The parade of witnesses at the state redistricting commission's meetings grew predictable after awhile: a state representative complaining about gerrymandering here, a good-government type arguing for fairness there.
But on the night of December 7, an unusual break: four Latino citizens testified; one had her remarks translated by a Latina state representative on the panel. Their plea: put the entire city of Providence and other urban areas in a single Congressional district so that Latinos can exercise greater influence - and maybe even elect a Latino Congressman someday.
It is a potent argument for boosting minority clout in a state that has historically marginalized blacks and Latinos. And the state's redistricting consultant Kimball Brace mentioned it as the prime rationale for a proposed major rejiggering of the state's two Congressional districts.
The latest plan would move not all of Providence into Congressman Cicilline's district, but a broad swath of south Providence with a heavily Latino population - part of a larger plan to shift 125,000 voters around when an adjustment of just 7200 was required.
The south Providence move would coincide, quite nicely, with Congressman Cicilline's interests - injecting thousands of reliably liberal voters into his district just before a tough re-election fight. And at least two of the four Latinos who testified that night - Carlos Tobon and Laura Rodriguez - are Cicilline supporters.
Tobon and Rodriguez were both listed as co-sponsors of Cicilline's "first annual family barbecue," a fundraiser and show of strength in October that drew much of the state's Democratic firmament. Tobon, a candidate for state representative in Pawtucket last year, mentioned a breakfast with Cicilline on his campaign's Facebook page (he trails off on the last sentence):
"This morning Mayor Cicilline and I had breakfast at Maria's 483 Smithfield Ave in Pawtucket. We spoke about many issues concerning our communities and how all of you are such a critical component in turning the direction of our state. But it was the many positive comments and faces of joy of the people he met at Maria's who shared in the excitement of his candidacy for US Rep of RI's 1st Congressional District."