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Citizens Union Praise Deal, Chide Legislators
March 15th, 2012

Citizens Union and The League of Women Voters New York are out with a press release praising the constitutional amendment that would change the redistricting process. Critics say the amendment codifies gerrymandering. Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation the Citizens Union’s sister organization.

In their joint statement CU and LWV praise the amendment but voice their pleasure about how the vote took place. They thank the Governor and legislation leaders, “for reaching agreement on establishing lasting structural reform to the states redistricting process. Given the long standing resistance to enacting redistricting reform and the high stakes involved, we applaud them in finding common ground on an issue that is at the core of political power in Albany and results in the legislature giving up power in the drawing of lines.”
But note that it came at a price:
“Though this is a substantive victory for reform, it is tarnished because the process that produced this welcomed outcome occurred during a night where in typical Albany fashion nothing was agreed to until everything was agreed to. Achieving reform through middle of the night voting and limited debate on such an important issue is not the way we would have wanted to see redistricting reform realized.”

Here is the full release: Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 15, 2012, 11:50 am
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany,Governing | 13 Comments »

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No Presser For Cuomo?
March 15th, 2012

After a typical Albany late night/early morning where a number of major pieces of legislation were rushed to the floor for a quick vote with little or no debate Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not seem to be in a rush to get in front of a gaggle of reporters.

Cuomo’s plan of attack includes two radio appearances–one with his favorite messenger–and a “video message” to New Yorker’s which I assume will be available here later today.

“Approximately 10:07 AM Governor Cuomo will be a guest on Live from the State Capitol with Fred Dicker. The show can be heard streaming live at www.talk1300.com.

Approximately 11:06 AM Governor Cuomo will be a guest on The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter. The show can be heard streaming live at http://www.wcny.org/temp-stream.html.”

By on March 15, 2012, 10:46 am
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Demographics,Eye on Albany,Governing | 3 Comments »

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Deals Done in the Dark
March 14th, 2012

If Albany has changed under Gov. Andrew Cuomo the Senate Democrats haven’t noticed. Debate on the legislation that determines district lines and is supposed to guarantee voter enfranchisement began around 10 p.m. on Wednesday night. Sen. Michael Gianaris, an outspoken critic of LATFOR’s lines and the proposed Constitutional Amendment that will change the redistricting process 10 years from now, pointed out that debate on the important issue began in typical Albany fashion– late at night and after a rush of last-minute deals.

Even the most novice Albany observer knows that legislative leaders tend to come to agreements, brief their conferences quickly and then get the legislators into conference to vote on the deals before support erodes or public opinion solidifies against the legislation.

Gianaris also pointed out that this trend has not changed under Cuomo–the Governor some say has done away with Albany dysfunction. Gianaris further noted that the late-night push on redistricting, legalizing casino gambling, a DNA database, and teacher evaluations came during Sunshine Week–a week set aside to honor transparency in government.

After debating Sen. Michael Nozzolio about the lines and having a testy exchange where Gianaris asked, “Have you no shame?” Nozzolio seemingly joked that Gianaris probably liked the lines that were up for a vote better than LATFOR’s original lines that combined his district with a fellow Democrat. Finally in exasperation Gianaris told Nozzolio that in his mind the lines were equally bad and told Nozzolio he could take them both and, “Shove it!”

Republicans attempted to close debate at 11:36 p.m. Sen. Daniel Squadron objected saying that 2 hours had not passed and debate should continue. Republicans ruled his point was out of order. Squadron appealed to the chair. Sen. Sampson rose and talked about respect and decorum. He mentioned that redistricting happens only 10 years and appealed for more time to debate the legislation. “Where’s the respect and where’s the decorum?” asked Sampson.

