With Mass. legislative maps done, it's on to redrawing congressional maps

Nov 8, 2021

Massachusetts lawmakers will get an earful this week on new boundaries proposed for congressional districts. But the western part of the state was spared huge changes.

There's a public hearing Tuesday on the proposed congressional district boundaries. Despite losing population relative to the growth in the rest of the state, western Massachusetts will still be represented by two members of Congress — Richard Neal and Jim McGovern.

But some folks in the eastern part of the state are not happy with the map.

Matt Murphy of the State House News Service joins us to talk about some changes already made, and what could come.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: There's certainly the potential there for changes. Some of the biggest changes in western Mass. are the result of the fact that while Massachusetts population grew overall by 7.4% over the past decade, western Mass. did not see that growth. So you saw some of those districts having to shift around.

For instance, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal — that first congressional district is losing a lot of the northern Pioneer Valley, in the hills of Franklin County, in towns that he has represented.

Some people are criticizing this as looking at some of the areas and communities where he didn't fare so well in the last election against Alex Morse, so perhaps solidifying his base.

U.S. Rep. James McGovern picks up those towns and gives some more southern communities in central and western Mass. to Neal.

But by and large, in that area of the state, people were happy. At least the congressmen were happy with their districts.

But that’s not the case in southeastern Massachusetts, where we'll likely hear a lot from both U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, as well as potentially from U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss, and people in the New Bedford and Fall River area who would like to see those two coastal fishing communities united in the same district — most likely the 9th Congressional District represented by Rep. Keating.

The Legislature has shown a willingness to adjust after they released their draft maps. They did it with the legislative districts, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some changes again here with the congressional maps.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Two weeks' notice is apparently not the norm at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. The commissioner of that agency, Jim Montgomery, quit effective immediately earlier this month. Are there any details known about his departure?

No. We're still trying to find out exactly why he left. He was not actually on the job — the top job, that is — for very long. He had been promoted, I believe, just in early 2020.

Several days went by before the administration even announced his departure, sending out an email on Friday saying the commissioner had left to pursue other professional opportunities.

You know, this could be innocuous, or it could be code for something else. We're definitely going to try and learn more about that. But for now, the Baker administration is saying very little about why Commissioner Montgomery has decided to depart.

And finally, after local elections last week, there are four new mayors from western Mass. cities, and a change coming in Boston with Michelle Wu. Did you hear any reactions this week on Beacon Hill to those results?

I think people are still trying to digest the results. A lot of people here are following what was happening in Boston. City Councilor Wu is preparing to get sworn in now, in just a couple of weeks, to take over the city. She has a lot of ties to Beacon Hill, including members of the Speaker's leadership team who have been long political allies, like House Ways and Means chairman Aaron Michlewitz.

Wu will look to start forming a working relationship with Beacon Hill to try and push her agenda, which is a bit more progressive than former Boston Mayor Walsh, or even some of the leadership on the Hill.

And then you'll see the mayors — the ones elected in western Mass., and the ones that were newly elected in other parts of the state — try to form working relationships with the Baker administration and others.

Certainly, people took notice of their former colleague Donald Humason, losing in Westfield after one term, so I think it'll take some time to see how these new mayors want to work with the Legislature.

But you know, these changes happen, and people are used to adapting, and that's going to be the case this time.

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.