After previous struggle to come to a conclusion on a new redistricting plan, Boston City Council members passed an amendment to a highly disputed map of electoral districts in their weekly meeting on Wednesday.
A redistricted map approved by a majority of City Council members has already been sent back from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who cited a need to better represent the diverse population of Boston.
The amendment, which restructured seven of the nine voting districts of the city of Boston, was passed unanimously save for Councilor Charles Yancey, of Dorchester.
Yancey said the amendment maintained four districts of color, which was a positive sign, but the amended map could still marginalize the voices of minorities.
“There should be a public hearing so that the public can weigh in before we take a final vote,” he said.
Councilor Robert Consalvo of Hyde Park said it was hard to please all the city councilors with a redistricted map.
“We are really trying to take what we think is a fair and reasonable understanding of the impact of our goals on the city,” he said. “The reality is because of the nature of the task we are facing, we are probably not going to be able to, in a perfect world, unite every neighborhood.”
Consalvo said the map, as amended, acknowledges recent population shifts and related legal issues.
The map, as it stands, shifts around precincts of different wards around the city to different districts.
There are 22 wards and nine districts, made up of many precincts.
Excluding Districts 1 and 9, all districts on the proposed ordinance will undergo swapping of precincts among wards within the individual district, Linehan said.
Councilor Matt O’Malley of Jamaica Plain said while the amended ordinance is good, it could still be better.
O’Malley said he and the other councilors had a lot of work left to do in the upcoming week.
“Going forward, we need to figure something out, and that may be simplistic but we have days left,” he said. “So ladies and gentlemen, if these changes aren’t good enough … offer something else.”
The amendment was drafted by O’Malley and Consalvo, as well as Councilor Frank Baker, of Dorchester.
Baker said he was willing to support the ordinance as amended, but was somewhat reluctant.
He mentioned some groups contributing to the discussion of the redistricting amendment were not citizens of Boston.
“This here was supposed to be a shared exercise, and I, quite frankly, I don’t feel like it was totally shared,” Baker said. “It frankly felt like we had a gun to our heads.”
The ordinance, now amended, was referred to the Committee on Census and Redistricting, which will meet next week and might pass the new map to the mayor for approval.
A few days after Menino asked Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick for $15 million to handle possible inmates released in the wake of a lab scandal, the council also suggested ways to alleviate the potential safety and re-entry problems of temporarily released convicts.
“This matter is imminent,” said City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley. “It has the potential to permeate every neighborhood of this city.”
While Pressley said she believes in everybody’s ability to reform and rehabilitate, the council should do “everything in our power to keep peace in our streets.”
Judges have released a number of convicts whose drug evidence could have been handled by state chemist Annie Dookhan, who allegedly faked drug test results.
Councilor Tito Jackson, of Roxbury, reminded the council that 95 percent of prisoners are going to eventually be released from prison regardless of the recent scandal.
“Helping them get a job is one of the things that we really need to look at doing … this can’t only be a public safety issue,” Jackson said.
Councilor Michael Ross, of the Fens, said Menino’s proposed $15 million in funds should not completely go to only police departments.
“I think some of those funds have to go to the organizations that are working on preventing violence,” he said.
by Margaret Waterman