By on March 14, 2012, 11:38 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany,Governing | 12 Comments »

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Gianaris: "Have You No Shame?"
March 14th, 2012

Sen. Michael Gianaris just asked Sen. Michael Nozzolio “Have you no shame?” after being prompted to ask a question while talking about his disdain for LATFOR’s lines. The presiding member stopped the discourse to remind legislators of “decorum.” But Nozzolio said although the question was “insulting.” He was “proud” of his work on LATFOR. The debate continues here.

By on March 14, 2012, 10:37 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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The Amendment Deal is Official
March 14th, 2012

From Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office comes the official news:

GOVERNOR CUOMO, MAJORITY LEADER SKELOS, AND SPEAKER SILVER ANNOUNCE LANDMARK AGREEMENT TO BEGIN PROCESS OF AMENDING STATE CONSTITUTION TO ALLOW CASINO GAMING IN NEW YORK

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced a landmark agreement to begin the process of amending the state constitution to allow casino gaming in New York. Legalized casinos have the potential to create thousands of good-paying jobs while keeping the tourism and revenue that accompany gaming here in New York State.

“By taking these important first steps to legalize casinos we are finally confronting the reality that while New York is already in the gaming business, we need a real plan to regulate and capitalize on the industry,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is a process that will ultimately put thousands of New Yorkers to work, drive our economy, and help keep billions of dollars spent by New Yorkers on gaming in the state.”

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said, “I am pleased we have reached an agreement to move forward with a constitutional amendment that will give New Yorkers a say on whether we expand casino gaming in New York State. I thank Senator John Bonacic for his leadership, and look forward to negotiating the details of the implementing legislation prior to putting it out to the voters in 2013.” Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 14, 2012, 10:18 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 4 Comments »

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Senate Debating Lines
March 14th, 2012

Sen. Martin Dilan is currently grilling Sen. Michael Nozzolio on LATFOR’s work drawing district lines. Nozzolio is a co-chair of LATFOR and Dilan serves as a member. You can watch the debate here.

By on March 14, 2012, 9:49 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Citizens Union Offers Amendment FAQ
March 14th, 2012

The Citizens Union and League of Women Voters have offered up a FAQ detailing what the proposed redistricting constitutional amendment would achieve, how the new commission would work, and who would be eligible to serve on it. Both groups are advocating the passage of the amendment but with that caveat it is a helpful read for those looking for a detailed breakdown. Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union’s sister organization Citizens Union Foundation. Here is the FAQ:

Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Reform Redistricting
1. What does the proposed constitutional amendment accomplish?
In summary, it would replace the current Legislative Task Force for Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) redistricting process with an independent commission whose appointees are evenly divided between majority and minority parties. For the first time ever, unaffiliated or third party members would be included in the redistricting process. There will be two co‐executive directors selected by a majority vote of the commission with the rest of the staff being hired by the directors, marking the first time the staff is not hired by the majorities.
The amendment also codifies for the first time in the state constitution additional important criteria for drawing lines. The principles of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA), which are increasingly facing threat of retrogression in the courts and Congress, are added to the state constitution, preserving the rights of language and racial minorities. Lines would be prohibited from being drawn to favor or disfavor incumbents, political parties or candidates. Communities of interest are recognized for the first time as a criterion for drawing lines.
The voting procedures and thresholds for passage of a redistricting plan by the independent commission and the legislature varies depending on which parties control each house of the legislature. Supermajority votes are established to prevent dominance by one political party or majority parties in both the commission and the legislature for approval of district lines.
The proposed amendment breaks new ground in transparency by requiring software, data and maps to be provided to the public, allowing for independent analysis and the creation of maps by the public.
It also establishes firm deadlines for the different stages of the redistricting process to ensure that lines are established in a timely manner and delays in drawing maps do not disadvantage challengers running against state legislative or congressional incumbents.
These important changes would be made permanent through the passage of a constitutional amendment. The proposed amendment will be accompanied by a statute which will provide insurance against the amendment not achieving second passage and place an additional constraint on the legislatures ability to amend the lines proposed by the commission.
1
Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State Page 2 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Redistricting Constitutional Amendment
1. How is the ten‐member independent commission (the Commission) appointed?
Each of the four legislative leaders appoints two members, and two additional members are appointed by a vote of not less than five of the original eight members. These two additional members must not have been enrolled in either of the two major political parties in the preceding five years. For the first time, the redistricting process includes equal representation among the four legislative leaders and appointees not of the Republican and Democratic parties.
Current Process:
LATFOR is comprised of six members, with two each from the majority parties in each house with only one each from the minority party, effectively giving the majority parties full control of the process, ignoring the views of the minority parties.
2. Who can serve?
Rules prohibit those with conflicts of interest from serving on the Commission including no person who has served in the last three years as a New York legislator, statewide elected official, member of congress, and spouses of the preceding groups, legislators staff, lobbyists, state officers, state employees, or party chairs. To the extent practicable, the appointments should reflect the diversity of the state and result from consultation with outside groups.
Current Process:
Four of the six members of LATFOR are legislators.
3. How does the Commission approve a redistricting plan? Will an even‐numbered Commission create gridlock?
A supermajority vote seven out of ten votes by the Commission is required to send a redistricting plan to the legislature, which can be passed by majority vote of the legislature, encouraging collaboration and cooperation. If control of the legislature is split between the two major parties, the plan must have at least one vote from each of the two major party appointees. If the legislature is controlled by one party, those seven votes must include at least one vote from the appointments of each of the four legislative leaders to ensure that there is no major party dominance. If no plan gets seven votes, the plan with the highest number of votes goes to the legislature, but approval of such a plan requires at least 60 percent approval in the legislature.
Current Process:
The members of LATFOR appointed by the majority four of the six control the process and draw the lines with little to no input from the appointees representing the minority parties. Those lines are then provided to the legislature and passed by the majority party controlling each house.
Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State Page 3 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Redistricting Constitutional Amendment
4. What additional voting procedures ensure inclusion of the party out of power in case one party controls both chambers?
In order to protect against one‐party dominance in the drawing of lines, if one party controls both houses of the legislature, approval of a plan requires a 2/3 affirmative vote in each house.
Current Process:
A simple majority is required for any district plan provided by LATFOR. Consequently the majority parties in each house completely control redistricting from drawing the lines to passing them.
5. What criteria must be considered by the Commission?
In addition to requiring contiguous and compact districts, and nearly as maybe equal in size districts to the extent practicable, for the first time the state constitution will include criteria that require:
that districts shall not be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents, particular candidates or political parties;
consideration of communities of interest in drawing district lines;
protections for racial and language minority groups in the drawing of district lines consistent with the Voting Rights Act, ensuring those protections remain regardless of what happens at the federal level; and
an explanation by the Commission if the legislative districts are not equal in population.
Current Process:
LATFOR must first follow federal law which requires adherence to the Voting Rights Act and the creation of state legislative districts whose populations are within 5 percent of the average size district. The constitution also requires that districts be contiguous and, as is practicable, compact, and provides that counties and towns cannot be divided under certain circumstances.
There are currently no prohibitions in the state constitution that prevent lines from being drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents, particular candidates or political parties. Nor are there provisions that require communities of interest to be considered as a criterion for drawing lines.
Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State Page 4 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Redistricting Constitutional Amendment
6. Does the legislature get to draw the lines if it votes down the Commissions plan?
The legislature can only amend the lines if the Commissions plan(s) fail to achieve legislative approval after two up or down votes without amendments, but the legislature is restricted to changes that adhere to the criteria in the constitutional amendment. An accompanying statute will further restrict the legislature to making changes that affect not more than two percent of the population of any district.
Current Process:
There are no restrictions on their ability of the legislature to amend the plan, which is essentially guaranteed passage, as the majorities of the legislature control LATFOR.
7. What process is there for public input?
The amendment requires 12 hearings across the state ensuring public input in line‐drawing. It also requires the provision of maps and data to the public in a form that allows for independent analysis and the development of alternate redistricting plans.
Current Process:
There are no requirements for hearings, although LATFOR has held them voluntarily. There are no requirements for maps and data to be provided to the public, although LATFOR has provided maps and some data but not done so in a form that is easily accessible by the public or facilitates development of alternate plans. LATFOR has not made software for drawing maps available to the public.
8. Why has there not more been public input on the constitutional amendment?
Various proposals have been introduced in the legislature through the years and have been the subject of input by the public, including good government groups and civil rights groups. Redistricting has been the subject of hearings in both the Assembly and Senate for the past several years, and the issue has been covered extensively in the media. Constitutional amendments must be voted on twice by two successively elected legislatures, and then passed at the ballot box, providing for more review and giving the public an opportunity for participation in this reform.
Current Process:
The degree to which hearings are held on bills varies. The constitutional amendment, because it requires a vote by a second legislature in 2013, will have much more time for review than a typical bill.
Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State Page 5 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Redistricting Constitutional Amendment
9. What assurance is there that the amendment will be passed again in the next legislative session?
Citizens Union and the League, as well as the Governor, have conditioned support of the constitutional amendment on passage of an accompanying statute that will put in place a statutory version of the amendment if it does not achieve second passage. This statute would also contain a restriction on legislative amendments to the lines on third passage, allowing no more than two percent of the population of districts proposed by the Commission to be changed, which will go into effect regardless of whether the legislature passes the amendment twice.
Current Process:
Not applicable.
10. If this constitutional amendment is passed, how would New York rank among the 50 states in how it conducts redistricting?
We believe that this will put New York in the forefront of redistricting reform, particularly among states that cannot achieve reform through publicly initiated referenda. Most states leave redistricting completely in the hands of the legislature. Even in Iowa, which has been a model for independent redistricting, the legislature has final approval of the lines.
Current Process:
In the majority of states, the legislators directly draw the lines. New York has an advisory body, LATFOR, an entity that exists in law to advise the legislature on line‐drawing. Because four of six of its members are legislators it is essentially legislators drawing their own lines. Consequently, New York is not even close to being a leader in independent redistricting.

Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Reform Redistricting

1. What does the proposed constitutional amendment accomplish?

In summary, it would replace the current Legislative Task Force for Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) redistricting process with an independent commission whose appointees are evenly divided between majority and minority parties. For the first time ever, unaffiliated or third party members would be included in the redistricting process. There will be two co‐executive directors selected by a majority vote of the commission with the rest of the staff being hired by the directors, marking the first time the staff is not hired by the majorities.

The amendment also codifies for the first time in the state constitution additional important criteria for drawing lines. The principles of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA), which are increasingly facing threat of retrogression in the courts and Congress, are added to the state constitution, preserving the rights of language and racial minorities. Lines would be prohibited from being drawn to favor or disfavor incumbents, political parties or candidates. Communities of interest are recognized for the first time as a criterion for drawing lines.

The voting procedures and thresholds for passage of a redistricting plan by the independent commission and the legislature varies depending on which parties control each house of the legislature. Supermajority votes are established to prevent dominance by one political party or majority parties in both the commission and the legislature for approval of district lines.

The proposed amendment breaks new ground in transparency by requiring software, data and maps to be provided to the public, allowing for independent analysis and the creation of maps by the public.

It also establishes firm deadlines for the different stages of the redistricting process to ensure that lines are established in a timely manner and delays in drawing maps do not disadvantage challengers running against state legislative or congressional incumbents.

These important changes would be made permanent through the passage of a constitutional amendment. The proposed amendment will be accompanied by a statute which will provide insurance against the amendment not achieving second passage and place an additional constraint on the legislatures ability to amend the lines proposed by the commission.

