Arroyo to join City Council
Incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino fended off a challenge from Michael Flaherty in Tuesday’s election with 57 percent of the citywide vote, a victory that looks easier on paper than it was on the streets. Menino became the first mayor in the city’s history to win a fifth term in office.
Menino reportedly won JP by a slim margin of a few hundred votes, according to unofficial poll-watcher reports.
JP resident Felix G. Arroyo was another big winner on Election Night. He will be an at-large city councilor after earning more than 45,000 votes—almost as many as Flaherty pulled in the mayoral race.
“Jamaica Plain did it! They put me over the top!” Arroyo told the Gazette at his victory party at James’s Gate in JP. “I’m a proud JP kid.”
Newcomer Ayanna Pressley and incumbents John Connolly and Steve Murphy also won at-large seats. Tito Jackson came in fifth, which means he can automatically fill a council seat if one of the incumbents leaves office.
In the district City Council races, voters returned all three local incumbents to their seats. They include John Tobin, who represents most of JP; City Council President Mike Ross, who represents part of Hyde Square; and Chuck Turner, who represents Egleston Square.
Turner, who is under federal indictment on bribery charges, previously declared the election a referendum on his guilt or innocence. He beat challenger Carlos Henriquez with 60 percent of the vote.
In an e-mail to supporters, Turner called the victory a “mandate,” adding, “Now that my continuation as the District 7 Councilor is assured, I will focus my attention on disposing of the government’s bogus case.”
Running unopposed, Tobin still drew almost 13,000 votes—far more than other councilors in the same position. Tobin previously told the Gazette he will run for mayor in 2013, no matter who held the office. On Election Night, he hedged slightly on that ambition.
“If the opportunity’s there, yeah, of course I’ll run in 2013,” Tobin told the Gazette when asked if he is now officially running for mayor. But, he added, he is focused on re-election in 2011 first and not looking farther ahead. He has pledged to leave the City Council one way or another in 2013, “which just happens to be the next mayoral election,” he noted with a laugh.
Ross beat challenger Oscar Brookins in a landslide with 84 percent of the vote.
Voter turnout citywide was about 31 percent, and JP’s Ward 19 reportedly was once again among the highest-turnout areas. While the turnout was relatively high for a city election, it did not reach the historic levels that many observers predicted and that some challengers counted on.
JP’s new councilor
Arroyo will be the first JP resident to serve on the City Council since his father, Felix D. Arroyo, left office almost two years ago. He joins the increasingly long list of JP residents holding elected office, along with state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz and state Reps. Liz Malia and Jeffrey Sánchez.
Perching atop a chair to address the crowd at his victory party, Arroyo described himself as just part of a larger and longer struggle for social and economic justice.
“Every once in a while, somebody gets to stand on a chair with a microphone. This is just a moment,” he said, giving credit to his supporters and especially to the working class.
“I won’t forget where I came from,” he promised. “I’m a damn proud working-class kid standing on a chair in a bar in Jamaica Plain.”
Arroyo, whose family background is Puerto Rican, noted that he hates being labeled as a Latino candidate and did not run that way. “But we do [now] have a council that has a Latino on it,” he said. He also pointed to the election of Pressley, who will be the first African-American woman to serve on the City Council.
Arroyo originally made these points while speaking Spanish. Switching back to English, he said, “To those who didn’t understand what I said, it is because you don’t understand. I will fight for more bilingual education in this city.”
Other issues he mentioned included Boston Public Schools reform, public safety improvements and his “belief that housing is just a basic human right.”
“You call that ‘progressive,’” Arroyo said. “I call that being a human being.”
Arroyo’s father was the city’s first Latino councilor and a popular liberal figure for his five years in office.
“I’m just a proud father,” Felix D. Arroyo told the Gazette at the victory party. “Every father’s dream is for his children to do better than himself, and I’m sure he will.”
“Felix Arroyo is a huge victory for our city, for Jamaica Plain and for diversity,” Ross told the Gazette at the party. “It’s going to be a great City Council.”
Malia told the Gazette that she believes Arroyo and Pressley will be excellent councilors. “In a tough time, we’ve got some good people coming in,” she said.
Malia said it is significant to have another elected official from the neighborhood. “The roots get watered here,” she said. “There’s a lot that comes from grassroots.”
For Tobin, Arroyo’s victory party was a time warp. He ran into Gibrán Rivera, a former JP resident who gave Tobin a serious electoral challenge a few years ago. And Arroyo’s win gave him a taste of déjà vu.
“You know you’re getting older when you’re serving with the son of a guy you served with,” Tobin joked, as Felix D. Arroyo joined the conversation as if on cue. Tobin praised the influx of “young people of color” in the City Council campaign, and now on the council itself.
A decade ago, he, Ross and Rob Consalvo were young newcomers on the council, labeled as the “Young Turks.” But now, Tobin joked, “We look like the reunion tour of a washed-up boy band.”
With political savvy, Tobin quickly added that he was not referring to the actual Boston boy band New Kids on the Block, which had JP roots in member Joey McIntyre.