Councillor Murphy pitches map as redistricting committee takes public testimony

Boston City Hall

Boston City Hall (Gintautas Dumcius photo)

City Councillor At-Large Erin Murphy on Thursday offered a redistricting map of her own as she and her colleagues drew closer to a deadline to finish the redrawing of Boston’s political boundaries involving the nine council districts.

The redrawing occurs every ten years to address population shifts and changes as outlined by the US Census. Each district in the city must have roughly 75,000 people under whatever map is finally approved. There are nine district councillors and four at-large councillors.

Murphy’s proposal shifts part of Fields Corner into Dorchester-based District 3, currently represented by Frank Baker, and seeks to unify Mattapan under District 4, which is represented by Brian Worrell. Mattapan is represented by Worrell and District 5 Councillor Ricardo Arroyo of Hyde Park.

“My proposal compacts our districts, (is) consistent with the old districts, and successfully attempts to address our communities of interest, like adding Ward 16-(Precinct 1) to District 3 to consolidate Fields Corner,” she wrote in a letter to colleagues.

Murphy’s map is the second to come out this week. Arroyo and District 7 Councillor Tania Fernandes Anderson of Roxbury proposed their own map this week, which has garnered support from Councillor At-Large Julia Mejia and District 6 Councillor Kendra Lara of Jamaica Plain.

The Arroyo-Fernandes Anderson map would shift the boundaries of District 3 and push them north, up to Copley Square, mostly consolidating the South End within one district while splitting up the Cedar Grove/Adams Corner community at the city’s southern border between Districts 3 and 4. The Cedar Grove Civic Association has objected to the move.

Baker has called the map a “non-starter” for him and suggested creating a tenth City Council district seat.

Councillors are facing a tight timeline — “probably too tight,” Councillor At-Large Ruthzee Louijeune noted Thursday — to get maps to Mayor Michelle Wu’s desk and approved by Nov. 7, a year before the 2023 municipal elections. At this point in the redistricting cycle 10 years ago, councillors had already passed two maps and saw vetoes from Mayor Thomas Menino.

Councillors gathered inside City Hall on Thursday for a hearing on the redistricting process to take public testimony.

Beth Huang of Massachusetts Voter Table, a group focused on building power in communities of color and among working-class people and new citizens, said her group wants to see Districts 3, 4, 5, and 7 to be drawn in such a manner as to offer a strong opportunity to elect people of color. The group would also like to unify currently split neighborhoods, Fields Corner, Uphams Corner and Mattapan, she said.

Fatima Ali-Salaam, chair of the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council, joined the Boston NAACP in calling for more transparency in the process. Deliberations should be livestreamed, both groups said.

NAACP’s Tanisha Sullivan added her opposition to Council President President Ed Flynn’s removal of Arroyo from the redistricting chair in the heat of a Suffolk DA’s race. Arroyo, who lost to interim DA Kevin Hayden on Sept. 6, was removed weeks before after a Boston Globe report on sexual assault accusations from when he was a teenager. Arroyo was never charged and he has denied the allegations.

“We’re deeply concerned about the arbitrary nature of this decision,” Sullivan said of Flynn’s move. Several councillors have asked for Arroyo to be reinstated. District 9 Councillor Liz Breadon of Allston-Brighton has served as chair since Arroyo was removed, with District 4’s Worrell as vice chair.

Asked about the two maps, Breadon declined comment, saying she is focused on gathering community input. The process is at the “starting line,” she said.

Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson also testified, saying trust in the redistricting process is low, in part due to the sudden removal of Arroyo. “I will say to you we’re watching with an eagle eye,” she said.

The Arroyo-Fernandes Anderson map is the “only one we have seen so far” that responds to concerns expressed by Wilkerson and other groups, she said.

That map unifies the Cape Verdean community with Roxbury under District 7, she said. “Last I checked Cape Verdeans are Black. So we can’t split them up.”

Baker disagreed, saying the Cape Verdean community is “all over” the city of Boston. “I think the Cape Verdean community is well served by having three district councillors right now,” he said.

At the close of Thursday’s hearing, just after 6 p.m., Worrell said they would be announcing future meetings. “Please stay tuned,” he said.

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