Proposition One is not the best redistricting plan we can get. It is even less than a weak half-measure.
Moreover, it is another sham Cuomo Jr. era reform — like ethics reform and campaign finance reform.
Proposition One is designed by Albany legislators to defuse the persistent public demand for meaningful redistricting reform. It is just another way to create the illusion of reform while preserving the status quo.
It is completely inadequate as a reform initiative.
First, the proposed commission to set election districts wouldn’t be independent and non-partisan. Far from it. It will create a committee of 10 members, eight of whom will be directly appointed by legislative leaders. The remaining two members are to be appointed by those eight members. Consequently, no truly independent citizens will be on the committee. All members will be, in effect, the political dependents of legislative leaders in whose interest it is to retain control of the redistricting process.
In a system already rigged to benefit incumbents who cooperate with the state legislative bosses, Proposition One will further enshrine a mechanism in the state constitution that will continue gerrymandering.
Second, Proposition One is a deceptive reform of a bad system due to the provision that allows lawmakers to reject the new commission’s election map proposals. This will create a situation whereby the Legislature can still control the election district maps by creating a stalemate over committee decisions.
If the new election commission’s plan does not pass the Legislature and thereafter receive the governor’s approval, the commission must then submit a second plan. The failure to gain approval of a second plan allows the Legislature to amend the plan “as it deems necessary.” Whatever redistricting plan emerges from the commission will still be completely under the control of legislative insiders.
Third, Proposition One does not specify who is to appoint the “bipartisan” staff that would “provide for appropriations for the commission’s expenses.” That language creates a loophole for corruption that may enable legalized corruption through stipends — those monetary perks that are little more than nominally legal payoffs that can be used to reward the most cooperative committee members.
An independent commission for setting election districts — composed of citizens unattached to the political parties and the legislative leaders — is the only acceptable, common-sense solution.
Iowa and California have the model for such independent redistricting commissions. But common sense, of course, has little or nothing to do with the motives of the New York state legislators behind Proposition One. Their game is to give New Yorkers the illusion of meaningful reform while actually perpetuating the post-1894 New York state redistricting process. It is a system that shamelessly benefits incumbents, and especially benefits the legislative leaders by providing them with leverage over the rank-and-file legislators.
Hoping for any kind of real help from the Cuomo Administration is like placing trust in the Wizard of Oz.
By now it is evident that the Cuomo Administration is fully complicit with the corrupt Albany status quo on issues stretching from campaign finance reform, ethics reform and government transparency to this redistricting plan.
The proposition on Tuesday’s ballot is more of what we have already seen too much of in New York state — bogus reform that treats residents as children to be patronized and appeased, rather than as citizens to be represented by legislators accountable to the public interest.
The idea that legislative leaders in New York should exert control over the creation of election districts is just as inappropriately bizarre as the wizardry in the Supreme Court ruling that “corporations are people” with free speech rights. Both are insider arrangements constructed to lock in special influence for a very small number of people.
Let’s follow the advice of expert observers of state government like Blair Horner and Alan Chartock, who recognize this proposition to be a sham.
Proposition One is just another self-serving ploy by legislative insiders in Albany. Approval of it will not lead to a cleaner state Legislature.
L.D. Davidson lives in Amsterdam and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.