Candidate's endorsement agreement with a former rival draws complaints in L.A. City Council race

Los Angeles City Council candidates in tight races frequently seek endorsements from former rivals to broaden their base of support.

But an endorsement agreement in the Council District 1 race in northeast Los Angeles is drawing complaints.

Candidate and bike activist Joe Bray-Ali signed an endorsement pledge last month with Jesse Rosas, a Highland Park resident who ran in the primary election, but was not among the top two vote-getters.

Bray-Ali, who faces City Councilman Gil Cedillo in the May 16 runoff, agreed to three stipulations in exchange for Rosas’ backing, including “no [bicycle] lanes on Figueroa St without community consensus,” the agreement says.

Bray-Ali also committed to keep a district office in Highland Park and to hire a planning director and staff from Rosas’ “group.”

Rosas and Bray-Ali worked on the agreement together, both men confirmed. It was posted to Twitter last month by an acquaintance of Rosas.

The document is dated March 16.

Cedillo campaign spokeswoman Helen Sanchez described the pledge as a “backroom deal.”

“Trading government jobs and resources for political gain betrays the taxpayer’s trust,” Sanchez said. “[Bray-Ali] says he’s running to bring change to City Hall but he’s doing exactly what he accuses other people of doing.”

Bray-Ali and Cedillo are in a contentious race for the District 1 seat, which takes in several northeast neighborhoods and stretches down to Chinatown and Pico-Union.

Thomas Hiltachk, a Sacramento-based attorney who specializes in election law, said the agreement shows “a lack of ethical judgment.”

“A public official owes his or her duty to act in the best interests of the taxpayers and citizens of Los Angeles by hiring the best person qualified for the job, not political payback,” said Hiltachk, who isn’t involved the race.

However, Los Angeles-based election law attorney Fred Woocher believes the agreement is nothing more than a list of campaign promises.

“People make pledges like this all the time,” said Woocher, who also has no involvement in the race. “In order to induce people to vote for him, [Bray-Ali] is entitled to say what he would do.”

Bray-Ali said in an email that he doesn’t feel the pledge gives an advantage to Rosas or anyone else.

“But it does set standards for what I think is the right way forward in the district: community consensus on bike lanes, a field office to remain in Highland Park, and hiring people who know the district and the city very well,” Bray-Ali said.

Bray-Ali, the owner of a now-closed bike shop, has been a vocal proponent of a proposal to install bike lanes on a three-mile stretch of Figueroa Street.

Campaign spokesman Michael Atkins said Bray-Ali’s position hasn’t changed on the project. The candidate, he said, will continue to work with the community on bike lanes.

In an interview, Rosas said he opposes bike lanes because he thinks they aren’t safe for drivers.

He said Bray-Ali’s commitment to hire from his “group” refers to the candidate’s promise to pick staffers who are known in the community.

“If I know the person … we can really make things happen,” Rosas said.

dakota.smith@latimes.com

Twitter: @dakotacdsmith

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