The City Council has less than two months to figure out its new district maps — namely, how to account for massive population growth in the Seaport while keeping the maps fair.
A turbulent series of events has led City Councilor Liz Breadon to chair the committee, and she has filed a set of guidelines for the process and requested an assortment of demographic details this week as she says she is working to schedule community sessions and council working sessions to get the ball rolling.
“We have a really tight timeline,” Breadon told the Herald. “We really need to have somewhere close to a final map by the middle of October.”
The deadline for the new map to be approved — passed by the council and signed by the mayor — is Nov. 7.
Breadon said the idea isn’t to start from a blank map — it’s likely to begin with the current district boundaries and then move from there.
“The biggest question is the growth in a certain district, which is District 2,” Breadon said, referring to the district that includes South Boston, Chinatown, portions of downtown and the Seaport — the last of which essentially didn’t exist as a neighborhood during the last redistricting 10 years ago. She said she’s “not anticipating a huge shift.”
District 2 — represented by City Council President Ed Flynn, who declined to comment about redistricting — now has about 18,000 more residents than it will need to, so boundaries will need to change to get all nine council districts around 75,000 people.
The precincts will need to follow laws like the Voting Rights Act and other rules aimed at not cutting down on minority voting groups. The data Breadon requested is about numbers of voters, ethnic breakdowns and expected development over the next decade.
In the last City Council meeting two weeks ago, redistricting proved to be the match that lit the fuse for a blaze of frustrations from various councilors regarding the situation around City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who had been the redistricting chair before Flynn stripped him of his chairmanships for two months.
Arroyo, then a DA candidate who was facing reports about old sexual-assault investigations, slammed the move as “a blatant attempt to hinder my mission as Chair to create more diverse and inclusive districts citywide.”
The handful of councilors who stuck by Arroyo’s side as he continued to insist he’d done nothing wrong aired their grievances over Arroyo losing control of the committee as members of the body sniped at each other and members of the audience eventually got into a fist fight outside.
The council in some regards is behind where it was 10 years ago during the last redistricting process. The body had passed a map with more than a week left in August 2012, though then-Mayor Thomas Menino vetoed that, leading to a roller coaster of events that resulted in the body passing the final version that Halloween.
Arroyo, who only held one short redistricting hearing in August, didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday but at the time told the Herald that the reprecincting that the city did this year — adding 20 voting precincts in Boston — meant they had to get a late start on the process and that his office was in the process of developing maps.