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The Times Endorses Bike Activist Over Incumbent For L.A. City Council Seat

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Joe Bray-Ali. (Photo courtesy of Joe Bray-Ali)
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As the L.A. Times rolls out its endorsements for the March 7 primaries, the incumbents are getting the larger share of the love. Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin have gotten nods. So have L.A. City Councilman Bob Blumenfield and City Controller Ron Galperin (though they don't really count, as they're running uncontested)

There's been one anomaly thus far; the Times announce on Monday its endorsement of newcomer Joe Bray-Ali for Council District 1. It's a refreshing pick in more ways than one, as the aura around the candidate has been imbued with a folksy, grassroots slant—an obvious juxtapose to the city's current era of rapid development. And, indeed, that's how the battle for CD 1 is shaping out to be (at least broadly speaking). While Bray-Ali, 37, is seen as the voice for a new era of Los Angeles—one that places greater focus on local mobility, affordable housing, and a more integrated approach to city planning—incumbent Gil Cedillo is portrayed as being more of a power player who's willing to negotiate with big-scale developers.

This narrative, of course, would seem too simple. And one of the pressing questions is if Bray-Ali, who's oft-cited as a bike activist (and a former bike shop owner), would be able to navigate the labyrinthine trenches of City Hall. The Times believes he'll be able to:

But though he may be campaigning atop two wheels, he has educated himself way beyond bike and transit issues. In fact, his understanding of land-use policy is impressive for someone who has never worked in City Hall, and his experience running a small business in the city will make him a rare and important voice on the council.
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The Times goes on about Bray-Ali's background in civic matters:

...the personable Bray-Ali, whose father was an aide to a number of local Latino officials, is not a neophyte to City Hall or local politics. He has been involved in community issues for more than a decade since serving on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council in 2005 and 2006. Indeed, Bray-Ali’s first job out of college was as a field deputy for a Latino state legislator, then-Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez (D-Norwalk).

The endorsement comes with a particularly scathing portrayal of Cedillo, which the Times paints as being out of touch with residents—not just in the vague sense of "intangibles," but in a very palpable and consequential way. The Times notes that Cedillo has been regarded by community activists as being "hell-bent on helping developers build market-rate housing," and that he'd referred to displacement in his district as an "urban myth" when he sat down the Times editorial board (city records side with the publication on this count).

In what was perhaps a bit of a reach (or maybe not), the Times said that Cedillo's love affair with development contributed to the formation of Measure S, "That Terrible NIMBY Ballot Measure", that could freeze most development for at least two years (Bray-Ali is against it).

Bray-Ali said in a statement that the Times endorsement serves as validation for what his campaign stands for. He also threw in a dad joke for good measure. "The endorsement from the Los Angeles Times demonstrates that our grassroots campaign is getting the attention it deserves. The grassroots are always stronger than astroturf—and I will get to work Day One addressing skyrocketing rent, growing displacement, and corporate polluters," said Bray-Ali.

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So what's Bray-Ali really about? Certainly, he's a big bike guy. Responding to his endorsement from "Bike The Vote L.A.," Bray-Ali said that as an elected official he would "act immediately to fund and implement the numerous completed plans to improve conditions for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users (e.g. North East Linkages Plan, 2010 Los Angeles Bike Plan, the 2008 Making the Connections plan by Metro, and others)" adding that his "vision for the 1st Council District is that of a multi-modal, bike- and walk-friendly, region linking the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys with the Los Angeles Basin."

On Bray-Ali's campaign website, the candidate said that he aims to solve some of the city's housing crisis by "calling for smart, transit-oriented development to add units to our housing stock" and coordinating "with community organizations to identify vacant lots and city lands along existing thoroughfares that can absorb additional populations." The Huffington Post (which also endorses Bray-Ali for some reason) noted that CD 1 is home to a number of Geoffrey Palmer's faux-Italo projects (which include the Piero and the looming Orsini); the Post positions Bray-Ali as an antidote to the type of haphazard development that bears no relation to the surrounding community. And, touching on the topic of immigration, Bray-Ali had some choice words for President Trump on his campaign site, stating that he would "resist the xenophobia, hate and threat our current federal administration poses to the way of life we enjoy together as Angelenos."

Also, one fun tidbit about Bray-Ali: for a cool $15,000 you can buy his bike shop—Flying Pigeon LA in Cypress Park—which he's offloading to help finance his campaign.

LAist reached out to Bray-Ali's camp but no one was immediately available for comment.