Menino vetoes redistricting plan

Mayor Thomas Menino on Sept. 6 vetoed the City Council’s redistricting plan, citing a lack of diversity in districts. The council had passed the plan by a 7-6 vote on Aug. 22 and must now go back to the drawing board.

The vetoed map did not change Jamaica Plain, but a new map could.

Some critics contended the map limited the voting power of people of color by “packing” them into a small number of districts. One coalition had threatened to sue the City if the plan was signed into law by Menino.

City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who lives in and represents Jamaica Plain, voted in favor of the plan. At-Large City Councilor Felix Arroyo, a JP resident, Councilor Tito Jackson, who covers Egleston Square, and Councilor Mike Ross, who represents part of Hyde Square, all voted against the plan.

“My central objection is my concern that the plan concentrates our many citizens of color into too few districts, and in doing so may limit their equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” said Menino in a letter sent to the council.

He cited District 4, which covers parts of Dorchester and Mattapan and is represented by Charles Yancey, as an example, saying it is almost 95 percent non-white.

“In a city where diversity is found broadly, I ask that you endeavor to avoid over-concentration of minority voters,” said Menino.

Asked if he was surprised by the mayor’s veto, O’Malley responded, “Not really” and said that “redistricting is a very complicated exercise.”

“I look forward to continue to work with my colleagues for a plan that is fair and equitable,” said O’Malley. “Hopefully, we can pass one with unanimous support.”

He added, “I’ve been working very hard to keep neighborhoods whole, especially Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury.”

Asked about the mayor’s criticism of the plan, specifically that of District 4, O’Malley said, “We need to do the best we can to have a fair and equitable plan.”

O’Malley had previously told the Gazette that the vetoed map moves District 4 from 95 percent of people of color to 94 percent. He said that makes the district “less packed” with people of color, which diversifies other districts.

Arroyo, meanwhile, was pleased by Menino’s action.

“I am grateful Mayor Menino vetoed the redistricting map. I voted against the map because I believed we could do better.  This is an opportunity to pass a map that best reflects our city and ensures everyone can have a voice in our government,” said Arroyo in a press release.

Jackson and Ross did not respond for a request for comment.

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