Council redistricting plan on move; objections aired

The City Council appears to be inching toward agreement on redrawing the boundaries of its nine districts.

The council committee charged with laying out a map with the new boundaries – required every ten years after the US Census releases the newest population data – met last week for the ninth time to formally discuss the latest proposal.

The proposal hands parts of Dorchester that are close to South Boston and now represented by District 2 City Councillor Bill Linehan, chair of the council’s redistricting committee, to District 3 Councillor Frank Baker. The areas include Precincts 7, 8, and 9 of Ward 7, part of which is known as the Polish Triangle.

The proposal also gives two precincts in Lower Mills to District 4 City Councillor Charles Yancey, splitting representation in the neighborhood between Yancey and Baker.

The populations within the districts are required to be between 65,190 and 82,052 in number.
The city gained population in the latest Census, but some counts put several neighborhoods down as losing residents, including Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, Roslindale, and West Roxbury. That means the council districts in those neighborhoods must pick up residents through the redrawing of boundaries, while neighborhoods like South Boston shed residents.

Under Linehan’s proposal, District 2 keeps Chinatown and picks up the area surrounding City Hall, Ward 3, Precinct 6.

Some councillors sounded notes of support during the hearing for the latest proposal. Another committee meeting will take place to further weigh public comment.

The full City Council’s next meeting is next Wednesday, Aug. 1. Any proposal needs at least 7 votes to pass. There are 9 district councillors and four at-large councillors, who represent the entire city.
Councillors have until later this fall to get a proposal to Mayor Thomas Menino’s desk for a signature.
About 40 redistricting activists rallied outside City Hall before the Wednesday committee meeting, slamming the proposal as a perpetuation of the status quo.

Lydia Lowe, head of the Chinese Progressive Association, who has often clashed with Linehan, said the map “turns us backward.”

Mariama White-Hammond, a Dorchester activist, said the district lines have stayed largely the same since 1982, when she was three years old. The council districts should be redrawn to “reflect the city we have now,” with communities of color making up 53 percent of the population, she said. The council currently has two district councillors of color.

Activists argue that District 4 is 90 percent people of color, diluting minority votes in the city. The lines should be redrawn to provide a higher percentage of people of color in District 3 and District 5, while maintaining a majority of African-Americans in District 4, they say.

The coalition of activists, which includes the CPA, the NAACP’s Boston branch, and MassVOTE, have put forward their own proposal, providing the Polish Triangle to District 3 but keeping the South End in District 2.

The coalition also is calling for dividing District 3 into northern and southern sections, instead of eastern and western portions. The changes would provide District 3 with 71 percent people of color, and move the entire neighborhood of Lower Mills in District 4.