500,000 Cedillo’s campaign raised from other sources.

“The voters showed that experience, ability and empathy matter. Council District One remains in good hands,” wrote Dotten Tuesday.

Cedillo closed out his comments Tuesday by thanking supporters, telling them, “I know what you’ve done, I know how hard your worked, I know your prayers, I know your commitments, I know your positive thoughts, I know all that you’ve done to get us to this point, and for that I say thank you and God bless …”

Information from City News Service used in this report.

 

Cedillo Wins Big In Council Race

May 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Councilman Gil Cedillo was celebrating a commanding re-election victory Wednesday over an opponent whose campaign fizzled amid a wave of questionable internet posts condemned by critics as derogatory and racially insensitive.

Cedillo, who narrowly missed being re-elected during the March primary, crushed challenger Joe Bray-Ali in Tuesday’s runoff, completing the downfall of a once-hopeful challenger.

Bray-Ali turned heads when he forced Cedillo into the runoff because he has never held elective office, and no incumbent has been beaten in a City Council election since 2003.

Unofficial results posted Wednesday on the Los Angeles City Clerk website has Cedillo with a commanding lead, 79.5 percent to Bray-Ali’s 29.4 percent.

The 1st Council District includes Chinatown, Highland Park, Westlake and other northeast Los Angeles neighborhoods.

A billboard for urging the public to vote for Councilman Gil Cedillo is found next to the campaign office of his challenger Joe Bray-Ali. (Photo by Diana Martinez)

A billboard for urging the public to vote for Councilman Gil Cedillo is found next to the campaign office of his challenger Joe Bray-Ali. (Photo by Diana Martinez)

Bray-Ali’s post primary momentum took a major hit in late April when a series of racist and derogatory statements he had made online came to light, causing him to lose a number of key endorsements, despite his attempts to explain away the comments as having been taken out of context.

Claiming victory early Tuesday night in front of a packed room of supporters gathered at the Tree House Lounge in Chinatown, Cedillo said voters in the 1st District “…chose experience, they chose an incredible record.” He said voters selected the candidate “who wants to bring people together.”

The incumbent councilman pledged to continue working closely with the community on making progress in Council District 1.

Celebrating with Cedillo was a who’s who of progressive current and former elected officials, business interests, labor groups, and immigrant rights and community activists.

Cedillo had a long list of endorsements, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, eight City Council members, Gov. Jerry Brown and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California. He also had the support of the powerful, 600,000 member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which through a committee spent $300,000 on the incumbent’s campaign, on top of the over $500,000 Cedillo’s campaign raised from other sources.

Cedillo closed out his comments Tuesday by thanking supporters, telling them, “I know what you’ve done, I know how hard your worked, I know your prayers, I know your commitments, I know your positive thoughts, I know all that you’ve done to get us to this point, and for that I say thank you and God bless …”

Information from City News Service used in this report.

It’s Down to ‘D Day’ in CD1 Race

May 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

In less than a week, voters in Los Angeles’s first district will decide who will represent them in the city council for the next five years.

Next Tuesday is “D Day,” closing out what had been a rough and tumble, volatile campaign between a longtime legislator, incumbent Gil Cedillo and campaign novice and bike-lane advocate, Joe Bray-Ali.

Cedillo, who was elected in 2013, was forced into the May 16 runoff when he fell just short of the required 50 percent to win the race outright in the March 7 primary, finishing with 49.34 percent to Bray-Ali’s 37.97 percent.

For the next month, Bray-Ali appeared to be gaining ground on the incumbent, receiving some high profile endorsements and tapping into voters who felt Cedillo and his staff had not been responsive to the district’s needs.

Cedillo’s campaign looked to turn things around with more events and handshaking, and more aggressively reaching out to voters to let them know what he had being doing to improve public safety and cleanliness in the district, as well as infrastructure repairs and traffic safety enhancements.

Two weeks ago, Cedillo’s campaign got a major boost when Bray-Ali came under fire from LGBT groups, civil rights organizations and numerous elected city officials for a series of racist and derogatory statements he made online, some as recently as one year ago.

