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A Deputy in the Field

Ana Gomez has been a Field Deputy for 2 years with the office of Councilmember Cedillo. Her days usually last 12 hours, with special events or dinners about once a week keeping her out until 10 or 11pm. She often works 6 days a week.

On any given day, she drives all over the city to attend various meetings and speak with workers in the Westlake/MacArthur Park, Pico Union, Koreatown, University Park and Temple Beaudry neighborhoods. For example, a day recently involved a site visit to a location that will be the future site of a small beautification project in the Westlake Neighborhood, a stop by City Hall for a small stop sign installation ceremony in Pico Union, a meeting with a non-profit Executive Director about building renovations, picking up permits at the Department of Water and Power, and that was all before she headed back to the office for paperwork. Her office work spans from presentations for Neighborhood Council meetings to running logistics for event planning movie nights, parades and clean ups.

Gomez’s main responsibility is to be an advocate. She is a sounding board for her communities and receives residents, businesses, volunteers, workers, and stakeholders’ complaints and concerns. She has gained the trust of people in her community and often extends her workload to ensure communication. “Some of those issues are easily resolvable so those are generally qualified as casework…I sometimes handle that casework on my own because people know me and they will always refer back to me on their issues.” For one community in particular, MacArthur Park, Gomez is attending to public safety, cleanliness and programming by helping organize multiple departments to work together: Sanitation, Recreation and Parks, and the LAPD.

Gomez says she has an “interesting” relationship to MacArthur Park. “Being an immigrant I have a great passion for the immigrant community. I loved the work that I did in Boyle Heights, but it is nothing like the challenges that people face living in MacArthur Park. The number of people and activity is incomparable.” She has particular drive around the homeless community, and has done extensive work to reach out and provide resources for them. That community in particular, she says, is the source of a lot of chaos in the community. She works at length with Neighborhood Council members, non-profit organizations, city and county agencies that provide services to the homeless, while working with angry business owners who are inherently frustration with the presence of the homeless in the community.

Gomez can name the challenges of MacArthur Park, noting range and variety of the resident as the biggest one . Attributing to this, she says, is the “general understanding that MacArthur Park is a pit stop in Los Angeles. The different needs and points of views and the sheer number of residents are some of the biggest challenges. ” She notes the fast changeover in the population, but also gains pleasure in knowing many long time residents.

Not so smartwatch: Crowdfunding campaign backer still waiting for two-year-old technology

Orange County real estate agent Michael Wiener has committed himself to the principles of hard work and integrity. These two principles are something that he has built his business on, he says.

Although he is paid for his skills as a seller, Wiener is also a buyer in his spare time. The self-described entrepreneur often contributes to online crowdfunding campaigns. He contributes money to back projects and helps bring creative projects to life. Rather than back books or films, Wiener funds campaigns where he is offered a tangible reward in return.

“It seems like a great way for an individual to get funding to be able to create something that starts out as an idea that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to produce or bring to market,” Wiener said.

Over the past few years, Wiener has contributed money to 20 different projects via the global crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. In 2013, he paid $200 to back a project claiming to deliver its supporters a “next generation smartwatch with brand-new technology.”

“At that point, that was long before Apple or really anybody else had a smartwatch on the market and to me that was a very appealing product,” Wiener said.

Since its creation, the project titled “AGENT: The World’s Smartest Watch” has surpassed its $100,000 goal and raked in more than $1 million in donations from 5,685 backers.

It is now more than two years after the campaign’s start date and Wiener and the other backers have yet to receive the AGENT smartwatch.

“This smartwatch will not be smart … If it comes out today, it’s going to be two years behind the times,” Wiener said. “Pretty useless, I would think.”

Wiener has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Chris Walker, the project manager and campaign creator of the AGENT smartwatch.

He said that Kickstarter’s Integrity team must hold creators responsible if they do not deliver what their campaign promises.

“The project creator has to have a legitimate project that they can create and Kickstarter needs to hold them to that … there needs to be some sort of recourse if they don’t fulfill their obligations,” Wiener said.

The crowdfunding platform encourages its creators to be honest and ethical while conducting business on the website, according to Kickstarter’s Trust and Safety guidelines.

“Personally it just feels like somebody stole $200 from me. I was just scammed out of it.”

Wiener says his experience with the AGENT smartwatch campaign has “absolutely” made him wary of backing other Kickstarter campaigns, although he has backed other projects since AGENT.

“I have backed some others since this, but I do my due diligence. I research the company and the individual,” he said.

Bryan M. Sullivan – Source Profile

Entertainment lawyer, Political Activist, Crowdfunding Author: these are some of the titles worn by Bryan M. Sullivan. His versatility and passion radiate from him, and it is clear that this man is driven and purposeful. Sullivan is a problem solver, and he is good at what he does.

