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Hyde Park attorney to take on District 5 councilor
Ricardo Arroyo. photo: Courtesy Ricardo Arroyo

An early challenger has stepped up to battle City Councilor Tim McCarthy for his District 5 seat in the November 2019 election.

Ricardo Arroyo quit his job as a public defender last Friday and this week announced his intention to run for Boston City Council, representing residents in Mattapan, Roslindale and Hyde Park.

“Being a public defender was a blessing and privilege,” said Arroyo, who studied law in Chicago after graduating from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with a bachelor’s degree in history. “It gave me the opportunity to come into contact with the type of folks who are not really seen or heard by the city.”

A son of Felix D. Arroyo, the first Latino to hold a seat on the Boston City Council, Ricardo grew up in a political family. It was while he was in high school and coaching youth sports, as he watched players and classmates become victims of violence, that Arroyo said his path into politics began. First motivated by a sense of social justice to become a public defender, Arroyo told the Banner that he wants to take his passion to the city stage and bring forth “wide-arching change.”

“I’ve had individual impact,” said Arroyo, “but it’s not possible to change the overarching issues affecting people as a public defender.”

Tired of “patching up the individual and not changing the problem,” Arroyo said his work has put him in contact with service providers and programs that tackle social issues, including drug addiction, mental health and homelessness. This, he said, means that as a city councilor he will be able to get these marginalized communities the help they need.

“Being a councilor allows me to work for these services and find ways to connect the community with these services,” said Arroyo, “because we all pay the cost when this isn’t done.”

While he has spent recent years working in criminal justice, Arroyo says he plans to focus on a wide range of issues that affect young people and their families.

“I look at change holistically, because it is very difficult to stabilize someone if a major pillar of their life is not well,” he said.

Organizing the campaign will be political activist Patrick Keaney, and Arroyo plans to work full-time on the campaign, raising funds using Democratic software tool ActBlue.

City Council District 5 includes all of Hyde Park and sections of Roslindale and Mattapan, including Mattapan Square. A majority of the voting-age population of the district are people of color, including large populations of Haitians, West Indians, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans.

Arroyo said he and his team plan to build an “aggressive grassroots campaign” that will include door-knocking, phone banks and house parties. His primary tactic, he said, will be “meeting people where they are.”

McCarthy, who lives with his family in Hyde Park and has worked as the mayor’s neighborhood services coordinator, director of the Boston Youth Fund and as a leader in the Department of Public Works, won the seat after former District 5 Councilor Rob Consalvo left to run for mayor in the 2013 race. McCarthy faced community activist Jean Claude Sanon, winning 9,603 votes of 17,572 votes cast.

The 2013 race was during a mayoral election year, while in 2019, only the city council seats will be on the ballot. In 2015, the last off-year election, McCarthy again defeated Sanon, but this time with 4,836 of just 8,019 votes cast. In 2017, McCarthy ran unopposed. If the usual off-year pattern holds, the 2019 election could be another low-turnout year.

McCarthy raised more than $44,000 in his inaugural run. His campaign currently reports a balance of $74,955, after he received $34,975 in contributions in November.

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