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Menino vetoes city redistricting plan, NAACP to hold forum

Banner Staff

The Boston branch of the NAACP supported Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s decision to veto a city-wide redistricting plan that critics characterized as suppressing minority voter strength.

“We are grateful to the mayor for his decision to turn back the clock on the redistricting process, giving the city council another opportunity to do this right,” said Michael Curry, president of the Boston NAACP. “Ultimately, we all want a better, more inclusive, more reflective Boston, and [to] avoid any need for legal action.”

Political observers argued that the redistricting measure, passed into law recently by the Boston City Council by a slim 7-6 vote, could hurt minority communities by dividing and packing so-called minority voters.

All of the councilors of color — Charles Yancey, Tito Jackson, Felix Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley — voted against the bill.

A number of organizations, including the Boston NAACP and the Boston Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under the Law, hinted that they would initiate a voting rights lawsuit if the redistricting law went into effect.

According to the NAACP, the map’s most egregious error was the failure to unpack District 4, now over 65 percent black and over 95 percent people of color, passing up on the opportunity to shift precincts into Districts 3 or 5 where there is a growing presence of black, Hispanic and Asian residents.

The bill was drafted by City Councilor Bill Linehan, who the NAACP argued pushed a plan that diminished political influence for people of color and would likely expose the city to a lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The plan, the NAACP said, discarded minority precincts in District 2, where Linehan failed to gain the support of minority communities in his narrow victory to return to the Council.

“Although we, as a coalition, requested a meeting with [Linehan] on numerous occasions, we were denied a chance to present alternative proposals,” said Sean Daughtry, chairman of the Boston NAACP Political Action Committee. “…[Linehan’s] door was closed to minority communities, and the vote of all four councilors of color against the plan indicates a blatant disrespect for over 53 percent of the city’s population.”

The Boston NAACP announced details about a community forum on redistricting, on Tuesday, Sept.18 at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury from 6p.m. to 8p.m.

“We strongly urge Councilor Linehan to attend to show that he understands his role to develop a map that works for Boston,” said Cheryl Crawford, director of MassVote. “Our goal is simple — to unpack District 4 and to not crack District 2 — and now we just need to figure out how to get there with them.”