At-large city councilor Felix Arroyo made headlines this week for proposing a resolution against spanking. But more newsworthy, according to City Hall insiders, was Arroyo’s appearance at Monday’s budget hearing — notable because it was the first one he attended this year.
According to several council sources, Arroyo had skipped the first 15 of 34 scheduled hearings on the city budget, which the council must vote to approve by the end of June. Among the topics Arroyo missed were all eight hearings on the city’s public schools.
“He doesn’t come to meetings, and then he’s in the news with some new resolution,” complains one councilor — who notes that Arroyo was marching for immigration rights in Chelsea on May 1, a day he missed two budget hearings.
Attendance is not taken at council hearings, but staff for the Ways and Means Committee, which hold the hearings, found no record of Arroyo’s presence — in the form of a request for information, for instance — at any of the 15 budget hearings held between April 23 and May 18.
Arroyo is not a member of the Ways and Means Committee, but other councilors frequently attend meetings, say insiders, because of the importance of the annual budget process. Maureen Feeney and Chuck Turner, the other two councilors not on the committee this year, have attended most of the sessions, say sources. And Sam Yoon, who was criticized for missing the hearings this past spring, is now attending regularly.
Arroyo’s absences have reinforced the view of some that the at-large councilor is increasingly disengaged from his duties, and potentially vulnerable in the election this November (see “Seeking Council,” This Just In, April 4). His fundraising efforts remain minimal as well: as of mid May, he had less than $5000 in his campaign account — less than a tenth of each of the other three incumbents.
Arroyo’s chief of staff, Jamie Willmuth, initially told the Phoenix that Arroyo has been attending the budget hearings, but then backed away from that statement. “I personally attended many of the budget hearings on his behalf,” Willmuth says. He added that Arroyo watches most of the hearings on a live feed in his office, and that he plans to attend hearings related to the committees he chairs: Youth Affairs and Environment and Health.