Voting rights coalition proposes its own City Council redistricting map

A coalition of voting rights advocates are pushing map redrawing the boundaries of City Council districts, which could result in revamped Dorchester districts and two incumbents potentially pitted against one another.

A City Council committee, headed by District 2 Councillor Bill Linehan, is working on approving a map. Growing populations in downtown Boston and northern neighborhoods mean the lines have to be redrawn in order to equalize the population numbers. For example, Dorchester’s District 3 needs to pick up residents, while District 2 must shed residents.

Linehan’s first attempt split up Chinatown and Mission Hill, left Councillor Michael Ross outside of District 8 and pitted Ross against fellow City Councillor Matt O’Malley. Ross, who is considering a Congressional run outside of Boston, and O’Malley have put forward their own maps largely keeping Mission Hill intact.

Under the map the coalition is submitting to the committee, Ross would face off against District 7 Councillor Tito Jackson. The coalition includes MassVOTE, the NAACP Boston branch, the Chinese Progressive Association, Oiste and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, among others.

The coalition, arguing for more opportunities of proportional representation, said in its letter to the council that 53 percent of Bostonians are people of color, but only four out of the 13 city councillors are people of color.

“Clearly, we are prioritizing increasing opportunity, whereas the city Council discussion has prioritized the status quo,” said Lydia Lowe, the head of the Chinese Progressive Association, which has clashed with Linehan during redistricting discussions. (A group of association members delivered holiday cookies to Linehan just before Christmas, which he “reluctantly” accepted, the association said.)

The coalition’s map proposes the following changes, according to their letter (and the map is available here as a PDF):

-- District 2 would include South Boston, Downtown, Beacon Hill, and the Back Bay.

-- Districts 3 and 4, which currently are split north to south, would be split east to west, with District 4 picking up the southern part of Dorchester. “This change relieves the current “packing” of District 4, which consists of nearly 90% non-white residents and strengthens opportunities for influence in District 3,” the coalition said in their letter.

-- District 7 would include Roxbury, Lower Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mission Hill. “Mission Hill, historically considered a part of Roxbury, is a working class, racially mixed neighborhood that shares many common concerns with the rest of this district,” the coalition said.

-- District 8 would include Chinatown, the South End, and the Fenway. The coalition wrote, “This reconfigured District 8 would become an incumbent-free, racially-mixed district with common interests and anchored by a growing Asian-American population, creating significant opportunities for historically under-represented communities.”

PDF icon 2012 Coalition Map A.pdf0 bytes