He lost key endorsements over comments he made online in which he used the N-word, called gender reassignment surgery a “shameless excess,” used the word “retard” and made other comments which offended leaders in the LGBT and civil rights communities.

Bray-Ali did further injury to his campaign by posting other damaging information about himself, on his Facebook page, in which he admitted to cheating on his wife for years, owing $48,000 in back taxes and committing vandalism.

According to Bray-Ali, he wanted to put the information out before it could be used by the Cedillo campaign to “smear” him.

The revelations led to calls for him to withdraw, but Bray-Ali had pledged to stay in the race until the finish.

Bray-Ali has continued to make campaign appearances and knock on doors in an effort to sway voters in his direction. Whether it’s enough to overcome the controversies surrounding him remains to been seen.

Cedillo, meanwhile, is not taking anything for granted in the wake of Bray-Ali’s seeming downfall. He and his campaign have stepped up efforts to engage voters across the district.

(EGP photo archive)

(EGP photo archive)

Councilman Gil Cedillo, top, will go up against challenger Joe Bray-Ali,bottom, in the L.A. City Council District 1 runoff May 16. (Joe Bray-Ali For City Council District 1)

Councilman Gil Cedillo, top, will go up against challenger Joe Bray-Ali,bottom, in the L.A. City Council District 1 runoff May 16. (Joe Bray-Ali For City Council District 1)

 

Thirty years ago, a landmark court decision on redistricting created what is now the city of Los Angeles’s first council district, that runs from Lincoln Heights to Highland Park, through downtown over to Koreatown, and Westlake.

MAOF, the Mexican Legal Defense and Education Fund, at the time argued in court that Los Angeles leaders had for decades engaged in gerrymandering, drawing district boundary lines that marginalized Latino representation in the voting process. MAOF argued that including the San Fernando Valley in the district had resulted in Latinos being able to potentially only elect one Latino to the city council, and that was in what is now Council District 14.

The courts agreed, and in 1987, the city was forced to reconfigure the district, removing the San Fernando Valley and concentrating CD-1 in northeast, downtown and an area just west of the civic center, thereby creating a second majority-Latino council district.

The district had been represented by a Latino ever since, but according to Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voter Education Project, that could change if longtime voters fail to get out and vote to reelect Council Gil Cedillo over his challenger in the race, Joe Bray-Ali.

His failure to win the primary outright caught Cedillo’s campaign and many eastside leaders by surprise, according to Gonzalez, who in analysis of the campaign released in April noted that it may not have been an “anti-incumbent” trend that forced Cedillo into a runoff, but “the changing demographics and gentrification of the District.”

“CD1 (like CD14 and CD13) is rapidly changing as youthful hipsters/millennials colonize the eastside together with developers looking for redevelopment opportunities,” wrote Gonzalez. “The elderly Chican@ homeowner class is beginning to exit the stage either through death or relocation to greener pastures (i.e. suburbs),” thus crating “unforeseen challenges for Cedillo.”

Based on that analysis, turn out remains a critical issue for both campaigns.

But according to Gonzalez, the odds favor Cedillo, because “high propensity voters in CD1 tend to be older, Latin@ and white homeowners that typically favor incumbents in low turnout races.

“Add to that Cedillo’s unique ability to attract down-scale Mexican and Salvadoran naturalized voters grateful for his generation-long advocacy for immigrants,” says Gonzalez, and it appears Cedillo has a “winning coalition” that could spur him onto victory, despite Bray-A1i’s appeal as “something new” to voters willing to overlook his many transgressions.

Despite Growing Criticism, Bray-Ali Says He Will Not Drop Out of Race

May 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

An embattled first-time political candidate for city council went on the defensive Wednesday, posting a video on his campaign’s Facebook page claiming recent media reports about his character – or lack thereof – are nothing more than a political “distraction” and a “misrepresentation and mischaracterization not only of my words but who I am as a person.”

Joe Bray-Ali is challenging Councilman Gil Cedillo in the 1st Council District, and has come under intense fire from LGBT groups, civil rights organizations and numerous elected city officials for a series of racist and derogatory statements he made online, some as recently as one year ago.

