Boston City Council candidate Ricardo Arroyo on cannabis legalization and safe injection sites
You already recognize the name, Arroyo. That’s probably because Ricardo’s father, Felix D. Arroyo, was the first Latino elected to the Boston City Council, on which Ricardo’s older brother, Felix G. Arroyo, subsequently served. With him becoming the latest Arroyo to run for a seat, I interviewed the 31-year-old Ricardo on my Disrupt Boston radio show, The Young Jurks, about everything from his background and family—outside of the immediate political arena, Arroyo’s mother and sister are BPS educators—to cannabis and music (it’s worth noting that unlike the incumbent District 5 councilor he’s running against, Tim McCarthy, Arroyo supported the 2016 legalization initiative). Here’s what Ricardo, who until his campaign announcement was employed as a public defender for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, has to say about his inspiration and candidacy.
On why he’s running:
The job I had as a public defender, for me, it was a calling. … Being a public defender is so much of why I’m running. In the work that I did, we were dealing with the vast majority of clients having mental illness, dealing with addiction, with housing instability, and sometimes all three. And people who are generally not receiving the services they need.
One of the things I loved about the job is we didn’t have to try to figure out where our next check was coming from—we were salaried, so I could help beyond the criminal cases, to help [people] with housing and getting treatment. Doing that work, I would find the system could make a difference in their lives. I would make this impact on an individual basis … but every day at court there were new people showing up, everyday there is somebody else there, so I could help one person, but I couldn’t resolve the greater issues that are bringing people there—not without stepping outside of that role.
On whether Boston should return to an elected school committee:
I think it’s a question about process. There’s a sense from the community that the process is not adequately involving them. The question of how that should happen, whether it’s a hybrid, elected, or if it stays appointed, requires study. The concern I have is with other city- and town-elected school committees, they have become politicized by charter school advocates. I certainly think you don’t decide this without taking the community response into account. I’m open to an elected or hybrid, it depends on the community sentiment on it. I believe that the stakeholders should have a transparent process, they should never feel like things are happening and they don’t know why. So the question is: How do we involve them in the process, how do we do a better job of that?
On recreational cannabis dispensaries in the city of Boston:
I really want these dispensaries to involve the community, the folks that were most harmed by the drug war. For me that is a sticking point. I want people of color and those from our neighborhoods involved in this.
I voted yes on legalization. As a public defender, I saw the effects of criminalizing marijuana. I had cases where we had folks serving time because they couldn’t afford bail for distribution of marijuana, just wrecking lives, because it doesn’t take a long time for you to be incarcerated before you lose your job, before you lose your car. The arrest and incarceration has a real destabilizing impact on anybody’s life, so when it came up as an opportunity to legalize it, it was a yes for me. And I’m happy to be on the record as a yes for legalization.
On safe injection sites in Boston:
There has been research that shows it reduces overdoses, and there’s also a component in there that helps folks get treatment. I do believe in safe injection sites; I think there has to be work or study done on where it makes the most sense for these sites to be, so they are the most effective for the community, but I am for safe injection sites. As a public defender who has lost clients to drug overdoses, I’ve seen families affected by this. I want to go as aggressively as possible. I support anything that can save lives. Anything that saves lives is worth exploring and worth doing.
Mike Crawford is the host and founder of Disrupt Boston’s The Young Jurks radio show and publisher of the Midnight Mass newsletter. Get your tickets now for the Young Jurks 5th Anniversary Gala and Awards Show being held on Sat 4.27 at Down the Road Beer Co. in Everett.