Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Where Are New ABQ City Council Districts? ACLU Files Suit To Force Issue, Plus: Griego Gets Union Boost, And: Conservancy District Election Today 

The ACLU of New Mexico has filed a lawsuit in state district court demanding that the nine city council districts be redistricted in time for the October 4 election. The civil liberties union says the redistricting is required following the 2010 census, but it was put off this year because the redistricting committee said it could not be completed in time to meet this year's earlier election deadlines, especially with regard to public financing. But the ACLU points out city redistricting was completed in a timely manner in 1991 and 2001 and not to do it now is unfair to voters:

The City is constitutionally required to reapportion voting districts every 10 years following the release of federal census data to ensure equal representation among voters. 2010 census data shows that Albuquerque’s West Side experienced significant population growth, while other areas of the city remained stagnant or shrunk in population. By unlawfully postponing redistricting, the ACLU believes the Albuquerque City Council will dilute the voting power of residents on the West Side.

“At the heart of our democracy is the principle of ‘one person, one vote’,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “When one city council district is grossly underrepresented, other areas of the city speak with a louder voice when it comes to making decisions about political leadership, bond proposals, and other important issues that affect us all. Failing to redistrict waters down the vote of citizens living in high-growth areas.”

Among those appointed to the redistricting committee by the city council are GOP firebrands Mickey Barnett and Hal Stratton. The panel is chaired by Republican Janice Arnold-Jones. Some Dems argue the redistricting delay is political because their party stands a chance to pick up a West Side council seat. The current council is divided among five Republicans and four Democrats. So is the redistricting committee. However, the committee voted 8 to 1 for the delay, so other critics claim the committee was trying to protect all council incumbents, not only R's.

The new population numbers indicate the West Side will pick up a third councilor when the redistricting is finally done. GOP Mayor Berry is up for re-election in 2013, along with five of the nine council seats. Four of them are up for election this October. The major threat to his GOP majority on the council would be the election of independent Republican Greg Payne who is challenging fellow R Trudy Jones for her NE Heights seat. In 2009, Berry became the first ABQ GOP mayor since Harry Kinney finished up a term in 1985.

It would seem unlikely that a judge would order the redistricting with the election process so far along, but the committee's hand-wringing over not having enough time to get the job done and delivering the voters the new districts they are entitled to isn't a legacy for the future.


The local branch of the Teamsters Union isn't going to wait to see who else will make a bid for the Dem nomination for the ABQ House seat. They've endorsed ABQ State Senator Eric Griego who so far is flying solo in this contest. That is bound to change, but the early union endorsement could help him build some momentum in the face of the headwind he faces over his electability. If he can pick up a few more labor endorsements--as Dem US Senate candidate Martin Heinrich has--it will mean money and campaign manpower. Heinrich is vacating the ABQ House seat after two terms to run for the Senate.

Dems sniping from the sidelines say Griego is too liberal for the district. But Griego's position has strenghtened in the past month with word that State Senator Tim Keller and State Rep. Al Park will not challenge him for the Dem nod.

Still on the bench and looking it over are former Lt. Governor Diane Denish and former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez. Unlike Keller and Park, they have trouble with the liberal wing of their party which turns out the primary vote. It may sound odd, but while Chavez and Denish are both potentially formidable candidates, Griego supporters can see a clearer path to victory against them than with Keller or Park who don't have as much baggage. Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks is also eyeing the race as is Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham. State Rep. Moe Maestas has indicated interest, but is not expected to stay for the long haul.


A follow-up now to our Monday blog on today's election for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. We noted that there is no legal requirement for the candidates to file campaign reports or expenditures, but they can file voluntary reports.

Engineer John Kelly, who has sited campaign finance reform as one of his goals, says in his voluntary report he has raised over $14,000 for a position on the seven member panel which is responsible for flood control along the Rio Grande. But Kelly does not give the first names of his donors nor their occupations. Candidate Bill Turner did not have much to file. He reports raising "zero" dollars for today's election. Several other candidates who chose to voluntarily file also reported negligible amounts.

A tidbit from Kelly's report: He received $150 from GOP State Rep. Larry Larranga and $500 from
Sam Bregman's law firm. Larranaga is an engineer and once headed up the state highway department. Bregman, a trial attorney, recently ran for the chairmanship of the state Democratic party.

Kelly is a Republican. Today's election is nonpartisan.


From reader Norm in response to comments here from veteran NM broadcaster Larry Ahrens on Thursday's blog:

With all due respect to Larry Ahrens and to the general concept of political "leadership," there really is very little that politicians can do to get the economy moving. It's well known that corporations are sitting on tons of cash right now, and that interest rates are at historic lows because there is a world-wide surfeit of idle capital. If that capital was invested in new plant it would end the recession this quick. It isn't happening because corporations aren't using the plants they already have to full capacity--consumer demand simply isn't there. Tax policies, stimulus spending, stronger regulations or weaker regulations, none of it matters all that much....

What Ahrens implies is that perhaps politicians in other places have better ideas than New Mexicans. Yes, no, maybe so. Whatever those ideas are, they are not going to change what we're going through now, which is the blowback from a disastrous recession caused by incompetence on the part of banks and other lending institutions. Politicians can do things to prevent this from happening again, but they can't erase the damage wrought to the economy.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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