Cedillo was forced into the May 16 runoff when he fell just short of the required 50 percent of the vote on March 7, finishing with 49.34 percent to Bray-Ali’s 37.97 percent.

Several groups have criticized Bray-Ali as seeming ‘un-repentant” for comments he made online in which he used the N-word, called gender reassignment surgery a “shameless excess,” used the word “retard” and made other comments which offended leaders in the LGBT and civil rights communities.

On Wednesday, a small group of veterans added their voices to the growing number of critics calling for Bray-Ali to withdraw from the race.

Although the vets do not represent any official veterans organization, a spokesman for the group, Mark Quiroz, said the vets are angered over a 2006 blog post from Bray-Ali in which he wrote, “Let people burn the flag all they want, let ‘em put it in their avant-garde art videos smeared in poo, let them destroy it.”

Quiroz said Bray-Ali was asked by a veteran at a candidate forum on April 19 to apologize for the comments and he declined.

“He was given the opportunity to apologize in an open forum and he refused to,” said Quiroz, a former member of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council, adding that the veterans do not plan to endorse Cedillo.

In a Facebook video posted Wednesday, Bray-Ali said his words were taken out of context, and that what he wrote in the 2006 blog post was a response opposing legislative action to ban flag burning, and he was saying the flag is not the people.

A group of military veterans gathered at the Highland Park Veterans Memorial Wednesday call for Joe Bray-Ali to withdraw over comments he made about flag burning in 2006 on blog post. (Courtesy of Al C. Strange)

A group of military veterans gathered at the Highland Park Veterans Memorial Wednesday call for Joe Bray-Ali to withdraw over comments he made about flag burning in 2006 on blog post. (Courtesy of Al C. Strange)

Discovery of the postings, characterized as racist, transphobic and misogynist, prompted the Los Angeles Times and City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell and the Eastside Democratic Club last week to rescind their endorsements. Bray-Ali was also denounced by City Controller Ron Galperin and seven City Council members and numerous leaders from the LGBT and civil rights communities have called for him to pull out of the race.

The endorsements had been a significant boost for Bray-Ali, a former bicycle shop owner who has never held political office.

After losing the endorsements, Bray-Ali decided to come forward with other damaging information about himself, and in a Facebook post admitted to habitually cheating on his wife for years, owing $48,000 in back taxes and committing vandalism.

According to Bray-Ali, he wanted to put the information out before it could be used by the Cedillo campaign to “smear” him.

Bray-Ali opened the post by saying, “Here is the dirt on me.” The post then said:

—“Flying Pigeon-LA LLC owes the State Board of Equalization for a failure to pay an audit and several quarters of sales taxes. The amount is ~$48,000 the last time I bothered to open the envelope.’

—“I slept with several other women from 2011 to 2014. Not my wife. For a time I even had a Tinder profile.’

—“I painted bike symbols (sharrows) in the middle of the night with friends, and on camera with German documentary filmmaker.’

—“I have said many profane, rude, statements to people I’ve gotten into arguments with online.’

In a new video posted Wednesday, Bray-Ali said he has trained as an anthropologist and is interested in listening to people who I “completely disagree with,” people who will stick to things no matter what. Last week he said that he visited the racist websites to “educate” himself.

Montecito Heights resident Diana Martinez doesn’t buy his explanation. She said one of his campaign supporters over the weekend asked her what the candidate could do to change her mind: “Tell him to tell the truth because no one believes he went to the low-life site to ‘educate,’” she says she responded. “It was Joe’s b.s. lying video that completely lost my vote,” said Martinez, who has lived in the district for 30 years.

But Bray-Ali is not backing down. He said his online slurs “are a distraction from what this election is about and not a reflection of who I am as a person. They are a verification that I am a human being with flaws, like everyone.”

He said the focus should be on replacing a “do-nothing incumbent” and keeping him from having another five-and-a-half more years in office. It’s about crime going up, the homeless and people being priced out of their homes,” and not about his online comments, the candidate said.

In the video posted Wednesday, Bray-Ali said he had struggled to come up with a response to the accusations being made against him, criticizing the main street media for picking up a “misleading story” and “sloppy reporting.”

Bray-Ali has vowed to fight through election day even though his comments have been denounced by City Controller Ron Galperin, Equality California, the Courage Campaign and the Los Angeles chapter of the National Action Network, along with seven sitting City Council members who called on him to drop out of the race.

Bray-Ali’s wife, Susan Wong, defended him on Tuesday in a post on his campaign’s Facebook page.

“I know my husband Josef, and he is a person of integrity. He is caring and inclusive of all people. In this climate, it is so important for people to check the sources and see if true journalism is occurring, or if a misleading headline, and mischaracterizations are occurring — we need to make sure that we critically analyze everything,” Wong said.

“I’ve lived here for nearly 30 years” and I’m disappointed Cedillo’s supporters aren’t in front of Bray-Ali’s office protesting every day, said Martinez.

“I’m sure he won’t mind losing my vote … I’m fat, I honk my horn sometimes to alert my son when he doesn’t pick up the phone, and I have friends who have had sex change operations,” Martinez said.

“If he’s honorable, drop out of the race.”

 

Information from City News Service was used in this report.

 

Cedillo, Bray-Ali to Face Off in May 16 Runoff

March 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

About 140 votes shy of what he needed for an outright victory, incumbent City Councilman Gil Cedillo will now face challenger Joe Bray-Ali in a May runoff for his First Council District seat.

According to the final March 7 Primary vote tally certified by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Tuesday, Cedillo’s initial lead dropped from a high of 51.2 percent to 49.39 percent – just below the 50 percent plus one votes needed to avoid a runoff with second place finisher Bray-Ali, who received 37.97 percent of votes cast.

In terms of actual numbers, Cedillo had 10,396 votes in his column while Bray-Ali finished with 8,000 votes.

Cedillo, a veteran politician who served in both the State Senate and Assembly before winning a seat on the city council, faced four challengers for his council seat.

The council district includes some of the city’s most densely populated and diverse neighborhoods in multiple Central and Northeast Los Angeles communities, including, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, Chinatown, Echo Park, Elysian Park, Highland Park, Koreatown, Lincoln Heights, MacArthur Park, Pico Union, University Park and a section of downtown.

This is the first run for office for Bray-Ali, a former bicycle shop owner and bicycle advocate, who has for years dogged the councilman for his part in stopping dedicated bike lanes from being installed along a portion of Figueroa Street running from Highland Park to Cypress Park.

Throughout the campaign, Cedillo touted his work on homelessness, immigration, and infrastructure improvements such as new sidewalks, streetlights and traffic signals in the district and across the city. He pointed to “innovative programs” that resulted in the removal of hundreds of tons of trash and bulky items, which Mayor Garcetti later adapted for citywide use.

During the lead up to the March 7 primary, Bray-Ali repeatedly called for new leadership. He accused Cedillo of neglecting the first council district and being unresponsive to residents.

Longtime Chicano activist Rosalio Munoz and Cedillo supporter said Tuesday he believes many Cedillo supporters failed to show up to vote, thinking their candidate would skate to an easy win.

“That won’t happen again, we’re going to work on getting people to the polls in May,” he said.

“Councilman Cedillo has deep roots and understands the needs of this community, everyone in the community, not just the newcomers,” Munoz said.

In a statement emailed Tuesday to EGP, Bray-Ali said, “There’s a reason why a young challenger and outsider candidate made it to where we did.

“But this is about more than just an upstart candidacy. This is about basic municipal services and a responsive council office. If you live in our community there are problems you deal with on a daily basis,” he said.

“We need someone in this district who is focusing on issues big and small to provide competent management to the residents of CD1.”

For his part, Cedillo remained resolute and confident Tuesday, telling EGP that he “will continue to reach out to voters, unify our district, and continue the work we have been doing to make the First District #1.”

The runoff election will be held on May 16.

 

Candidates Discuss Northeast L.A. Issues

February 23, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

The crowd at a city council candidate forum Monday in Lincoln Heights was a little more restrained than during a similar forum last week in Glassell Park, even though the candidates speaking and issues addressed were for the most part the same.

