Thursday, December 06, 2007

Arroyo should consider mayoral bid.

Issue Date: 12/6/2007, Posted On: 12/5/2007

Arroyo versus Menino. Why not?

by Kevin John Sowryda

There’s something about retiring City Councilor Felix Arroyo which strikes me as worth saving from the where-are-they-now archives. Instead of being relegated to anonymity and “I could’a been a contendah,” in a Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront sort of way, Felix might consider rolling the dice and playing some David vs. Goliath. My point? Felix Arroyo should run for Mayor of Boston.

Not simply because no else will do it, though that’s reason enough. But Felix may well find an inviting audience in a mayoral contest during a season when the country is going through a unique and powerful multiculturalism guilt complex — long overdue I’d say — which is propelling minorities to greatness whether they be Deval Patrick or a young senator from Illinois who is running for an office a bit higher up the food chain.

Not one to shy from independent pronouncements and breaking ranks with many of the traditional power basis in the Hub, Arroyo is the de facto leader of the minority community in the city. Due to a myriad of odd political dynamics, the at-large councilor was defeated for re-election on Nov. 6. Losing to John Connolly may have been more painful to Arroyo than just the concept of losing in and of itself. Connolly’s claim to fame is, well, that his father is the former Massachusetts secretary of state.

But here’s why Felix should run. First, he commands respect. I’m the first to get a little irked when he takes on issues better addressed in the marbled halls of the state department in Washington, but the guy’s squeaky clean in a city which smells to high Heaven from corruption and old-boy network deal making that doesn’t rest even on Sundays.

Second, Arroyo’s name recognition is huge and there seems to be a sympathy factor concerning his unanticipated defeat in the council race early last month. Eyes are still tearing from not only sad surprise but guilt. I’ve had my fair share of conversations with city conservatives (there is such an enclave hiding in various nooks and crannies) who were happy to have an independent, progressive at-large councilor who was never afraid to break ranks with Mayor Menino.

Third, Arroyo’s mayoral endeavor could well garner at least a dusting of national attention. The producers at CNN won’t have a problem doing a profile here and there on a charismatic Latino politician running for the top political job in the Hub.
Fourth, as alluded to earlier, Arroyo could likely be the only name-worthy contender. That means the loyal opposition has no where to go but to his exclusive bandwagon, and the opposition looking for a ride and a vibrant mayoral contest is growing rapidly. Coupled with this are the obvious signs that the economy for 2008 is looking tenuous at best. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue just reported a sharp drop in state collections and the housing market is so pathetically bad that real estate brokers in the South End would have been throwing their bodies out of windows months ago, if only they worked in high rises. A bad economy can often be disastrous for an incumbent but a highly affective wedge issue for a competent opponent.

Fifth, spare me the straight jacket because I’m holding my ground on this one — I’m utterly convinced that Arroyo can be competitive in the all important money contest. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s what killed the guy in the race he just lost. But bear with me here. Though Menino’s money machine could give lessons to Chase Manhattan Bank, we seem to be entering a new era of small donors taking a big role in elections, empowered by the Internet. Classic case in point, Republican presidential under-dog Ron Paul who raised nearly $4 million on the net in one day last month. The money was not coming from developers and political king pins, but the “little guy” whose increasingly disenchanted with status quo politics. On a smaller level, one can imagine Arroyo raising sufficient funds to organize an affective retail campaign against Menino’s Tammany Hall like political apparatus. If he hired someone to run the campaign, that is.

Last, but not least, Arroyo has nothing to lose by challenging the mayor. I mean, what’s the prince of the city going to do? Block Arroyo’s ability to deliver constituency services? The election results make all that a mute issue now. I’m giving Arroyo the same advice the late, great Tip O’Neil gave Mike Dukakis when the governor asked the speaker if he should run for president. O’Neil told Dukakis to go for it because the Duke had nothing to lose.