4:35 pm Feb. 22, 2012
Next week, state legislators are expected to vote on whether to approve the legislative lines that were drawn by the majority members in each chamber. The process has been widely criticized, particularly by Democrats in the State Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority, and plan on creating a new seat near Albany to help them retain it.
But Democrats in the Assembly, who hold an overwhelming majority in that chamber, haven't generally shared their colleagues' outrage. This apparently includes some Democratic assemblymembers who have previously been vigorous advocates of reforming the redistricting process.
(When the Assembly Democrats' member on the Legislative Task Force for Redistricting was asked by New York Post state editor Fred Dicker last week if he'd heard any complaints about the process so far from his colleagues, task-force member Jack McEneny said, simply, "No.")
I reached out to a few of them to ask whether they were planning to vote for the lines produced by the legislature's redistricting task force, when the time came.
The answer I got from a spokewoman for Hakeem Jeffries, the assemblyman and congressional candidate who has been, significantly, a poster-boy for and champion of the cause of redistricting reform, was not definitive.
"He will not know until he is presented with maps to actually vote on," said the spokeswoman, Lupe Todd.
I asked Rory Lancman, another congressional aspirant and declared supporter of redistricting reform, the same question. His reponse: "I’ll do whatever’s best for my constituents. I’m going to support lines that are fair and keep communities together."
I also spoke to Richard Gottfried, who was elected to represent Chelsea and Midtown as a 23-year-old reformer, 42 years ago.
In 2008, the New York Times editorial board singled him out as one of "the most established members of the Legislature" who should be challenged with a Democratic primary in order to jolt the Democratic establishment into reforming its ways. (His reform credentials were seriously questioned by some of his constituents, too, after he and others failed to use a "motion to discharge" to ensure an up-or-down vote on congestion pricing, and watched it die in committee without anyone actually voting on it.)
When asked about the task force's lines, Gottfried said, "It would have been better if lines had been drawn by an independent redistricting commission, under the bill supported by Governor Cuomo, Speaker Silver and many others, including me. Unfortunately, that didn't happen."
When I asked whether he'd vote for or against the legislature's maps, Gottfried replied, "We don't know what the final bill will look like. I hope it will be very different from the current proposal."
He said he expected Cuomo, the courts and the public "will make that happen," and left it at that.
Assemblyman Micah Kellner, of Manhattan's East Side, was the least equivocal of the reformers I spoke to.
In a brief interview yesterday, he said, "Having legislators pick their voters instead of voters picking their legislators undermines democracy ... If the process continues, I don't see myself voting for a redistricting bill."