Mattapan now key ground in redistrict maze; Jackson offers new wrinkle for councillors to debate

District 7 Councillor Tito Jackson this week suggested moving most of Mattapan into Rob Consalvo’s District 5 while pushing the boundaries of Councillor Charles Yancey’s District 4 west into Roslindale.

Councillors were expected to debate again at their weekly meeting the redrawing of the boundaries of the city’s nine City Council district seats. The meeting followed a “working session” that was another chapter in the long-running saga of the redistricting process, which is required to occur every 10 years in response to population shifts across the city noted by the US Census.

The process is nearing an end as councillors work to pass a new map before Nov. 5, providing a year before the 2013 election to allow any potential candidate to move into a newly drawn district. Mayor Thomas Menino, who vetoed the last two maps sent to his desk, is vacationing in Italy and councillors are aiming to have the latest map ready by the time he returns.

In his vetoes, Menino cited the high concentration of people of color in District 4. The mayor and a coalition of redistricting activists, which has threatened to sue the city if an unsatisfactory map is signed into law, have called on the council to “unpack” District 4 and diversify the districts that surround it.

Jackson’s move, which was expected to be taken up at Wednesday’s council meeting as the Reporter went to press, drew a predictable rebuke from Yancey, who opposes the removal of parts of Mattapan from his district. Currently, Mattapan is jointly represented by Yancey and Consalvo.

For his part, Jackson praised a map put together by District 3 Councillor Frank Baker and District 5’s Consalvo, but added that it needed tweaking, “I think we have to go further in that direction,” he said, after noting the Baker-Consalvo map placed most of Mattapan in District 4 and increased the concentration of people of color in District 5.

Jackson said it is possible to unite Mattapan – one of Yancey’s top goals in redistricting – but “it’s going to be hard.” Jackson noted that his mother worked on Yancey’s first campaign. “That’s significant to me,” he said.

But Yancey, a Dorchester resident, said moving Mattapan out of District 4 amounts to a “betrayal of people in Mattapan.” He called his proposed map “superior” because it keeps Mattapan “whole” in District 4 and decreases the concentration of people of color in District 4 by taking on the less diverse precincts in Dorchester and pushing Consalvo’s northern boundaries into Egleston Square.

Yancey’s map also puts two incumbent district councillors in the same district – District 7’s Jackson and District 8’s Michael Ross – which means it’s a proposal unlikely to receive support from his colleagues. Consalvo voiced his own objections, arguing that Yancey’s map further fractures the southwest section of the city.

City Council President Stephen Murphy, who attended the working session, said the Baker-Consalvo map goes in the “right direction” while adding, “I do not believe we can keep Mattapan entirely whole, Roslindale entirely whole, JP entirely whole, Lower Mills entirely whole. There’s going to be some give in every district.”

The complicated nature of the redistricting process – the chair of the redistricting committee, District 2 Councillor Bill Linehan, has often compared it to a Rubik’s cube – has led to tensions between councillors. Ayanna Pressley, one of the four at-large councillors who run city-wide, objected to Yancey using terms such as “betrayal” and “disrespect” when arguing for his map and the unification of Mattapan. The terms are “very damaging” and “personally offensive,” she said, and they undermine the redistricting process.

Yancey, who has ratcheted up pressure on his colleagues in recent weeks, stood his ground and reiterated his contention that Mattapan was being “disrespected” in redistricting.

Hours after the working session, Yancey’s office issued a press release that said Mattapan residents oppose the Baker-Consalvo map. The New Democracy Coalition, an outfit involved with redistricting at the state and federal level last year, recently aired a commercial on TOUCH 106.1 that endorsed the Yancey map and urged people to call Councillors Jackson and Pressley and City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo.