New Congressional Maps Could Result in Changes Locally

September 22, 2011
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Drawing the new Congressional redistricting map has not been an easy process for State Rep. Michael Moran (D-Allston), and many times he said he has grown dizzy from the multitudes of numbers and scenarios thrown at him during the discussion.

There is no manual for the process.

There is no way to make everyone happy.

And this time around, the stakes are probably the highest that they’ve ever been with one member of Congress having to be eliminated.

In a telephone interview last week, Moran said that the four maps that he has been tirelessly working on with analysts over the past several months will be completed in October – within a month’s time.

“Right now we’re still in the deliberation stage and we’re rapidly approaching a time when we’re going to have to put out a map,” said Moran.

Along with the Congressional map, he is also charged with re-drawing the state House of Representative district map, the state Senate district map and the Governor’s Council district map.

The most difficult has been the State Representative map, where individual streets and blocks matter greatly.

However, it is the Congressional map that will gather the most headlines, and that is the one that will affect everyone from Chelsea and Revere all the way to far-flung areas like Palmer and North Adams.

The crux of the problem is that one Congressional district has to be eliminated, and that hasn’t been an easy process.

“Sometimes I wish there was a ‘Redistricting for Dummies’ book, but there isn’t,” he said. “I wish I were doing a map that had 11 districts instead of only nine. You’d be hard pressed to find a scenario that hasn’t been in conversations. You have to understand every scenario and every scenario in this case results in two Congressmen having to run against each other. You also have to consider county lines, school districts, communities of interest, tradition and history. There really is a strong communities of interest argument and it is valid.”

That’s where many of the cities and towns like Revere, Everett, Winthrop and East Boston fit into the discussion. Chelsea, on the other hand, seems to be firmly cemented in Congressman Michael Capuano’s mostly Boston district, and so far the city has not been included in the same conversations as its neighboring cities and neighborhoods north of downtown Boston.

Insiders and observers have been postulating about which member of Congress will be eliminated; about which districts will be merged so that two members will end up fighting for one, new district.

Moran said that the communities of interest argument is very strong in the areas north or Boston, though Chelsea seems to be excluded from that discussion.

“Suffolk County is constantly discussed,” he said. “East Boston, Saugus, Revere and Winthrop have more in common with the North Shore communities than they do the South Shore or even Boston. These are communities of interest arguments. While you can make a case for them culturally and electorally being similar, they’re one of many arguments that can be made.”

However, Moran stopped short of giving any clues about what definitely might happen in the areas of Revere, Everett, Winthrop and Eastie.

In off the record comments with others, multiple observers of the process indicated that the strongest scenarios at the moment are merging the South Shore/Cape Cod districts of long-time Congressman Barney Frank and new Congressman Bill Keating.

That would pretty much leave this area with few, if any, alterations.

Another scenario mentioned, though, would have most of the area carved out of Congressman Ed Markey’s district and Congressman Michael Capuano’s district.

That scenario is referred to by Moran in the above comments as the communities of interest argument, and it would consist of merging the districts of Congressman John Tierney and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, creating one super-North Shore/Cape Ann district. Urban areas like Revere, Eastie, Everett, Lynn, Lawrence and Lowell would be buffered by tonier North Shore addresses like Boxford, Topsfield and Hamilton in that scenario.

Chelsea would most likely be separated from Eastie in that scenario.

One observer said that scenario would be undesirable at the moment – while Congressman Markey is still in power – but would probably be a good long-term fit for the areas just north of Boston.

Markey’s district stretches far out into the western suburbs and it would be expected that his seat would become more of a Metro West seat and less of a North Shore seat.

Local leaders indicated they weren’t sure what to expect of the process.

City Manager Jay Ash said he hasn’t been following the process too closely, but he likes the idea that Chelsea isn’t being mentioned for any possible changes.

“We’d sure hate to loose Congressman Capuano because he has been a terrific partner with us here,” said Ash. “As a former Mayor, he really gets what we are trying to accomplish in Chelsea and is always willing to advocate for our needs.”

Likewise, Revere Mayor Tom Ambrosino said that he did not want his city to be taken away from Markey.

“Congressman Markey has been very good to Revere and we would be opposed to any plan that would take us out of his district,” said Ambrosino.

Those who are in Everett, Winthrop and Revere would tend not to want to get mixed in with the Boston and Chelsea district, worried that they would live in the shadow of the state’s largest metropolis.

Meanwhile, those in Eastie seem to prefer the idea of staying with Boston and not getting plucked out with those on the North Shore – despite the natural bond Eastie has with areas north of Boston.

Meanwhile, Eastie could end up being a prime discussion in the preservation of Boston’s majority minority district.

Capuano’s district is the only district in the state where a majority of the population is comprised of minorities.

Moran said they are pledged to keeping the district that way, and might even look to make it stronger.

“Essentially, we have a majority minority district right now which is represented by Congressman Capuano,” said Moran. “You must consider that when you draw new districts. If there is data to suggest the minority population has decreased significantly, then you don’t necessarily have to keep a majority minority district, but that isn’t the case and it appears there has been significant growth in the minority population during the last Census. You have to preserve the 8th District and keep it a majority minority district or consider making it an even stronger majority minority district.”

That could possibly be accomplished by expanding the district southward to communities like Randolph and Braintree that have grown substantially in their minority population. That could leave Eastie the odd man out, and send it northward.

In the end, Moran said that the whole process would probably end up in court, as a lawsuit seems to be inevitable.

“A lot of the advocacy groups run counter to each other,” said Moran. “If we put out one map, Dan Winslow at Fair Districts will likely sue us and if we put out another map, we’ll likely have a lawsuit from the NAACP or the Black Empowerment Coalition. You have to assume there will be a lawsuit. Something like 48 of the 50 states had lawsuits the last time this was done. It’s part of the process.”


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