By Kane Carpenter
Riled and united by the Committee on Census and Redistricting’s first proposed map which, first seen before Thanksgiving, split Chinatown in half, many residents of Chinatown, as well as Mission Hill and South Boston, turned up to the latest redistricting hearing on December 9 to look at Councilor Linehan’s newest proposed map (Docket #1591), as well as voice their concerns and opinions, mostly on the speed at which the process is happening.
“It’s the law that we do this every 10 years after a Federal Census,” Councilor Linehan, who also serves as Chairman of the Committee on Census and Redistricting, said at the hearing. “The population grew to 617,594, which is 28,453 over what it was 10 years ago. [The population] grew by 4.8 percent”
Further noting that the population grew disproportionately, Linehan made clear the requisites that “each district must be plus or minus five percent of 68,621. Four districts need to cut population (1, 2, 7, and 8). Three districts need to add population (3, 4, and 6).”
“By law, seven districts must change,” Linehan said.
Linehan’s first proposed map caused a stir in many residents of Boston – with much discontent coming from Chinatown – many of whom felt that Linehan was gerrymandering after his close victory at the recent elections, where he won over Suzanne Lee by fewer than 100 votes.
Despite drawing a new map with new district lines, few in attendance at the hearing were pleased, including the city councilors.
“I know it’s not an easy [process]. At the end, no matter what map you present, someone is going to be unhappy, I suspect.” Councilor-at-large Felix Arroyo said, addressing Linehan. “With that said… I would like to see this map as another draft that we that we could start making changes to.”
“I do believe that neighborhoods that are currently whole in the council districts should remain so,” Arroyo said. “And I think that neighborhoods that are not whole, we should make a very honest effort to make them whole.”
Echoing the sentiments of Councilor Arroyo, members of the audience were given the opportunity to testify to the councilors. Many Chinatown residents took the opportunity to press the point of neighborhood unity and time.
“First I want to thank you, Chairman Linehan, for keeping Chinatown whole and for restoring the community and accepting community input into this process,” Executive Director of BCNC Elaine Ng said. “At this point, with this map, I would like to respectfully request that you slow down the process so that we can look at really keeping neighborhoods whole.”
“As a resident of Boston, I’m really concerned about how the rest of the city is segregated,” Ng added. “If we could take advantage of the opportunity of time, and to take a really deep look at how our neighborhoods function… I think that’s an important step to take.”
“I strongly urge you, the committee, and the city councilors to take your time and to have as great a process as, I think, the state has undergone for the state redistricting,” said Ng in conclusion to her testimony.
Among those in attendance at the hearing were a large number of members from the Chinatown Residents Association. Many association members gave their testimony, even hinting at a desire to split Chinatown from South Boston in order to create a new minority district.
“When we first saw the first draft of the map we were very concerned because in the map Chinatown was going to be split,” Co-Chair of the Chinatown Resident Association, Henry Yee said with the help of an interpreter. “In the second iteration of the map, the major areas of Chinatown are reconnected and we’re very happy to see this, but there is still a small area of the existing district that is still cut, so we’re still concerned.”
“I think it’s important that Chinatown remains together because Chinatown, as a community, has been around for over 100 years,” Yee said.
“One thing we would like to propose is for Chinatown to be grouped with other neighborhoods of color, instead of connected with South Boston,” Yee said. “The reason is because we think it is helpful and important to work with other communities of color to get the needed representation that is necessary for us.”
Click to view the proposed map REDISTRICTING MAP
Much like many of those in attendance, Yee also suggested that he “would like the councilors to hear our input through more hearings and a longer process.”
Chan Dan-Sum, a resident of South Cove East Plaza, was among those who were concerned at the previous proposed map. “I had heard of the proposal to cut Chinatown in half and at that time I was very unhappy,” Sum said with the help of an interpreter.
Despite acknowledging that she is happier now that the new proposal has Chinatown reconnected, Sum still felt as though “the process needs to be fairer and more transparent.”
“At the same time, I don’t believe we need to rush. We need more time to discuss what all of our options are, more time for the elderly, the community, and more time for the councilors,” Sum said.
“I strongly suggest that [the councilors] use councilor Linehan’s base map as a starting point, and amend that as you go along,” Bill Moy, co-moderator of the Chinatown Neighborhood Council, said. “I understand that people think you’re going to rush into this matter, and I hope you don’t. I don’t think you should drag it out either. I think it should be a slow and deliberate process so that the city council can come to a reasonable decision on what happens.”
“I do agree, if at all possible, that we keep the neighborhoods together and keep the school districts together,” Moy said.
Moy, however, disagreed with the Yee’s proposal to split Chinatown from South Boston, hinting at the politics behind the motivation.
“I do not agree that we should have a Chinatown district together with a minority just to set up a different minority district,” Moy said. “I think that the democratic process through the last elections prove that if you have a strong candidate, no matter where you come from, you have an opportunity to win.”
In the last of the testimonies from those affiliated with the Asian community and Chinatown, a representative from the Asian American Resource Workshop reiterated much of what had been made clear during the hearing – that the public was uneasy with the speed of the proceedings.
“We strongly feel that the redistricting process can be a great opportunity for the city to engage a wide range of stakeholders,” John Hsieh, Executive Director of the Asian American Resource Workshop, said.
“The AARW respectfully requests that the Committee on Census and Redistricting not unnecessarily rush the city council redistricting process,” Hsieh said. “We encourage this committee to allow for broader public input as well as active community participation in the development of the redistricting map.”
In response to the concern around a perceived “rush” on behalf of Councilor Linehan and the redistricting maps proposed, Linehan ensured those in attendance, as well as the public whom may have been watching on the hearing on television that that was not the case.
“There has been no rush to complete or end this process,” Linehan said. “But what has happened is that there has been a deliberate movement to keep the process moving forward.”
“There has been no deadline applied to this process, only an impending determination to keep it moving,” Linehan said.
The next meeting on redistricting will be held at Boston City Council on Monday, December 19, 2011 at 10 a.m.
The proposed changes according to Docket #1591:
- District One loses Ward 3 Precinct 6 (0306)
- District Two loses Ward 4 Precinct 2 (0402) and Ward 7 Precinct 9
- District Three adds Ward 8 Precinct (0806), Ward 7 Precinct 10 (0710), and Ward 13 Precinct 5 (1305) but loses Ward 17 Precinct 14 (1714)
- District Four adds Ward 18 Precinct 21 (1821), Ward 13 Precinct 1 (1301), Ward 13 Precinct 4 (1304), and Ward 17 Precinct 14 (1714)
- District Five loses Ward 18 Precinct 21 (1821) but will gain Ward 20 Precinct 3 (2003)
- District Six gains Ward 10 Precinct 8 (1008), Ward 10 Precinct 4 (1004) and Ward 11 Precinct 5 (1105), but will lose Ward 20 Precinct 3 (2003)
- District Seven loses Ward 11 Precinct 5 (1105), Ward 7 Precinct 10 (0710), Ward 13 Precinct 1 (1301), Ward 13 Precinct 4 (1304), and Ward 13 Precinct 5 (1305). District seven will pick up Ward 4 Precinct 2 (0402) and Ward 4 Precinct 7 (0407)
- District Eight loses Ward 10 Precinct 8 (1008), Ward 10 Precinct 4 (1004), and Ward 4 Precinct 7 (0407) but will gain Ward 3 Precinct 6 (0306)
- District Nine stays the same
This post is also available in: Chinese