In Glassell Park, the First Council District Candidates’ Forum was often interrupted by loud heckling and shouts. On Monday, however, the forum organized by the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council and held in the auditorium at Sacred Heart High School was a little less raucous.

All five candidates vying for the council seat took part, including the incumbent, Gil Cedillo, and challengers Josef Bray-Ali, a community advocate; Giovany Hernandez, an education advocate; Jesse Rosas, a businessman; and write-in candidate Luca Barton, a graphic designer.

The City of L.A. ‘s Primary Election takes place March 7 and includes the races for mayor, city attorney, controller and several ballot measures, as well as an L.A County sponsored Measure H to raise the sales tax a quarter-cent to pay for services for the homeless. If a single candidate does not win 50% plus one of the vote, a runoff will be held in June.

Council District 1 covers multiple Central and Northeast Los Angeles communities, including, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, Chinatown, Echo Park, Elysian Park, Highland Park, Koreatown, Lincoln Heights, MacArthur Park, Pico Union, University Park and a section of downtown.

The five candidates answered questions on issues ranging from the region’s housing shortage, traffic, public safety and the homelessness epidemic, with the focus being on the challenges those issues create for Lincoln Heights’ residents and businesses.

The format did not allow for a real debate, but instead limited each candidate to making short statements in response to questions posed by the moderator and later the public.

As the incumbent, Cedillo was often the prime target of criticism from the challengers, who each said the district needs new blood.

“We need new leadership in this district or we will continue to see failure,” said Bray-Ali, a former bicycle shop owner who has for years dogged the councilman at events and on social media for his part in stopping dedicated bike lanes from being installed along a portion of Figueroa Street running from Highland Park to Cypress Park.

Cedillo defended his record throughout the night, pointing to his 20-year record of accomplishments in elected office and 15 years in the labor movement, noting his long list of endorsements resulting from that work.

“If you want to know what people are going to do in the future, look and see what they have done in the past,” Cedillo repeated several times throughout the night, pointing to 100’s of bills he’s authored that have been signed by three different governors.

“I have a record. It’s constant, consistent and it’s measurable.”

All five candidates running for Los Angeles City Council District 1 participated in a forum Monday in Lincoln Heights. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

All five candidates running for Los Angeles City Council District 1 participated in a forum Monday in Lincoln Heights. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Bray-Ali attempted to paint a different picture of the councilman’s leadership and accountability.

He and the other candidates claimed Cedillo has not done enough to improve safety for pedestrian and cyclists using local streets, and accused him of simply not listening to the community.

“Time and time again we have had the door slammed in our face and been shut out of city office,” complained Bray-Ali, who has in the past used his Twitter account to blame the councilman’s failure to install bike lanes on Figueroa for nearly every pedestrian and auto accident on the street, and in surrounding areas.

Barton and Hernandez said more attention must be paid to traffic issues in Lincoln Heights, especially along North Broadway, the community’s main commercial area, and near area schools.

Hernandez proposed greater use of lighted-crosswalk markings to slow traffic, which Cedillo said are just some of the safety measures he’s implemented since taking office.

Rojas questioned why streets lights are not synchronized to better control the flow of traffic. “Everyone has a right to be safe,” he said.

The challengers said crime and the number of homeless people in Lincoln Heights has risen under Cedillo’s watch.

Bray-Ali accused the councilman and his staff of not “showing up” to reassure the community when a murder happens, or making sure police are on patrol.

Cedillo pointed out that L.A. has the fewest police officers per capita in the country, and that’s a problem, he said. He noted that he has the support of many of the city’s police and fire personnel.

Cedillo said he has long been an advocate for “fair share zoning” and that the burden of new homeless shelters and services should be spread across the city, and that’s why he stopped a plan to build homeless shelters on city-owned parking lots in Lincoln Heights.

“I’m fed up with the lies and hype,” responded Bray-Ali, claiming the councilman only took action after getting complaints from the community.

Bray-Ali said, if elected, he is committed to ensure homeless veterans have a place to shower, go to the bathroom and wash their clothes.

Cedillo responded by once again pointing to his record, reminding the audience that he helped create the city’s committee on homelessness.

