What are we, a bunch of dumb sheep?
The latest piece of positive proof answering that question is that the governor and the Legislature came up with a very dubious plan for “fair” redistricting in New York state. Let’s review the history. Governor Cuomo, when he was just citizen Andrew Cuomo, correctly read the people’s will and campaigned on a promise to reform the way in which New York’s legislative districts were drawn up. When the Legislature, which drew their own districts in order to keep themselves in power (the IPP or Incumbent Protection Plan), offered him their latest travesty, he said he would veto said bill.
The problem was that when he got into office he forgot that pledge. Not only did he let the legislative leaders get away with their own self-serving designs, he signed a reapportionment bill that turned out to be one of the most non-democratic reapportionment processes in the country.
The phony fix was that governor and the Legislature created a procedure that implemented the old system while pretending to invent a new one. They did this by appointing an outside group to draw the legislative districts.
The supposedly “new” process allows the legislative majorities (with some lip service to the minorities) to appoint an outside reapportionment commission. That commission, appointed by the Legislature (wink, wink) will hold “hearings” and then come up with a plan. They would then send that plan to the legislators who would vote on it. If the Legislature didn’t like it and voted it down then, lo and behold, we were back to square one and the legislative majority parties got to draw their own districts just as they always had.
So who are the commissioners? As part of this sham, the new language for the constitutional amendment that New Yorkers will have to vote on stipulates that no member of the Legislature can serve in this important job. But that’s where it stops. They can (and will) appoint anyone other than themselves or their families. They all know people who will do what they are told. The whole thing is an obvious fix. But just in case, by some miracle, said commission does its job and presents fair districts where either side has a chance of winning, and new districts don’t have the shapes of alligators and frying pans, the Legislature has the power to override everything the commission does. The whole thing is a stinker.
The new plan will come before the people of New York state in the form of a constitutional ballot amendment. Naturally, even the language that will appear on the ballot is self-serving and boasts of reform. The uninformed citizen doesn’t stand a chance. For his part, Governor Cuomo has done everything in his power to keep Dean Skelos and the Republican Party in charge of the Senate. Now it would appear that a deal has been cut to return the Senate to the Democrats who actually have a majority in that body. Up to now, the Senate Republicans have been able to draw districts that they can win. A fair fight would be a disaster for them since there are so many Democrats in New York state. In order to win, they must resort to legal chicanery and they do.
There are several good government groups that have checked in on this. The so-called Citizens Union (its board has several Cuomo friends on it) disgracefully endorsed the stinker plan. Shame on them! They were joined by the League of Women Voters, who should have known better. Sometimes you get tired of being ineffective and want to show your membership that you have achieved something. The true good guys, the New York Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause, have called this malarkey for what it is.
Is anyone paying attention? Baaaah.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 8/25/14