In today's Albuquerque Journal: http://www.abqjournal.com/main/2012/02/23/news/council-oks-map-cutt...
I hope people start paying attention to the actions of our city council - which I believe has become less representative of the city's political make-up over the past couple of years. I'm also hoping Democrats and progressives come up with some quality candidates for the new city council districts and for mayor (though that election is still 2 years out). Can't get organized soon enough...
From the article:
"...almost every one of the city’s federally designated “pockets of poverty” will now lie in one of nine council districts."
"Public testimony at the meeting was overwhelmingly against the plan that was eventually adopted. Many opponents were neighborhood leaders from older neighborhoods in the urban core.
Javier Benavidez, president of the Barelas Neighborhood Association, said the map amounts to “abandoning the neighborhoods that need the City Council the most.”
Nice! Isn't he the only political figure that is an architect and not some kind of lawyer or businessman? I find it interesting how there are not that many architects serving as political representatives.
Random thoughts on council redistricting:
West side growth, and the corresponding need to shift Council districts, had been evident for years prior to the census. This situation could have been mitigated had the recent Charter Commission advocated for an increase in Council districts. In 1980, the first year after the City adopted the current Mayor/Council form of government, the population was 333,000. That meant each Councilor represented 34,000 constituents. Today that number is closer to 61,000, a 64% increase. While the number of Council districts can't be increased forever, an increase of two districts would have provided the needed three west side districts and provided traditional east side communities with unique representation. Instead, the Charter Commission gave us a Salary Committee.
Some parts of town, the Nob Hill area comes to mind, have successfully resisted "densification". That is their prerogative. But if you hold the population of a neighborhood/community constant, while the overall population of the City is increasing, the geographic size of the district must increase.
The infrastructure deficiencies in the older sections of the City can be addressed if we stop equating "one person one vote" to "one person one dollar". The notion that each Council district deserves "their share" of the CIP funds ignores true need. If the Council is truly concerned with running the City as a whole, they should prioritize CIP by need without consideration of where that need is. They should also question whether spending millions buying up decrepit motels and contaminated industrial sites (Railyards), that then sit for years without any action, should be prioritized over repairing streets, sewers, and storm drains in those same districts.
By the way, while the next election may be closer to two years out, we are only a year out from when Council candidates have to be engaged and less than a year for Mayoral candidates.
They should've combined Benton's and Cook's districts together and let them fight it out (my money would be on Benton.) The district's are basically the same demographic - the older part of the city. I don't see where adding the new south of airport area to Cook's district has anything to do with the older part of the city (except for being potentially R). Yep - crowd all the poor people together into one district, combine two D district's together, solidify one R district in a weird way, and create a solid R district - that would be the classic definition of gerrymandering.
Just a quick note - why doesn't an action like this that can only be viewed as political, require a super majority? This action effects the council for probably decades to come.
In my opinion--and I live in Councillor Cook's district, in the Snowheights neighborhood--Isaac Benton is clearly the most intelligent, capable and thoughtful member of the city council. I think he should forget about running for the council again, and run for mayor instead.
Most mayors around the country come from one of three perspectives--one is the legal/political nexus; Marty Chavez was an example. Another is business, of which our current mayor, RB Berry, is an example. And finally, many come from the law enforcement community.
For some reason, few mayors come from the architectural and city planning professions, even though these areas are at the core of city government's responsibilities. Many of our problems arise from the fact that the solutions to those problems are left to amateurs in the field who have no special expertise and are therefore especially susceptible to undue influence by developers and special interests. It would be interesting to have a mayor who is a professional in this core responsibility of municipal government.
Definitely agree - I'd like to see Benton run for mayor as well. I think he would make a great candidate.
As someone in the city-planning realm, I think a large reason why you don't see more city leaders from fields like architecture, planning, public policy, etc is because with the exception of a rare few, people in these fields don't make enough money to organize a political campaign.
I agree that a mayor with either a planning background or at least an understanding of urban issues is needed in Albuquerque.
When he ran for office Councilor Isaac Benton was endorsed by the following:
Other than the conservative Journal, these seem to be progressive interests - environment, labor... I also know that he has been a supporter of the arts.
Here is what Benton has written in a recent email:
"In the interest of partisan gain, the majority’s passage of the unjust plan L blatantly ignored the public good and the outcry of communities of interest. But we are not done with this fight.
Mayor Berry has the power to veto that plan and ask that the Council instead pass plan V-1 or a similar plan. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org phone at 768-3000.
I will continue to work for the protection and betterment of our neighborhoods in the “real” District 3 and for a sustainable, livable Albuquerque.
I completely agree that District 3 should be kept in tact and Councilor Benton should keep his seat on the Council. He has been an outstanding public servant for his district, but also for the City as a whole. It is downright sad and disheartening to see the Council behave so partisan and not consider what is in Albuquerque's best interest (as well as blatantly disregard the outpouring of support and public comment for Map V). I will be contacting Mayor Berry with my hope that he veto Map L and request the Council consider Map V or a similar plan. The next decade is a critical one for Albuquerque's future. Hopefully Mayor Berry will put politics aside and do what's right for our City.
February 26, 2012
The Honorable Richard J Berry
Mayor of Albuquerque
1 Civic Plaza
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102
Dear Mayor Berry,
I respectable ask that you reject redistricting Map L and request that consideration be given to some of the oldest established neighborhoods in the city of Albuquerque. Plan L divides the university area neighborhoods between three council districts diluting our voice and giving us little representation. The newly proposed District 2 would combine the north and south valleys and downtown areas under one councilor. The only things these neighborhoods have in common are poverty, an aging infra-structure and eight of the current Metropolitan Redevelopment Areas. Accepting Map L would result in a large conglomeration of neighborhoods having little hope of satisfactory completion of ongoing projects where as Map V would allow uninterrupted completion of these projects without them being lumped under one councilor thus creating a work load that would be impossible for them to meet. We were promised that communities of interest would be preserved within a single district. It was actually stated at the City Council meeting that the five were pushing for Map L solely so that the 5/4 Republican to Democrat ratio would not be changed. I ask that you please consider Map V or a workable alternative that would keep the university neighborhoods as a whole and the north and south valleys separate so we might all have a voice as promised. Each of these areas has wants, needs and concerns that are unique to them and each of these areas should be allowed a say in their own futures. Please put the needs of the people before the wants of your party and veto Map L. Thank you.
Chair Redistricting Committee
Victory Hills Neighborhood Association
This is very well put Chris, I am going to write the Mayor also.
a letter to mayor berry urging veto of plan L seems like a good idea. plan v seemed like the one focused on the best interests of the affected neighborhoods, as well as the future of the city. I understand that the redistricting can be challenged, so it's worth paying attention to how it plays out. it's depressing to see albuquerque failing to progress as a 21st century city because of myopic planning (i.e., the state fair grounds, though that's ultimately a state government issue), and an inability to envision something different or creative as solutions to some of our problems.
when I was a landscape architecture student, benton visited a class and a design charette that I participated in and he had some really great things to say--not just about design but about city planning and transportation. I agree that he'd be a good candidate for mayor, but I wonder if he has the desire to take on that job?