No consensus yet on redistricting maps for City Council

Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Oct. 25, 2012

A segment of a map proposed by City Councillor Tito Jackson shows how District 4 would take seven precincts now included in District 3, including Lower Mills and parts of St. Mark’s Area, and push District 3 into South Boston.

City councillors yesterday continued their internal debates as they worked to produce yet another map – their third this year – that would shift the boundaries of several districts for the 2013 municipal election. The council adjourned without making a decision and scheduled another working session for next week. The mayor’s vetoes of two previous maps have set off a scramble and increased tensions among the councillors who have struggled to put together a proposal that would pass mayoral muster. In both vetoes, Menino cited the concentration of people of color in District 4 as a top concern.

Yesterday’s meeting came a day after a stressful working session during which councillors tossed precinct and population numbers back and forth in an effort to reach consensus as a deadline loomed: A map must be in place by Nov. 5, one year before the 2013 elections, so that potential candidates can live in their redrawn districts for a year as required by law.

The City Council is required to redraw the nine council districts every ten years in order to account for the city’s population shifts as documented in the US Census figures.

On Tuesday, District 7 Councillor Tito Jackson pushed a map that radically redrew Dorchester’s District 3, represented by freshman Councillor Frank Baker. That district would pick up a Roxbury precinct, the Polish Triangle, and Uphams Corner from surrounding districts, including Jackson’s, but Baker would also lose the St. Mark’s area and Lower Mills to District 4. Jackson’s map also hands over Mattapan to District 5, represented by Councillor Rob Consalvo.

Jackson said his plan decreases the concentration of people of color in District 4, while increasing the diversity of District 5, bringing the black voting age population to 50 percent.

Before the council meeting, District 4 Councillor Charles Yancey kept up pressure on his colleagues via a press conference where he demanded that they pass his proposal to put all of Mattapan into his district and place Chinatown and East Boston together in another district. Mattapan is currently split between Yancey and Consalvo. “District 4 is the Mattapan district,” Yancey said Tuesday. “It’s anchored by Mattapan.”

Throughout the recent string of meetings, members of a coalition of redistricting activists have been keeping close tabs on developments. The coalition, which includes organizations like the Boston branch of the NAACP and the Chinese Progressive Association, has threatened to sue the city if they are unsatisfied with whatever the final map is.

One activist, Kevin Peterson of the New Democracy Coalition, told the Reporter that he would sue the city if a map was not passed that included at least five council districts that could support candidates of color. Peterson has been an outspoken supporter of the map proposed by Yancey.

District 8 Councillor Michael Ross noted that the coalition is not completely united, with different members having different focuses.

“It’s somewhat unruly, but it is what it is,” he told his colleagues, after relaying concerns coalition members had with several of the proposed maps. In an e-mail before Tuesday’s meeting, one coalition member criticized the proposed Baker-Consalvo map for shifting the South End precinct that includes Tent City and the Mary Ellen McCormack public housing project out of District 2.

After two hours of back and forth on Tuesday, councillors headed back to their offices to digest potential amendments and steel themselves for Wednesday’s debate. District 2 Councillor Linehan remained optimistic. “We’re getting closer and closer,” he said.

City Councillor Sal LaMattina of East Boston was not present for Wednesday’s council meeting, which was one reason cited by some that the redistricting matter was not further debated. A committee meeting will be held on Monday or Tuesday to discuss the various maps still in play.