Forest Hills, Woodbourne may move out of council district; Arroyo protests

As the Boston City Council’s redistricting process speeds toward a likely approval of a final map on Wednesday, proposals on the table would move the entire Forest Hills and Woodbourne areas out of the local Jamaica Plain district into Dorchester/Mattapan’s District 4. That would mean City Councilor Charles Yancey would represent them instead of City Councilor Matt O’Malley.

At-large City Councilor Felix Arroyo, who lives in Forest Hills, has organized a petition against the move and will have volunteers knocking on doors in the neighborhood starting at 4 p.m. today to drum up opposition.

“We’re talking about thousands of Jamaica Plain residents not being in the Jamaica Plain district,” said Arroyo. “I am absolutely opposed to that. I will be doing everything I can and fighting to make sure it stays in the Jamaica Plain district.”

O’Malley, whose District 6 could lose the area, told the Gazette that it would mean places like the Forest Hills T Station and the Casey Overpass would no longer be under local representation.

“It’s clearly part of Jamaica Plain. Forest Hills is one of the landmarks,” said O’Malley. “I applaud the effort Felix is doing.”

O’Malley and Tito Jackson, whose District 7 includes parts of Egleston Square and Parkside in JP, have proposed an alternative map that would retain Forest Hills and Woodbourne in JP. O’Malley noted that he organized local opposition earlier this year to similar ideas of swapping Forest Hills precincts out of his district.

The areas on the table for moving are Precincts 7 and 12 in Ward 19.

Jessica Taubner, a JP resident and chief of staff for At-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, joined Arroyo in the door-knocking. Taubner said she joined the effort as a JP resident, adding, “But Ayanna is against this split with JP.”

Redrawing City Council districts is legally required every 10 years after the U.S. Census results are issued to make sure that each district has a roughly equal population. But a major issue is racial and ethnic balance. Mayor Thomas Menino vetoed a previous redistricting map earlier this year for having minority voters too concentrated within District 4. The possible moves of Forest Hills and Woodbourne into that district are part of an effort to increase the minority population in various districts.

Arroyo said that increasing minority representation is a good thing, but that other proposed maps do it without significantly breaking up JP’s district.

“I think enough is enough when it comes to moving Forest Hills,” he said.

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