IS THIS PRECINCT TAKEN — Boston has a redistricting map. Again.
City councilors voted 10-2 on Wednesday on new district lines, bringing a contentious process to a close days before the deadline that would have forced the city to delay its September and November municipal elections.
The new map evens out the population discrepancies across nine voting districts and keeps many communities with shared needs and interests intact — changes necessitated by a federal judge’s ruling that councilors likely improperly considered race when drawing their initial map. If approved by Mayor Michelle Wu, the district changes will be in effect for the next 10 years.
But tensions remain. The council’s second mapmaking effort was marked by even more personal gibes and bitter disagreements than the first go-around, exacerbating the divisions within the city’s already dysfunctional legislative body.
It’s also raising a key question: Is leaving redistricting up to the people with the most to win — or lose — the right call?
“I’ve said this repeatedly as a lawyer who has worked in this space, I think the best thing for this body and bodies in general is to have independent redistricting commissions,” Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune, who led this latest round of redistricting hearings, said at Wednesday’s council meeting.
There’s a “mistrust that often can come from the process, or the wheeling and dealing, or self interest, or self preservation,” Louijeune said. By removing councilors from the mapmaking process, “at least the public can be assured that that’s not what’s happening.”
Calls for an independent commission aren’t new. When redistricting got rolling last fall, Council President Ed Flynn, who represents District 2, said the process had become “tainted and flawed” and called for a blue-ribbon commission with appointees from the council, the mayor’s office, the city’s election department and the secretary of state’s office to draw the districts.
But the idea is being amplified in the aftermath of the court ruling that boomeranged redistricting back to the council and left some district-level candidates wondering what seat they were even running for.
“Anytime in a redistricting process that you have elected officials determining their own boundaries, it becomes fraught,” said Jennifer Johnson, a candidate for the District 3 seat being vacated by Frank Baker, one of the councilors who helped fund the lawsuit against the original map.
“For a lot of people I think one of the reasons they’ve lost faith in government is, you know, every 10 years they see this going on,” Johnson continued. But she said an independent redistricting commission could help make the process more transparent and less driven by political interests.
Henry Santana, who’s running for one of the four at-large seats, told Playbook he’s also open to changing how redistricting works to avoid the “political interests involved” when lines are being drawn.
But standing up a third-party commission could be tricky. The redistricting process is written into the city’s charter. Changing it would require state approval. Still, Louijeune told reporters she’ll likely put forward legislation to do so.
TODAY — Gov. Maura Healey, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll and Wu attend the Military Heroes ceremony at 10:40 a.m. on the Boston Common. Wu attends an Urban League breakfast at 8 a.m. at Fenway, holds a press conference on community safety at 12:30 p.m. at BPD HQ. Driscoll and Wu attend the Road to Recovery Gala at 6 p.m. in the Seaport.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivers UMass Boston’s commencement speech at 9:30 a.m. Auditor Diana DiZoglio gives the commencement speech at her alma mater, Middlesex Community College, at 10 a.m. AG Andrea Campbell delivers Bunker Hill Community College’s commencement address at 10:30 a.m.
— DOUBLE SCOOP: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) raised roughly $300,000 for his Freedom Fund while swinging through the Bay State this past weekend, according to two Massachusetts Republicans involved in planning the congressman’s local events.
For context: Jordan raked in more money in one weekend in Massachusetts than what Geoff Diehl (who attended Jordan’s events, per Facebook) raised in the most lucrative month of his gubernatorial campaign ($272,643 in October 2022, per OCPF).
Presidential hopeful Nikki Haley is also dipping into Massachusetts donors’ deep pockets. The former South Carolina governor, who just wrapped her fourth trip to New Hampshire, is returning to Boston for a fundraiser at the Union Club this evening. Hosts include former MassGOP Chair Jennifer Nassour and New Balance chair Jim Davis — a past supporter of former President Donald Trump who’s already given Haley the maximum allowed donation, $6,600, this cycle.
Tickets start at $1,000 a head, with a seat at the VIP roundtable going for $6,600, according to an invitation for the event obtained by Playbook. Haley attended another high-dollar fundraiser in the city back in March.
— “Nikki Haley’s Anti-Trans Rhetoric Falls Flat in New Hampshire,” by Jake Lahut, Daily Beast.
— “Ramaswamy rolls out slew of nearly 50 endorsements from New Hampshire,” by Caroline Vakil, The Hill.
— IS THIS THING ON: “DeSantis’ launch marred by horrendous tech failures,” by Kelly Garrity, POLITICO.
— SENATE BUDGET LATEST: Senators bundled their way through hundreds more amendments on Wednesday. Among the ones they passed: a measure from state Sen. Paul Feeney that would give DPH $300,000 to buy and distribute drug-testing kits to bars, restaurants and nightlight establishments to help cut down on incidents of spiked drinks. Another, from state Sen. Brendan Crighton, the co-chair of the transportation committee, would create a commission to study congestion pricing (which the State House News Service notes has twice passed the Legislature but has never come to fruition).
Senators also rejected a Republican-led amendment to strip from the budget language that would let certain undocumented immigrants access in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. The Boston Herald’s Matthew Medsger has more. Tune into the rest of the budget debate beginning at 10 a.m.
