Ed Koch calls out ‘enemies’ of redistricting reform

ALBANY — New York Uprising, led by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, on Tuesday named 42 legislators “Enemies of Reform” for reneging on a pre-election pledge last fall to support independent redistricting.

“Today is retribution day,” Koch said in a conference call with reporters. “We are going to hold accountable those people who signed pledges that they would support legislation that would set up an independent commission to do the redistricting.”

The so-called “enemies” include 31 senators and 11 members of the Assembly. All are Republicans except for Assemblyman William Scarborough of Queens, a Democrat. A total of 138 lawmakers and candidates signed the pledge last year.

“These are people who I believe deserve the title of dishonorable,” said Koch, who also called them “miscreants.”

New York Uprising this week started making 100,000 robo-calls to the lawmakers’ constituents — roughly 3,000 per Senate district and 1,000 per Assembly district. Koch recorded the calls, which conclude by giving the constituents a chance to be transferred directly to the legislator’s office. Koch also encourages constituents to vote against the lawmakers in the 2012 election.

Redistricting is done every 10 years based on population shifts in the U.S. Census. Traditionally, it is controlled by the political parties that are in control of the Senate and Assembly with the goal of protecting that power.

Senate Republicans are supporting legislation that would amend the state constitution to include a requirement for non-partisan redistricting. But the bill would have to be passed by two separate Legislatures and then go to the voters. There is not enough time for that to be in place for next year’s redistricting process.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, has said he doesn’t support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal for a redistricting commission because he doesn’t believe it is bipartisan.

Koch disputed that argument, saying that under Cuomo’s bill, Democrats and Republicans each would have four appointments to the commission. The governor would have four appointments, and he has agreed to give the two GOP appointments to Skelos.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, is sponsoring Cuomo’s bill in the Assembly.

Skelos spokesman Scott Reif said Senate Republicans have already passed legislation to reform the redistricting process, fulfilling the pledge.

Other Republicans disputed Koch’s claims too.

Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, said he is “a fervent agent of reform” on redistricting. State officials should implement “a fair, objective, impartial computer-generated model for redistricting that is constitutionally sound” and would minimize variation among districts, he said.

And Assemblyman Sean Hanna, R-Mendon, said in a statement that he is “fulfilling (his) pledge to reform the redistricting process” by co-sponsoring a different redistricting bill, though a state website does not list Hanna as one of A03432’s sponsors. Hanna said Koch’s bill advances a “New York City Democratic agenda.”

Koch said he met last week with Cuomo, who reiterated his pledge to veto any legislation that doesn’t provide for an independent commission. The issue could end up in the courts if that happens.
Good-government groups announced they plan to hold public forums, including:

On Thursday, Citizens for a Better NY and the League of Women voters will be in the district of Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, Seneca County.

On May 12, Citizens for a Better NY, the League of Women Voters and the Interfaith Alliance of Rochester will make presentations regarding the following lawmakers — Nozzolio, Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece; Alesi; Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County; and Hanna. CLMATTHE@Gannett.com

If you go

The League of Women Voters and the Center for Governmental Research will host a public forum on redistricting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Brighton Town Hall, 2300 Elmwood Ave. A redistricting map for the Monroe County Legislature will be presented, one that does not take into account voters’ political registrations. For more, go to http://www.lwv-rma.org.

‘Enemies’ list

These are the Rochester-area lawmakers named by New York Uprising to its “Enemies of Reform”:
Assembly: Sean Hanna, R-Mendon.
Senate: Michael F. Nozzolio, R-Fayette, Seneca County; James S. Alesi, R-Perinton; Joseph E. Robach, R-Greece; Catharine M. Young, R-Olean; Patrick M Gallivan, R-Elma, Erie County; Michael H. Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst; George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County.

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