Bostons first Latino City Councilor sworn in

BOSTON – History was made in this New England city with the coming of the new year. Felix Arroyo, the first Latino member of the City Council was sworn into office on Jan. 6. Arroyo is originally from Puerto Rico and works as the Deputy Director of the Hispanic Office of Planning and Evaluation, a multi-service agency affiliated with the National Council of La Raza.

Arroyo ran for one of the four at-large seats on the City Council and came in fifth. For those not winning a seat on the Council the fifth position is a coveted spot because if any of the at-large members leave their positions the next in number of votes gets the seat. Rob Consalvo, who came in sixth, asked for a recount after that election.

Arroyo received support from organizations such as Boston National Organization for Women, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Political Alliance of Massachusetts, as well as parents and Latino groups.

The new Councilor has a long history of over 25 years as a parent-activist for public education. Arroyo ran for a seat on the School Committee twice before without any success. After the School Committee became an appointed body, the then mayor Ray Flynn put Arroyo on it. Even though there was no requirement to do so, Arroyo left his paid position as Flynn’s personnel director to serve as the unpaid head of the School Committee. Arroyo explained that he wanted to be able to be independent of the mayor.

Arroyo was reappointed by the current mayor, Thomas Menino, but was not reappointed after he opposed Menino and School Superintendent Thomas Payzant for “race-neutral school assignments.” Race was considered in assigning students to the different schools as a result of the federal court judge Arthur Garrity’s desegregation order of 1974.

Even though Menino refused to reappoint Arroyo to the School Committee, the new City Councilor will be supportive of the mayor in his attempt to get some type of rent control reintroduced in the city.

Arroyo has been active in other issues affecting the Latino and other communities in Boston. Last October he was one of a number of elected officials that joined with labor, religious and other leaders in support of the striking janitors.

Arroyo joins a growing number of Latinos in elected positions throughout Massachusetts including, for the first time, four state legislators serving together for the first time. This also includes the first state senator.

Nevertheless, Latinos, as well as other minorities, are underrepresented in the halls of power in this state and the city of Boston.

If Boston had minority representation in line with its population ratio, six of the thirteen members would be from minority groups.

Massachusetts African Americans, Latinos and Asians make up 18 percent of its population but only 1.4 percent of its elected officials are members of minority groups.

The author can be reached at jacruz@attbi.com