Potentials give '09 citywide run a look

Although some say it's a bit early to talk about Boston City Council election 2009 - particularly with several of this year's state races underway - many, including a handful of political junkies, city hall staffers and the Reporter, just can't help it.

Mayor Thomas Menino's "mayor for life" stance notwithstanding, ticket-topping Councillor at-Large Michael Flaherty is coiling the springs ever tighter for a leap at the throne. Sitting on a chunky and fast-growing bank account, Flaherty this week leveraged the fire department's pumped-up pension woes to call for enhanced software he claims would nab would-be schemers before the newspapers do.

Such a head-on mayoral challenge by Flaherty would leave an at-large seat wide open.

Considering the two-year term limit on the council presidency that could end President Maureen Feeney's reign, the under-representation of women and people of color on the council, and the concurrent mayor's race, it could make for a far more interesting contest than 2007's low-turnout sleeper.

The first name to slip off many wags' tongues is the son of former Councillor Felix D. Arroyo, Felix G. Arroyo (and don't call him jr.). Arroyo the younger confirms he is carefully considering a run.

Just over a week from now, he's getting married to a teacher from Boston Public Schools, so it wasn't the first thing on his mind when the Reporter called.

"I'm inclined to [run], I'll tell you that, but there's a lot that has to happen," said the groom-to-be in a phone interview this week. "Talking with the family for one thing, particularly the new wife."

Arroyo is working his last day as political director for the Service Employees and Industrial Union Local 615 tomorrow in order to start a new position as field director for a universal health care campaign for Northeast Action, a progressive political action organization.

Many around the city see an opportunity on the council for a Latino candidate in the wake of Felix D.'s departure in 2007, when freshman Councillor John Connolly knocked him out of the top four, but Felix G. Arroyo, sounding very much like a candidate, rejects that label as well.

"I think Boston is at a place right now where that could happen. People could say that I'm Irish, I'm Latino, I'm Asian, whatever, but I'm a Bostonian," said Arroyo, pointing to state Reps. Marty Walsh and Linda Dorcena Forry as examples of pols that have appeal in communities well beyond those that reflect their immigrant roots.

Yet Arroyo and several other potential political candidates widely known to fishing the waters for support - such as Tomas Gonzalez, a community relations man at BU Medical Center and former Latino Liaison for Mayor Thomas Menino; David Halbert, a community relations man in Councillor Sam Yoon's office; and Jean-Claude Sanon, the WNGN 1550 AM radio talk show host who has already begun his campaign--all taught, took, or were affiliated with classes at the Initiative for Diversity in Civic Leadership, a program run by Oiste!, a Latino political organization.

"We want to make sure people of color have representation in government, especially in a city like Boston that's over 50 percent people of color," said Oiste! director Giovanni Negretti, whose name is also bandied about as a potential candidate each year (not running this time, she said). "The common excuse is we can't find anyone to run. So that can no longer be used, because we are training people."

Every year the program trains around 30 for lives of public service, whether as elected officials, campaign workers or appointees in government positions. According to Sanon, it wouldn't be too surprising if a crew of the younger hopefuls joined forces.

"Several of us sat around a table last year," said Sanon. "We were thinking about whether or not we should combine our efforts."

That conversation trailed off, said Sanon, but it's possible it could pick up again. Meanwhile, he's been visiting churches, marching in parades, fundraising, and walking the streets with Pastor Bruce Wall, among other campaigning activities.

Incidentally, Pastor Wall has decided not to run, for those who heard that rumor.

"I was considering a citywide run and after a thorough and intense conversation in our family, I have decided to put all my eggs in the radio basket," he said this week. "Our family just needs me home."

Gonzalez, 37, is a standout in the crowd and a good match against Arroyo for the Latino vote. He was a teacher in the Oiste! program, and has deep roots in the political community. Having worked on Menino's, Deval Patrick's and now Dianne Wilkerson's campaigns, he has a solid understanding of the political game.

Arroyo too was a contributor to the institute, whereas Sanon and Halbert were students.

Halbert did not return phone calls for this article, and Gonzalez declined comment.

The only other candidate in the field, Republican Nantucket-transplant Doug Bennett, is on a mission to bust his knuckles that recalls the early campaigns of Rob Consalvo.

"My goal is to knock on 100,000 houses by September 2009," he said in phone interview on Monday. "Already I've been to 12,000. I'm just moving at a ferocious pace."

Bennett said he has begun fundraising as well, and his Office of Campaign and Political Finance report accounts for just over $3000 in his campaign coffers, while Sanon holds a more modest $135, after expenditures.

By contrast the incumbent at-Large councillors are holding between $3,700 and $17,000 at last report in Mid-July, save of course Flaherty, who has amassed $128,357.74 in his main account, and two additional savings accounts recorded at year end 2007 would boost the total to over $450,000. Menino's war chest hulks at nearly a cool $1 million.