Local councilors differ on redistricting plan

August 31, 2012
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The City Council approved a controversial redistricting plan by a 7-6 vote on Aug. 22, with local councilors splitting on the issue.

City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who lives in and represents Jamaica Plain, voted in favor of the plan, saying it creates a “fair map.” At-Large City Councilor Felix Arroyo, a JP resident, said he wants a plan focused on more diversity.

Councilor Tito Jackson, who covers Egleston Square, and Councilor Mike Ross, who represents part of Hyde Square, both voted against the plan. The two councilors did not respond to a request for comment.

Some critics contend the map limits the voting power of people of color by “packing” them into a small number of districts. One coalition has threatened to sue the City if the plan is signed into law by Mayor Thomas Menino.

O’Malley, who was surprised at the closeness of the vote, said that the council vetted the map thoroughly and there were opportunities to listen to feedback and make changes.

“I’m comfortable with the map,” said O’Malley.

O’Malley said that District 4, which covers parts of Dorchester and Mattapan and is represented by Charles Yancey, an opponent of the approved plan, moves from 95 percent of people of color to 94 percent under the plan. He said that makes the district “less packed” with people of color, which diversifies other districts.

O’Malley also said that the approved plan keeps JP and West Roxbury intact, while most other plans split the two areas.

Arroyo said that the plan passed by only one vote, evidence of the map not having resounding support of the council.

“I truly believe we could have came up with a better plan,” said Arroyo.

Arroyo said he does not think the issue is over, as Menino still has opportunity to veto the plan.

“My hope is that he will look at the map and send it back to us,” said Arroyo.

He added, “The mayor knows the city well.”

In an email to the Gazette, Menino said, “We will review this map to make sure all residents are properly represented. We will take a close look before making any decisions.”

Arroyo also said he was disappointed that an amendment put forth by Jackson was defeated as it would have created the map he supported. He said it would have kept more neighborhoods intact.

O’Malley, who had made a prior map with Jackson, voted against the amendment. He said there were several differences between the amendment map and the one he and Jackson previously created.

“I believe the map I voted for is more closely [related] to the Jackson/O’Malley map than any other,” he said.

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