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Moore asks for understanding as city prepares to redraw wards

Rod Adair, former state senator and owner of New Mexico Demographic Research, talks about one of the maps his company prepared as an option for redrawing the ward boundaries in Roswell during a Monday workshop of the Roswell City Council at the Roswell Convention Center. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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As the Roswell City Council discussed its options and requirements for redrawing the boundaries of the city’s wards at a workshop Monday, one councilor implored her colleagues to approach the process with a greater understanding of the differences among the people in the city.

Eight of the 10 councilors and Mayor Dennis Kintigh conducted a workshop on redistricting Monday afternoon in the Roswell Convention Center. Councilors Daniel Lopez and Jacob Roebuck were absent. Councilor Margaret Kennard attended virtually and Councilor Jason Perry attended part of the meeting virtually as well.

The process of redrawing the city’s electoral wards must be completed in the same calendar year that the city receives data from the U.S. Census.

No votes were taken because it was a workshop, but the councilors and mayor were in agreement a second workshop was needed. That was tentatively set for 4 p.m. Monday, followed by a special meeting at 6 p.m. in which the council will narrow its choices to one of the proposed maps. That map will be presented at a public hearing and vote during the council’s next regular meeting on Nov. 18.

Rod Adair, a former Republican state senator who is now a demographer, presented the council with six maps to consider. The city contracted with his company, New Mexico Demographic Research, earlier this year. The maps are available to view on the city council’s page of the city website.

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Of the five maps, one labeled Option E creates the most dramatic change, giving the wards, especially Ward 1 and Ward 2, a more north-south orientation. Wards 4 and 5 would remain entirely south of Second Street and Ward 3 would be oriented mostly west of Union Avenue. It currently extends east of Main Street north of East College Boulevard.

“One of the criticisms over the years has been north versus south in Roswell and by combining north and south makes the councilors represent both sections of town, both north and south, as opposed to dividing them into sections that are somehow perceived to be at odds with each other. That was the input I received for plan E,” Adair said.

Kintigh said he requested the map labeled Option E.

Councilor Angela Moore represents Ward 5, which covers Roswell generally south of East McGaffey and West Poe Street including the part of town frequently referred to as the base. She said she agrees with other councilors who say they represent all of the city despite being elected from one ward, but didn’t think a north-south orientation of the wards would resolve the perceived division.

She said it would be difficult for constituents in Ward 5 to feel represented by some of the other councilors, using Ward 3 Councilor Judy Stubbs, whom she described as a “prim, proper white lady from the north side,” as an example. She kept her tone light-hearted and said she didn’t want her comments to be taken negatively or out of context, however.

According to the 2020 Census figures, Ward 5 is 77.28% Hispanic, the highest of the city’s five wards.

“Y’all don’t live on that side so y’all don’t understand that part of it. Some voters really want to see themselves represented. And if Miss Judy goes to the base in her three-piece suit, she’s not going to be received like me or Juan (Oropesa) or Mr. (Savino) Sanchez,” she said.

She said she was not always respected in Ward 5, however. Moore, who is Black, noted that Adair had said the 2020 Census showed that only 1.7% of Roswell’s population is African-American. She said during her campaign in Ward 5 for city council, she was called a racial slur and had guns pointed at her.

“You think just because I move a line over here that makes the people respect and understand,” she said.

“I may represent the whole city when I make my votes, but I’m not respected by the whole city. I’m not. I’m not respected by everybody in every ward, and nobody is,” she said.

The councilors need to work to understand the constituents and cultures of the city, she said.

“As we begin to vote on this, I want us to begin to think about not just north and south side. It is not necessarily a bad thing that there’s a split on the north side and the south side. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if we begin to understand the nature of what goes on in the south,” she said.

“I don’t have to live on the north side to necessarily understand what goes on in the north side or be able to vote,” she said.

Moore and other councilors agreed that keeping the wards as close to what they are now would be ideal. The map labeled Option A is closest to the current wards, Adair said.

Ideally, each ward would have a population of 9,684 people, Adair said. The wards can vary 5% more or less from that number. However, the wards must also preserve communities of interest, or groups of people who have similar concerns such as race, ethnicity or economic interests.

Under map A, the mostly centrally located Ward 1 would include a portion of the current Ward 2 east of the railroad and north of East College Boulevard as well as a portion of Ward 3 between North Main and the railroad and East College Boulevard north to East Country Club Drive.

It would keep three wards at 60% or higher Hispanic population, Adair said.

Overall, the 2020 Census shows the city’s Hispanic population at 58.8%, the white population at 35.1%, the Black population at 1.7%, the Asian population at 1.1% and the Native American population at 0.7%.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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