At-Large City Councilor and Jamaica Plain resident Felix Arroyo barely broke stride walking past the E-13 Police Station on Washington Street, Oct. 24.
“It never stopped!” he shouted with a wry grin, responding to a police officer in the parking lot who asked how his re-election campaign is going. Elected in 2009, Arroyo is one of seven candidates seeking four At-Large Council seats in the Nov. 7 city election.
Moments later, sitting at a booth at Ruggerio’s Market, Arroyo noted that he had only been on the job for just shy of two years.
“I am coming up on 23 months,” the first term councilor said. “I feel good about it. I’ve made a point of being accessible and present as possible in all in all 23 wards. I feel good about the victories we have had.”
Leading his list of accomplishments was his leadership in successful effort to oppose proposed branch library closures—including Jamaica Plain and Egleston Square branches—in the spring and summer of 2010.
He also noted that he, along with then City Council President Mike Ross and then-City Councilor John Tobin, proved to be up to the task of negotiating a deal with the firefighter’s union last year.
Following an arbitration ruling that would have cost the city millions to impose mandatory drug-testing for firefighters, negotiations between the union and the councilors “saved the city $43 million,” Arroyo said. “We settled that thing at my old union hall,” Service Employees International Union Local 615 in Dorchester, where Arroyo used to work.
Thirdly, he said, he was proud of his pivotal role in restoring helping restore around 3,000 jobs to the city’s youth summer jobs program over the past two summers. This summer the city initially planned to offer 7,400 jobs, but ended up offering 9,000.
“Those are all things that every one of my colleagues would acknowledge I took the lead on,” Arroyo said.
But, Arroyo admitted, he has not been able to accomplish everything he wanted to. During his 2009 campaign and this one, he has repeated a story on the stump about how he spent $5,000 furnishing his wife Jasmine Acevedo’s first classroom when the Boston Public School teacher found it empty of supplies, textbooks and even bookshelves two weeks before the start of the school year.
Asked by the Gazette if he had done anything to improve teachers’ access to supplies and resources over the past two years, Arroyo admitted said that, because of the shrinking municipal budget, “We have been playing more defense than offense. The recession puts a limit on how we can spend…We are trying to save what we have.”
Arroyo said he has been working with At-Large City Councilor John Connolly, who chairs the council’s education committee, “to make sure our school system doesn’t see drastic cuts,” and that he has worked to increase funding for programs for English Language Learners.
On another front, Arroyo said he is hopeful that, if re-elected, he can push forward his “Invest in Boston” plan. That plan would require the city to put its over $1 billion in deposits in banks that have the best track records for local lending.
“That one is awesome,” he said of the proposal, saying it would mean more real estate development and small business loans, boosting employment, and give banks an incentive to pursue home loan modifications more enthusiastically.
He said he planned to re-file the bill in City Council next week, but that he does not expect any movement on it before the election. “People are waiting to see if I get reelected,” he said.
In addition to his big accomplishments and plans, Arroyo has more specific, smaller legislation.
Himself a lifelong asthmatic, Arroyo said he advocated for the creation of the City Council’s Committee on Asthma, which he now co-chairs.
“Asthma is very common in the city and more common the closer you get to the center of the city,” he said. The committee has been working on things like making sure schools, libraries and community centers use cleaning products that do not exacerbate the repertory disease, and proposed new rules to allow for increased enforcement of anti-idling rules for motor vehicles.
He is also, most good city councilors, focused on quality-of-life issues, including a proposed new rule that would limit the hours that trash can be picked up from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. “It’s the same hours as disturbing the peace,” Arroyo said.