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Council to meet Monday for redistricting vote

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Roswell City Councilor Juan Oropesa talks about a redistricting map he spearheaded this week to present as another option — the eighth such map — for the council to consider in redrawing the boundaries of the city’s wards during a recess of Thursday night’s city council meeting. The council failed to approve a new ward map Thursday and will have a special meeting Monday. (Juno Ogle Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

With an eighth map presented at their meeting Thursday night, Roswell city councilors failed to approve new boundaries for the city’s wards and will gather Monday for a special meeting and possible vote on the proposed ordinance.

The meeting will be at 5 p.m. Monday in meeting room A of the Roswell Convention Center, 912 N. Main St.

If the council should fail to pass the ordinance Monday, it’s possible the task of redistricting could go to the courts. A second item on the agenda is to direct the city manager and city attorney to petition the District Court of Chaves County, 5th Judicial District, to assume the responsibility of defining the wards.

After Thursday’s failed vote, Kintigh said that was a move he favored.

“Candidly, I’m of the opinion we petition the district court to do the redistricting, but I don’t get to make that vote,” he said.

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The failed vote came after nearly two hours of discussion during a public hearing on the ordinance. A map hammered out at a city council workshop Monday, dubbed Plan G, failed to gain a majority of the council, or six votes, as required of an ordinance, so did not pass. No one from the public spoke during the hearing.

Voting in favor of the ordinance were Councilors Daniel Lopez, Barry Foster, Jeanine Best, Margaret Kennard and Jacob Roebuck. Voting against it were Councilors Jason Perry, Judy Stubbs, Juan Oropesa and Angela Moore. Councilor Savino Sanchez was absent.

Under state statute, the city must reevaluate and redraw its wards based on results of the U.S. Census and complete that process in the calendar year the census data is received. The ward map drawn from the 2010 Census no longer meets federal requirements and must be redrawn. Legally the city has until Dec. 31 to complete the process.

However, candidates for the March city council election will be filing to run on Jan. 4 and the secretary of state will issue a proclamation for the election in early December. Kintigh urged the council to pass the resolution prior to the proclamation so that potential candidates would be clear which of the city’s five wards they would live in.

In Monday’s workshop, councilors worked in a free-form fashion in small groups and with the city’s contracted consultant, demographer Rod Adair. The workshop ended early and a meeting planned for after the workshop, in which councilors were to vote on a map to present Thursday, was not conducted because councilors had left and no quorum was present.

Some councilors contested the idea that Monday’s workshop had resulted in a consensus on one map, and Moore said the map labeled Plan G at Thursday’s meeting was different than the one she remembered. She also expressed frustration at the number of maps presented to the council.

“We were in a consensus that we were almost to a consensus. There were a few things that needed to be tweaked and they would work it out with Mr. Adair and Councilor Oropesa,”  Moore said of when she left Monday’s workshop.

Another map, Plan H, was emailed to councilors later in the week and posted on the city website, however.

“Can we just get on with what needs to be done? If I get another map I’m going to scream. More maps is not making it any clearer,” Moore said. “This is just an overload of nonsense.”

City Manager Joe Neeb said Oropesa had started working on the map called Plan H after the workshop. Oropesa said he was called into a meeting earlier Thursday with Adair and city officials after they had worked to refine it.

Oropesa said he thought Plan H was a better plan because it fixed Precinct 36 on the city’s west side from being split between Wards 3 and 4 and offered two wards with minority-majority populations — or when one or more racial, ethnic or religious minorities make up a majority of the district — meeting federal and state requirements.

He cited Roswell resident and voting rights activist Frank Sanchez, who had told the council a majority-minority district should comprise between 65% and 70% of a minority population. Oropesa said Plan H met that criteria but Plan G did not.

Foster, however, said Oropesa was basing his minority-majority figures only on Hispanic populations.

“The other minorities count, too, and you have to add the other minorities in that,” he said.

He also pointed out that Plan H divides Precinct 41 in the northeast part of the city among three wards.

“If we’re going to say we can’t accept G because of (Precinct) 36 begin split, we can’t accept H because of (Precinct) 41 being split in three different ways. That’s my problem with H,” Foster said.

Stubbs also said she didn’t believe there was a consensus from the Monday workshop, but she preferred H because of how wards 2 and 3 were better drawn. Stubbs represents Ward 3.

“Instead of carving out pieces, it’s a straight line east and west, which I really like,” she said.

Perry said he voted against the motion to use Plan G because he still had questions that he believed could only be answered by the demographer, Adair, who could not attend Thursday’s meeting.

Nearly an hour into the council’s discussion, Perry made a motion to postpone the vote for a another workshop on Monday.

“I feel very uncomfortable making a final decision without a demographer here in the room to be able to help me understand things,” Perry said.

After some discussion about whether Monday would be a good time for Adair and requirements of the Open Meetings Act, Oropesa said he believed Monday was too early and suggested Wednesday or Thursday.

Kintigh pointed out Thursday is Thanksgiving.

“That’s alright. We’ll do it on Thanksgiving. Or on Friday. Or on Wednesday,” Oropesa said.

After Kintigh asked Oropesa and the rest of the council to consider the city staff, Oropesa made a motion to postpone the vote to Nov. 29. That motion failed, as did Perry’s motion to meet Monday.

However, after the final vote on the ordinance failed, Kintigh said he would call a special meeting for Monday to further discuss and vote on the ordinance.

The meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s YouTube channel. Those wanting to participate electronically can do so through GoToMeeting virtual meeting software.

By computer, tablet or smartphone, the meeting can be joined at https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/815060573. To join by phone, call 669-224-3412 and use access code 815-060-573.

All of the proposed redistricting maps can be viewed on the city council page on the city website.

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

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