PHOENIX — Tucson Mayor Regina Romero is unhappy with how the Independent Redistricting Commission proposes to divide the city into two congressional districts.
In a letter Tuesday to the panel, the Democratic mayor does not dispute that a division of Tucson, the state’s second largest city, is appropriate. Prior district lines going back decades have made a similar split, in fact.
But the mayor said the plan now being considered is unfair — and potentially illegal.
What’s bothering her is that the map proposes to separate the districts first along a north-south line largely along Sixth Avenue, but then go east along Broadway before turning south again at the Pantano Wash.
Everything to the east would be lumped into Congressional District 6, stretching from Marana through the Catalina Foothills out through Cochise, Graham and Greenlee counties. More to the point, the mayor said, that would include the University of Arizona and the Fourth Avenue retail and restaurant district, separating it from downtown, which would be in CD7.
That, she said, is not right. “In many ways, Fourth Avenue is an extension of downtown, with many restaurants, bars, and shops whose interests align closely with their counterparts in downtown Tucson,’’ Romero wrote the commission on Tuesday.
Then there’s the fact that the modern streetcar connects downtown through Fourth Avenue to the university and continues to Banner-University Medical Center. She said more than 100,000 people live and work within a half mile of the streetcar route.
“Many of them are University of Arizona students and faculty who live downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, and either work or go to school on campus,’’ the mayor wrote.
Romero also noted that this would be the second time the boundary was shifted west.
After the 2000 census count, the dividing line was along Country Club Road. Then, a decade ago, it got moved to Campbell Avenue.
It’s a trend she does not want continued.
“Simply put, it does not make sense to separate the University of Arizona and Fourth Avenue from downtown,’’ Romero wrote.
She also noted that population growth has been headed east.
She cited a 2019 analysis by the Arizona Daily Star, which found that the city’s media population center is at Hi Corbett field, between Country Club and Alvernon roads, about four miles east of where the commission wants to draw the line.
“The city’s geographic and population center point will continue to be pushed east, further supporting the idea of maintaining the current boundary at Campbell Avenue, if not extended to the east,’’ Romero wrote.
The other half of the problem, for Romero, comes down to the decision to extend the division between the districts east on Broadway all the way to the Pantano Wash.
Romero said the problem with that is it adds non-Latino areas into Congressional District 7, diluting the voting strength of the Latino majority neighborhoods in the Broadway and 22nd Street corridor.
The mayor said if Broadway is to be used as a dividing line, she wants that line to turn south at Craycroft Road with everything east of that put into CD6, the district that goes into Cochise County.
What that does, she said, is strengthen the Latino influence in CD7, “ensuring their voting power is not diluted.’’
More to the point, concentrating Latino communities in CD7, the area currently represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, would help to maintain a congressional district where minorities have a good chance of electing someone of their own choice, she said.
This is more than a political issue. The federal Voting Rights Act precludes states from taking actions that dilute minority voting strength.
Romero also said she thinks portions of Flowing Wells and Amphitheater should be included in CD7, with that area “becoming increasingly diverse.’’
The Independent Redistricting Commission will adopt final maps in late December after receiving public input.