City Limits: Meet Boston’s 2013 Mayoral Candidates
City Councilor Felix Arroyo was having fun. He was riding shotgun while his campaign consultant—who, out of basic human decency, shall remain nameless—struggled to parallel park. “Oh, my man, you could park a T bus here!” Arroyo said. “Commit with the wheel!” Just then he got a ping on his phone: a picture of his first batch of campaign lawn signs, freshly printed up. Positively giddy, he showed me the picture: “How about that, Forward with Felix!”
The 34-year-old son of a former city councilor, also named Felix, Arroyo cut his teeth as an SEIU organizer before being elected as an at-large city councilor in 2009. He’s fond of identifying himself as a “son of Boston,” born to Puerto Rican immigrants in the South End, raised bilingually in Hyde Park, educated in Boston Public Schools, and currently a resident of Jamaica Plain. He’s the city’s first major Latino candidate for mayor.
Of all the candidates, Arroyo is the best at meshing his personal story with the issues. Ask him about schools, and he’ll tell you about how he and his wife, a BPS teacher, had to spend thousands of dollars outfitting her classroom with supplies. Ask him about crime, and Arroyo will instantly turn grave and recount the neighborhood kids he’s had to help bury.
More often than not, though, Arroyo is prone to answering most—or at least lots of—questions with jokes. It’s really pretty fun if you’re just hanging out with him. But it plays to the suspicions of those who think he lacks gravitas. Critics point to his inexperience and relative youth as weak points—as Karen Irizarry put it at the John Connolly house party, “Felix could be the right person 10 years from now.” Perhaps to combat that perception, Arroyo touts an ambitious plan that would require banks holding city money to offer loans to Boston homeowners and small businesspeople. When I asked him about his biggest city-council accomplishment, he talked about helping to keep neighborhood libraries open.
On the way to a house party in Roslindale, I brought up his status as the first Latino candidate, and the idea of New Boston. “I am Latino, but that’s not all that I am,” he said. “What I want is for the voters of Boston to know all of me.”
“I understand what people mean when they say New Boston,” he continued, “but that implies that there’s an Old Boston.” Arroyo considers those terms to be overly blunt instruments. “Cities are alive,” he said. “Cities are a reflection of their residents, the leadership, and our ideals and values.”
At the Roslindale house party, the host got up to introduce Arroyo. “I’m really pleased he’s here, I’m pleased he’s running for office,” the host said. “As a friend of mine said, ‘He certainly represents the New Boston.’”