Reformers Predict Revolution in Albany

By Gabe Pressman
|  Wednesday, Dec 22, 2010  |  Updated 7:00 PM EDT
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Reformers Predict Revolution in Albany

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“The stars are aligned in a wonderful way,” Dick Dadey  of Citizens Union told me. “I think re-districting will pass next year and it makes me happy!”

Dadey, former Mayor Ed Koch, founder of New York Uprising,  and other leaders have pressed for reform. And now, if Dadey’s estimate is correct, a revolution is about to take place.

For many years the leaders of the Legislature have conspired with each other to re-draw State Senate and Assembly districts so incumbents remain in office. The data from the Census just released makes it possible to create districts in a non-partisan way. And, if Dadey is right, that’s what is about to happen.

Using the census figures, the Legislature can re-draw the districts so the playing field could be level. If this happens, gerrymandering -- the time-honored practice in which districts are re-drawn to benefit political cronies -- will not be allowed.

With many of the old gang of party bosses and hacks still in office, it may be hard to believe that this will happen.  But the years of legislative dysfunction -- disillusioned New Yorkers and prodded all the candidates for governor  back in April to promise a new deal in Albany.

After years of waiting for reform to happen and, in the wake of numerous scandals in both the Senate and the Assembly, it may seem like a miracle. But Dadey is convinced this miracle will happen.

Former Mayor Ed Koch deserves credit for dramatizing the reform issue.  His organization, New York Uprising, has called on the State Senate to pass a package of bills as the first order of business in January. The aim: to end gerrymandering, increase the number of competitive elections while making ethics and disclosure laws stronger.         

Koch, before the election, enlisted many officials, having them sign a pledge promising reform. The signers agreed to the appointment of a non-partisan commission to oversee the drawing of new lines for legislative and congressional districts. Koch  promises: “I will be working with the members of the Legislature on a non-partisan basis to make that all come about.”

Cynics may doubt that the people who benefit from the slick system devised to keep incumbents in office perpetually are ready for change. But, if Koch and Dadey are right, it could happen.

Dadey says the reform agenda has majority support in each house. Perhaps he’s right -- the stars are aligned just right. Finally, we’ll get a Legislature that more truly represents the people’s interests.

After the miserable months we have had in Albany, with bribes, kickbacks and conflicts of interest dominating the landscape, how refreshing it will be to have the people’s interests come first. At last! I can’t remember any time in the last five decades when the situation was as ripe for reform as today.

Much will depend on the new governor and his leadership skills. If Andrew Cuomo can deliver on this anti-corruption, reform package, he’ll be starting out ahead of the game.                        `
 

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