Residents concerned district plan would weaken community

Kevin Wilson

Ahead of an upcoming redistricting vote by the Curry County Commission, residents of District 1 spoke out Thursday morning about a redistricting plan they felt would weaken their community and voice in electoral matters.

The commission handled numerous tasks during a three-hour special meeting at the Clovis-Carver Public Library, but a majority of residents were there to speak out in a hearing about Plan F, a redistricting plan put together after other plans put forth by the Albuquerque-based Research and Polling firm.

No action was taken following the public hearing.

Commissioners plan to vote to adopt one of seven plans in a 9 a.m. Oct. 11 meeting, also at the library.

Plan F, District 1 Commissioner Bobby Sandoval charged, would weaken the Hispanic and African-American vote in the district by splitting up the minority-heavy west side of Clovis and replacing it with a Texico population that wouldn’t have the same concerns.

The county is required to implement redistricting every 10 years following the national census. The county must be divided into five districts of equal population, and drawn in a way that doesn’t upset previous demographics of each district.

Sandoval and District 3 Commissioner Frank Blackburn questioned the need for a seventh plan when Research and Polling of Albuquerque already gave the county Plans A, B, C, D-1, D-2 and E, and citizens had shown a preference for Plan A during previous public hearings.

Wendel Bostwick, who represents District 4, said he helped draw up plan F.

“In my mind we are creating a minority district,” Bostwick said, referring to a Hispanic population that would be higher in Plan F (58.9 percent) than in Plan A (56.75 percent).

Plan F would put Texico in District 1, most of Clovis in District 2, Melrose in District 4 and Grady in District 5.

“In my mind,” Bostwick said, “we took all of our communities and we got them all represented with a county commissioner.”

Sandoval said that scenario of increasing Hispanics only worked on paper.

“It’s not as simple as taking a Hispanic from the west side of Clovis (out of a district),” Sandoval said, “and putting in a Hispanic from Texico.”

Numerous District 1 residents who live a few blocks from Sandoval told the commission they didn’t like the idea of being sent to another district.

“I’m already used to Bobby,” Fidel Madrid said. “We have a good community where we’re at.”

David Briseno, speaking for Concerned Citizens of Curry County, said the county would be in an actionable position, based on precedents set in the Texas case of League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry. The 2006 case dealt with accusations the state gerrymandered residents by fracturing areas of Hispanic concentration and regrouping them into different congressional districts.

The Texas Supreme Court rejected gerrymandering claims, but did require new district boundaries in its ruling.

County Attorney Stephen Doerr said it was tough to make a completely reliable connection between Plan F and the Texas court ruling. While the issue did potentially exist regarding fracturing areas of minority concentration, Doerr said the 72-page court ruling repeatedly noted that the areas in question were hundreds of miles apart — not eight miles, as Texico lies east of Clovis.

Changes would not affect Sandoval’s term, as commissioners are required to carry out representation through their end of their terms representing the district that elected them. Nor would it affect Sandoval’s re-election hopes, since he’s term-limited.

Under Plan F, Sandoval said, the commission would seriously damage attempts in 2014 and beyond by a Hispanic or African-American resident running to serve the district.

“I am not representing myself,” Sandoval said. “I’m 75 years old. I’ve got two years left, and I’m probably not running for a county office again. This isn’t about me, this is about District 1.”

A supplemental report from the Curry County Commission meeting Thursday morning at the north annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library.

All five commissioners were present. All items below passed on unanimous votes:

• A software agreement was made as a joint venture with the Clovis city government for video streaming of commission meetings at the library. The agreement is $676 per month for the county, which is sharing costs with the city.

• A plan to purchase tablets and/or notebook computers to allow for paperless commission packets was approved. Information and Technology Director Aaron Jones said he needed permission to buy up to 10 devices for the commissioners and county staff.

Commissioners Bobby Sandoval and Dan Stoddard are both city commissioners, and said the process is extremely convenient through iPads provided by the city. The commissioners said being able to take the agendas anywhere makes it easier to help constituents.

Estimated cost is $600 per device, though commissioners who already owned such devices said they’d decline an additional purchase.

In addition, Jones said he would try to have a laptop set up in advance at each meeting in case somebody forgot their device or had technical problems.

• A county purchasing and per diem policy was approved, with a change to reflect a state policy.

Finance Director Mark Lansford said the county had gone back and forth over the years about allowing affidavits in place of receipts. State law now allows an affidavit in instances where not being reimbursed would create a hardship on the employee.

The policy approved by the county allows affidavits that must be signed either by the county manager or the county commission chairman.

• Separate Adult Detention Center policies for sexual misconduct, rape elimination, personnel discrimination and DNA collection were approved. Many of the changes to the policies were made to meet accreditation requirements.

• A traffic investigation was approved, allowing the New Mexico Department of Transportation to determine a proper speed limit for Curry Road 14 between State Road 209 and Curry Road K.

• The county agreed to purchase a pair of semi trucks from Roberts Truck Center for $73,998.