Arroyo plans future activism

December 14, 2007
By

JOHN RUCH

Soon-to-be former City Councilor Felix Arroyo plans to start an organization to boost civic participation—and would gladly return to the Boston City Council.

The popular Jamaica Plain resident lost his at-large council seat in the November election. A plunge in voter turnout helped to seal his fate.

“We did what we could,” Arroyo said in a Gazette interview last week. “[The decision] belonged to the people. The problem was, people didn’t vote.”

“We can look for 20 different excuses,” Arroyo said of voter turnout that was under 14 percent citywide. “We have lost our sense of civic duty…Everything else is a symptom.”

“Fourteen percent made the decision for 100 percent [of Boston’s citizens],” he said, describing that as a far bigger concern than his own electoral loss.

Arroyo intends to start a non-profit organization to educate and empower residents. The theme, he said, will be “one Boston for all…[with a] common agenda of justice and equity.”

The organization would develop ideas for getting people interested in government and a variety of related issues, such as education. The overall goal, he said, would be “preparing and planning for our future, and not just reacting to it when it’s here.”

Arroyo would either serve as a paid employee of the non-profit, or seek a university position, he said. In the short term, he plans to “retreat” and reflect on the issues that interest him.

In the at-large City Council elections, the top four vote-getters win seats. If one of them leaves office during their term, the fifth-place finisher is eligible to take their seat. That is how Arroyo, who officially leaves office next month, joined the council in 2003. He surprised pundits with two impressive electoral victories after that.

Arroyo also finished fifth in this year’s election, so he could be in the same position again. Would he resume serving on the City Council if a seat opened up?

“Why not?” Arroyo said. “That’s an opportunity, as I see it, to continue projects I’ve begun.”

Those projects, he said, include a police review board, Boston Public Schools reform and affordable housing issues.