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But it’s not just affordable-housing skeptics in the Valley who aren’t Reyes fans. Some of his most vocal Cypress Park neighbors are unhappy with him.
Art Pulido, for example, who has known Reyes and his family since childhood, thinks the councilman has his head in the clouds.
"You know what we got from Ed Reyes?" Pulido asks. Supplying his own answer, he forms a circle with his thumb and forefinger and holds it up to his eye. Zero.
"That’s a powerful position. Why doesn’t he hustle for us? Violence, drugs, dropouts — he doesn’t want to deal with that. He wants to deal with the river. With development."
He scoffs at the notion that Reyes is Cypress Park all the way. Even as a child, Pulido says, Reyes was aloof. Went to Sacred Heart, and then Cathedral High School. Went to school, came straight home.
"When he was 13, 14 years old, his mom didn’t allow him outside," Pulido claims.
This March, Pulido says, he will be casting his vote for "anybody but Ed Reyes."
John Edwards, a relative newcomer to Cypress Park, comes from a different perspective. But he ends up in the same place.
"He’s obsessed with the L.A. River," says Edwards, who runs a computer learning center. "Look what he’s ignored in the process!"
Edwards also notes that Reyes tends to lecture people on the city’s long history of neglecting the Latino Eastside and historically black South L.A.
"So is he trying to make up for the past discrimination," Edwards asks, "or is he against white people? I personally think he’s a racist."
Reyes’ own supporters and staffers bristle, or laugh, at the notion that Reyes is a racist. Still, they acknowledge that the councilman’s vision includes an environmentalism that’s embraced by working-class Latinos, and that groups that traditionally steward the river and the trees are, well, not Latino. Anglo. Elitist?
Ask the man himself, and he assumes a familiar stance. Eyes up, then closed, fleeting smile. "How can I say this?" he asks aloud. A pause. This time, there is no answer.
While some of Reyes’ City Council colleagues will glide to re-election this March -unopposed, Reyes drew seven challengers. None is considered a serious threat. But just over four years ago, Reyes, too, was considered a long shot.
The difficulty Reyes sometimes has in articulating his vision is underscored by the very different image presented by his chief ally on inclusionary zoning, and a host of other progressive measures, Councilman Eric Garcetti. Garcetti is everything Reyes is not — charismatic, confident, at ease with a crowd, comfortable with attention, smooth-tongued in both English and Spanish.
Reyes, pressing his point on why developers should subsidize affordable-housing construction, often asks community groups, "How much is enough?" It is from the heart. And it usually clunks on the floor.
Garcetti puts it differently. "We all have to sacrifice," he told a housing forum recently. "Communities have to give a little bit on density. Builders have to give a little bit on profits. Affordable-housing advocates have to give a little bit on their goals."
There’s something in there for everyone to hate. But Garcetti’s delivery, as always, was perfect, and he drew a warm round of applause.
Why can’t Reyes do that? But Garcetti says Reyes doesn’t need to. He brings the vision, but also much more. The guts. The guts to be unpopular, for a program he fervently believes is right.
"Ed Reyes is one of the most courageous people I have ever met," Garcetti says. "This is a very hard thing to do. But he will keep fighting for it. And we’re lucky because of that."