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Monday, February 20, 2012

Councilor Cook Redistricting Fairness is like “Getting thrown to the Wolves”

Guest Blog by Pam Fraser Walters resident in City Council District 7.

Could we please have more redistricting honesty and less obfuscation and grandstanding from City Councilor and Congressional aspirant Dan Lewis?  Does Mister/Pastor Lewis really believe and expect others to believe that “redistricting is not about politics”? The purpose of redistricting political entities, those units of government such as cities, counties, legislatures and congress, is to provide equitable representation for citizens.  That’s surely one element of politics.  Partisanship, unmentioned by Mr. Lewis, is often another.  How elected representatives and citizens behave is still one more. 

Councilor Lewis claims that “Throughout the [redistricting] process, my colleagues and I on the City Council have been open minded….” Yet an October 21, 2011 email from Councilor Cook to a constituent declares “Do not worry about our district getting thrown to the wolves, we councilors on east side and Lewis on west will not vote for that.”

“Getting thrown to the wolves” is Councilor Cook’s depiction of moving District 7 to the southwest as Plan V would do. Of course, it also undoes his incumbent seat.  Plan L, which Councilor Lewis (and east side councilors Winter, Cook, Jones and Harris) have spoken for, would move District 3, Councilor Benton’s, to the southwest currently represented mostly by Councilor Sanchez and in a relatively few precincts by Councilor Benton.

And, while Councilor Lewis declares, “I will not support any map that does not give West Side residents three full council districts,” he fails to mention that none of the eight maps recommended to the Council by its’ appointed redistricting committee lacks three full council districts.  Nor does he mention that the “carefully” selected redistricting committee included not merely residents of each Council district, but active, elected politicians such as Linda Lopez, Sander Rue and Wayne Johnson (Alternate for Janice Arnold-Jones, first, then Kathie Leyendecker).  So much for redistricting being “political”  being “the furthest thing from the truth.”

Although Mr. Lewis says he and other Councilors appreciated constituent comments and took them seriously, anyone reviewing citizen testimony will see that Nob Hill and International District residents greatly preferred Plan V to Plan L.

Interested observers also may note that the first six redistricting maps, A through F, did not mark the residence of incumbents, a factor crucial in election eligibility.  All subsequent maps do.  Is that not political? It is also fair to point out that current Districts 3, 7 and 8 are farthest below “ideal” numbers of residents per the 2010 census (and hence, overrepresented) while Districts 1 and 5 are severely underrepresented.

Map L, which creates a new District 3 outside the residency of Councilor Benton, also considerably alters the boundaries of Districts 2, 4 and 6 (those most recently subject to election) and puts Councilors O’Malley (District 2) and Benton in the same district.  It also modifies eastside Districts 7, 8 and 9 and west side districts 1 and 5.  Map V, by moving District 7, would put Councilor Cook in a redrawn District 6, currently represented by Councilor Garduno.

Because the City Council has only nine districts, the real issue has been how will existing districts be reconfigured and/or moved, which Councilor(s) will be unseated or forced to compete, and consequently, who will represent Albuquerque citizens in particular parts of the city.  That issue of representation is crucial.

Redistricting means not only that west siders will be more equitably represented (by having three rather than two districts), but also that thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of Albuquerque citizens will have new City Councilors and possibly not the one they recently elected.

Mr. Lewis closes his Op-Ed by saying that redistricting is “not about politics,” but “what’s best for the citizens of Albuquerque.”  Because Plan L changes not only boundaries, but also ethnic distribution within districts, the question is: Which citizens and Councilors are treated equitably, advantageously or disadvantageously?  Who truly is served?

February 20, 2012 at 06:58 PM in City of Albuquerque, Guest Blogger, Redistricting | Permalink

Comments

Go to the meeting on Feb. 22 at 5 PM in council chambers at 5th and Marquette.

The inequality of poverty areas is really a scandal. I don't think map L will hold up in court.

Posted by: bg | Feb 21, 2012 11:34:29 AM

Mr. Lewis displayed his disingenuous protestations over and over at the meeting, where the gang of five voted to move District 3 to the west side.

It was beyond pathetic, most of what he said was gobbledygook. Plan L was approved, no surprise, though we should have had hope that they would have listened to the support for Plan V, it was overwhelming at every meeting I attended, and I was at many.

See you in court.

Posted by: bg | Feb 23, 2012 10:40:43 AM