Maura In The News

Felix: Run for top spot a glorious defeat

By Eunice Kim / Staff Writer for West Roxbury Transcript
Thursday, January 8, 2004

Despite losing his bid for council president, Boston's first Latino city councilor, Felix Arroyo, says he accomplished a lot by simply having made a run.

Arroyo, who announced his candidacy for president last week, was defeated Monday by incumbent council President Michael Flaherty, who will now serve his third consecutive term as president.

Flaherty had announced he had a majority of councilors' support before Arroyo had even announced he was running. But after the 9-4 vote, Arroyo said his run was not fruitless.

"I ran to assert our independence in the council and to make sure we reflect what our constituents want," he said.

Arroyo aimed to push for changes in the council structure that would make it more friendly to councilors' agendas, including amending Rule 19, so a majority could decide what issues were discussed. Now, there's no easy way for the council to override the president's decision to table a matter as not germane.

Through his candidacy, Arroyo said he looked to give the councilors an alternative, "So they could chose if they wanted to continue as they were before, of if they were willing and able to take a new challenge.

"I think all of these were accomplished with my candidacy," Arroyo said.

The initial vote on the presidency ended in a 9-4 vote for Flaherty, with councilors Maura Hennigan, Chuck Turner and Charles Yancey supporting Arroyo.

But then Arroyo asked that the vote be made unanimous, which it was. "I'm grateful for all my colleagues who supported me," Flaherty said, later adding he would have "preferred to have Felix's vote."

Flaherty was disappointed that he did not receive Arroyo's support, but understood everyone has a right to put his name forward.

"I respect [Arroyo] as an individual and look forward to working with him," he said.

Arroyo echoed the sentiment, saying he anticipates meeting with Flaherty to discuss ways to improve the council's rules and the agenda this year. Also, he believes issues mentioned by Flaherty, including developing a planning department and improving education.

Looking ahead

District 6 City Councilor John Tobin, who supported Flaherty's candidacy, thinks Arroyo's run for president served to strengthen the council.

"People either run because they really believe they can win, or it's their way to make a statement," he said, adding it was fairly clear to Arroyo he did not have the votes to win.

"It's still good to talk to Felix [and see] what his plans would have if he were elected. It's a good check and balance within our own body."

Flaherty called this year's 9-4 vote a "carbon copy of last year's vote." Despite the fractured vote, he pledged to "demonstrate the professionalism and cooperation to serve the interest of all of Boston's people." He also promised continue to reach out to all.

"The internal politics and the political differences that do exist I think can be overcome through dialogue, compromise and negotiations. I need the councilors who didn't support me to meet me halfway and meet my colleagues halfway," he said. "The divisive politics and the payback politics are politics of a day gone by."

Hennigan, who was proud to support Arroyo, hopes Flaherty "means what he says" in terms of reaching out to all of the councilors and not just to those who agree with him.

"It's really not about personal individuals here. It's really about making sure there is a dynamic on the council where people can express their opinion," she said.

Hennigan said people should not stifle other's opinions, which she believes Flaherty has done in the past. Earlier, Hennigan accused Flaherty of using his power to try to take some of his colleagues, including herself, out of office.

Nonetheless, she said Tuesday, "I think we don't look back. You learn from the past. I hope [Flaherty] has learned from that. Why doesn't he leave the election of elected officials to the public and try not to interfere? Hopefully, he heard that message ... Hopefully he's going to focus on what's important, providing people the best service possible."

Aiming for unity

Arroyo stressed that unity is not developed by ignoring differences.

"Unity has to be developed in terms of understanding what the differences are, accepting them, respecting them and including bridges whenever possible," he said. "Equity and respect have to be the perimeters by which we connect to each other."

Arroyo said he has proven he can work with every councilor as every councilor supported one of his more than 35 pieces of legislation presented to the council last year.

By the council working as a whole, Flaherty said, the group will be more focused and effective. Flaherty added, "It's really not about us. It's about the constituents, the taxpayers, the people who elected us."

Flaherty wants to talk to all councilors, as he does not set the agenda alone.

His priorities for the year include developing a new student assignment policy, addressing youth drug abuse with community health centers and working on the budget.

More runs?

As for a future run for president, Arroyo said it was premature. He could not say what he will do, if the position became available.

The council president serves as acting mayor when Mayor Thomas M. Menino is unable to serve or out of town. Menino became mayor when Raymond Flynn left to become ambassador to the Vatican.

"I like to see situations as they come and analyze my options and what I plan to do," Arroyo said.

He pledged his support to Flaherty, while continuing to push for what he thinks is right.

But Arroyo added, "In the future, if there is a challenge to take, I will take it. I'm not afraid of taking a risk,"

Tobin said in any given year, any one of the 13 councilors could be president.

"A coalition can be whipped together in a matter of minutes. If something - God forbid - were to happen to Michael or the mayor, I'm sure there would be multiple [replacements] in line," he said.

Tobin said he thinks a councilor is better off having the presidency come to him or her than chasing it. "If you try and put it together ... more often times than not, you get burned," he said.

Eunice Kim can be reached at [email protected]

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