This Monday the state legislature's Redistricting Committee quietly released a proposal that would dramatically overhaul JP's representation in Congress, shifting roughly a third of JP's residents from Representative Capuano's current district to a district likely to be representated by Stephen Lynch, the state's most conservative Democrat. Rep. Lynch has cast a number of pro-life votes, which led NARAL to endorse his challenger in 2010, and was the sole Massachusetts representative to vote against President Obama's health reform law.
The Redistricting Committee is accepting public feedback on its proposed boundaries only until Thursday, November 10 - three days after releasing its proposal, two of which were overshadowed by city council elections. ALL JP residents should be encouraged to submit their comments to the Committee here, even after the November 10 deadline has passed (the full House and Senate will have to vote on the measure even after it is voted out of committee):
I copy my letter to the Redistricting Committee below. These views are my own, and not those of the Neighborhood Council, which will not meet next until November 29.
To the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting,
I write to you as the Chair of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, in response to the proposed Congressional redistricting boundaries published by the committee on November 7, to express deep concern about the proposal’s impact on the JP neighborhood of Boston. I write expressing my personal opinions and not those of the Council, which will not have time to meet in the three days the Committee has allowed for public comment on the proposed new boundaries – three days that also overlapped with municipal elections in Boston, making public education and public feedback from our neighborhood difficult.
The proposed redistricting plan is driven by goals that I strongly support: to ensure the creation of a ‘majority minority’ district in Eastern Massachusetts, and more broadly to protect against the marginalization of communities of interest (whether ethic, racial, or other).
The proposed district boundaries would move almost one-third of JP’s population – 11,921 residents in nineteen precincts according to the 2010 census – from the current District 8, the most diverse district in the state, into a newly created district with one of the state’s less diverse populations.
Jamaica Plain is a neighborhood with a strong sense of identity, and it is a community of interest unto itself just as strong as many municipalities in the state that the Committee has attempted not to divide in half with district boundaries. Beyond this, Jamaica Plain has a political and cultural identity that has historically linked it to neighborhoods that fall under the Committee’s proposed District 7, and very little historical connection with the proposed District 8. For this reason, I am concerned that JP residents in the nineteen affected precincts would feel marginalized within their new district, and would lack a broader ‘community of interest’ to ensure their adequate representation in Congress. I anticipate that thousands of JP residents would react to their change in representation with disappointment and concern. However, these concerns are motivated by the same principles that have guided the Committee’s attempts to ensure that communities of interest, to the extent that they are geographically contiguous, are able to maximize their representation in Congress.
Jamaica Plain is one of the few diverse neighborhoods left in Boston – moreover in the state, where black, Hispanic, white, and LGBT communities share a social and geographic space. Ensuring that such diversity is mutually supportive and dynamic, and that we are not working at cross-purposes, is an ongoing challenge. I fear that drawing a Congressional line through our neighborhood will make this work even more difficult, as we would find ourselves with different Congressional representatives and very different political dynamics to seek representation.
This Committee’s work is extremely important and, particularly given the redistricting process following the 2000 Census, has been a model of integrity and carefully considered goals. I would urge the Committee to reconsider the division of Jamaica Plain in its work towards achieving these goals.
Thank you for your consideration,