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Byline: Gilbert Gallegos GGALLEGOS@ABQTRIB.COM / 823-3670
With redistricting changing the city's power map, West Side residents hope for a new era of political clout
The way Shari Lewis figures it, the West Side of Albuquerque has paid its political dues.
Once a swath of isolated communities on the wrong side of the Rio Grande, the West Side has evolved into the latest chapter of Albuquerque's long-running story exponential growth that outpaces city services, community attention and, perhaps most important, political power.
From the tony subdivisions of Paradise Hills on the north to the quickly sprouting starter homes on the Southwest Mesa, community activists on the West Side say one tie has always bound these disparate areas together: The lush parks, roads and fire stations promised by developers never kept pace with growth.
But with a population that now includes more than 110,000 people, West Side residents believe simple mathematics will eventually lead to the kind of political clout they've never before enjoyed.
At least that's what Lewis, the president of the Ladera Heights Neighborhood Association, is hoping for as political leaders redistribute power based on the 2000 census.
The City Council has struggled with its redistricting plan recently, but any new political boundaries will have to reflect the growth on the West Side.
It's likely an existing council district will be moved over the river to give the West Side two seats on the nine-member council.
Lewis said two districts would give the West Side generally what it wanted: a chance at equality with the Northeast Heights.
"It would be nice to feel like we are equal with the East Side of the river," Lewis said. "We are not the city's stepchild."
Many who have lived on the West Side, be it for 40 years or 40 days, have complained about the area's status. That's interesting, because in many ways, the West Side's history is not far different from its East Side brethren.
Promises of the American dream in areas like Westgate Heights in the 1950s spread north across Central Avenue to Ladera Heights, then Taylor Ranch, and finally Paradise Hills, over the next four decades.
But even the addition of a council district may not be ideal. Neighborhood leaders fret about the possibility that new boundaries would split up their communities, creating north-south divisions.
City Hall isn't the only place where the West Side is expected to pick up some real political clout.
A power surge is also expected at the …