BOSTON (CBS) – Voters have elected the most diverse City Council in Boston history and a new era of leadership is taking shape. Women make up the majority on a council that’s the most diverse, both racially and ethnically.
WBZ’s Anaridis Rodriguez met with the candidates who made history by getting people out to vote the old school way.
On a cold November day, Ricardo Arroyo takes WBZ inside a Roslindale restaurant for a hot cup of coffee.
The Friday after Election Day is a sweet one for the 32-year-old. On Tuesday, voters in District 5 made history electing him as their councilman and the first person of color to hold the seat. Arroyo was born and raised in Hyde Park. His family was among the first wave of minorities to move into the district.
“I remember growing up hearing stories of having to have police stationed outside to protect the family,” Arroyo said inside Bani Restaurant. “I actually have my story of being hosed once by a neighbor for walking in front of their home. But the district’s changed in a lot of ways.”
Since 1980, immigration has been a driver in Boston’s steady population growth. Arroyo’s district is made up of Mattapan, Roslindale and Hyde Park. More than 70% of those who live there are people of color.
“Most people in this city, especially in this district, they’re paying over 60% of their monthly income to rents. They’re struggling to get by. Public transit is not a [reliable] option for a lot of people,” Arroyo said. “When they’re having these kinds of experiences on a daily basis, they’re not feeling like they’re being heard at City Hall.”
The former public defender is now part of Boston’s new power. A group of candidates who ran the old school way and won.
And with it, helped flip the city council into the most diverse in Boston’s history.
“We were in nail salons, barbershops, laundromats, we really put our effort and resources into low income communities,” said Julia Mejia, the city’s newly elected city councilor at large.
The 49-year-old became the first Afro-Latina immigrant elected into the council.
“I became a naturalized citizen my mom and I cleaned offices together so for us to go and vote for me for the first time was incredibly humbling,” said Arroyo. “The type of work that I’ve done in the city of Boston is about how we uplift the voices of black and brown folks.”
But Mejia’s seat is contested, and now there’s a call for a recount. Ten votes separate her from another Latina, Alejandra St. Guillen.
“With the margin being so low, we believe it is our duty to continue in this election,” said St. Guillen at a conference Wednesday where she announced she’d request a citywide recount.
St. Guillen’s team is now collecting the signatures of 50 registered voters from each of the city’s 22 wards.
Those signatures need to be delivered to City Hall by next Friday to kick-start the recount.
Mejia says she is hopeful she’ll retain the seat. “I hope whatever happens with this recount, that people don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.”
And the message that every vote matters.