1

Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State Page 2 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Redistricting Constitutional Amendment

1. How is the ten‐member independent commission (the Commission) appointed?

Each of the four legislative leaders appoints two members, and two additional members are appointed by a vote of not less than five of the original eight members. These two additional members must not have been enrolled in either of the two major political parties in the preceding five years. For the first time, the redistricting process includes equal representation among the four legislative leaders and appointees not of the Republican and Democratic parties.

Current Process:

LATFOR is comprised of six members, with two each from the majority parties in each house with only one each from the minority party, effectively giving the majority parties full control of the process, ignoring the views of the minority parties.

2. Who can serve?

Rules prohibit those with conflicts of interest from serving on the Commission including no person who has served in the last three years as a New York legislator, statewide elected official, member of congress, and spouses of the preceding groups, legislators staff, lobbyists, state officers, state employees, or party chairs. To the extent practicable, the appointments should reflect the diversity of the state and result from consultation with outside groups.

Current Process:

Four of the six members of LATFOR are legislators.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 14, 2012, 6:01 pm
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Waiting For a Deal
March 14th, 2012

Albany is in a holding pattern as legislators seem to be hammering out a deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that could wrap up redistricting, Tier 6, the DNA database and perhaps the budget. Senate Minority Leader John Sampson issued this statement decrying linking redistricting to other issues:

Rumors are swirling that, in true Albany fashion, the awful redistricting provisions have been tied to the creation of Tier VI. If this is true and both are allowed to move forward, we will be disenfranchising minorities while simultaneously eliminating retirement security for working families in a classic Albany backroom deal. Senate Democrats will not be party to these cynical maneuvers.

By on March 14, 2012, 5:15 pm
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Against the Amendment
March 7th, 2012

Democratic legislators continue to hammer away at possible compromise deal on redistricting that would include a constitutional amendment. A constitutional amendment wouldn’t permanently change the redistricting process until the next process 10 years from now and would require passage by two successive legislatures.

Assemblyman Micha Kellner slammed the deal in a statement.The proposed redistricting deal is unfortunately more politics as usual. This partisan pact, which would amend the state constitution to create a lawmaker-appointed 10-person panel to draw district lines, keeps in place the hyper-political process of allowing politicians to draw their own districts, choose their own voters and serve their own self-interests,” read Kellner’s statement.

Meanwhile , Common Cause/ NY is also out with a statement pushing for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto district lines rather than to come to a deal.

“As Common Cause/NY has repeatedly stated, reform in this redistricting cycle now lies with the Governor’s veto pen. It’s very simple: the Special Master has provided a legal and fair alternative to the Legislature’s political maneuvering, which would give New Yorkers the democracy they deserve now. A constitutional amendment is not interchangeable with reform in this cycle, and must meet certain standards in order to constitute real reform. Common Cause/NY won’t speculate on press reports about the proposed amendment. However, if and when a bill is introduced we will evaluate it against strict criteria to determine whether it is worthy of support.,” said Susan Lerner.

Meanwhile, Citizens Union continues to push for an agreement that would avoid a veto and “create permanent change”. Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union’s sister organization the Citizens Union Foundation. Kellner’s full statement is after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 7, 2012, 2:57 pm
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Groups React to Master's Congressional Maps
March 6th, 2012

Roanne Mann, the special master assigned to create the state’s congressional lines should the Assembly and Senate fail to come to a compromise, released her maps today. Reaction has flooded in from interested parties across the state. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters the lines could be a foundation for compromise. Common Cause hailed the maps as “fair. ” Citizens Union used the opportunity to push for a legislative deal that would change the redistricting process permanently through a constitutional amendment.

The Times Union notes that CU’s release goes into an astonishing amount of detail about a possible deal. “Intriguingly, the statement goes into great depth discussing the under-construction constitutional amendment detailed in Fridays TU so much depth that one would think it had already been rolled out with a Red Room presser featuring Gov. Andrew Cuomo, legislative leaders and representatives from Citizens Union, whose members have been most vocal in pressing for the constitutional change as thus far described,” reads the Times Union post.

