Council approves third redistricting map with 11-2 vote

By 
Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Oct. 31, 2012

City Council Passes New Redistricting Plan from Chris Lovett on Vimeo.

After 18 months marred by frequent infighting, city councillors today passed a compromise map that re-carves the political boundaries of council districts in the city. The vote to approve a map with amendments offered by City Councillor Tito Jackson was passed by a veto-proof majority, 11-2. Councillors Charles Yancey of Dorchester and Bill Linehan of South Boston opposed the measure.

This now marks the third time the council has sent a map to Mayor Thomas Menino, who vetoed two previous attempts due to the high concentration of people of color in District 4, which includes parts of Dorchester and Mattapan.

The mayor is expected to sign off on the map, his spokeswoman said shortly after the vote.

The Jackson map pushes District 3, represented by Councillor Frank Baker, northward to include all of the Polish Triangle and three precincts in South Boston's ward 7, including Andrew Square. It also transfers three precincts in ward 17 (4, 12, and 14) near Lower Mills that are currently in the District 3 seat into the District 4 seat represented by Charles Yancey. District 4 will also absorb a St. Mark's Area precinct (16-3) which is currently represented by Baker, and one in Fields Corner (16-1). Both are contiguous with District 4 and close to where the sitting councillor, Yancey, lives.

Much of Mattapan — which is presently split between Councillor Rob Consalvo and Yancey— will be shifted into Consalvo's District 5 by this vote.

Cheryl Crawford, the executive director of the voting rights organization Mass Vote, said that a coalition of people of color that has pressed for dramatic changes to the district maps would not ask Mayor Menino to veto the Jackson map.

"This is hardly a resounding victory," Crawford said, but she added that the map takes "steps in the right direction."

Yancey, who has been quixotically demanding councillors unite Mattapan precincts within his district, denounced both maps under consideration on Wednesday.

Several councillors met on Monday in a “working session” in City Hall, negotiating which precincts to give up and flip to their colleagues while Hurricane Sandy raged outside. Councillors have been under a tight deadline to pass a map, since one must be in place a year before the 2013 election, allowing a potential candidate to move to a redrawn district.

The 13-member body is also looking to avoid a potential lawsuit. A coalition that includes MassVOTE and the Boston branch of the NAACP has said they’re willing to sue if they’re unhappy with the final map, while a separate coalition, led by local activist Kevin Peterson and aligned with District 4 Councillor Yancey, also threatened to launch a lawsuit.

The acrimonious process was kick-started by population shifts documented in U.S. Census figures. The City Council is required to redraw the nine council districts every ten years in order to account for those shifts, and maintain a balance in each district’s population.

As the deadline drew near, the lobbying for and against shifting precincts from one district to another grew more intense.

Over the weekend, City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo went door-knocking in Jamaica Plain, since it appeared at the time that his home precinct in Forest Hills, Ward 19 Precinct 7, could be flipped into Yancey’s district instead of staying with District 6 Matt O’Malley.

Arroyo also reached out to the Jamaica Plain Gazette, which first reported Arroyo’s door-to-door lobbying effort.

On Wednesday, the South End’s Ward 4 Precinct 3 became a focal point on the floor, with District 7 Councillor Jackson attempting in his amendment to keep it in District 2, while District 2 Councillor Linehan wanted to move it into District 7. Jackson prevailed.

After the vote, Linehan approached Yancey to shake his hand. "Dr. No? I just joined your team," Linehan quipped.

UPDATE: This post was edited at 4:37 p.m. to add comments from Linehan and a Menino spokeswoman.