Measure S, a ballot measure that if approved would place a 2-year moratorium on new developments, put the controversial issues of “gentrification” and rising housing costs in the forefront.

Rosas said large developments are not good for the community, claiming they often come at the expense of affordable housing.

“Affordable housing for who?” Rosas asked. “We don’t want people to get displaced.”

Bray-Ali, Cedillo and Hernandez all said they oppose the measure.

“I don’t think it’s the cure,” said Hernandez, a renter himself. This will mean, “halting the construction of much needed housing units,” he said.

“It’s an effort to stop change…it will take zoning in Los Angeles back to the 1950s,” said Cedillo.

Bray-Ali said with significantly more people than housing, development is needed, but blamed failed leadership for allowing developers to build without consulting with impacted communities.

“You think Measure S is going to stop them,” asked Barton. “If they can’t do new development they’ll take existing [buildings] and covert them to luxury units.”

Martha, 66, said she was a victim of just that, and blamed Cedillo for failing to help her.

Bray-Ali offered to connect her to a landlord willing to rent out to seniors being displaced from her building, garnering applause from the audience.

Hernandez pointed out the woman’s story proved “displacement is not an urban myth,” and the need for local officials to work with the state legislators to overturn the controversial Ellis Act. The 1985 Act has allowed landlords to legally evict their rent-controlled tenants if they sell or convert the building into condos.

Cedillo tried to offer reassurance that his office would help but was met with heckling from the audience, as he was much of the night and the previous forums.

“No change is going to happen in the already existing system,” argued Hernandez.

Hernandez, the youngest of the five candidates and self-proclaimed homegrown candidate, told the crowd election time is like a report card for the incumbent to find out if he or she has done a good job.

“I’m proud to give my community the option for something else,” said Hernandez.

Cedillo told the crowd they could heckle him all they want and even choose to vote for another candidate, but said he’s confident he will be reelected.

“This election is going go happen March 7 and we’re going to wake up on March 8 and I’m still going to be your council member,” he said. “We’ll see you at the election party.”

 

Plans for Apartment Complex Leave Tenants Scrambling

July 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti reminded renters last week that they have rights under the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, but as one group of tenants in Highland Park has found out, those rights don’t apply to everyone.

The city ordinance provides protections against eviction and rent hikes to some tenants living in older apartment dwellings, but not to the nearly 60 families living at the Marmion Royal apartment complex at 5800 Marmion Way, across the street from the Highland Park Gold Line Station. The tenants are facing eviction by the property’s new owners, Skya Ventures and Gelt Ventures, who purchased the property from Azusa Pacific University for $14.3 million.

In May, Skya’s president, Gelena Skya-Wasserman, told real estate news site The Real Deal that they plan to renovate the building’s façade and apartment units, and to upgrade security and add new amenities to the complex, which according to The Real Deal was 91% leased when the property changed hands.

Residents and housing advocates on Tuesday denounced the evictions as another example of families being displaced by gentrification of the Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood.

Theresa Andrade, mother of three, told EGP about a year ago she was forced to leave her apartment located on Avenue 51, near Monte Vista Street, because they were increasing her rent.

“Now I’m being evicted from this apartment too,” she added worried.

Flor Ventura and her husband and son have lived at the Marmion Royal for 10 years. On May 16, they received a notice informing them they had 60 days to vacate their apartment.

Ventura told EGP she was at first confused, but soon realized she wasn’t alone. Many of her neighbors had received the same notice.

Not knowing what else to do, she told EGP they reached out to their local councilman, Gil Cedillo, who chairs the city council’s housing committee.

According to Ventura, staff in Cedillo’s Highland Park Field Office told them the problem was out of their hands because the property doesn’t fall under the rent stabilization ordinance, and therefore there was nothing the council office could do for them.

Residents and activists protest the eviction of tenants from the Marmion Royal apartments in Highland Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Residents and activists protest the eviction of tenants from the Marmion Royal apartments in Highland Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“Basically, they told us the people who bought the building have a lot of money and there’s nothing we can do but leave,” Ventura told EGP in Spanish.

Protections under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance or RSO, apply to multi-unit buildings built before 1978; the Marmion Royal was built in 1987.

