Politics & Elections

RI Redistricting Commission can consider Environmental Justice neighborhoods as ‘Communities of Interest’

“Environmental groups, shown to be a focused political group… these can be communities along a waterway, or in a watershed, or communities lining a beach,” said Ryan Taylor. “When I was here five years ago I heard about the opposition to the Clear River Energy Center. It’s possible that could be considered a community of interest. That’s a conversation worth having for sure.”
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Published on October 5, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

The fifth meeting of Rhode Island’s Redistricting Commission met in Woonsocket Monday evening as part of an effort to bring the commission to the people in various parts of the state. Public turnout has been rather dismal at the two “road show” hearings so far:

There were commission members and staff present than attendees.

The presentations given at these meetings consist of information mostly given at earlier hearings, though the information is slanted to the local area.

The Commission’s consultant, Kimball Brace, was in Michigan so the presentation was given by Ryan Taylor, also from Election Data Services.

Over the course of the last meetings, the concept of “communities of interest” (COI) as a way of understanding populations for purposes of redistricting has been examined and defined, though not completely. Taylor himself admitted that “communities of interest” is a “vague concept” but he listed some examples, including Environmental Groups, such as the people who came together to oppose Invenergy’s proposed power plant in Burrillville.

“Environmental groups, shown to be a focused political group… these can be communities along a waterway, or in a watershed, or communities lining a beach,” said Taylor. “When I was here five years ago I heard about the opposition to the Clear River Energy Center. It’s possible that could be considered a community of interest. That’s a conversation worth having for sure.”

I asked Taylor after the presentation whether the communities surrounding the Port of Providence could be considered a community of interest given the ongoing fights against the ever expanding toxic and fossil fuel industry there. Taylor said the idea is worth exploring.

There were only two public speakers. UpriseRI asked about making future meeting mixed – in the sense of allowing on line as well as in person testimony to allay public fears about Covid.

Jeannine Dion also spoke.

See all previous reporting on the 2021 Redistricting process in Rhode Island here:

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