After two and a half months of public hearings on new city districts, the Santa Fe City Council will vote to approve them at a Monday, Aug. 1 meeting.
On July 18, the city's Finance Committee recommended a plan that keeps every council member in their respective districts save Miguel Chavez, who currently serves District 3. The plan would put him in District 1, where he'd have to run against Patti Bushee to stay on the council if she decides she wants to keep her seat.
In a letter to Mayor David Coss from the League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County, President Judy Williams reminds him that new district maps have to "meet all federal criteria, including equal populations and provisions of Voting Rights Act."
In an e-mail to SFR, League member Karen Heldmeyer notes that her group has attended all the public meetings on city redistricting so far. She also, perhaps frustratingly, says few others have.
The City Council meeting will be held at 200 Lincoln Ave. on Monday, Aug. 1, at 6pm.
Mayor David Coss
Santa Fe City Council Members
200 Lincoln Avenue
P.O. Box 909
Santa Fe NM 87504-0909
July 18, 2011
Dear Members of the Governing Body:
The League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County submits these comments on the substance and process of redistricting for your consideration.
The League's position on redistricting includes the following:
The League supports a redistricting process and standards that provide the people with a meaningful choice in electing their representatives and facilitate holding government accountable.
The criteria for preparing redistricting maps should require that districts meet all federal criteria including equal population and the provisions of the Voting Rights Act. In addition, it is important that districts:
- be contiguous
- be reasonably compact
- avoid crossing geographic barriers to travel
- minimize the partition of major jurisdictions to the extent possible
- not intentionally favor any political party.
The League supports having an independent commission or other independent group develop redistricting plans meeting these criteria.
The public must have access to all information used in the redistricting process on a timely basis, and have the opportunity to comment and be heard on the proposed redistricting processes, criteria, and results.
In addition, the League's position on transparency recommends that local governments should encourage input and listen to their constituents. They should make it easy for constituents to comment on local issues, and as budgets allow they should periodically assess the needs, desires, and satisfaction of their constituents. We also recommend on the use of the website as a repository of all information that is most likely to be needed by the public.
Based on these positions, the League thanks the governing body for the openness of its process to date, especially its use of the website, which provided easy access to the meeting schedule with notice of public hearings on the subject, as well as to materials used in the decision-making process, including maps in all variations under consideration. We note that establishing an independent commission might have a beneficial impact on public education and participation, and we recommend that this be considered for future redistricting efforts. Such a body could be established at any time, and could be ready for revisions to the plan as might be required by future annexation phases, for example.
Please note that the League takes no position in support of or opposition to any particular redistricting option at this time; however, we do urge the members of the governing body to listen to the public and to adhere to its own principles and to those of the League as they consider the various options and come to a final decision.
Judy Williams, President
League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County
Photo courtesy of the League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County