By Adam Swift
The Boston City Council approved a new redistricting map by a 10-2 vote last Wednesday, May 24, ensuring that there will be no delays for the fall elections.
Mayor Michelle Wu subsequently signed the redistricting ordinance passed by the council.
The initial drawing of a new redistricting map was blocked by a federal judge, who ruled that the council improperly considered race in drawing up the new map.
The redrawn map presented by civil rights committee chair Ruthzee Louijeune looked to comply with the judge’s order and kept together areas of southern Dorchester in Councilor Frank Baker’s District 3.
The new map also kept a Mattapan precinct in Councilor Ricardo Arroyo’s District 5, as well as uniting the Little Saigon area of Dorchester and keeping together Chinatown and South Boston.
The newly redrawn map will not impact East Boston, although District 1 Councilor Gabriela Coletta is picking up two new precincts in other areas of the city. She said she is proud to potentially be representing Ward 3 Precinct 6 (Faneuil Hall/City Hall) and Ward 3 Precinct 13 (Downtown Waterfront/Harbor Towers).
“Today, I was proud to support a redistricting map that truly embodies compromise,” said Coletta. “My colleagues and I worked to provide a map that centered compactness, contiguity, and communities of interest in a time sensitive order from a federal judge. I want to thank my colleagues for the spirited discussion over the last few weeks.
“I especially want to thank Chair Ruthzee Louijeune for her incredible leadership in shepherding us through this process.”
Louijeune said she continues to believe that independent redistricting commissions are the best way to proceed and that legislators have a self-interest in these lines that will sometimes mask what is best for the people who live in these districts and how best to empower communities.
“I would like to thank my council colleagues for their diligence, passion, and collaboration throughout this long process, and their belief in my leadership,” said Louijeune. “The work we’ve done together at every step is crucial to building a better Boston for our residents. I would also like to thank the community leaders and residents who took the time to make their voices heard. You are central to the work that we do and your feedback has been invaluable.”
At-Large Councilor Erin Murphy said she was relieved that the redistricting process was completed, and that the council ultimately restored the constitutional rights of the city’s constituents.
“Safeguarding the voting rights of our constituents – regardless of the neighborhoods in which they live – should always be top of mind for elected officials,” said Murphy. “As Vice Chair of the Committee on Civil Rights and Immigrant Advancement, I’m pleased that we eventually did so in an equitable and transparent way, in which the voices of the public and the input of every City Councilor were heard and included. I also hope that we, as a body, learn some lessons from this – about respect for the rights of every Bostonian and for each other.”
At-Large Councilor Julia Mejia and District 6 Councilor Kendra Lara, whose district includes parts of Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, and West Roxbury, cast the two dissenting votes against the redrawn map.
In a joint statement, Mejia and Lara stated that they believed a number of common community concerns had been ignored and that there was a lack of transparency in the process.
“During redistricting, we had an opportunity to empower historically marginalized communities, but, instead of bolstering their power, we deprioritized them and maintained the status quo,” the statement read. “Councilor Lara’s map provided us with a clear path forward. It responded to the judge’s order, and it did so in the least disruptive way possible while preserving communities of interest. The chair and the body did not properly consider this option to the detriment of Boston voters.”
The new redistricting map will remain in place for the next 10 years.