The lack of protections for tenants like those at the Marmion Royal has allowed landlords to raise rents as high as they want and has led to a flood of no-fault evictions at the same time that the demand for housing is on the rise, claims the NELA Alliance, a group of local activists documenting gentrification in Northeast L.A.

The majority of tenants living in the units are working-class Latinos. Several tenants receive Section 8 housing subsidies.

“Tenants have asked why we [Los Angeles] do not offer an extended rent control policy,” Cedillo spokesman Fredy Cejas told EGP. According to Cejas, under the 1995 Costa Hawkins Act, “no law can interfere with an owner’s ability to establish the rental rate for his/her property.”

“The Marmion Royal complex does not fall under RSO protection, which means there is little room for us to intervene,” he told EGP.

Ventura said tenants attempted to come to an agreement with the owner that would allow them to return to their apartments once the remodel is complete, but while he was amenable to allowing them to return, their new rent would be nearly double what they now pay.

There’s also the additional cost of finding a new place to live while construction is going on, making the deal unaffordable.

The tenants have formed the Marmion Royal Tenants’ Union, a new entity under which they will fight their displacement.

About 50 tenants have so far signed a petition to fight their evictions, according to John Urquiza, a NELA Alliance activist.

Attorney Elena Popp with the Eviction Defense Network of Los Angeles is helping to protect the tenants from retribution by the landlord.

“When we get to the eviction process, the attorney will kick in and defend tenants,” Urquiza said.
In the meantime, tenants claim the landlord, who already has crews to begin working on the building, is harassing them.

“They have cut the water several days without previous notice,” Marylyn Zamaniego told EGP during Tuesday’s protest. “My daughter is afraid of the constant noise crew workers make,” she added.

EGP reached out to the new owners for comment, but they had not responded as of press time.

However, in May, The Real Deal reported that Skya-Wasserman boasted the “walkability of the up-and-coming neighborhood.”

“The owners prized the adjacency to the [Gold Line] station, which was built in 1911,” according The Real Deal.

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Twitter @jackiereporter

jgarcia@egpnews.com

Fig Traffic Safety Still an Issue for Cedillo

May 19, 2016 by · 5 Comments 

A ceremony was held last week in Highland Park to inaugurate the installation of a new traffic signal on Figueroa Street at Avenue 55, where residents have complained of speeding drivers and unsafe conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.

First District Councilman Gil Cedillo represents the area and was joined at the May 13 installation ceremony by students, teachers and parents from Monte Vista Elementary School.

The new traffic signal is part of his effort to improve public safety in the district, Cedillo said.

“Accidents happen, there’s no question about it,” the councilman told the group. That’s why “we want to make a safe [North Figueroa] corridor,” he added.

Traffic safety on Figueroa is a hot button issue in Highland Park.

Lea este artículo en Español: La Seguridad del Tránsito Continúa Siendo un Problema para Cedillo

Some have sought to blame Cedillo personally for fatal accidents along the commercial corridor, such as those involving a speeding driver who struck Yolanda Espinoza Lugo in a marked crosswalk on Figueroa and Avenue 24, then sped away, and another involving a 17-year-old student from Montebello who was fatally hit by a city-operated semi-truck near his Highland Park school.

But according to Cedillo, since taking office in 2013 he has been actively working with the city’s transportation department to install safety enhancements – such as the  traffic lights between Avenue 50 and Avenue 60 that give pedestrians more to time to cross the street and now the signal on Avenue 55.

Another traffic signal is coming soon to Avenue 51 and rectangular rapid crosswalk beacons will be installed on Avenues 35, 41 and 60, according to Cedillo’s Communications Director Fredy Ceja.

“As the local government, public safety is our number one obligation,” Cedillo said last week.

Highland Park resident Jessica Sevillano is the mother of one of the second-graders at the ceremony. She told EGP she thinks Cedillo is doing a good job, but added he could have made the improvements a long time ago and prevented some of the tragedies.

“There have been too many accidents,” she said in Spanish, pointing out that her mother was nearly hit while crossing the street with her son.

“Maybe he has too much work and he didn’t notice before, but this light is much needed,” she told EGP.

