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City redistricting draws scant attention

Yawu Miller | 10/18/2011, 11:02 p.m.
City councilors Bill Linehan and Charles Yancey explain the city’s redistricting process to an audience, including Councilor Tito Jackson (second from right). Population increases in the north of the city will force district lines to shift in this year’s re-drawing of district lines, according to Linehan. Yawu Miller

“They need a greater population to meet the minimum number,” Linehan said. “They need to encroach on the north.”

Jackson is in a similar predicament. Each district should have 68,621 people, to ensure that every councilor represents the same number of people. But District 7 now has 73,002 people and will need to lose 4,500. Jackson, who lives in the southernmost precinct in the district, could easily have his home drawn off the map.

Linehan said the council would take incumbency into account in redrawing the districts, although it is not a requirement.

Linehan said the committee will draw up a proposed map by the end of November. A period for public comment will last between 12 and 20 days. He said the council would probably hold another hearing after their map is released.

“We will give folks ample time to give any response,” he said.

Councilors will then make any changes before submitting a final map, which the mayor must sign off on.

Most of the input audience members at the Devine Clubhouse gave revolved around not splitting Ward 12 between councilors and having the committee do better outreach to voters and community-based organizations.

Victoria Williams, Co-Chairwoman of the Ward 12 Democratic Committee, said having a public comment period during the holidays would probably not work well.

“I wouldn’t want this to happen when I’m doing my Christmas cards,” she commented.

Hall pointed out that many of the community groups most concerned about political representation are currently advocating greater minority representation in the state’s redistricting process.

“It’s nearly impossible to do both,” he said.

Mass VOTE co-director Cheryl Crawford asked that the committee hold a hearing after the Nov. 8 election.

“A lot of people who are civically engaged are working on campaigns,” she said.

Linehan said he would consider extending the hearings.

“We’re hearing that there should be more outreach and we take that seriously,” he said.