Neighbors in ABQ’s International District seek more power in new political maps

By: - September 17, 2021 5:55 am

The International District at dawn in 2019 (Photo by Marisa Demarco | Source NM)

Residents of Albuquerque’s International District are lobbying legislators to merge their neighborhoods into a single political district, saying the current political map dilutes the power of an area that needs a unified voice to address its challenges. 

Five residents have spoken at meetings of the Citizen Redistricting Committee in recent weeks, according to meeting minutes. Each has asked the citizen-led committee to draw maps that knit the neighborhood into a single district. 

“So many times — we’re an older community, and we have been marginalized,” said Nancy Bearce, the Bernalillo County treasurer and neighborhood resident. “We have been left behind.”

The neighborhood in Southeast Albuquerque sits between San Mateo and Wyoming from west to east and Lomas and Gibson from north to south. 

Today, the map for the state House of Representatives cleaves the district in two. Louisiana Boulevard in the center of the district is a major dividing line between districts 19 and 21. The current Senate map also drives districts 16 and 17 through the neighborhood, much of the divide also along Louisiana Boulevard. 

The area has some of the state’s highest poverty rates and worst health outcomes. The average household income in a census tract in the heart of the neighborhood is less than half that of the city’s; about one-third of children live in poverty; and the life expectancy is 67.9, the lowest in the city, according to census figures.

It’s also the state’s most diverse neighborhood, Bearce said. Students at nearby Highland High School speak 48 languages. And the area is where many Afghan refugees will be resettled. 

Nancy Bearce testifies before the Citizen Redistricting Commission on Aug. 7 to again make the pitch that Albuquerque’s International District deserves to be its own state House and state Senate political district.

The commission Wednesday released concept designs that show what the new political districts could look like, based on certain criteria — like the number of residents in each district and where certain racial or cultural communities are already based — and feedback from the community during the commission’s early meetings. 

The commission’s Senate and House maps as drawn keep more of the district intact than existing maps. The three concept Senate maps, for example, put more of the neighborhood in District 16’s northwest corner. The four concept House maps also make the district’s boundaries roughly the boundaries of a new District 19. 

In 2011, the last time redistricting happened, neighborhood residents also lobbied to give the International District its own political district. Despite their efforts, the political boundaries still cut through the neighborhood. 

The commission’s maps are the first concept maps to be produced as part of its recommendations. More meetings are occurring in the coming weeks, and the Legislature will also get to accept the maps or draw its own after the commission makes its proposals.

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Patrick Lohmann
Patrick Lohmann

Patrick Lohmann has been a reporter since 2007, when he wrote stories for $15 apiece at a now-defunct tabloid in Gallup, his hometown. Since then, he's worked at UNM's Daily Lobo, the Albuquerque Journal and the Syracuse Post-Standard. Along the way, he's won several state and national awards for his reporting, including for an exposé on a cult-like Alcoholics Anonymous group and a feature on an Upstate New York militia member who died of COVID-19. He's thrilled to be back home in New Mexico, where he works to tell stories that resonate and make an impact.