Redistricting of city council districts a possibility (4:22 p.m.)

Steve Ramirez
February 9. 2008

LAS CRUCES — Rapid growth in some areas of Las Cruces has created a population disparity among city council districts, but some councilors have said district boundaries should remain the same until after the 2010 U.S. census.

"Where is the wiseness of spending the public's money for consulting fees," Councilor Miguel Silva said. "...If redistricting is going to happen in 2010, then why not let that process take place as it's supposed to."

Las Cruces' estimated population has increased 14 percent since the 2000 U.S. census. City officials agree the two fastest-growing areas have been on the East Mesa and in the Legends West subdivision, just west of the Las Cruces Public Schools Sports Complex.

"As fast as the city's growing, it wouldn't be a bad idea to consider redistricting now," said Toni Casares, a Las Cruces office manager. "If most of the growth is happening to the east, then something needs to be done to make sure the districts are more evenly divided."

City Attorney Fermin Rubio and Community Development Director David Weir said the intent of the City Charter is to create City Council districts that are as equal in population as possible.

But as the city's population has grown, it has become a given by city officials that the growth has been concentrated on the east and west sides of Las Cruces. There is more open land in those two areas of the city, and that's also where the majority of annexations into Las Cruces have occurred.

"District boundaries will definitely change," Weir said.

Noticeable disparities in the numbers of registered voters in each council district appear to be at the root of concerns supporting redistricting. In City Council District 6, which includes part of the East Mesa, there are 11,456 registered voters.

In District 5, which also includes the East Mesa, there are 9,860 registered voters. Altogether, East Mesa voters account for 44 percent of the registered 48,408 voters in the city.

Three council districts have less than 7,000 voters, and some council members believe residents in those districts are not being treated equally.

"I welcome any revisions that take place because what we want is representative government," said Councilor Gil Jones, whose represents District 5. "There is an equity question and our charter says equity. If that's the mandate of our charter we should pursue that."

But Councilor Dolores Archuleta said the discrepancy isn't as much about an equal number of residents in each district as it is about registered voters.

"That's the challenge to my district, to get out and vote," said Archuleta, of residents living in council District 3.

If redistricting does not happen until after the 2010 census is conducted, new district boundaries might not go into effect until 2013.

"If it can be done I'd rather see it sooner than later," said Rudolfo Ortega, a retired Las Cruces welder. "It would be fairer to everybody. Nobody could push agendas."

Steve Ramirez can be reached at

Equal representation?

• Las Cruces' estimated population in 2006 was 86,268, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

• The city's current estimated population, according to the city's Community Development Department, is about 90,000.

• Las Cruces' adjusted population in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was 74,267.

• Based on the 2000 census, the six City Council districts had about 12,000 residents living in each of them.

• Since 2000, the city's estimated population has increased 14 percent.

• City officials agree the two fastest-growing areas are the East Mesa and the Legends West subdivision, just west of the Las Cruces Public Schools Sports Complex.

Registered voters by council district

District 1: 6,307

District 2: 7,642

District 3: 6,763

District 4: 6,380

District 5: 9,860

District 6: 11,456

Total registered voters: 48,408

Source: Doña Ana County Bureau of Elections