The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 28, 2001


Senate plan leaves 5th district intact

On Monday, September 24, a state senate redistricting committee released a proposed congressional redistricting plan that would keep mostly intact the Merrimack Valley's 5th congressional district represented by Martin Meehan, of which Carlisle is a part.

According to a Senate press release, the goals of the plan are to make limited changes in existing districts, "respect the importance of the seniority" of incumbents by not pairing them against each other, and "preserve political continuity for voters." What changes the plan makes result from creating "more compact and coherent districts" in southeastern Massachusetts and from the requirement that districts must be essentially equal in population, just under 635,000 people, based on the 2000 census, according to the committee's press release.

Changes in Meehan's 5th

In August House leader Thomas Finneran astounded political observers and his own House redistricting committee by springing a plan that would split Meehan's base of support by redistributing the towns in the 5th district among five other districts. At the time, a chorus of critics commented that this was retribution for Meehan's campaign finance reform activities.

Finneran's plan would have required Meehan to run against incumbent John Tierney in a district that linked Lowell in a somewhat scattered geographic chain with communities on the north shore. In his announcement Finneran claimed he could eviscerate the 5th district because Meehan was apparently running for governor, in effect forcing Meehan to remove himself from that race prematurely to keep the district intact.

Carlisle stays in the 5th

Finneran's plan would have cut Carlisle and Littleton from Meehan's district, lumping the towns with Concord and other western suburbs into a new "Barney Frank" 4th district, dominated by Cambridge, parts of Back Bay and Beacon Hill, Waltham, and Newton.

The Senate plan, however, keeps the town of Carlisle in the fifth, and most voters throughout the state in their current districts (according to the Boston Globe, about 85 percent). However, it splits a number of cities and towns between two congressional districts. In the 5th, parts of the towns of Billerica and Lincoln have been moved to the 7th, and Bolton, Marlborough, Southborough, Ashland and parts of Lunenberg and Shirley to the 1st districts. Added to the 5th would be the town of Framingham from the 7th, and a part of Lancaster from the 3rd district.

State Senator Susan Fargo is "very pleased that Congressman Meehan retains for the most part his district," according to her press assistant Elizabeth Mahoney, and State Representative Carol Cleven is also "much happier with the Senate plan than with [Finneran's]."

"More favorable" minority district

The Senate plan is designed to achieve two goals Finneran had set as priorities for his versionincreasing opportunities for representation from the southeast and for minority candidates in Bostonwith less disruption to other regions like the Merrimack Valley, according to Mahoney. The Senate proposes to redraw the 8th district to increase minority representation, close to 50 percent of the population, by leaving the city of Cambridge within the district. Finneran's plan had grouped Cambridge with towns to its west in a new suburban district and added Revere and Winthrop to the 8th.

It's not over

The redistricting saga will not end with Monday's announcement, however. According to the office of representative Thomas Petrolati, chair of the house redistricting sub-committee, the sub-committee has not yet approved Finneran's or any other plan, and does not expect to take up the issue until after the state legislature district lines have been re-drawn, sometime in November. The senate and house will each formally approve their respective plans and appoint members to a joint redistricting committee. This group, also charged with drawing new state legislative districts, will work to develop congressional lines that resolve the differences between the house and senate plans. The new congressional districts should be voted by November, according to Cleven.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito