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City council approves redistricting map

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Demographer Rod Adair responds to a question from Roswell City Councilor Juan Oropesa during a special meeting of the city council Monday evening. Mayor Dennis Kintigh cast a tie-breaking vote at the meeting to approve a map drawing new boundaries for the city’s five wards. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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With a tie vote among Roswell city councilors on adopting a map to redistrict the city, Mayor Dennis Kintigh cast a yes vote for the map known as Option G Monday night at a special meeting of the Roswell City Council.

The meeting ended with one councilor saying that map had been politically driven.

Voting to approve the ordinance with Option G setting boundaries for the city’s five wards were Councilors Daniel Lopez, Jeanine Best, Jacob Roebuck, Margaret Kennard and Barry Foster. Voting against it were Councilors Jason Perry, Angela Moore, Savino Sanchez, Judy Stubbs and Juan Oropesa.

The vote came after more than an hour of discussion, taken up largely by Oropesa’s questioning of the city’s contracted demographer, Rod Adair of New Mexico Demographic Research.

Oropesa had the floor for about about 40 minutes, during which he focused on the map known as Option F-Amended. Oropesa questioned Adair about his concerns regarding the amended map.

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“All the plans that you submitted were either non-contiguous or they were outside legal deviations,” Adair said.

He said he had worked with Oropesa last week so they would be within the legal requirements for redistricting.

Oropesa continued to ask Adair to specify the issues he had with the amended Option F, focusing on the contiguity of the wards — the requirement that all parts of a district are in physical contact with another part of the district — and the splitting of county precincts.

Their back-and-forth dialogue was somewhat complicated because Oropesa attended the meeting virtually and said at times he was not sure which map Adair was showing on the monitors in the meeting room.

About 30 minutes into the discussion, Oropesa asked Kintigh if he could ask a question of City Attorney Parker Patterson, at which point Kintigh asked the councilor if he could wrap up his questioning out of consideration for the other council members who wished to speak. Oropesa protested.

“This is such an important issue that I want to make sure I get the answers to help me,” Oropesa said.

After asking Patterson about the definition of contiguous as it pertains to redistricting and getting an answer, Oropesa yielded his time.

However, at the end of the meeting Oropesa said the mayor had cut him off, preventing him from making any motions.

“I just want the record to reflect the fact that you cut me off didn’t allow me to offer an amendment,” Oropesa said.

He also said he believed Option G was politically driven by the mayor and perhaps other council members.

“If there was no intention of politics being involved, I don’t think there should have been an issue with Precinct 18 being moved into (Ward) 2,” he said.

Option H would have included precincts 18 and 9 in Ward 2 rather than Ward 3 as Option G does.

One of four residents who spoke at the beginning of the meeting also said she believed Option G was drawn with politics in mind.

“Doing that seems to have some sort of political agenda to it,” Sarah McArthur said.

“I would just consider this a way of gerrymandering. That’s just my opinion and I don’t think that’s acceptable,” she said.

“This gives the impression, Mr. Mayor, that you and maybe some other ones are trying to protect one particular councilor from a potential candidate and that is the reason that Precinct 18 and 9 is so significant at this time,” Oropesa said.

The council position for Ward 2 filled by Margaret Kennard is up for election in March, along with the seat held by Stubbs in Ward 3.

In response to Oropesa’s comments, Kintigh added to the official record a statement that Oropesa had the floor for more than 30 minutes and offered no amendment, and that he also interrupted after Kintigh called for the vote. Kintigh then adjourned the meeting.

Three other residents spoke at the meeting, including Frank Sanchez, who endorsed Option H — which he worked on last week with Oropesa and Stubbs — and the amended version of Option F.

The amended Option F increases the Hispanic majority population of Ward 1 slightly and reduces it in Ward 5 and creates three districts with more than 60% Hispanic population, he said.

“In my opinion, the plan is a good reflection of the changing demographics of Roswell, a good reflection of the Hispanic population and respects communities of interest,” he said.

Jesse James Gomez and Preston Marshall both spoke in favor of Option G.

“As a Hispanic male, I am a voter and I do believe this is the best way to move forward in Roswell,” Gomez said.

“Our population has stayed relatively the same for the past decade. I feel this is a positive direction for us to go as well,” Marshall said.

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

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