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The Albuquerque City Council has settled on a once-in-a-decade redistricting proposal, but most people in the city will notice no difference.
That’s because the council on Monday voted 6-3 to approve a boundary reset that rebalances the city population across the nine districts without making any drastic moves. Redistricting experts called it a “minimal change” map, as only 5.8% of the city’s population would find itself in a new district.
Multiple councilors even referred to it – somewhat despairingly – as the “status quo” option.
“If we’re going to keep doing the same thing, we’re going to get the same results,” Councilor Pat Davis said. “If it’s frustrating to all of us that not much seems to change up here, I think part of it is it’s easy to keep the same districts because we (as councilors) just got elected and we know those neighborhoods, but they don’t challenge us to think in new ways or build new coalitions.”
Davis, Isaac Benton and Tammy Fiebelkorn voted against the map, having each supported at least one different option they contended would have amplified minority voices.
But Fiebelkorn found no traction when promoting a map that would have created four Hispanic-majority districts – one more than the map the council ultimately approved.
A Davis proposal intended to better empower the city’s International District barely did better. It failed on a 3-6 vote with only Davis, Benton and Fiebelkorn voting in support.
Klarissa Peña and Brook Bassan co-sponsored the successful proposal with the minimal change map, with Peña saying that it was the best option. Peña, one of just two Hispanic representatives on the nine-member Council, said the other maps considered could actually harm marginalized communities.
She said the approved map may not create four Hispanic “majority” districts, but she defended it by saying that Hispanics are still the largest share of the population in five of its districts.
“I just want to make sure when we’re having these conversations about representations for minorities, we (do) have representation,” she said.
While the approved map does not constitute a sweeping overhaul, it does address the disproportionate population growth the city has seen west of the Rio Grande.
To compensate, it extends Downtown-based District 2 across the river. Under the new boundaries, District 2, currently represented by Benton, absorbs some neighborhoods west of the river between Central and Interstate 40.
Other notable changes include shrinking District 5. The city’s northwestern-most district, represented by Dan Lewis, currently has about 16% more people than ideal for balancing purposes, so it will offload some neighborhoods on the north side of Montano to District 1. Louie Sanchez presently represents District 1.
The map also tweaks some districts east of the river.
The Northeast Heights-based District 8, represented by Trudy Jones, adds some terrain from Fiebelkorn’s District 7 by expanding south to Comanche between Wyoming and Eubank.
The Davis-represented District 6 will absorb parts of what is now District 2, including the area east of Interstate 25 between Lomas and Gibson.
Some districts – 3 (Peña), 4 (Bassan) and 9 (Renee Grout) – do not change under the new map.