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Editorial: Albuquerque’s City Council Right at Nine

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As November’s general election approaches, members of Albuquerque’s City Council seem to be itching to change the city’s charter. Councilor Ken Sanchez would like for the police chief to be an elected post.

The latest one to scratch is Councilor Isaac Benton, who wants to bump the City Council from its current nine members to one with 13.

Why not 11, or 15, or 21? Who knows. What is known is that the boundaries of Benton’s current district were changed by the council during redistricting in order to create a new council seat on the city’s Southwest Mesa. Albuquerque population data in the 2010 census showed a shift of people west of the river.

The new boundaries put Benton’s residence in a district that covers the North Valley and Downtown — and where fellow Councilor Debbie O’Malley also lives. To remain on the council past 2013, when his term expires, Benton would have to win an election against O’Malley, if she seeks re-election.

But Benton says his idea is not about saving his seat. Even when fighting the redistricting plan he stated his belief that the accepted plan packed too many older neighborhoods into one council district. Still, it can be assumed that one of the new proposed seats would be in the Downtown area, where he lives.

Mayor Richard Berry has said he believes nine city councilors are enough. It would take a council majority and the mayor’s signature to send the idea to voters.

So how do some other comparable neighboring cities do it? Oklahoma City (pop. 591,000) has eight councilors. Tucson (pop. 525,000) has six. El Paso (pop. 665,000) has eight. Phoenix (pop. 1.4 million) has eight. Only Denver (pop. 619,000) with its 13 councilors has more than Albuquerque (pop. 552,000).

Absent a public outcry, and unless some specific great need can be presented for expansion, nine would seem adequate for Albuquerque’s council. After all, when considering the things we’re short of in this world, politicians and elected officials don’t come to mind.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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