On Tuesday night Bernalillo County Commission adopted a new 10-year redistricting map with slight variations from previous voting maps. The vote to adopt the new map came after objections from Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada, who pushed for a standalone Westside district. The Commission voted to adopt the new map 4 to 1, with Quezada being the dissenting vote.
The new maps were updated to reflect population changes in Bernalillo County. The population grew by 2.1 percent to a population of 676,444. District 4 which is on the north end of Albuquerque and represented by Commissioner Walt Benson, saw its borders slightly reduced due to its greater population growth compared to the rest of the county. Each district must have the same population count for fairness. District 5, represented by Charlene Pyskoty, encompasses the county’s eastern portion, now including Uptown. District 3, represented by Commissioner Adriann Barboa, grew in size to include Kirtland Addition, South Broadway and East San Jose.
Proponents of a more cohesive Westside district argued that the Westside needs to have its own voice due to a decade of sustained population growth. Others saw the push for a Westside district as a ploy to push forward the Santolina Development, owned by British Barclay Banks. It’s a massive proposed development that would reportedly house 95,000 people. The Santolina Development has received major pushback from community advocates and environmental groups as it does not currently have water rights and would be an unsustainable sprawl. If the project is able to regain those rights, its daily water consumption would be 10 million gallons a day.
On Monday night, an emergency meeting was held to address concerns over the proposed Westside district. “The biggest item at stake for redistricting in Bernalillo County is the continuous ‘cracking’ of the West Side and intention of weakening such a strong community of interest. For 11 years, not a single commissioner has lived north of Central Ave. AND West of the river. There are 135,000 people that haven’t had a neighbor represent them on the west side,” said Quaker Heights Neighborhood Association President and Westside Coalition of Neighborhood Associations member Vanessa Alarid. “Without creating a Westside district now, with the District 1 incumbent not running, it could be 20 more years before the westside has true representation that can only be accomplished by getting its own district.”
In support of creating a Westside district, Alarid noted that it would be able to address needs particular to the area. It was also the primary motivation to call an emergency meeting before the Commission voted on Tuesday. “To have a robust conversation about the principles of redistricting the population growth of the Westside. Currently, there are three commissioners whose districts have westside precincts but only one actually lives on the West Side. The infrastructure needs, lack of jobs and lack of services are alarming. The purpose of the member-called meeting was to voice the various opinions of the neighborhood leaders,” Alarid said.
In response to the Wednesday night vote, Alarid expressed her disappointment with the outcome. “We also had an opportunity to vote on any resolutions that were presented. There was a motion to pass a resolution (so the discussion may proceed) but a quorum was broken by the President, and other members, by logging off the zoom meeting. Democracy did not prevail,” Alarid said.
The County Commission allowed public comment on the proposed changes three months prior to the vote.