I’m so very tired of these hacks and has-beens, these ineffectual buffoons, dragging one of the greatest states in the nation down into the trenches of mediocrity. So very, very tired.
I’m talking, of course, about our esteemed State Senators – all of them – who collectively comprise the foulest carnival of corruption and ineptitude in the developed world. And I say this after having lived in New Jersey for four years, circa Jim McGreevey.
And the worst part is that these jerks have put me in a particularly uncomfortable position: agreement with Former Mayor Ed Koch. (Okay, it’s far from the worst part. But it’s still uncomfortable.)
Koch is the face of New York Uprising, a non-partisan political action group formed in April to belittle, embarrass and shame Albany’s spineless shlubs into supporting legislation to reform redistricting. As it’s done now, whichever party is in power gets to gerrymander, ensuring that their party remains in power until the maps are redrawn 10 years later. Koch supports legislation that will create a nonpartisan committee that will draw up the districts.
According to Koch, gerrymandering is one of the key tools used by incumbents to insulate themselves as much as possible from the public, sparing them the repercussions of their incompetence.
In Senate testimony he offered last month, he explained how it works:
“The main reason the legislature is dysfunctional is that the deck is stacked against the voters and stacked for the incumbents. When a citizen these days says he or she doesn’t vote because his or her vote doesn’t count, it’s hard in all conscience to tell him or her they’re wrong. As shocked as I am to have to say it, all too often, his or her vote really doesn’t count. Districts are drawn to make sure that the incumbent wins reelection in the general election. Opposition candidates rarely win. You need only look at the paltry turnover rate in this Legislature to see that there is no real competition for most seats – less than three percent.”
“By “creative” line drawing, party majorities in districts are ensured and racial and ethnic majorities could be marginalized. On occasion, candidates have been written out of their home districts to be made ineligible to run for office in the district they have heretofore lived in and represented. Neighborhoods with questionable loyalty to the party majority are cut out and put elsewhere.”
If you think Koch is exaggerating, just consider this quote from Senate President Malcolm Smith during a Democratic conference, “With the Democrats in control of the State Senate, we are going to draw the lines so that Republicans will be in oblivion in the state of New York for the next 20 years.”
Here in Southern Brooklyn, you can see how the districts have been drawn to support the two incumbents – Senators Marty Golden (red) and Carl Kruger (blue). It doesn’t take much to realize that they’ve looked at it on a block-by-block basis and gave Golden the blocks dominated by white Catholics, while Kruger’s are predominantly Jewish, immigrants and minorities.
And since we’re talking about Kruger, he and his “amigos” appear to be top targets for Koch:
I ask each to describe Albany in a word. “Corrupt,” says [Mark Botnick, Uprising's director of field operations].
“What’s the word? … I’m a little deaf,” Koch says.
“Corrupt,” Townsend says.
“I would use that or another word,” Koch says. “Slobs. When I first got involved with this, I said, ‘We’re going to throw the bums out, because the good aren’t good enough and the bad are evil.’ ” But his fellow PAC members had friends in Albany they wanted to keep. So he has a new, edited line to throw at reporters. “We’re going to give the good guys the backbone to stand up.” There’s a difference. “I don’t say anymore, ‘Throw the bums out.’ ”
But which bums was he referring to? “Well, we know there were three rats,” he says, meaning Democratic state senators Pedro Espada Jr., Ruben Diaz Sr., and Carl Kruger, who revolted last year. “I can easily substitute the term bum for rat.”
But Koch’s Uprising isn’t the only group out there looking to exterminate the rats. Two other recently formed groups are aiming to turn power back over to voters – Reboot NY and Unshakle Upstate – while five good government groups – the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens Union, Common Cause NY, League of Women Voters/NYS and N.Y. Public Interest Research Group – have organized to address Albany reform.
It begs the question, will they be able to affect change this election year? Moreover, New York has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the nation. Is meaningful reform even possible without voters paying attention to the state’s political woes?