Editorial | A few take-aways from Boston's city council redistricting

On Monday, Mayor Wu signed off on the final version of the nine re-drawn city council districts that was passed by the City Council in a veto-proof, 9-4 vote last week. The process was fraught with tumult over the last few months, and it left bruised feelings, no doubt, particularly among Dorchester residents, some of whom feel that the exercise was punitive towards the Neponset section of Ward 16, Councillor Frank Baker, Catholics, white voters, etc. Here are a few take-aways from the week-one aftermath:

Neponset voters have a legitimate gripe over the splitting up of what has historically been a community of interest along the city’s southern border. There are sound reasons for this constituency to seek district cohesion in District 3, foremost among them at the moment the mounting pressures of climate change, resiliency, and the related developmental challenges along the neighborhood’s coast, including Dorchester Bay and the Neponset River, Columbia Point and the Morrissey corridor.

Even as the council was bogged down in the acrimony of carving up precincts, other city agencies were moving ahead with land use and engineering decisions that will disproportionately impact this section of the city for decades to come.

There’s a compelling argument to be made that coastal precincts in Lower Mills, Neponset, and Columbia-Savin Hill would benefit from being linked under a single councillor for the express purpose of giving guidance and voice to upcoming sea-change events.

But, instead, the sitting District 3 councillor trotted out a counter argument hinging on the antiquated premise of parish boundaries, a concept that has itself been eroded by decades of consolidation, closures, and shifting demographics. Strategically, it was a loser from its conception. At the end, the argument devolved into conspiratorial rants that dusted-off tribal prejudices imported from another continent and century. For those invested in limiting the scope of change to Dorchester’s districts, the approach amounted to political malpractice.

So, what’s next, now that the deed is done?

District 3 voters who today find themselves in District 4 would do well to recall that political lines at the state level have ebbed and flowed like the tides at Tenean for many moons without visiting catastrophe upon their shores. In past cycles, Neponset has shared state senators with communities as far flung as Randolph and Avon before redistricting in 2010 reshaped the map once again.

There can be significant upsides to having more than one office holder take an interest in the troubles and aspirations of a community. The current District 4 councillor, Brian Worrell, will need to earn trust and acceptance from thousands of new constituents who may well be pivotal to his re-election next year.

Whoever seeks to represent the newly shaped D-4 will need to be nimble and deft and deliver results to a potent pool of super-voters that has long led the city in turnout, particularly in off-year city elections.

Those who regard the outcome of these latest revisions as harbingers of doomsday should take a deep breath. You’re represented by a person from Dorchester today, and you’ll be represented by a person from Dorchester in 2024. Whoever it is and will be, make them earn your vote.

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