NEW BEDFORD — At-Large City Council candidate Ralf Rho said he wants to see more transparency, wants to empower neighborhoods and will oppose established political groups if they work against residents.
"I'm not in any machine. I am a pedestrian," said Rho, 31, who works for Fall River Mayor William Flanagan as an analyst for that city's neighborhood outreach office.
Rho — a Haitian immigrant who landed in Dorchester at age 16 — has lived in New Bedford since 2001 and decided this election was the right time to throw his hat into the ring for an at-large seat, he said, because he was tired of being on the "sidelines."
Supervisors lauded Rho's performance at his analyst position and called him a model employee.
"Right away I was impressed," Flanagan said of his first meeting with Rho, then an unpaid intern in his office. "He came in early; he stayed late."
Flanagan also pointed to Rho's tech savvy — he returns Twitter messages to reporters in seconds, phone calls in hours — as a strength.
Fall River Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator Perry Long, Rho's immediate supervisor, pointed out that Rho was instrumental in obtaining and managing a $500,000 grant to be shared among several Southeastern Massachusetts communities to deal with distressed properties.
Rho lives in Ward 4 at The Regency tower downtown with his wife Wedline and their two children.
City neighborhood liaison John Lobo said Rho has not participated in the ward's neighborhood associations.
"He hasn't been to any of the (meetings) I went to, and I go to most of them," Lobo said.
Asked about his relationship to the neighborhood associations, Rho said "I look forward to meeting everyone" and that they were "on his schedule."
"I don't look at wards in particular, I'm looking at at-large," Rho said, adding that he has met with the Coalition for Social Justice and Bus Riders United in addition to frequent door-to-door outings to meet residents. "Going door to door is equivalent to going to a neighborhood meeting."
Many of Rho's policy stances lack specificity, with the candidate answering questions related to medical marijuana, the Fire Department's strapped budget and whether or not a casino should sprout up in the downtown with pledges to do what's right for residents and to "keep an open mind."
A plan on Rho's website offers his vision for New Bedford and does offer specific suggestions such as advocating for an increased number of available bus routes.
His six-point plan offers generalized statements about the need to protect seniors and grow the small business community.
Rho opposes what he calls the lack of transparency surrounding the council's decision last year to vote itself a 44 percent pay raise. If elected, he said he would donate the pay increase to a youth charity, although he declined to say which one calling it a "tough choice."
"I believe in technology; I believe in transparency. Our government should improve in that area," Rho said. "Anything that hinders progress should be done away with."