City Council districts could shift

April 29, 2011
By

David Taber

Some Jamaica Plain residents will likely get a new city councilor following the redrawing Boston’s City Council districts—an exercise that is required by law every 10 years following the release of US Census data and set to begin in May.

Currently, Jamaica Plain is mostly covered by City Council District 6—which is represented by Matt O’Malley—but small sections of the neighborhood are in other districts. That could change and the entire neighborhood could become part of District 6—which also covers West Roxbury.

Because of population shifts and overall population growth in the city, “There will have to be adjustments to all of [the districts]…It will be like a Rubik’s Cube,” said District 1 City Councilor Bill Linehan, who is heading the City Council’s Committee on the Census and Redistricting.

Two City Council districts that include small parts of JP—District 8, represented by Mike Ross, and District 7, represented by Tito Jackson—are among those that now have too many people, and will likely be made smaller, Linehan said.

Those two districts are largely based in other neighborhoods. It is possible the council will consider moving the JP part of District 8 in Hyde Square and of District 7 in Egleston Square into District 6.

Linehan said he was not immediately sure if District 6 could simply absorb the new geography, or if a potential addition would mean other areas would have to be shaved off.

Three other districts —1, 2 and 9—will also shrink and most others have to grow, Linehan said.

The overall goal, he said, will be to have about 68,000 residents in each of the nine council districts.

The Committee of the Census and Redistricting will hold an initial public hearing in early May and other hearings throughout the summer at locations throughout the city to get community input, he said. The first hearing has not yet been scheduled.

“Part of the job is to make the process as open as possible, and listen to all of folks’ concerns,” he said.

The city is legally required to finish the process by February 2012, but Linehan said he hopes to have new districts approved by the end of this year.

During the last city redistricting process in 2001, the districts were redrawn so they would more closely mirror neighborhood boundaries.

Then-City Councilor Chuck Turner also put forward an ultimately unsuccessful proposal that would have radically altered District 6. Under that proposal, West Roxbury would have been cut out of the district, and sections of Roslindale and Hyde Park would have been added, making District 6’s population 60 percent minority.

Linehan said the focus this time around would be equalizing the populations in the districts. The committee will also try to ensure that districts are not divided by natural boundaries—a category that includes things like rivers and highways, he said.

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