In 2000, Sullivan earned his law degree at Boston College, then spent 10 years working for Glaser, Weir Fink, Jacobs, Howard and Shapiro LLP. There he built a working knowledge of law and an impressive clientele including Miley Cyrus.

Afterward Sullivan and four other partners left the company and founded Early, Sullivan, Wright, Gizer and McRae LLP. In the past 5 years the now multi-million dollar company has grown to 15 attorneys in four locations across the U.S. Sullivan is known for innovative thinking and risk taking. Founding his own firm was one of those risks, but now he knows it was the right move to get him noticed and really build his reputation.

Sullivan’s accomplishments show how valuable and versatile he is. He’s won numerous awards including several “Top Attorneys Under 40”and “Super Lawyer” awards. Sullivan is a dedicated non-profit and political activist, and he was awarded with Liberty Hill Foundation’s 2012 NextGen Leadership award because of his efforts in the non-profit community. He is involved with I Vote Inc. a youth voter engagement group and the Lion Fund for Children, a group that assists victims of sexual abuse.

In 2006, Sullivan co-founded BASTA Inc. a non-profit housing rights organization where they changed how evictions are done in Los Angeles. Most notably, the group assists tenants in landlord disputes by demanding jury trials, potentially diminishing unfair evictions. With this housing background he was appointed Sullivan to the Affordable Housing Commission by Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti. He served for a year before resigning to work on the mayor’s reelection campaign.

Even with all of his involvement in law and the non-profit sector Sullivan added another facet of his expertise, crowdfunding. Sullivan co-wrote two articles on Forbes.com with regards to crowdfunding and the legal ramifications that are just waiting to happen.

With all of his responsibilities one might think that they would each be neglected but all that Sullivan works on flourishes. His peers respect his work and he has truly earned his place in the world.

 

 

 

 

Making the Impossible Seem Real

“I was kind of a latchkey kid,” he explained, “My parents worked a lot so I’d get home from school and watch TV. Movies kind of made the impossible seem real.”

Scott Kim knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a filmmaker. Having grown up in New Jersey with two working parents, he spent a lot of time alone with his television set. “I loved the underdog stories like Rocky, where the odds were stacked against them to get to their dream.”

Kim applied this indomitable attitude toward his own life, as he earned his Bachelor’s from Ramapo College of New Jersey and shortly thereafter joined the U.S. Army.

In the Army, Kim was a Public Affairs Specialist, which he describes as “basically a journalist.” He wrote stories and took photos both for the Armed Forces Network newspaper and for American media companies such as CNN. “It was cool. We were basically the pubic relations for civilian media. Some of our events aired on national television and radio.”

However, Kim’s love for storytelling was not to be confined to journalism alone. Upon leaving the Army, he used his G.I. bill to attend the Los Angeles Film School, where his lifelong dream of filmmaking became a reality.

“I used to read comic books as a little kid, and now you have comic books being made into films. It was exactly what I’d always wanted.”

At school, Kim worked hard to define his strengths and hone his skills in the filmmaking medium of storytelling. This experience led him to many Production Assistant jobs post-graduation.

However, as many artists in Los Angeles tend to find, gathering investments for your film budget can be difficult. Kim found a way around this by funding one of his short films with a crowdfunding website called “Kickstarter.”

Not only was his campaign successful, but there was also a certain level of artistic camaraderie on crowdfunding sites. He helped to support the artistic efforts of his cohorts, and they supported him in return.

While Kim currently works for the IT department at Creative Artists Agency, he still manages to produce and direct films and commercials in his spare time. He is a firm believer that crowdfunding sites are a great gateway for struggling artists.

“At the end of watching a movie you kind of ride that high where anything is possible,” explained Kim. “Despite recent scams, I think crowdfunding sites are a great tool for independent artists.”

“At the end of a movie you kind of ride that high where anything is possible,” Kim said, “Crowdfunding sites allow that to happen for LA audiences.”

Planning Change with Dr. Lens

Michael Lens looks at every city with expert eyes. Lens is a professor of urban planning at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Policy. Lens sees himself as an advocate for change.

“I came to the field as somebody who’s always been interested in how public policy affects people in poverty and can help make it less frequent. For people who are in poverty, [I want to know] what can the government do to make lives better. ”

Lens is tall and distinguished. His face is framed with wire-rim glasses and hair is cropped close. Lens explains tedious zoning policies with an enthusiastic and conversational approach.

Lens completed his PhD in Public Administration at New York University in 2011. At NYU his doctoral research explored the effects of housing vouchers on New York City communities.

