One of the Oregon Legislature’s last acts before adjourning on June 30 was to approve newly drawn district lines. Known as “redistricting” (or more derisively as “gerrymandering”), the process of redrawing the district boundaries of each state representative, senator, and congressional representative happens every 10 years and is a reflection of new federal census data.

That the Oregon Legislature passed new redistricting boundaries into law is historically significant: it is the first time the legislature has done so in 100 years. Redistricting has historically been left up to the Oregon Supreme Court, because Democrats and Republicans could not agree on how to redraw district lines, each wanting to do so in such a way that their party would benefit.

The new district maps, which take effect on January 1, 2012, are expected to give Democrats a slight edge in future elections.

At a more local level, Portlanders and neighborhood associations affected by the newly redrawn lines have mixed reactions.

Neighborhoods in outer southeast and northeast Portland—neighborhoods that are generally lower-income, ethnically diverse, considered to be food deserts, and are currently experiencing gentrification and high unemployment—are being affected by redistricting the most.

Some neighborhoods that have been in one state House or Senate district for years are now split between two districts, or even three.

At first, Moses Ross, the chair of the Multnomah Neighborhood Association, lamented the fact that the neighborhood association had been split amongst three state representatives—Rep. Mary Nolan (D-SW Portland), Rep. Chris Garrett (D-Lake Oswego), and Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-Tualatin). Previously, the entire neighborhood association was within Nolan’s district.

“At first glance, I was concerned … that with so much representation, we would not have proper attention given to neighborhood issues,” Ross says.

Although the Oregon Legislature rarely deals with issues directly impacting the Multnomah Neighborhood Association, Ross says there are some issues prioritized by the neighborhood, such as funding for improving SW Capitol Highway, on which the neighborhood association wants to be able to effectively communicate with legislators.

“I’ve had a real 360 change in my attitude [due to the new redistricting lines],” Ross says.

The neighborhood association’s board met on Tuesday, July 12, and Nolan, Doherty and Garrett were present, at the board’s invitation. Ross says he is now convinced that all three representatives will be attentive to the neighborhood.

“We have a good opportunity to leverage this opportunity to prioritize neighborhood projects, and the funding of those projects, that will in turn improve livability,” Ross says. “Now the neighborhood has three strong advocates for their issues in Salem.”

Other neighborhood association board chairs are not so optimistic. Chris Hart, board chair of the Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association, says it may not end up mattering that the neighborhood is now split between House districts 41 and 48, because the neighborhood’s demographics, in terms of race, age, gender, ethnicity, etc., are similar to surrounding neighborhoods in both districts.

“It is hard to gauge how [the Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association] will be impacted by the change,” he says. “Some of the actions of each district may vary, but to be honest, SE Portland tends to be low on the priority lists when it comes to maintenance and improvement projects anyways. If one district happens to do better than the other, it will all be positive since we will be happy something is being done to improve our area.”

[In addition to the neighborhood associations interviewed in this article, Neighborhood Notes made repeated attempts to contact the Woodlawn, Piedmont and Montavilla neighborhood associations, none of which responded for comment in time for publication]