Oct 31, 2022 - Politics

Boston City Council closes in on new map

Illustration of Boston City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

After numerous delays, the Boston City Council is finally poised to vote Wednesday on new district lines that will set the city's political boundaries for the next ten years.

What's happening: Councilors have been locked in what at times seemed like an intractable debate over how to redraw the nine council districts to account for population shifts in Dorchester and South Boston.

At the heart of the debate - and the delay well past their initial Oct. 19 deadline to pass new boundaries - is a proposed map from a group of progressive interest groups that has pitted most of the body's councilors of color and progressive white members against moderate white councilors and one Black councilor.

  • The proposed map would break up precincts in Dorchester's Neponset area that moderate Councilor Frank Baker is trying to keep unified.

Why it matters: The fact that the chamber's moderate white members are on the defensive against a coalition of progressive white councilors and members of color exemplifies how Boston's politics have drastically changed the last ten years.

  • Housing prices have forced many working-class white Bostonians out of neighborhoods like South Boston and Charlestown, and the higher-income white progressives voters that replaced them don't share the same political allegiances, the Bay State Banner's Yawu Miller wrote.

Driving the news: Redistricting chairperson Councilor Liz Breadon was forced to push back a final vote on an amended map last week after a group of South Boston civic organizations filed a complaint alleging the council violated the state's open-meeting law, per the Boston Herald.

  • If Mayor Michelle Wu stalls or vetoes the map bill once it's passed, the final legal boundaries could be set after the Nov. 8 election.
  • That would mean any candidates running for City Council would have less than a year to stage campaigns, including challenges to the sitting councilors.

Quick take: Delaying the final district maps past Election Day won't violate any laws or cause much direct legal trouble for the Council.

  • But it will have a negative impact on democracy in Boston by limiting the ability of anyone thinking about running for City Council to plan a candidacy. They won't know for certain which district they'll end up in, and will have no ability to move into another district and still meet the one-year residency requirement.

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