Meanwhile Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters that he has yet to see the maps.

Perhaps most interestingly is the analysis of the city’s lines by the American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy. Take a look at their breakdown after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 6, 2012, 6:18 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 3 Comments »

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Judge Sets June 26 Primary
January 27th, 2012

If there wasn’t enough going on regarding redistricting this week the whole sordid affair got a kick in the pants thanks to U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe who has ruled that unless that state takes legislative action all of New York’s future federal non-presidential primaries will be held on the fourth Tuesday of June. Groups in favor of independent redistricting have been concerned for months that Gov. Andrew Cuomo might not want to veto LATFOR’s district lines because it could send things into chaos right before a possible Spring primary. That Spring primary is now a reality barring any action from the legislature. If the legislature does not act New York will have three primary dates: the June primary for House and Senate races, the April Republican Presidential Primary and the September Senate and Assembly Primary.

Sharpe wrote:

“Notwithstanding any current state law or administrative procedure to the contrary, New York shall conduct its 2012 non-presidential federal primary election on a date no later than 35 days prior to the 45-day advance deadline set by the MOVE Act for transmitting ballots to the States military and overseas voters, i.e., at least 80 days before the November 6, 2012 federal general election. In 2012, that date shall be June 26, 2012.

In subsequent even-numbered years, New Yorks non-presidential federal primary date shall be the fourth Tuesday of June, unless and until New York enacts legislation resetting the non-presidential federal primary election for a date that complies fully with all UOCAVA requirements, and is approved by this court.”

Notwithstanding any current state law or administrative procedure to the contrary, New York shall conduct its 2012 non-presidential federal primary election on a date no later than 35 days prior to the 45-day advance deadline set by the MOVE Act for transmitting ballots to the States military and overseas voters, i.e., at least 80 days before the November 6, 2012 federal general election. In 2012, that date shall be June 26, 2012.
In subsequent even-numbered years, New Yorks non-presidential federal primary date shall be the fourth Tuesday of June, unless and until New York enacts legislation resetting the non-presidential federal primary election for a date that complies fully with all UOCAVA requirements, and is approved by this court.
By on January 27, 2012, 4:53 pm
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McEneny:Cuomo Was the Hold up
January 27th, 2012

LATFOR co chair Assemblyman Jack McEneny told Liz Benjamin of State of Politics last night that LATFOR delayed releasing its lines yesterday by the request of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

You can get the full interview and event timeline over at State of Politics.

As Liz points out–Cuomo spoke to the press earlier in the day and insisted he hand’t seen the lines and was not ready to comment. After the lines were released Cuomo’s spokesperson issued a statement saying that “At first glance,” the Governor would likely veto the lines.

Cuomo has seemingly done his best to avoid actually saying he will veto the lines this year.

Cuomo, when pressed, did state numerous times last year that he would veto unfair lines but he has yet to make a firm public statement this year–redistricting was absolutely absent from his delivered State of the State remarks. It looks like the back-room wrangling for more significant redistricting reform and a constitutional amendment will continue. Meanwhile the public will get a chance to weigh in on LATFOR’s lines at a series of public hearings. The first hearing will take place in Albany on Monday at 10:30 a.m., on Tuesday LATFOR will be in the Bronx and Wednesday in Brooklyn. Check out the full schedule here.

By on January 27, 2012, 10:21 am
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McEneny Defends LATFOR
January 26th, 2012

Albany Assemblyman Jack McEneny, who also happens to co-chair LATFOR, issued a statement defending the maps issued today. Maps that the New York Public Interest Research Group called the most gerrymandered in recent history. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he would veto these lines if they stay as they are.

