In the end, the City Council determined it would be better off approving its own new ward and precinct map rather than leaving it in the hands of the Secretary of State’s office.
For the past week, the council has debated and questioned the U.S. Census data behind a new proposed ward and district map, which is required by law every 10 years. Last Thursday night, the council’s Committee of the Whole voted against recommending approval of the new ward and precinct map presented by the city’s redistricting committee. But after some further discussion with legal counsel, who made it clear that not approving a map would leave new ward and district lines in the hands of the state, the council voted unanimously on Monday night to accept the proposed map.
“I know I was one of the biggest opponents to re-precincting in the city, but I know what this means to the city, and I don’t want the state coming in and telling us how we should make our district lines,” said Novoselsky. “I would say let’s vote for the best case scenario that we have in front of us right now.”
While Novoselsky said he is for approval of the map in front of the council, he added that he would be taking further action regarding the discrepancies that came up during the last week. “I will be contacting Senator Markey and Congresswoman Clark asking that the Census Bureau investigate this and their procedures,” said Novoselsky, “not necessarily a criminal investigation, but as a study to see how they can improve their processes moving forward.”
Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino said that this is the first time he has changed his vote between how he has voted in subcommittee and on a final full council vote. “At the very end of last week’s subcommittee meeting, after we took the vote, representatives got up to speak about how if the city does not accept this, the Secretary of State’s office will determine the lines of the wards and precincts,” said Serino. “In one of those scenarios, in which they had already drawn their own version of the re-precincting map, someplace like the Point of Pines would have been split up, and I don’t want to leave that to chance. I agree with Councillor Novoselsky; fundamentally, I still believe that the census numbers are inaccurate in some respect, but we are not voting on the census numbers – we are voting on the re-precincting map, and for the sake of the city, I will be voting for it.”
Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo noted that the proposed state map would also redraw Wards 3 and 6 in a way that would be unfair to Serino and Ward 3 Councillor-Elect Anthony Cogliandro, putting them both in the same ward.
“While these Committee of the Whole meetings have been pretty informative and surprising, I don’t feel comfortable leaving it in the state’s hands,” said Councillor-at-Large Gerry Visconti. “I’m still alarmed about this re-precincting; I’m going to change my vote as well only because I don’t want to leave it in the state’s hands.”