— “Food help for students to continue this summer,” by Christian M. Wade, The Salem News: “Hundreds of thousands of low-income students in Massachusetts will continue to receive food assistance this summer after the federal government approved the state’s request for a final round of disbursements from a pandemic-related, anti-hunger program.”
— “After pandemic success, a push to bolster Mass. rent relief program,” by Andrew Brinker, Boston Globe: “Allocating $250 million for the program, [a new] report said, would be enough to repurpose RAFT as a longer-term rental aid tool that would help fill in the gaps — years-long waitlists and too-high rents even on income-restricted units — left behind by voucher programs and other affordable housing options.
— “Savin Hill attorney launches District 3 campaign,” by Gintautas Dumcius, Dorchester Reporter: “Matt Patton, a labor attorney who lives in Savin Hill, on Wednesday formally launches his campaign for the District 3 seat, held by outgoing Dorchester Councillor Frank Baker.”
— “Cities need better public transit, less driving, new international report says. That makes Mass. a laggard, not a leader,” by Taylor Dolven, Boston Globe: “In the report, researchers urge governments to discourage driving and improve public transit, biking, walking, and car sharing, and to electrify all modes of transportation, including freight, as soon as possible. Instead of simply meeting existing and future transportation demand, researchers in the report urge governments to make transportation investments to quicken emissions reductions. By these standards, the Boston area is in many ways trending in the wrong direction.”
— “Airplane cleaning service employees allege unsafe working conditions at Logan,” by Andrea Perdomo-Hernandez, WBUR.
— “Court sets legal showdown on debt limit 14th Amendment argument,” by Josh Gerstein, POLITICO: “A judge in Boston has ordered a hearing next week on one of the key arguments that President Joe Biden has the legal authority to ignore the debt limit statute and continue to pay the federal government’s bills. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns set a May 31 hearing on a lawsuit filed by a federal workers union contending that the 14th Amendment empowers Biden and other officials to sidestep the standoff with Congress that has threatened a potential default.”
— “Democrats unanimously back debt ceiling discharge petition,” by Mike Lillis, The Hill: “Every House Democrat has endorsed the discharge petition to force a vote on legislation to hike the debt ceiling and prevent a default, party leaders announced Wednesday. … ‘It takes a handful of members of the GOP to say, “Enough,”’ Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.), the Democratic whip, told reporters in the Capitol.”
— “McGovern pushes White House to hold Democrats’ line on food programs,” by Tal Kopan, Boston Globe: “As negotiations between Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have intensified and the June 1 deadline when the country could face a catastrophic default draws near, McGovern and his fellow House Democrats have scrambled to ensure that their priorities aren’t tossed aside. Those efforts have increased as Biden has made cryptic public statements about what he might be willing to accept in a deal.”
— “Congress members raise Joint Base Cape Cod in hunt for funds,” by Zane Razzaq, Cape Cod Times: “Massachusetts Democrats are trying a new avenue in the quest for money to rebuild the two 88-year-old bridges that cross the Cape Cod Canal. Noting the Sagamore and Bourne bridges are the only way to get to and from Joint Base Cape Cod by land, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U. S. Sen. Edward Markey alongside U.S. Rep. William Keating and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton have called on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to supply some of the $4 billion needed to replace the bridges, in a letter dated Tuesday.”
— “Moulton asks Dems to approve veteran delegates,” by Christian M. Wade, Eagle-Tribune: “In a request to Democratic Party’s State Committee, the Salem Democrat and Marine veteran calls for updating the party’s charter to allow veterans to be named as ‘add-on delegates’ at political conventions by including them in a list of ‘marginalized communities’ eligible for the at-large spots.”
— “Safe Passage of Northampton closes emergency shelter, others may follow,” by Juliet Schulman-Hall, MassLive: “Safe Passage of Northampton announced that it has closed its 45-year-old emergency shelter program for survivors of domestic violence — a program that, over the past five years, put them in a $900,000 deficit. Since the announcement, Marianne Winters, executive director of Safe Passage of Northampton, said she has heard from other housing organizations that they are facing similar difficulties. Some of those organizations told her that they might follow suit.”
— “Read the ‘ladies’ email at the center of Easthampton’s superintendent controversy,” by Dave Eisenstadter, MassLive.
— “Record numbers of Massachusetts residents are moving out of state, report says,” by Craig LeMoult, GBH News: “[N]early 111,000 Massachusetts residents … moved out of the state between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2022, according to a new report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. That’s the highest level of out-migration the state has seen in 30 years, the report says. … 2021 tax returns showed nearly 38,000 Massachusetts residents between the age of 26 and 35 moved out of the state in 2020.”
— “Cambridge to launch free public preschool for all 4-year-olds, some 3-year-olds,” by Naomi Martin, Boston Globe.
— “Worcester City Council asks for more transparency around Polar Park,” by Tréa Lavery, MassLive.
— IN MEMORIAM: “Dan Payne, a political consultant in a league of his own,” by Scot Lehigh, Boston Globe.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to Emma Sims-Biggs.
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