You didn't need a PhD in political science to predict that the Boston City Council's redraft of the boundaries delineating neighborhood council seats would meet with shouts of protest.
Every 10 years, after the national census, the council must review and redraw district lines to ensure that each of Boston's nine districts are of similar size. When viewed in their entirety, the proposed new districts do not appear all that much different from those of the current map. And that's a problem. Today's map is inadequate and has been for many years.
It is not that the plan approved by the council in a seven-to-six vote is outrageously bad or an unconscionable outrage, but by no stretch of the imagination is it good enough. Specifically, it shortchanges voters in Mattapan and Dorchester, two overwhelmingly "minority" neighborhoods. If the districts were properly drawn, these neighborhoods would be represented by two councilors, rather than one.
We put quotes around the term "minority" because, paradoxically, minorities are now a majority in Boston, and have been for many years. Because so-called white Boston comprises only 47 percent of the city, with 53 percent of the city classified as minority, African-American and Latino leaders argue that their communities are being shortchanged.
That's why all four of our councilors of color — Tito Jackson of Roxbury, Felix Arroyo of Jamaica Plain, and Charles Yancey and Ayanna Pressley, both of Dorchester — voted against the plan. They were joined by John Connolly of West Roxbury and Michael Ross of Mission Hill.
In our view, the redistricting is less about race and ethnicity and more about protecting the seats of incumbents. In principle, this is unfair; in practice, it shortchanges Dorchester and Mattapan.
When you move beyond the neighborhoods, however, the effect is to dilute minority influence citywide. City Council President Stephen Murphy did not help the process when he appointed Councilor Bill Linehan of South Boston as chair of the redistricting committee; Linehan had won reelection by a razor-thin margin of 87 votes against his challenger, Suzanne Lee.To his credit, Linehan ran an open and above-board committee process. And while he did reap a modest benefit in the process, a cynic could point out that in past years an act of outright banditry might have occurred.
That, however, is of little solace to Lee or Lee's Chinatown neighborhood or the city's at-large Asian population.
Mayor Thomas Menino should veto the redistricting plan and send the City Council back to the drawing boards. Elections are not about protecting incumbents; they are about giving everyone a fair shake.
At the risk of sounding like Pat Robertson, the often-unhinged right-wing fundamentalist preacher: If Mother Nature is not a Democrat, then she's a mighty pissed-off independent.
Hurricane Isaac took the sails off the early days of the Republican's Tampa convention. And the Phoenix went to press before vice president hopeful Paul Ryan and presidential nominee Mitt Romney took the podium. Still, some observations seem in order:
•Despite an anti-abortion platform that ignores rape and incest victims and which appears to threaten the use of some forms of birth control, the Republicans are presenting themselves as a bunch of peppy country-clubbers. Reeling from the backlash triggered by Republican Congressman Todd Akins' "legitimate rape" comment, the GOP seems to be communicating its anti-woman agenda more subliminally that explicitly.