[This came to us by way of our old friend in New Paltz Pete Healey, former Green and founder of the PR (Proportional Representation) Party. Pete had intended to testify in the Bronx on January 30 at the public hearing on redistricting, but (as you’ll read) ran into some difficulties. Welcome to the Bronx, Pete.]
January 31, 2012
Please accept these written remarks in lieu of the public comment I intended to present at today’s hearing in the Bronx. I dropped my son early in the AM at Laguardia Airport and drove to the Bronx intending to wait for the 3PM start time for your public hearing. After an extortion attempt by an employee of a private parking lot, who wanted “lunch money” in addition to the advertised parking fee for the day, and after driving past several closed private lots near Yankee Stadium, and then not being able to find any street parking that would last more than an hour, I gave up and went home. The following will substitute for the prepared remarks I wanted to give in person to your task force:
It’s hard to believe we waited six months for this result. I could have done as well with two large state maps and a pair of scissors! Did you really spend $1.5 million or more on this effort? Why? It’s clear that the Governor intends to veto any maps that are as bad as the ones we’ve been living with for the last ten years, and in response you created two maps that are even worse? Is that legislating, or is it more properly called brinksmanship, or is this just part of the overall decline in your abilities? I’m sorry that this commentary must be so uniformly negative but there is nothing from my perspective in all of these maps that warrants a positive response. Ulster County currently has six state legislators representing various portions of the county, only one of whom is currently resident in the county. The proposed maps would give us seven state legislators, and none of the districts drawn by your task force would be wholly contained within the county (nor would the entire county be contained within one Senate district, in fact four Senate districts would slice the county like origami).
The timing of your hearings leaves much to be desired, with less than a week after publication of the new maps before the hearings begin. While I offered Ulster County as a site for one such public hearing when I visited you in Albany last summer, again the closest you come to us here is 75 miles to the north or 75 miles to the south, and each of these hearings gves me less than a week to prepare, and to take time off from work.
Just three weeks after the Governor declared that the days of “dysfunction” in Albany are over, you have put this term back on the lips of anyone and everyone who observes the capability and performance of the state legislature.
You wanted people to withhold judgment until they could see the “results” of your work. Well, it’s nearly unanimous, and that’s not a term often used for New Yorkers’ opinions. The only questions left are how to change the result and who will do it? When will the Governor veto and will it be in time to hand off to the courts and/or a “special master”? Should the legislature be trusted to write a constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission in the future? I can only answer by saying that any “solution” created by a court or special master, or even by negotiation with the legislature, be a temporary solution, only for the purposes of this years’ election cycle. I would add as well that a long-term solution shouldn’t be written by any of you all, given your recent history. I want to call yet again for a constitutional convention, called either for general or specific limited purposes, to allow the people themselves to decide how they will elect their representatives.