Traffic safety work has been done as fast as possible, counters Cedillo’s chief of staff Arturo Chavez. He told EGP that from planning to installation, a new traffic light usually takes two years: “We did it in nine months,” he said about the signal on Avenue 55. “But when accidents happen, there’s nothing that anyone can do to prevent them. A light is not going to prevent them, a crosswalk is not going to prevent them,” he said.

It’s the same point the councilman made an article published by EGP earlier this year. Cedillo told EGP people must take responsibility for their actions. You cannot drink and drive or be texting while driving or walking, he said, explaining that distracted motorists and pedestrians are a safety hazard.

While Cedillo supporters tout his efforts to improve the district, citing his work to clean areas filled with debris and to remove bulky items and make streets safer, others complain that he’s more interested in what big donors to his campaign want. They say he needs to be more hands on and visible.

A local bike activist who often takes to social media to launch barrages of criticism at Cedillo, particularly on traffic safety, has decided to challenge the councilman in the next election. Josef Bray-Ali owns the Flying Pigeon bike shop in Cypress Park and says he has decided to turn his anger into activism.

About two weeks ago, Bray-Ali, 37, filed with the LA City Ethics Commission to start fundraising as a candidate for CD-1 in the March 2017 Primary Election. He hopes to open his campaign office a few doors down from his store by the end of the month.

Councilman Cedillo and students from Monte Vista Elementary cross the intersection of Figueroa and Avenue 55 where a new traffic has been installed. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Councilman Cedillo and students from Monte Vista Elementary cross the intersection of Figueroa and Avenue 55 where a new traffic has been installed. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

According to Bray-Ali, he tried for nearly two years to meet directly with Cedillo to discuss the safe-street plan, but could never get past his staff.

“I went from the chief of staff to the field rep to receptionist, and I wouldn’t pass from there,” he told EGP Monday. “We have become a bunch of nobodies in our own neighborhoods,” he complained.

Among his chief complaints was the councilman’s decision to halt plans to build dedicated bike lanes along Figueroa. The proposed “road-diet” would have run from Colorado Boulevard to San Fernando Road. It was shortened to run between York and San Fernando but was eventually completely cancelled per Cedillo’s request to LADOT, according to Bray-Ali.

“There’s a lot of negative emotions that I have towards him as a politician because of the fight that we put to try to get the bike lane along Figueroa,” Bray-Ali said, “and the councilman stopped this project for reasons that are not clear.”

While running for city council, Cedillo expressed support for the road diet, dedicated bike lane plan. But after taking office and holding community meetings on the topic, he dropped his support for the plan, citing the complaints of people who travel the corridor and businesses along the route that reducing lanes for cars will cause traffic tie-ups and increase emergency response times.

Bray-Ali’s and other bike lane supporters’ social media postings, using the hashtags #chaleconCedillo and #RoadKillGil, have blamed the councilman’s cancellation of bike lanes for accidents along Figueroa and in some cases for accidents in other parts of the district.

Chavez calls the postings offensive. He said a road diet alone would not stop people from speeding and questioned why for some people a road diet is a better solution than a street light.

Bray-Ali said the bike route is not his only reason for running for office. He says he wants to build stronger neighborhoods that are more connected.

“I want small incremental growth instead of the big buildings,” he said, emphasizing that renting and buying property nowadays has become almost impossible for residents of the area.

“What are we doing that is failing? Why were generations earlier getting property and we can’t?” he questioned, calling Cedillo’s representation of the district “incompetent.”

The problem of housing affordability, however, is a citywide issue. The city council is considering charging developers fees to pay for more affordable housing or to require that their projects include set-asides for those types of units.

Last August Cedillo announced a plan to use about $9 million available to his district through “excess bond proceeds” left over from the city’s former redevelopment agency, to subsidize some of the 15,000 affordable housing units in danger of being removed from the housing market.

“We are really doing a great job in this area and we are cleaning it up like we committed and making it safer,” Cedillo told EGP.

“Sometimes people who don’t live in our district want to come and criticize us.”

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Twitter @jackiereporter

jgarcia@egpnews.com

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