Lens’s research earned him academic clout, garnering awards and speaking invitations across the field. Last year, Lens’s report on job accessibility and housing subsidies won Best Paper of 2013-14 in Housing Policy Debate. Another 2013 piece investigating crime in low-income housing was distinguished in the Journal of  the American Planning Association.

Lens is dedicated to creating social change through influencing policy.

“We spend a lot of money on trying to help people afford housing and their’s a lot of things that housing affects beyond just the shelters. [Housing] is a big policy area for people who are interested in helping the lives of the poor”

The Luskin School supports Lens’s passion and commitment as a researcher. At UCLA, he’s the associate director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Study and a research fellow for the Ziman Center for Real Estate. 

In 2013, Lens and UCLA colleague Paavo Monkkonen received a substantial grant from the MacArthur Foundation. The expansive project examines local government behaviors during housing crises and is funded over several years.

“[The grant] is such an honor. They let you be very independent with how you get the work done, it’s really nice.”

Lens is private, a husband and father of two. He likes how academia complements his family commitments.

“I have a wife whose job is even busier than mine, she’s a lawyer, and we have two kids who are busy themselves! 

I find that a stable academic job is pretty conducive to that balance… It’s somewhere where you can be productive but also set your own hours. Today I’m picking up one of my kids and then coaching basketball. Not a lot of workplaces allow that. That’s a pretty special opportunity“

He tweets occasionally; mixing policy, news, professor gripes and some pop culture gems. He quotes hip hop lyrics, dripping with professorial snark.

Lens is a dedicated academic with the perspective and expertise to impact real change. His influence on the Los Angeles community and the field of urban planning will be lasting. Lens’s work funded through MacArthur Foundation is set for publication in 2016.

Sharing Is Caring

Brandi Veil shares a lot more than just her houses with strangers on Airbnb.

She shares her heart.

In addition to being an Airbnb host, Veil is also a mother, educator, wellness coach and “sharing advocate.” As a sharing advocate, Veil believes sharing is about an exchange of human interaction that will help the economy grow. She started her own project, “Sharing Heals” based on this idea.

“Sharing Heals is a project focused on transformation through sharing,” Veil said. “The project aims to connect people on a deeper level of human experience through their stories while giving resources for earning a heart-based income.”

Veil’s idea of “sharing” began after a series of life changing events. In 2005 Veil had a major car accident that affected her physical movement temporarily. At 16-years-old, Veil lost her home during Hurricane Andrew and became an emancipated minor so her parents could rebuild their home. Now she is using Sharing Heals as a platform to connect with other people.

“If we can use the tools, technology, ‘sharing economy’ and self-awareness, we can shift to a more conscious consumer marketplace,” Veil said. “It is a way to help people connect to one another and the planet once again.”

Through various social media platforms, Veil promotes the Sharing Heals project and encourages peoples to “create wealth” by exchanging ideas and experiences with one another. She hosts live Google Hangouts and posts videos on her YouTube channel.

Veil’s project is just one of many ways Veil shares with the community. She is the founder of “Learn.Help.Teach.” or LHT, an organization that helps professionals practice sharing or pitching their ideas to audiences. The purpose is to build confidence in their speaking and presentation abilities.

Veil not only shares spiritually and emotionally, but she also shares her home on Airbnb. She hosts gatherings for Sharing Heals and LHT from one of the properties listed on the renting website. This has been Veil’s main source of income and she believes this new way of connecting with other people also helps the sharing economy.

“After the crash in 2010, my event company was broken up and I decided to go on a social mission,” Veil said. “Sharing Heals is only the first part of it and Airbnb launched that for me.”

Veil has had over 150 reservations since 2012. With every person who stays in her home, Veil aspires to create a unique sharing experience. She adds personal touches such as cutting flowers, writing personal letters and being a personal concierge for dinner and events in town.  She also offers healing and meditation sessions for her guests.

“My legacy is that everyday I have a chance I use wisdom and deep connection to my inner guidance to carry out the task at hand for a new world economy, one of a better good, more connected world,” Veil said.

Through Veil’s projects and her campaign to connect with others, she strives to “heal” the economy by sharing. Veil suggests that people should do the following: Use new technology to even out the playing commercial field; think local to global; love your neighbor; share your hurt, your car, your knowledge, etc.; and raise children with a deep understanding of gratitude.

The slogan for Sharing Heals is: “We are economic transformation.” With her projects, Veil hopes to achieve a “caring economy.”

“Sharing economy is only the beginning of a caring economy, one that is self-reliant and expanding into the global markets that serve the greater good,” Veil said.

 

Brandi Veil Infographic

A unique artistic exchange through cultural immersion

(INTRO)

MARGARETHE DREXEL, ORIGINALLY FROM VIENNA, AUSTRIA, IS BEHIND ONE OF THE MANY NEW BUSINESSES THAT HAVE COME INTO MACARTHUR PARK OVER THE PAST YEAR.

