City Council district changes proposed

December 2, 2011
By

Dueling plans for Boston’s City Council Districts are battling over whether or not to significantly change JP’s districts.

One, proposed by City Councilor Bill Linehan, who heads the City Council’s Committee on the Census and Redistricting, would put much of Mission Hill in Jamaica Plain’s District 6 and remove part of Woodbourne from the district.

That plan would set up a potential electoral fight between City Councilor Mike Ross, who represents District 8 and currently lives in Mission Hill and City Councilor Matt O’Malley, a JP resident who represents District 6.

Those two put forward a plan that would keep JP largely intact.

O’Malley told the Gazette that he and Ross each independently arrived at the exact same plan to their districts largely intact. “They are exactly identical,” he said of the plans.

Under the O’Malley/Ross plan, most of Mission Hill would stay in Ross’s District 8. One voting precinct, Ward 10, Precinct 8, which includes some of Hyde Square, the S. Huntington Avenue area and part of the Hill—would move from District 8 into District 6.

That plan would also keep Ward 19, Precinct 12 in Woodbourne and another precinct in West Roxbury that O’Malley currently represents in District 6.

“My suggestion would keep the neighborhoods as whole as possible,” O’Malley said.

But Linehan noted that his proposal would keep Mission Hill more intact. “I heard testimony loud and clear,” that the Hill should be kept whole, he said. Linehan hosted a series of public hearings on redistricting throughout the city this fall.

Linehan is hesitant about the Ross/O’Malley plan because it means major changes for his District 2, he said.

“I tried to be equal in accommodation and pain,” he said of his proposal.

Because of population shifts recorded in the 2010 census, District 6 needs to pick up 3,500 people. In general, the districts in the north of Boston are too populous and the southern districts are under-populated.

Neither of the proposals suggest a change for Egleston Square, which participants in a redistricting hearing this fall had guessed might be moved from City Councilor Tito Jackson’s Roxbury-based District 7 to District 6.

Speaking to the Gazette, O’Malley and Linehan stressed that the conversation about redistricting is preliminary. Linehan previously said that he hoped to have a plan in place by the beginning of the new City Council session in mid-January. But, he said this week, “I don’t have a drop-dead date. I am trying to keep the focus on the process…but the longer it draws out, the more convoluted it becomes.”

Linehan said he expected there will be more redistricting proposals on the table by today. The redistricting committee is held a hearing Nov. 28 and plans to hold another one Dec. 5, he said.

O’Malley told the Gazette that he would not be surprised if the City Council puts off voting on a new plan until later next year.

The legal deadline for redistricting is one year before nomination papers are due for the 2013 City Council elections, because election laws require council candidates to have lived in their districts for at least a year prior to nomination. That means the City Council does not have to approve a new map at least until spring 2012.