Here is McEneny’s statement:

“The Assembly plan released today by the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) is the culmination of a months-long process to reshape New Yorks electoral map based on shifts in population that have occurred over the last decade. Our proposal is responsive to the many individuals across the state who offered oral or written testimony to the Task Force.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 26, 2012, 5:09 pm
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Cuomo Would Veto Lines
January 26th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spokesperson Josh Vlasto says that lines released by LATFOR today are unacceptable.

At first glance, these lines are simply unacceptable and would be vetoed by the Governor. We need a better process and product.

Earlier today Cuomo said he would let the process “play out” but apparently the Governor did not like something he saw in these lines.

By on January 26, 2012, 4:45 pm
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Dadey Responds to LATFOR's Maps
January 26th, 2012

Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, says he still wants Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto LATFOR’s district lines, “If fairer lines are not created for 2012 and there is no structural reform.” Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation the sister organization to Citizens Union. Senate Democrats were taken aback by Dadey’s recent interview with Jimmy Vielkind of the Times Union where it seemed Dadey was giving Cuomo room not to veto the lines. Dadey told Vielkind: “A veto is no guarantee that there will be fairer lines for 2012, and we wouldnt get any structural reform, he said. Weve always wanted the governor to use his veto threat to achieve reform, not to have these lines go into court. What does that get us at the end of the day? It doesnt get us what we want structural reform.

Dadey told me: “I stand by what I said to Jimmy, but we expect if fairer lines are not created for 2012 and there is no structural reform the Governor should keep his veto promise. Citizens Union has always been about structural reform.”

The structural reform would likely be a constitutional amendment for the 2022 redistricting process. I asked Dadey if he would settle for one over the other–just improved 2012 lines or just structural reform and he had this to say:

“I cant imagine a scenario where we dont get changes in 2012 and structural changes. They go hand in hand.”

Dadey made it clear that he is not happy with LATFOR’s proposed lines.

“What is clear is these maps are gerrymandered. That is what we get when legislators are left to draw their own districts. It makes the case of why we need permanent change and why the Governor should use his veto promise to get fair lines.”

Dadey said the Senate’s lines were particularly offensive.

“It is just abhorrent that somehow four Democratic incumbents are being forced into districts in interest of creating opportunity minority districts when nothing has changed on Long Island to create a minority opportunity district.”

By on January 26, 2012, 4:30 pm
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UFO or 63rd Senate Seat?
January 26th, 2012

The 63rd Senate seat created by Senate Republicans looks uncannily to me like the evil Reaper spaceship from the popular Mass Effect video game series. It sweeps down from Montgomery County slices away half of Sen. Neil Breslin’s Albany County district, swallows Green County and its tentacles stab into the top of Ulster.

But I suppose that is a rather insignificant observation when you look at what New York Public Interest Group’s Bill Mahoney has to say about the proposed maps as a whole.He says, the Senate’s maps are, “clearly the most gerrymandered lines in recent New York History.” He provided this statement and statistical breakdown to back up his claim. Check it out. Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 26, 2012, 4:09 pm
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LATFOR's Maps Are Out
January 26th, 2012

LATFOR has posted their proposed district lines for 2012. Both the Assembly and Senate maps are available here.

Senate Republicans have issued a statement defending their lines and the 63rd Senate District their maps create. Of the 63rd seat the statement says:

” The plan adds a 63rd Senate seat, as required by the formulas under Article III of the State Constitution. That seat is located in the Capital Region and Upper Hudson Valley, which experienced the largest percentage increase of population growth in the state since the 2000 U.S. census.” This seat is the one that Assemblyman George Amedore is expected to run for.

The statement calls the process by which the lines were created, ” open and transparent.”

Here is the full statement from Senate Republicans: Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 26, 2012, 2:18 pm
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Waiting on The Lines
January 26th, 2012

All week LATFOR members have told the press that they should expect the new district lines any day now. In fact Assemblyman Jack McEneny has given a time and date a few times only to have the lines not be made public. The most recent expectation is that the lines will be revealed at 2 p.m..