HER ART GALLERY, SELECTO, IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED, AS IT PREPARES THE SETUP FOR A SHOW STARTING THIS FRIDAY, AUGUST 14TH, FEATURING THE WORK OF LA ARTIST RICHARD NEWTON.

SPEAKING FROM MACARTHUR PARK, MARGARETHE TALKS ABOUT HER BACKGROUND AND HOW THE IDEA FOR SELECTO CAME ABOUT.

 

Click here to watch the video interview.

 

Building an Intentional Community

Olivia Samad doesn’t go to church, she isn’t married and she is an only child. Living in Los Angeles she says, “I still need community.” For three years she has been working to establish the city’s first cohousing community, inHabitLA. A lawyer by trade Samad is a founding member of the organization.

Different from a condo, a co-op or a commune, cohousing members own individual units that are supplemented by common facilities. Often called an intentional community cohousing aims to increase happiness by building community.

“I want to be an example of how we can do housing in the future,” she says. While cohousing’s main function isn’t for affordability, a lower cost of housing is often the result of living in a denser community and sharing resources. For example, in a typical single family home each home would have a guest bedroom. In cohousing the community would share guest bedrooms and use them only when necessary.

“It’s something that makes people really happy,” she says talking about the sense of community. Samad was first introduced to cohousing in 2000 when she moved into a cohousing community in Washington DC. Prior to living there she had never heard of it before, but instantly enjoyed the sense of community that it created.

In addition to community, most cohousing sites have a lower carbon footprint than a single family home and place a strong emphasis on having connection with their surrounding environment. For Samad being close to public transportation is also important when selecting a piece of land to build.

After moving back to Southern California in 2003 she starting working toward making cohousing a reality in Los Angeles. For the past three years she has been working on getting inHabitLA off the ground.

“A lot of what cohousing facilitates is a healthy cohesive neighborhood,” she says. Living in a shared community single parents, senior citizens and families can share dinners, guest rooms, kitchens and other community facilities.

Samad is in the process of searching for land. She has eight families that are serious about joining inHabitLA and another 100 on a list waiting for land to be purchased before moving forward with any decisions. She is optimistic that in three years the community will be up and running.

“This is the year we’re going to find a sight and a developer,” she says confidently.

 

 

 

 

Advocating for Tenants’ Rights

Elsa P. Chagolla wears a flowered black mid-length dress, black cardigan and her hair pulled back. She sits inside a cozy office off of Alvarado Street in MacArthur Park.

Chagolla has held leadership positions at several organizations but her passion for education and the community steered her back to working directly with people. She has been Inquilinos Unidos’ executive director since January 23, 2015.

Chagolla comes from a working class neighborhood in Whittier. Her mother wanted her to attend better schools so they moved to Walnut while she was in middle school.

“My mom doesn’t speak English; she’s an immigrant from Mexico. And just, sort of, seeing the way sometimes people viewed her or her own experience with the types of jobs she had and the opportunities she had. Maybe I became interested in social issues because of that.”

Because of her experience she wanted to work with the immigrant community.

“Mostly, these are groups that are marginalized and don’t have a strong, unified voice.”

Her degree in sociology from University of California, Berkeley was not enough to steer her in the right direction. At first she thought about becoming a lawyer so she interned for one.

“He was like, ‘You’re too nice! Don’t become a lawyer.”

Instead, she decided to complement her education with a Master of Science in Public Policy from the University of Southern California, which would allow her to pursue systemic changes. After graduating, Chagolla worked at the federal level for the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. but missed working directly with the community – so she moved back to Los Angeles.

Before landing at Inquilinos Unidos, Chagolla did philanthropy work for Roll Global LLC. But she knew she wanted to try being executive director at a community based organization focused on Latino issues. The Inquilinos Unidos board of directors and Chagolla saw eye-to-eye – it was a match.

“There’s no one doing organizing or supporting residents in this area and I think that’s why we’re so unique. We get about 10 to 15 people who call or come in everyday and then at our clinic we get about 20 people a week.”

They have a varied approach, something Chagolla speaks about with a smile.

“A lot of it is word-of-mouth and the door-to-door does help, especially if we’re in this community … They’ve heard of us and I think that says a lot about the organization’s integrity.”

When she thinks back on her career, Chagolla recounts it with pride.

“I’ve always followed what I’m really passionate about … that has made me happy and it’s where my passion lies and I like to come to work.”

But that’s not the end of the line.

“I think we need more people who care about trying to improve living conditions and social justice issues. There’s always so much more that can be done.”

Her plan for this year is to help Inquilinos Unidos’ staff size grow and continue to empower low-income families.