(UPDATED) Reporter’s Notebook: Savin Hill’s Christopher bows out of crowded District 3 scrum

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael Christopher said on Thursday, after the Reporter went to press, that he will be bowing out of the race in order to focus on his job at the Executive Office of Public Safety. Below is the original article.

Savin Hill native Michael Christopher on Tuesday formally announced his candidacy -- and the backing of several Dorchesterites -- for the District 3 seat on the City Council. The 26-year-old Christopher is a former aide to state Rep. Marty Walsh and is taking a leave from his current job as manager of public policy and public affairs for Gov. Deval Patrick’s Office of Public Safety.

He has also worked as a regional field organizer for Patrick’s reelection effort and as a district field assistant for Congressman Michael Capuano’s unsuccessful U.S.Senate run in 2009. Christopher has volunteered as commissioner of the Savin Hill Little League and as a Dorchester Youth Hockey coach.

The release announcing his run included quotes from community activist Eileen Boyle and Port Norfolk’s Ed Roache. Joyce Linehan, who runs the public relations company Ashmont Media, is also helping out Christopher’s effort.

District Three’s City Councillor Maureen Feeney has said she is not running for another term, capping her time on the 13-member body at 18 years.

Last week saw the entrance of another potential candidate: The deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz applied for nomination papers on Friday, adding her name to a still-growing list. Stephanie Everett, a Mattapan resident who said she is still weighing a run, has worked with Chang-Diaz since 2009.

Everett previously worked as a public safety manager at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, managing the Shannon Grant youth violence prevention program.

Mariama White-Hammond, the executive director of the nonprofit Project HIP-HOP, is also considering a run after urging from local insiders. She is a daughter of Pastor Ray Hammond, chairman and co-founder of the Ten Point Coalition, and Rev. Dr. Gloria White-Hammond.

Leonard Lee of Mather St. has also applied for nomination papers, according to the Boston Elections Department.

Candidates are already making appearances at civic associations and neighborhood events, including former Cedar Grove Civic Association president John O’Toole and local realtor Craig Galvin.

Michael Mackan, the city’s code enforcement chief, said he won’t be running. Mackan unsuccessfully ran against Suffolk Registrar of Deeds Mickey Roache in 2002 when he had back-scratchers memorably adorned with “I’m Backin’ Mackan” and passed out to voters.

To make the ballot, district candidates must pick up 200 certified signatures. Next Monday (May 16) is the last day to apply for nomination papers from the Elections Department. May 24 is the last day to file the nomination papers with signatures.

A preliminary election is scheduled for September, with the final election in November. All nine district council seats and the four City Council At-Large seats are up this year.

Supporters’ hopes for re-precincting dim
Supporters of re-precincting – the redrawing of the city’s voting precinct lines – saw their hopes dim on Tuesday as the city’s top election official said the process could be too complicated to get done by June 15. That’s because the city would not only have to redraw the precincts, but also the wards, said Commissioner Geraldine Cuddyer.

The laws governing what the city can and can’t do are very “convoluted,” she added.

The city doesn’t have the authority to attempt a re-warding, is exempt from re-precincting, and must file a home rule petition to attempt either effort. Other Massachusetts cities and towns, with the exception of Nantucket and Rockport, are able to undertake the process.

Boston is still able to redraw the lines of nine City Council districts, however. But taking on a revamp of the city’s wards would “affect just about every person in the city,” change how Boston looks, and potentially delay the separate work of state lawmakers who are attempting to redraw Congressional and legislative district lines, Cuddyer told the City Council’s redistricting committee.

Voting rights groups, including MassVote, say keeping precinct lines the way they are is unfair to voters and is costing the city millions of dollars in wasted resources. The number of residents in the 254 precincts across the city varies widely, leading to an uneven distribution of Election Department resources on election days.

The city last re-precincted over 80 years ago, and if an attempt fails this year, the city may have to wait another decade, the groups say. Cities must submit changes to their precincts and wards by late June to a state commission.

A letter to South Boston Councillor Bill Linehan, who chairs the council’s redistricting committee, laid out the intimidating maze of laws on the books that the City Council would face if it attempted re-warding and re-precincting. The letter, composed at Linehan’s request, was written by William A. McDermott Jr., an election law expert from Dorchester.

Councillor Feeney, vice chair of the City Council’s redistricting committee, which also has re-precincting in its purview, said that she supports re-precincting but the council should proceed cautiously. “I believe that’s the direction we should be heading,” she said. “But we also have to remember our goal as legislators. Our job is not to just do something for the sake of doing it. It’s to do it correctly, properly, and legally.”

Councillor Tito Jackson, who represents Dorchester and Roxbury, said he would support a home rule petition tackling the task of re-precincting. “I know for a lot of people changes in wards are a very scary thing,” he said. “Even though it’s hard, I think people elected all of us to do very hard work, and to take on challenges and to move the mountains we have to move to do the right things for the community.”

City Councillor Michael Ross, who represents Back Bay and Beacon Hill, indicated he would continue pushing for a re-precincting petition, and said the commissioner’s testimony “comes as a surprise and shock” because of past discussions in which city officials were more willing to attempt re-precincting this year. Ross noted that other cities and towns re-precinct – and re-ward – every ten years.

“It’s hard to come off of 80 years of doing nothing,” Cuddyer said in response. “By that logic we’ll never do it,” Ross shot back.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop.