Mayor Thomas M. Menino on Monday for the second time vetoed a redistricting proposal passed by the City Council, concerned that the latest version would still dilute the voting power of communities of color.
The measure was narrowly approved by the council last week after a surprise parliamentary maneuver forced a vote on a proposal that had languished for months. The new map included just a handful of changes from the first proposal Menino rejected, and did not address the mayor’s paramount concern.
“The last plan concentrated too many citizens of color into too few districts, and doing so may limit their equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” Menino said Monday in an interview. “This plan is basically the same we had before, just [with] different names on it.”
Although the latest map did not differ significantly from the version the council passed in August, it garnered a very different lineup of supporters and opponents.
The first map passed 7 to 6, over the objections of the City Council’s four minority members. But the plan that passed last week won the support of three of the four councilors of color.
The issue will return to the City Council, which has roughly six weeks to pass a plan that meets the mayor’s approval. The city’s nine council districts must be finalized by the first week of November for the 2013 election. Candidates must live in a district for a year prior to the general election before they are eligible to appear on the ballot.
“The deadline might make it easier” because there is no time to waste, said Councilor Bill Linehan, who has served as chairman of the Redistricting Committee for the past 18 months. “We need to clear the air and get this done.”
Linehan has scheduled a meeting for 11 a.m. Friday at City Hall with councilors and a coalition of local organizations representing communities of color. The coalition had vowed to sue the city if either of the maps that passed the council became law.
Menino and other critics have argued that the two maps would dilute the electoral power of African-Americans, Hispanics, and other people of color because so many of those voters were packed into District 4, which encompasses much of Mattapan.
Council President Stephen J. Murphy fretted that the council was effectively starting over with little time left.
“There’s a lot of hard work to do,” Murphy said.