Veterans ask Bray-Ali to drop out of council race

LOS ANGELES — A group of military veterans called on City Council candidate Joe Bray-Ali to withdraw from the race May 3 over a blog post in which he advocated burning the American flag and wiping it in feces.

Bray-Ali was already under fire from LGBT groups, civil rights organizations and numerous elected city officials for a series of racist and derogatory statements he has made online.

The group of veterans held a news conference in Highland Park. Although the vets do not represent any official veterans organization, a spokesman for the group, Mark Quiroz, predicted there would be around 40 vets there, plus family members.

Quiroz said the vets are angry about 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.”

Bray-Ali did not respond to a request to comment.

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 Bray-Ali’s opponent, First District Councilman Gil Cedillo.

Bray-Ali lost the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times and City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell last week after it was revealed he made online comments 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.

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

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.

Councilman Gil Cedillo

Bray-Ali forced Cedillo into the May 16 runoff for the First District seat. Cedillo was 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.

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 May 2 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.

Bray-Ali 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 added, “A career built around serving our community, all colors and creeds and genders, a campaign built around neighbor-to-neighbor connections and not institutional support and developer backing — that is who I am.”

Bray-Ali said he made the comments because he wanted to engage bigots to understand them better and “ended up sounding like a bigot myself. And I’m not proud of it.”

 

 

City closes escrow on property along L.A. River

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles leaders hailed the close of escrow March 3 on nearly 42 acres of property key to the city’s plan to revitalize the Los Angeles River.

The city paid the Union Pacific Railroad $59.3 million for the land alongside the river, called the Taylor Yard G2 plot, and estimates its development will cost $252 million, including the purchase price. The state has agreed to contribute $25 million.

“We’ve always considered G2 to be the crown jewel in our vision to revitalize the L.A. River, and that’s why I have been committed to fighting for the resources to finally return this land to the people of Los Angeles and the wildlife that call it home,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

“We got it done, and now this vast site can transform how Angelenos connect with the natural world —because it will allow for habitat restoration, and open more than a mile of direct access to the river for local communities that have been cut off from it for too long,” he said.

The Taylor Yard G2 acreage is on the east bank of the L.A. River in Cypress Park. Development of the plot will connect it to Rio de Los Angeles State Park and with the Bowtie parcel, another state park.

The plot is a side project connected to a possible $1.4 billion U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to revitalize 11 miles of river running through the Elysian Valley and return it to a more natural state.

“It has been a process to secure the G2 site in Council District 1, but we have finally done it” said Councilman Gil Cedillo, whose First District includes the land. “G2 is the most integral part of the L.A. River Revitalization Master Plan for Northeast L.A., for it is the only direct access point to the river from the communities in our district. It is the beginning of the future for the L.A. River as we imagine it.”

“I’ve been focused on revitalizing the L.A. River for the better part of a decade, including fighting for the $25 million budget allocation that made it possible for us to acquire this parcel,” state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said. “We have a long way to go to realize our dream of a healthy L.A. River as a vibrant social and recreational center of our city, but today the future looks brighter than ever.”

“Today, Angelenos now own the largest available piece of property along our Los Angeles River,” City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said. “Parcel G2 is a keystone for habitat restoration identified in our Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan, and I commend everyone involved for the tremendous lift to acquire this asset for all of Los Angeles to enjoy.”

The land is expected to take five to 10 years to develop before the public will get to use the space due to the significant environmental cleanup that will need to be done.

While city leaders celebrated the acquisition of the land, the future of the larger $1.4 billion revitalization plan is unclear. The council voted in 2013 to split the cost 50/50 with the Army Corps of Engineers, but the Army Corps has only agreed to pay 20 percent. There is also the looming threat by President Donald Trump to cut off federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities,” which could end up applying to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is expected to be a target because of the LAPD’s longstanding policy of not initiating contact with a person simply to determine their immigration status, and other stances city leaders are taking to oppose Trump.

 

Garcetti overwhelmingly wins re-election; Measure S defeated

LOS ANGELES — Status quo was the order of the day March 7 after City Hall incumbents were re-elected and voters handily defeated a ballot measure that would have changed development in the city.

Mayor Eric Garcetti led the way for incumbents as he received more than 80 percent of the vote to fight off 10 challengers  and win a second term as mayor.

Six City Council members easily won re-election, while a seventh, First District Councilman Gil Cedillo, is hoping to avoid a May 17 runoff in his bid to in a second term.

Mayor Garcetti proclaimed victory relatively early election night. He greeted supporters at a campaign party in downtown Los Angeles, touting his achievements over the past four years and vowing that more is to come.

“While other people are talking about doing big things, Los Angeles, we are doing big things right now,” he said. “My friends, big things don’t happen by accident. They require leadership. The job of the mayor is to get things done, and that’s what I’m going to keep on doing for each and every one of you here in this city.

“We’re breaking records at our port and our airport. We’re breaking records for tourism and filming. We’ve housed more homeless veterans than any city in America. We’ve paved more roads than ever before. We’ve confronted climate change head on, by cleaning our air, conserving our water and expanding our green spaces. We enacted the largest tax cut in our city’s history and we’ve seen more small businesses start in the last four years than we’ve seen in decades.

“So we are doing big things, but we have a lot more left to do,” he said.

Measure S, an initiative aimed at limiting development in the city by blocking General Plan amendments for two years, was defeated by city voters with almost 69 percent of voters opposing the measure.

Measure H, a county initiative that will raise the sales tax one-quarter cent for the next 10 years to raise funds for programs for the homeless, appeared headed to victory with 67.44 percent of the vote after unofficial vote tallies. The measure requires approval by 66.67 percent of the voters to take effect.

In the City Council races, Cedillo received 50.98 percent of the vote in the First District with thousands of ballots remaining to be counted. Activist/businessman Joe Bray-Ali, a bike activist and former bike shop owner, is hoping to drop that total to less than 50 percent as provisional and absentee ballots are counted to force a May 16 runoff in the district that includes Highland Park, Lincoln Heights and Pico-Union.

In the Fifth Council District, Councilman Paul Koretz easily fended off challenges from Jesse Creed, an attorney, and political consultant Mark Herd.

Creed had raised the most money of any challenger looking to unseat an incumbent in any other race, but Koretz still received 65.7 percent of the vote in the district that includes Encino, Cheviot Hills, Bel-Air and Westwood.

In the Ninth Council District, incumbent Curren Price handily defeated challengers Jorge Nuno, an activist and graphic designer, and neighborhood council member Adriana Cabrera to continue representing the district, which stretches from the southern part of downtown into South Los Angeles. The district has had a black representative on the council since the 1960s but has become a majority Latino district over the years.

Nevertheless, Price received 62.71 percent of the vote.

In the 11th Council District, which includes the Westside communities of Venice Beach, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades, Councilman Mike Bonin won easily over Mark Ryavec, a political activist, and Robin Rudisill, a former member of the Venice Neighborhood Council.

Bonin received almost 70 percent of the vote.

In the 13th District, which includes Echo Park, Silver Lake and part of Hollywood, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell also won easily, outpacing five challengers while receiving 60.38 percent of the vote.

In the 15th Council District, which includes San Pedro and Watts, Councilman Joe Buscaino had no difficulty in the race against challengers Noel Gould and Caney Arnold.

Buscaino received 73.81 percent of the vote.

Turnout was expected to be low for and it was. Unofficial figures released by the county Registrar of Voters put the turnout at 11.29 percent.