Every 10 years, according to federal law, Boston’s City Council has to evaluate the city’s nine council districts and redraw the boundaries according shifts in population. The map then goes to the mayor for his approval.
After vetoing two earlier versions presented to him, Mayor Thomas Menino signed the third redistricting map after the Boston City Council voted, 11 to 2, to approve it. Though the math might sound simple enough, politics never is, and when boundaries are redrawn across neighborhoods and neighborhoods shift from one city councilor to another, satisfying everyone becomes impossible.
In the new plan, which won’t take effect until 2014, two Roslindale precincts, formerly in District 5, will be shifted to two other districts. Ward 20, precinct 1 will go to District 6, represented by Councilor Matt O’Malley and Ward 18, precinct 7, will be in District 4, represented by Councilor Charles Yancey.
Roslindale resident Carter Wilkie isn’t happy with the new map. “The neighborhood had one city councilor, but is now split three ways,” said Wilkie.
“Everyone shared the burden,” said Councilor Rob Consalvo who represents District 5. “No district can differ more than 10 percent from another. Downtown and the north part of town saw enormous growth.”
Because of that growth, a shift had to occur throughout all the districts to make them more equal, yet beyond mere numbers, racial makeup plays a role too.
Menino rejected the earlier maps because he said they concentrated too many black, Hispanic, and other voters of color in too few districts. When too many minority voters are in just a few super-concentrated districts, their voting power is diminished.
A coalition that included the NAACP Boston Branch, the Chinese Progressive Association, the Hispanic political organization Oiste, and MassVOTE had threatened the city with a lawsuit if the plan wasn’t deemed equitable.
District 5, which gained several more Mattapan precincts, will become the fourth minority-majority district in the city, something Consalvo said he is happy about.
“I embrace that,” he said. “It’s historic. It’s the first time in 30 years a new minority-majority district has been created.”
Councilor Matt O’Malley, whose district gained a Roslindale precinct, said he understands residents’ concerns.
“We all had to follow to follow the population shifts,” he said. “The pain was truly shared.”
On the flip side, O’Malley said he is excited to represent precinct 1.
“I was born on Ardale Street [which falls in precinct 1].”
Jaime Pullen, another Roslindale resident, said she’s looking forward to the city councilors coming to the community to discuss how they will be representing Roslindale in the future.
Councilor Yancey may already be working on that. Pullen said she saw Yancey at the farmers' market in Roslindale last weekend.