ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Extra public meetings and a barrage of public criticism failed to dissuade the City Council from adopting a controversial redistricting plan for Rio Rancho council districts.
The plan will cut Enchanted Hills out of District 6, moving it into a vastly enlarged District 3 that covers most of northern Rio Rancho.
It also mean Enchanted Hills resident Cheryl Everett will be ineligible to fulfill her declared intention to run for the District 6 seat in the 2012 municipal election. The District 3 seat is not due for election next year.
“I’m dumbfounded, disrespected and not listened to,” said Richard Grooters, vice chair of the Rio Rancho Tea Party, one of five people who spoke at the meeting, urging councilors to consider alternatives to the unpopular plan.
The ordinance before the council Wednesday was based on a resolution approved in late August that set Plan C6 for redrawing City Council boundaries. The plan stirred controversy because it hadn’t been publicly discussed before the decision, and for the impact on Enchanted Hills and Everett.
Councilor Michael Williams proposed amending the ordinance, substituting another plan that drew favorable comments from residents who spoke at a public meeting last week. The plan, C5, would have kept Enchanted Hills in District 6.
Williams and Councilors Patty Thomas and Tim Crum supported the amendment. Councilors Tamara Gutierrez, Steve Shaw and Kathy Colley voted against it. Mayor Thomas Swisstack voted no, breaking the tie.
The council then voted for the ordinance approving C6. Shaw, Colley and Gutierrez were in favor; Williams, Thomas and Crum were against it. Swisstack again broke the tie by voting for the ordinance.
During comments before the vote, Gutierrez said she made her decisions based on what was fair. Swisstack, who served as the city’s mayor in the 1990s and as a state legislator, said he has always put the best interests of the people first in his public service career.
“My primary concern is the (population) percentages that affected the districts,” Swisstack said.
By law, the city must redraw electoral district boundaries after each decennial census to reflect population shifts.
Swisstack and Colley expressed concerns at previous public meetings that a plan favored by some councilors would leave Districts 6 and 4 with populations that were too close to the maximum permitted, which is 5 percent above the ideal of 14,587 per district.
Based on those concerns, Plan C6 was publicly introduced at the Aug. 24 meeting, when the council then approved it.
Public discontent with that decision later prompted councilors to postpone a vote on the redistricting ordinance scheduled for Sept. 14 and arrange two additional public meetings. Residents who spoke at those meetings and again this week accused the council of “backroom” dealing over the way they picked C6.