Analysis: Legislative Reform is Truly Not a "Slam Dunk"

With the 2012 election cycle approaching, Governor Cuomo and the Legislature are still divided over redistricting.

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    Every 10 years, after the census figures come out, politicians re-draw the lines in their districts so that they can be re-elected again and again.

    For career politicians it’s one of the oldest tricks in the book.

    Every 10 years, after the census figures come out, politicians re-draw the lines in their districts so that they can be re-elected again and again.

    Politicians might say it ensures stability. Or, putting it more accurately, it ensures that it’s almost impossible for a newcomer to take their place.

    On this issue, Governor Cuomo has been on the side of reform since the beginning of his term. He wants a special, impartial commission to re-draw the boundaries of districts. Neither party would be in control. That’s the theory anyway.

    Meanwhile, the legislative redistricting committee has been holding hearings around the state. And, as a New York Times editorial stated, “the exercise is a sham. The new political districts are being drawn in secret for one overriding purpose:  to protect party majorities and incumbents, often for life.”  

    In plain language, the legislators are putting the fix in -- for themselves. So the reformers argue.

    Cuomo now threatens to veto any redistricting proposal from the legislature that means incumbents are protected.

    Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran political operative, dissents from the reformer’s view. He asked me: “Where is it written that there should be an independent commission? It is the Legislature’s job to re-draw district lines. If they don’t do it, why have a Legislature?

    Sheinkopf adds: “I think this is likely to wind up in the courts anyway.”

    Cuomo, in a sense, seems to agree. On a radio show in Albany, he said: "My vetoing the law isn’t a slam dunk either,right? Because then a court will decide whether or not the law is a good law, whether or not I had the right to veto in the first place so we’re not really sure what happens by that route either.”     

    Sheinkopf says of Cuomo’s approach: “It’s a way to create favor with the editorial writers.”

    That may be so but there has to be a better way to accomplish this reform. We’re floundering around and neither the Legislature, the governor, nor the voters seem to have the answer.

    This is the sad truth.