Jan. 21—The city of Santa Fe is preparing to convene a citizens commission to draw new City Council district boundaries for just the second time since the panel's inception.
Officials recently put out a call for residents to serve on the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
"This is such a great opportunity to be involved in our city and city government," City Clerk Kristine Mihelcic said. "I encourage all city residents to apply. It's a great commission to be a part of."
In October, the City Council approved a resolution sponsored by Councilors Renee Villarreal and Chris Rivera to start convening the commission in preparation for the November 2023 election.
The hope, Mihelcic said, is to finish the commission's work and present the proposed new district maps to the City Council for approval in July.
According to the ordinance, the commission is supposed to meet at least every 10 years to redraw district boundaries based on census data. The redistricting plan, according to city code, should be voted on three months prior to a municipal election.
Mihelcic said officials considered convening the commission before the 2021 election, but they didn't want to try to balance redistricting and an election at the same time.
"This has been in lockstep with our attorney's office, so we thought it was a good idea to get through the election and then start redistricting," Mihelcic said. "We really wanted community members to be able to focus on an in-depth redistricting process."
The city's effort follows a lengthy state redistricting process in 2021 that also involved an independent commission. The panel created proposed maps for the state House and Senate, congressional seats and the state Public Education Commission for the Legislature to consider. The Legislature approved versions of those maps in a special session in December, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed them.
Santa Fe County completed its redistricting process in October, moving three voting precincts in the city to different County Commission districts.
Santa Fe County, which has a population close to 155,000, saw an almost 10,000-resident increase since 2010, according to U.S. census data.
The 2020 census, released Aug. 1, showed Santa Fe is the fastest-growing city in the state, with about 19,600 more residents — an increase of 29 percent — since 2010. Although, much of the growth in that time was due to annexation. The city's population is now about 87,500.
City voters in 2014 approved amendments to the city charter creating the redistricting commission.
"It appears the overall intent of the process was really to preserve the fair and open and transparent process," Mihelcic said.
The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission was first convened in 2015 in preparation for the 2016 municipal election, following the city's annexation of about 4,100 acres and 13,250 new residents from the southern and western areas of Santa Fe.
Under city code, the four City Council districts should be as equal in population as possible.
The new commission will include seven members, with at least one resident from each of the four council districts.
The city also is seeking a statistician and a geographer or cartographer with at least three years of experience, which can be a Santa Fe County resident if a city resident is not available. An at-large member who is a city resident also will be appointed.
Mihelcic said applicants will be selected at random. Anyone who has been an elected official or a candidate for city office within five years is ineligible.
Current city employees, officers for any political committee or party and people who have served as a paid campaign workers or consultants for an elected city official also are barred from serving on the redistricting commission.
Commission members will work with an independent redistricting consultant, who will provide technical and professional assistance, according to city code. The consultant will then work with the city attorney to ensure the plan complies with state, federal and local laws.
According to city code, the commission will hold multiple public meetings to receive oral and written public comments on any preliminary redistricting plans.
Anyone interested in a seat must submit an application by Jan. 28 to Mihelcic at email@example.com.
If the city doesn't receive at least three complete applications for each positions, Mihelcic said she can extend the deadline.