Koch urges legislators not to buckle under ‘pressure’ on a redistricting compromise

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Ed Koch. (Reid Pillifant)
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Ed Koch hasn't been shy about branding opponents of his independent redistrict plan as "enemies of reform." But in his latest email to legislators, he is more subtle.

The former New York City mayor has been urging legislators not to accept a compromise whereby they would agree to a permanent change to the traditionally partisan redistricting process in the future in exchange for voting for this year's maps drawn the old way, under the control of legislative leaders.

"We know there is a lot of pressure on you to support such a deal, or there will be," Koch wrote in an email to the 138 legislators who signed his reform pledge during the 2010 campaign cycle.

Koch doesn't say who exactly will be applying this pressure. Unnamed aides to Governor Andrew Cuomo aides have said no deal is done, and technically, that's true.

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But Cuomo, who has demonstrated an ability to make the legislature move fast when it suits him (and once he's gotten the other two of the Three Men in a Room on board), has articulated a rationale for supporting a compromise, without going so far as to say he himself backs it. Cuomo has the power to effectively take this year's redistricting process out of the legislature's hands by vetoing the partisan lines, as he previously pledged to do.

By Albany standards, this fight is remarkably tame.

UPDATE: Micah Kellner, so far the most outspoken Assemblyman on redistricting reform, explains a technical, but important objection to the proposed compromise:

"It’s bad enough that this proposal expressly allows the Legislature to outright reject new district lines. But to add insult to injury, this amendment would enshrine partisan politics into the constitution by requiring a supermajority of only one political party to approve the lines. This proposal clearly represents a step backwards. The whole purpose of a constitutional amendment should be to remove the Legislature completely from the redistricting process."

Here's Koch's email:

Dear Senator/Assemblymember,

I write you today as one of the 138 sitting lawmakers who signed the New York Uprising redistricting reform pledge in 2010. Together, we raised the profile of an issue that will impact our state for the next decade.

Now that issue is coming to a head.

There have been many discussions of a deal, wherein the same old gerrymandering will be allowed to impact our state for at least ten more years. In exchange, the process would begin for passing a constitutional amendment that would govern the next round of redistricting in 2022.

I urge you not to support this deal. A constitutional amendment is worthy of support on its own, of course, but not at the expense of improved lines now. That is only good for the people who are counting on Albany staying exactly the way it is for another decade, but most New Yorkers think that's far too long. Voting for anything less than a 2012 independent commission would violate the pledge that so many lawmakers signed and campaigned on.

We know there is a lot of pressure on you to support such a deal, or there will be. But if you still stand by your original pledge, as we hope you do, you should oppose it. And if it passes anyway and Governor Cuomo vetoes it, we hope you will sustain that veto.

I hope you will oppose the deal and/or sustain the Governor's veto if given the opportunity -- please let me know.

All the best.

Sincerely,

Ed Koch

Founder, New York Uprising