Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch wrote an Op-Ed today to make it clear that the Senate GOP will be called out as Enemies of Reform if they support a constitutional amendment that wouldn’t take effect until 2022. Below is the op-ed written by Mayor Koch: Mayor Koch calls Dean Skelos an enemy of reform: Powerful Albany pol broke his word
Thanks to the heroic efforts of Gov. Cuomo and longtime advocates for reform in the Legislature – in particular, Sens. Michael Gianaris and David Valesky and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries – New York is finally in a position to benefit from real redistricting reform that would result in a more honest and functional state government.
Never before has there been such a strong show of support for this issue from a sitting governor and from a broad group of legislators on both sides of the aisle.
And it’s not a moment too soon: The new district boundary lines must be set in time for the elections next year, and any commission will need time to complete its work. This is not an issue of just process or abstract policy – it’s the difference between keeping things in Albany the same embarrassing way they are or starting to produce a system of elections and governance we can believe in.
No one is more acutely aware of this time constraint or the choice we face than Dean Skelos, the Senate majority leader.
Last year, Skelos signed my organization’s pledge, promising to be part of the effort to redraw district lines in a fair and rational way – to once and for all end the pernicious partisan gerrymandering that reinforces all of Albany’s worst habits.
When I met with Skelos in Albany on Tuesday to follow up on his promise, he told me he was withdrawing his support from the effort of my organization, New York Uprising, Then hours later, he released a statement proclaiming that he “wishes to pursue a redistricting reform measure that will meet the Uprising pledge.”
What was going on? Does the majority leader support this initiative or not?
According to Skelos, his withdrawal from the Uprising pledge was based on his belief that independent redistricting through legislation is unconstitutional. And so in our meeting, as in his statement, he advocated a state constitutional amendment instead.
Unfortunately, that’s merely a diversion on his part. A red herring. Sand in your eyes. It’s also a surprising argument from him, since he never raised it during the several times we spoke when he signed the pledge to fight for independent redistricting. Neither did any of his colleagues when I stood with them on the campaign trail.
Indeed, last year Skelos sent a letter accompanying his pledge (available at nyuprising.org). It stated: “Our Republican conference supports . . . independent redistricting in line with what your organization is calling for.” The pledge is very specific in its requirements for independence. And the pledge is very specific in calling for legislation to pass this year.
Here’s the problem with a constitutional amendment: It’s too late. To pass one in New York, it first would have to pass both houses of the Legislature this year. Then, the same amendment would have to pass both houses again sometime after the next legislature is seated in 2013. Then, it would be put to a popular vote as a statewide referendum.
That means any constitutional amendment is probably five years away. The same old, same old system would apply until the next redistricting in 2022, and New Yorkers would have to endure another 10 years of a government that gets away with being unresponsive to their interests. We can’t wait that long. New York is a mess now.
Even Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver – who I still believe is one of the ablest people in Albany despite withholding support from Uprising’s election-year efforts – met with me in the Capitol to tell me that he will work to pass an independent redistricting bill in time for the 2012 elections. He intends to offer several amendments. That’s part of the democratic process.
Our partner, Citizens Union, and its executive director, Dick Dadey, and virtually every other good government organization supports independent redistricting and believes that it’s constitutional. So does our reform-minded governor, who made it a cornerstone of his proposed redistricting legislation, and has said repeatedly that he will veto any proposed redistricting that is not independent.
So even if Skelos truly differs on this major point, if he truly supports the principle of independent redistricting, and if he intends to uphold the promise he made, then he should work to pass the governor’s bill. Let the courts decide whether it’s constitutional.
Legislators who wish to pursue redistricting reform that will meet the Uprising pledge must support legislation that would produce independent redistricting in time for the election next year. Any legislator who supports a constitutional amendment – to the exclusion of the governor’s bill – is simply seeking to run out the clock, and will be described by me as an Enemy of Reform in a message to be brought to his or her constituents.
Koch, former mayor of New York, is the founder of New York Uprising.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2011/03/03/2011-03-03_mayor_koch_calls_dean_skelos_an_enemy_of_reform_powerful_albany_pol_broke_his_wo.html#ixzz1FZq6Y0QC
Read the full article here.