Policy

The once-a-decade re-examination of the city’s political boundaries has not been smooth at all.

Boston City Hall. Pat Szklarnia / Global Staff

Boston City Council voted Wednesday to approve a new political map whose neighborhoods and borders will inherently shape the next decade of politics at the Center.

The vote ended a tumultuous process that exposed the persistent and persistent racial tensions in a changing city, and even prompted a councilor to incite sectarian conflicts in the final hours before voting.

Even so, the council’s progressive flank triumphed in approving their proposal, dubbed the “unity map,” over a few last-minute amendments with a veto-proof 9-4 votes that fell largely in racial lines among historically diverse council members.

Opponents of the map were Council Chairman Ed Flynn, Councilor Frank Baker, Councilor Michael Flaherty, and Councilor Erin Murphy.

The map is now heading for Mayor Michelle Wu’s desk.

Proponents say the map aims to provide more political subjectivity to communities of color – thus fulfilling the city’s legal obligation under the Federal Voting Rights Act to ensure that color voters are free to elect candidates without the routine and systemic numerical advantage of white voters at ballot boxes in their neighborhoods.

In reviewing the current counties, he was guided by the increase in Boston’s population, as evidenced by the 2020 US census, and especially the significant increase in seaport population over the past decade.

The entire redistribution process takes place every 10 years, by law, to ensure an approximately equal population in Boston’s nine boroughs.

“We need to try to create situations where minority communities are able to choose their chosen candidate,” said councilor Liz Breadon, chairman of the council’s redistribution committee. “And it was a really difficult process because people were throwing blockages and obstacles all the way.”

Factors in the game

Councilors often indicated the need to meet the deadline imposed by them for the new map to be established by November 7. While this deadline is not legally required, councilors have found that approving a map after that date may pose a challenge to the schedule of residency requirements for applicants wishing to run in the next electoral cycle.

Breadon warned Wednesday that “risks are referred to as mandatory protection.”

However, the timing was only one of several factors with which councilors advocated the new map.

Last week, the councilors had faced with complaints Neighborhood groups in South Boston and Dorchester allege violating the state’s public redistriction meeting law (which officials deny).

South Boston organizations on Wednesday filed a lawsuit Search for a Supreme Court judge in Suffolk who blocked the council from holding a vote. The judge refused, but the November 9 hearing is already on the agenda.

Controversy has also plagued the process since at least August, with Flynn’s decision to remove councilor Ricardo Arroyo from the presidency of the council’s redistribution committee.

The decision was made in the light of news from Arroyo, a district attorney candidate in the September primaries, when the story came to light, she was twice investigated for s*xual assault as a teenager, but was never charged. Arroyo denied any wrongdoing.

Flynn’s decision exposed deep divisions in the council, as described by the colored councilors at one of their August meetings, the racism and repeated disrespect they faced in their office.

And then there were arguments over the “map of unity.”

A new map – and that is the opposition

New map of the Boston neighborhood
The “Map of Unity” received the approval of the City Council on Wednesday. – Boston city in screenshot

The major changes to the new map focus largely on relocating parts of Dorchester – near Cedar Grove, Neponset, and Adams Village – from District Three to District Four, and moving South Boston’s home areas to a council estate from District 2 to District 3.

Supporters, including vocal Arroyo, unveiled a preliminary map in mid-October as a collaborative effort between councilors and several civic organizationssuch as the Boston branch of the NAACP.

They say District 2, by law, has too many residents in its current state, while the Dorchester section of District 3 would provide District 4 with more racial diversity to help the city avoid possible allegations of “packing” black electoral blocs.

However, the map has met with steadfast opposition from several councilors, who say the map divides their neighborhoods and divides their communities.

Flynn, earlier this week, even went so far as to call the process “reckless,” according to Boston Herald.

“Dividing South Boston’s council housing and dividing communities of color is immoral and conscientious,” he said.

Councilman Baker, representing Dorchester District 3, was particularly outspoken with his opposition, and his passions led to a crescendo of tensions at Wednesday’s meeting.

Baker, introducing Dorchester’s deep Irish-American ties and Catholic beliefs into the fold, told the councilmen about a Catholic priest who told him that city clergy viewed the map as “a total att*ck on Catholic life in Boston.”

He added, “They are not confused about the fact that the person in charge of this accusation is a Protestant” from Northern Ireland, referring to Breadon, an immigrant, Baker’s colleague.

Baker’s comments recalled a dramatic and complex period in Northern Ireland history known as Troubles.

The concerns concerned discrimination against Catholics under Protestant-controlled governments, and tensions between groups raged over the divisions between the state’s ties to Britain and the idea of ​​a united Ireland independent of the British crown. From the late 1960s to the late 1990s, some 3,600 people died during the decades of conflict.

Baker’s words caused an audible shock in the council room, prompting Flynn to announce a short break.

Baker, who wore a cross on his lapel, apologized, saying, “a good Catholic like me shouldn’t do this.”

“I shouldn’t be using that language,” he said. “I’m warmed up because I think a District 3 neighborhood that happens to be Catholic is under att*ck.”

Breadon offered an emotional response, calling Baker’s outburst a “personal att*ck.”

She drew parallels between the disenfranchisement of Catholics in Northern Ireland and black Americans during the civil rights movement.

Breadon, who is a lesbian married to a “nice Irish Catholic” from Boston, also emphasized that she was unable to live without prejudice in her own religion-conscious homeland as well.

“It is an insult to me when a colleague in this City Council insinuates that I discriminate against Catholics. That’s not what’s happening here, ‘said Bredon. “I stand for the rights of our minority communities – Hispanic, Asian and Black – to equal access to voting and equal opportunities to choose a candidate of their choice.

“And if that means upsetting and upsetting Catholics, then I’m very, very sorry,” she added. “And I don’t think it reflects Catholic values. … It’s an insult. It is an absolute disgrace. “

Breadon called her committee’s proposal a “defensible map” and called on her colleagues to support it.

“It is dealing with some long-term, long-term imbalances in our city, and I really feel that the moment has come,” she said.

Councilors opposed to the map have argued recently that the process lacks transparency.

Earlier this week, Flynn, the chairman of the council, tried to halt the work by calling on an independent panel to do so. He called the process “Contaminated and defective”.

On Wednesday, Murphy made a proposal to define “protocols” for the redistribution committee, arguing that insufficient public meetings had been translated into many languages. The supporters of the map disagreed and moved the center as a stall tactic to a scheduled vote.

Murphy said she felt the trial was rushed.

“We should progress slowly in this process,” she said. “There is no need to go through this map quickly. We have to do it right. “

Flaherty also introduced what he called a “neighborhood unity map,” adding to many other proposed draft maps that ultimately failed to gain popularity with councilors.

The “Neighborhood Unity Map” aims to do something no other map has done so far, and we are legally bound to do… that is, respect our historic neighborhood boundaries, ”Flaherty said. “We need to unite communities through this process, not divide them.”

Flynn tried to pass amendments keep polling stations in his District Two, but lacked the necessary support from other councilors to run them.

“It’s easy for my colleagues to dismantle a community you don’t know,” said Flynn. “I’m disappointed.”

As part of the committee’s report, Breadon made several recommendations for future trials in particular.

Among the downsides to the process is that the city is working too late with redistribution experts, said Breadon. The city should also take advantage of the city’s demographers and cartographers in advance.

In addition, Breadon said she had long supported calls for an independent advisory commission to support, inform and monitor the council when councilors need to repeat it all.

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