Candidate Chat: Luis Valerio
David S. Bernstein: Why are you running for District 6 City Council?
Luis Valerio: The main reason is, as a parent I have experienced when I tried to enroll my daughter in a school in West Roxbury. At that time, they didn’t have a spot available for the kids. They still have the problem. If you try to enroll your kid in the neighborhood school, you don’t have a spot. That’s why I decided to run, because as a parent I have a real concern about the schools.
Have you ever run for office, or been active in a political campaign before?
This is my first time running for office. I was involved in politics in the Dominican Republic, but not here. I am a member of the Massachusetts Democratic Latino Council. I joined this year.
Are there others who have run for office here before, who you look at as role models, or who you’d like to pattern yourself after—whether they are Latino or not?
No, not really. I am the first Dominican running in the city of Boston—no Dominican has ever run for City Council. I run as a parent; I’m trying to reduce the amount of money we’re spending busing our kids, to invest the money into increasing the amount of classrooms in our schools. You know, David, when you have more classrooms, that means less kids per classroom, and improving the quality of education. I don’t really have a role model. I am going to do the best for the kids, what is the best for our neighborhoods. Because I’m not just running for the schools. I have other plans, specific to my district.
I saw on your web site that you have a number of plans specific to Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury. How did you develop those?
Well, the majority of them are common sense. For example, a West Roxbury adult learning center is really doable. We have, already, a lot of facilities we can use. We have a couple of schools we can use in the evening or afternoon. Brookline has this already. Newton has this already. This is something we can do, we just need to have the effort. I am parent of two kids who play soccer on the Parkway, in the youth soccer league at Millennium Park. I realized in winter time, they have nothing to do. They have to stay at home, watching TV or playing video games or on the computer. If we create an indoor facility, our children can play all year. We live in New England. That comes to me as a parent, it’s common sense. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist.
You said you had some involvement in politics in the Dominican Republic. What is the difference in politics between Santo Domingo and Boston? Is it very different?
Yeah, there are differences. But essentially, whatever country you go, you do politics because you want to help the people. You are looking to serve the people of the community, to improve the quality of life in the community. That’s what drives you to be in politics, and that’s the same. But the major difference, we have more regulation here in terms of the money. We have, also, a different style in the campaign. Over there it’s more noisy. The Caribbean campaigns, and advertising. You can put a sign anywhere you want. You have more regulation here. I like it. It makes more sense. They are also more respectful, the way we do politics [here] than in the Dominican Republic. You cannot compare the way they do politics in a third-world country to the way you do it in America, it’s a huge difference. But what you drive to be in politics is the same.
Among Hispanics here, there is a lot of attention on Gabriel Gomez running for Senate. Do you have any thoughts about him?
As I mentioned, I am a member of the Democratic Latino Caucus, so I am going to vote for Ed Markey. When you run, you want people to vote for you not because you are Latino. You expect people to vote for you because the issues you stand for are beneficial for the Latino community. In his case, I don’t see that’s the case. I don’t see Gabriel Gomez defending the interests of the Latino community. He’s a banker from Wall Street, he’s not a typical Latino.
You live in West Roxbury; as you’re beginning to campaign throughout the district, is there any part of the district, any neighborhood you have learned something about?
The two main neighborhoods of the district, Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury, are completely opposite. JP is probably the most diverse neighborhood in the entire city—you have a great Latino community, you have also a lot of small business in the area. That is very different from West Roxbury—that’s why I put on my website two different plans, for two different neighborhoods. I live in West Roxbury, I am very involved there, my daughter is currently attending the Patrick Lyndon school. I know the neighborhood very well. But I also know very well Jamaica Plain because I used to live there. I go all the time to JP—in fact every Sunday I attend church over there, in Spanish.
St. Thomas Aquinas. I go there every Sunday with my family. It is in Spanish, and the tradition is important. And it is good for my kids to learn Spanish. That’s one thing, as a city councilor, I’m going to work hard for: bilingual education, to put it back. Not just because I am Latino, but also because we live in a global economy, and for our kids, it’s good to speak more than one language.
There is an incumbent, Matt O’Malley, who you’ll be running against. Do you have any observation or comment about him?
We’re running for the same position; I’m not running against him. I know Matt. I have nothing personal against him. He’s a nice guy, he’s a good guy. But we have two different visions of what the neighborhood should be. As a parent, I know the frustration of many parents in West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain and in the entire city when those parents can’t have a spot in a school in their own neighborhood. It happened to me, I used to travel, for two years, 40 minutes every day in the morning to bring my daughter to school. When I talk to parents about local schools, I can talk to them as someone who knows because I’ve been there. When I talk about what we are going to do to improve the quality of the schools, I’m looking at investing in the future of the nation, because the kids are the future of the nation. My opponent maybe doesn’t have that vision because he doesn’t have any kids. He doesn’t get it—that’s the problem. It’s nothing personal, I think he’s a good guy, a nice guy, but we have two different visions.
Read more Boston City Council Candidate Chats. This interview has been edited for length.