City & State: There Oughta Be a Law

Written by Laura Nahmias on . Posted in Politics.


This was the year redistricting was supposed to work. Guess what?

Everyone but the winners in New York State’s unfair system of drawing election districts agrees New Yorkers deserve better. This was the year they were supposed to get it. But nothing has changed.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, the Legislature has once again drawn maps that will all but guarantee they have to split the spoils of running the Assembly and Senate.

The lawmakers who promised to do better went back on their word. The governor who promised to veto unfair lines may be going soft. The good-
government groups that hoped for change have once again been ignored.

At a meeting of the Legislative Task Force on redistricting four days after the maps were released, New York Public Interest Research Group’s Bill Mahoney chided Senate Republicans for insisting the maps, which he called the most gerrymandered in history, were not drawn in a partisan way. He begged LATFOR co-chair Sen. Mike Nozzolio to prove otherwise.

“I would absolutely love to have my cynicism shattered,” Mahoney said. “I believe you have interpreted [the constitution] as you best saw fit to serve your partisan interest, and not best to represent the people of New York.”

Nozzolio, visibly agitated, ran his fingers along the inside of his buttoned-up collar, as if to give himself more room to breathe.

Of course, not everybody sees this as a tragedy of democracy. Plenty of people see it as a natural consequence of a ruthless life-or-death process, in which politicians facing an existential threat shouldn’t be expected to play nice.

Republicans say the Democrats blew their chance to retain their Senate majority and aren’t fit to govern.

“We can only go by what we’ve seen, and the Democrats were in the majority for two years and it was a total disaster,” said Scott Reif, a spokesman for the Senate Republicans. “They raised taxes by $14 billion, and despite all that, they overspent their budget. Talk about dysfunction and scandal and not being able to get the trains to run on time. It was difficult for them to ever get 32 votes, even when it was a good bill.”

People on all sides of the fight say this year is worse than ever. Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t seem to mind if Senate Democrats are thrown under the bus by a Republican majority that has proven to be a better partner in governing.

The Republicans are fighting to keep their party from total irrelevance. Democrats who showed no interest in fairness during their brief stint running the Senate find few shoulders to cry on now.

In a Capitol that has welcomed strong leadership from Cuomo, redistricting remains untamed. No one fully controls this year’s process. And no one with a hand on the levers of power will admit that New Yorkers were lied to.

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