Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Las Cruces City Council Passes Redistricting Plan
Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.
The Las Cruces City Council passed its redistricting ordinance on Tuesday, adopting Plan "F-2" (see below) by a vote of 5-2. The new districts represent the first time that New Mexico's second largest city has adopted a redistricting and reorganization plan by implementing a recommendation of a citizen's committee, which was empowered to draft redistricting options early this year. Redistricting of district boundaries is mandated under law in every state and local jurisdiction following the publication of U.S. Census figures every ten years. The new council districts will remain in effect from today through the November 2021 Las Cruces municipal election.
In the occasionally contentious process of adopting the new plan, the Las Cruces City Council left existing city council districts largely intact, while adjusting for the recent growth of the Las Cruces municipal population. To incorporate the largest growth in population, Las Cruces City Council Districts 5 and 6 lost most of their territory west of Interstate Highway 25. The two districts will divide the so-called "east mesa" area of Las Cruces with District 5 primarily north of Highway 70 and District 6 south of Highway 70.
Because of faster population growth in the east mesa area, the four other districts were shifted to incorporate additional precincts that were previously held by districts directly to the east of them. Of the original ten draft redistricting plans submitted by the citizens committee, the Council previously had rejected eight of them, narrowing the choice down to draft plan "F-2" and "F-3." While the Council ultimately adopted plan "F-2," Alameda-Depot Historic District residents supported plan F-3, hoping to keep the north Alameda neighborhood in the same district as the south Alameda neighborhood.
Push for Alternatives
Local Republican and Tea Party activists had earlier demanded adoption of plan "G," which radically redrew the existing council districts based on future growth projections in the more affluent, and conservative, east mesa area. Under law, however, districts can only be drawn on actual Census figures, by even population numbers, plus or minus 0.5%.
The most contentious exchange of the day occurred between Ron Camunez, a conservative community activist who supported the ill-fated "G" plan, and Mayor Ken Miyagashima during public testimony. "Five and Six are too big," Camunez said, pointing out the large geographical size of the two eastern districts. "This Council needs to start over from the bottom up," he said. "What will it take, a law suit"? Camunez asked.
"We can only go with the our population that actually exists," Miyagashima shot back. "We have to go with the information we have at hand!"
Nathan Small, City Councillor of District 4 who supported Plan "F-2," praised the work of the citizen's committee and called for institutionalizing citizens into the process in future redistricting processes. City Councillor Miguel Silva, who backed Plan "F-3," called on the City to heed the wishes of Alameda neighborhood residents and keep the historic community together. Silva opposed the winning plan.
Councillors Olga Pedroza (3), Nathan Small (4), Gil Sorg (5), Sharon Thomas (6) and Mayor Miyagashima voted to adopt plan "F-2." Councillors Miguel Siva (1) and Dolores Conner (2) voted no.
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