Calls for Greater Transparency, Public Process, Establishing Commission
“I’m strongly opposed to the latest amended version of Docket #1275, also known as the Breadon-Arroyo map, which my colleagues at the Council and I received this afternoon, nearly 48 hours prior to the vote at our regularly scheduled Council meeting. This map further divides District 2 along racial lines, as it cuts the Boston Housing Authority developments out of South Boston, including the Anne M. Lynch Homes at Old Colony, the West Broadway Development, and West Ninth St Apartments.
The previous version of the map proposed to divide public housing developments in half – both at the Anne M. Lynch Homes (along Mercer St.) and the West Broadway Development (along Orton Marotta Way) into District 2 and District 3. At that time, public housing advocates like South Boston En Accion, BHA Task Force leaders, nonprofit partners, and all civic groups in South Boston voiced complete opposition to a proposal that would divide our public housing developments from District 2, and dilute the voice of communities of color to organize and advocate for their interests.
It is unconscionable now with this latest version to propose to completely cut out these developments from District 2, the Council district where these developments have traditionally been located. These actions are wholly contrary to the redistricting principles that we have discussed with experts and academics when it comes to the preservation of the core of prior districts and communities of interest. These are integral parts of South Boston. Our public housing developments have a large number of Hispanic and Black residents, and they contribute greatly to the diversity of South Boston and District 2. These developments have always been in District 2, and they identify with the neighborhood of South Boston. Removing them completely, and separating them from the rest of South Boston, makes District 2 less diverse.
It is my opinion, and that of organizations like South Boston En Accion who have written to the Committee on Redistricting, that these changes would make it more difficult for us to work with our public housing neighbors, just as we did throughout the pandemic; whether it was advocating on issues of language access, food security, senior outreach, distributing masks, access to testing, and other city services.
As I indicated in a statement last Thursday, and in agreement with the Boston Globe Editorial Board, I believe it is critical that we slow down this Redistricting process. We should not rush a once-in-a-decade redistricting exercise as, according to the City of Boston Corporation Counsel, there is no legal requirement to do so by November 7th. The only explicit statutory deadline set forth in the Boston City Charter is that City Council districts be redrawn by August 1, 2026. The public deserves a better community process, and as we act in the best interest of the City, careful consideration should be given to all communities.
As the Boston Globe editorial said last week, the title of which is “Don’t rush into a new redistricting plan”, the Council’s “push to pass the maps so quickly is a mistake”. It calls for more community process, and points out that “there is no upcoming legal deadline that justifies rushing the kinds of important discussions that [some] said were needed.” If we continue to rush this process, I am concerned that the courts will decide this for our city eventually.
Moreover, we did not know what the exact map was when there were plans to vote on redistricting last Wednesday. At this time, unfortunately, both the public and Councilors voting on the maps had not been afforded an opportunity to view or offer feedback in a public hearing on a final map- with a vote less than 48 hours away. There were also no further meetings, hearings, or working sessions after October 25th. We did not have the opportunity to discuss the latest version of the Breadon-Arroyo map, we did not know what were the amendments that made it into this version that we are supposed to vote on Wednesday, we did not have the chance to have our constituents have further input.
It is unfortunate that in our haste and rush to meet this self-imposed November 7th deadline, we have sacrificed transparency and created unnecessary distrust and tension. I am confident that we will get closer to a map that unites the entire City of Boston if we choose to step back and invest the proper time and effort into listening to all communities and working to address their concerns.
Again, I would like to reiterate that District 2, District 3 and District 4 have the most stake in this redistricting process and, yet, this map has not taken into serious consideration the voices of the communities in these districts. Despite the Chair’s insistence that this would strengthen these districts, there is no doubt that these districts will suffer from losing some core communities that are not preserved from prior districts, as well as not maintaining communities of interest. It is frustrating that more time was spent with the advocates of the UNITY map than listening to the voices of the communities in which this exercise will most affect, and bear the brunt of the irreparable harm and unintended consequences that this may potentially cause.
In addition, we have been using Districtr as a mapping tool for convenience, but I was told that the population categories used in Districtr aren’t the same as the actual mapping tool that our City uses. Districtr’s population categories are broader, and there can be discrepancies of the demographic data from Districtr. If our goal was to ensure accurate demographic data, we should be utilizing the process for redistricting that we had in the past in our public process.
In the final analysis, we need a more robust public process and Council hearings throughout the city to ensure more voices are incorporated into the Redistricting process, including interpretation services for non-English speaking and immigrant neighbors.
As many neighbors and community organizations have expressed concerns about transparency and outside influence over this entire process, it may also be prudent for the City Council to work with the Election Department, the Mayor’s Office, and the Secretary of State to consider studying the establishment of a commission aimed at approval of appropriate precinct geography, voting locations, and redistricting mapping.
We need to get this right. The current map as proposed isn’t doing right by the neighbors living in my district in public housing in South Boston, and the rushed process isn’t doing right by the residents across the City of Boston. Let’s make sure that the public and our constituents also have their voices heard.”