Arroyo: Youth jobs come first

John Ruch

Gets advice from ex-mayor relative

New City Councilor Felix Arroyo told the Gazette he will make summer jobs for youths his top priority now that he is in office—and he already started to “build a coalition” to secure them.

Arroyo, a Jamaica Plain resident, also revealed one of the secrets to his electoral success: advice and support from his father-in-law, who happens to be a former mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“I only have one term guaranteed to me,” said Arroyo, who takes office in January, explaining that he will put maximum effort into those two years as an at-large (citywide) city councilor. That starts with a focus on inner-city youths.

“What I’m asking for is more summer jobs, and at the very least, level-funding” of jobs programs, Arroyo said. Most city councilors support the idea, but the trick is making it a priority in what is shaping up to be an even tighter budget, he said.

Arroyo also said he will support the ongoing City Council effort to repair decaying Boston Public Schools (BPS) buildings using federal stimulus funds, perhaps with Boston-based construction crews.

“We’re literally at the point where our schools could be falling down around us,” he said, adding that he also will fulfill a campaign pledge to audit the BPS budget.

Arroyo still has his sights on the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), the city’s quasi-independent planning and development agency, which was criticized by many candidates as too powerful and secretive.

“I’m going to be moving for BRA reform,” Arroyo said. “I don’t know where the will of the [council] is,” he said, adding that it seems a “minority bloc” of incoming councilors wants such reform. He called on advocacy organizations to campaign for BRA reform.

“I did well over 30 candidates forums, and [BRA reform] came up at all of them,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo is no stranger to City Hall. He worked as an aide to City Councilor Chuck Turner, and his father, Felix D. Arroyo, was the city’s first Latino councilor and a popular local figure for years.

But Arroyo got even more advice about city government from his father-in-law, Héctor Luis Acevedo, who served two terms as mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, from 1988 to 1996. A law professor and author, Acevedo also served as president of Puerto Rico’s Popular Democratic Party and ran unsuccessfully for governor of the territory.

Asked about the political advice Acevedo offered, Arroyo joked, “He was the boss. He didn’t have to be on the City Council.” But Acevedo knows a thing or two about tough campaigns—he won his first race by about 27 votes, Arroyo said. The ex-mayor was able to raise Arroyo’s spirits on the campaign trail by emphasizing the value of every single vote.

Voter turnout in Puerto Rican elections is typically over 80 percent—one of the world’s highest rates—and politicians there become celebrities. Arroyo capitalized on that when Acevedo worked a South End polling place for him on Election Day, where many Latino voters recognized the former mayor instantly.

Acevedo also attended Arroyo’s victory party at the James’s Gate in JP, which was broadcast live via the Internet to supporters in Puerto Rico.

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