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Councilors push for redistricting vote

‘Unity map’ said to have majority support

Anna Lamb
Councilors push for redistricting vote
City Council President Ed Flynn, Redistricting Committee Chairwoman Liz Breadon and District 8 Councilor Kenzie Bok. PHOTO: ANNA LAMB

As the city’s once-in-a decade redistricting process comes to a close, city councilors have had to pick their battles in order to meet the deadline for redrawing voting boundaries.

The process, which has accelerated over the last six weeks or so since the ousting of former redistricting chair Riccardo Arroyo, has been contentious as sitting councilors have clashed over what is best for the city and their districts as the redistricting process approaches its end.

Over the last week, councilors have sat for a series of working sessions and public hearings during which they have been subjected to expert opinions and feedback from residents that have fueled debates within the 13-member body over which parts of which districts will grow or shrink.

Ultimately, with at least seven votes likely and a clock running out, a majority of the council is leaning towards redrawn districts based on the latest map proposal, known as the “unity map,” submitted by redistricting committee chair Liz Breadon and former chair Arroyo.

That map is based largely on a map drawn by a coalition of groups representing Black, Latino and Asian communities including the NAACP, MassVOTE, The New Democracy Coalition and the Chinese Progressive Association. The seven-councilor bloc backing that map includes councilors of color and white progressive councilors. Opposed to the map as of Monday were the four Irish American councilors — Ed Flynn, Michael Flaherty, Erin Murphy and Frank Baker — as well as Brian Worrell, who is African American.

The aim of redistricting

To achieve the primary goal of the redistricting process, which is to create roughly equal populations in the nine districts, the South Boston-based District 2, which is overpopulated by about 13,480 people, must lose precincts. The unity map does so by shedding South Boston precincts to become part of the Dorchester-based District 3, currently represented by Councilor Frank Baker.

The unity map would accomplish a second directive of redistricting — to ensure voters of color have equal opportunities to elect representatives — by trading majority Black precincts in the Dorchester/Mattapan-based District 4 with majority white precincts in District 3.

Despite majority support for the map, councilors are still hotly debating tweaks to get the maps closer to current lines and neighborhood borders. District 2 Councilor Ed Flynn is opposed to shedding South Boston precincts and has instead proposed losing others around the Prudential Center and the Hynes Convention Center, which would go to Bok’s district. He has made it clear, however, that he wants to hold onto precincts in South Boston and the South End that contain public housing.

“We can’t divide people in need,” he said at a meeting Monday. 

In District 3, where population growth has not kept base with the city average, there is currently a deficit of approximately 6,500 people. Councilor Baker, who has expressed frustration with proposed maps that expand his district, has continued to say he is not being listened to throughout the process and that he would prefer to hold onto the Neponset section of his district instead of gaining South Boston precincts.

“Every map that I’ve seen comes after my neighborhoods,” Baker said Monday morning.

District 4 Councilor Worrell, who stands to gain the majority white precincts in Neponset and Cedar Grove under the proposed plan, said his priority is to keep the Four Corners and Codman Square neighborhoods in District 4.

“I want to make sure those neighborhoods remain intact,” he said Monday night.

The meetings have been among the more contentious in recent history. On Monday, at-large Councilor Erin Murphy argued with Breadon until Breadon was forced to bang her gavel repeatedly. Murphy’s outburst, in line with councilors’ behavior throughout the process, garnered chastising from Flynn, the council’s president, who asked his colleagues to behave themselves.

“We’re embarrassing ourselves and we have to stop,” Flynn said.

Despite the tug of war that is ongoing between the councilors, Breadon has said she will hold a vote on the final map during the regularly scheduled council meeting Wednesday afternoon.