Thursday, September 15, 2011
Westside Albuquerque Students and Lawmakers Rally for Representation
More than 40 Albuquerque Westside high school students rallied outside the Roundhouse Tuesday to hear New Mexico Senators and House members explain the importance of re-districting for their neighborhoods, reports a statement released by NM Senate Dems. Albuquerque Sen. Bernadette M. Sanchez (D-Bernalillo-26) told the students from Albuquerque’s R.F.K. and South Valley Charter Schools that there has been unequal representation in their district for more than ten years since the last redistricting effort -- but efforts now would help solve that. “People need equal representation,” said Sen. Sanchez, “I hope that every Legislator and the Governor keeps that in mind as we work on redistricting."
Redistricting New Mexico following the last census is the primary duty of lawmakers during the current Special Session at the Capitol. Sen. Sanchez said Albuquerque’s Westside districts have seen tremendous growth, but representation has lagged and could create a problem when it comes to capital expenditures for the district.
New Mexico has seen average growth of 13.2% over the last decade, but some sections of the state like Sandoval and Valencia Counties have witnessed remarkable growth while others have lost population. Research and Polling Inc. found that Sandoval County and Rio Rancho, for example, saw population growth of more than 46% between 2000 and 2010, leaving it underrepresented in Santa Fe and Washington.
“We want someone who lives in the South Valley to represent the South Valley and we want someone who lives on the West Side to represent the West Side District,” said Albuquerque State Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-Bernalillo-16). Rep. Maestas told the student group that lawmakers must work cautiously to make sure re-designed districts don’t look like a snake with someone who lives in the head representing people living in the tail. “We want them to be compact,” said Rep. Maestas, “and we want them on the west side of the River.”
“Redistricting gives communities the opportunity to receive their fair share of resources -- resources used to improve things like infrastructure and services,” said Rep. Eleanor Chavez (D-Bernalillo-13). “The needs of communities on the west side are many and with additional representation hopefully we can meet those needs. I would like everyone to remember that the major focus of this special session is redistricting and we are spending countless hours making sure we get it right.”
Albuquerque Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Bernalillo-12) told the students cities have grown as the population has shifted away from rural areas and lawmakers must find ways to reflect that shift so urban communities have adequate representation and guarantee the principle of one person/one vote to meet their needs. “They need maximum representation to keep communities with historical, cultural, economic interests intact,” said Sen. Ortiz y Pino, “and it’s our duty to make sure those communities are structured in a district that recognizes and meets those needs.”