Arroyo pushes for neighborhood advocate on Licensing Board

City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo is pushing for Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint a neighborhood advocate to the city’s powerful Licensing Board.

The three-member board, which largely grants and regulates alcohol and food licenses for restaurants and nightclubs, among other businesses, has had a vacancy since last July when chairman Daniel Pokaski retired. Patrick appoints the board members.

“I would love it to be someone who has a neighborhood base, someone who knows there’s a difference between South Boston and the South End,” Arroyo said on Tuesday. He said he was not advocating for any person in particular. “I don’t have a name for the job,” he said.

In his Jan. 24 letter to Patrick, Arroyo said, “Additionally, the decisions made by the Boston Licensing Board often have significant impacts on the quality of life for our residents and the vibrancy of our business communities in our city’s neighborhoods. Our robust residential districts and strong business areas go hand in hand in ensuring the vitality of our city. Having a commissioner who understands the importance of this crucial balance will help our residents and our businesses thrive.”

Councillors or their staffers often appear before the board to support or oppose a business looking for a license.

Since the vacancy occurred, current board members Michael Connolly and Suzanne Iannella have sometimes split their votes, leading to some deadlock, the Boston Herald reported on Saturday.

Both Connolly and Iannella, who make $85,000 a year as board members and deal in real estate on the side, are reportedly interested in the $100,000 job of chairman. The Herald also reported that other potential names in the mix include City Council President Stephen Murphy (D-Hyde Park), state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Jamaica Plain), attorney Peter Lyons, and local attorney Terry Guiney.

The board faced intense scrutiny in 2008, after former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was hit with bribery charges alleging that she received cash in exchange for legislative action on a liquor license and a Roxbury parcel, and used her power to hold up pay raises for licensing board members. Wilkerson, a Roxbury Democrat, pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 3.5 years in jail. She is appealing the sentence.