Assembly members reportedly were emailed their lines late last night. It is unclear when Senate Republicans will reveal their maps. Some details have leaked out and it looks like the maps could be majorly disruptive to a number of upstate incumbents including Sen. Neil Breslin, Assemblymen Bob Reilly and Jim Tedisco. The Times Union reported that Breslin’s district could be cut in half to create the 63rd Senate seat in an effort to allow Republican Assemblyman (and reality TV star) George Amedore to run for the Senate. Breslin predicted to the Gazette late last year that the lines would be decided in a court battle and that the Giants would win the Super Bowl.

The Republican announcement could be tied to negotiations with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about a constitutional amendment to institute non partisan redistricting for the next go around–in ten years. One has to wonder if they have waited til Thursday to release the lines, why they wouldn’t just wait until Friday. Friday is always the preferred day to bury unpleasant news.

Sen. Liz Krueger is getting tired of waiting and wants to know what all the secrecy is about. She released this statement: “All this week we’ve seen leaks, rumors, and a tiny trickle of information, some good, some bad, and some very, very ugly. What the public hasn’t seen is the map, even though we all know it exists. Why the holdup? It’s deliberate. The Republicans have been keeping the public in the dark, trying to manage expectations instead of letting New Yorkers see what they’ve cooked up and judge it for what it is.”

By on January 26, 2012, 1:22 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Bloomberg's Record on Poverty
September 22nd, 2011

For many months, the Bloomberg administration has boasted that as poverty rose elsewhere in the country, it remained constant here, thanks in part to his policies.

Unfortunately, he can no longer say that.

New census figures, as reported in the Times this morning, show that poverty rose more rapidly in New York City by 1.4 percentage points — than in the nation as a whole from 2009 to 2010. This brought the number of people living in poverty in the city to 20.1 percent, the highest level since 2000. Child poverty rose even more by 3 percentage points leaving three out of every 10 city children in homes below the poverty level.

A report by Alliance for a Greater New York said the situation may be even worse than those numbers would indicate because of the high cost of living in New York a luxury brand, as the mayor has called it.

Incomes across the city fell by 5 percent. But some people continue to do very well. In Manhattan the county in the country with the biggest income gap the average earning of the top fifth of the population came to $371,754,

While deploring this high level of poverty, advocates quickly responded that the figures only confirm what they see every day an increasing level of need in the city. More homeless. Longer lines at soup kitchens and food pantries. People desperate for work.

More reaction and a review of Bloomberg administration poverty policies after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 22, 2011, 5:05 pm
In category: Demographics,Economy,Gotham City,Public Finance,Social Services | 5 Comments »

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A Poorer State
September 13th, 2011

One in six New York state residents — more than 3 million people — live in poverty, according to statement by theNew York City Coalition Against Hunger on census figures released this morning.

The figure 2009-10 represents an 11 percent increase from 2007-2008, the coalition said. The numbers become particularly striking when one considers just how low an income a family must have to be seen as living in poverty - less than $18,310 for a family of three.

In its statement, the coalition anticipated a rise in poverty for New York City alone, although it noted those numbers are not yet available. In 2009, more than one in five New York City residents lived in poverty, with experts saying the level would have been higher without the federal economic stimulus program.

While critics have warned of increased need in the city longer lines at food pantries and the like — the Bloomberg administration has maintained that poverty remained relatively constant during the recession and the weak — if that — recovery.

“To a large degree, economic stimulus programs and policy initiatives aimed at bolstering family income succeeded in preventing a rise in poverty in New York City,” concluded a report issued in March by the mayors Center for Economic Opportunity.

What no one can deny, though, is that the disparity in wealth in the city has increased. The wealthiest 1 percent of city residents has 44 percent of all income in New York, nearly four times as much as they did just 30 years ago, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.

By on September 13, 2011, 11:58 am
In category: Demographics,Economy,Gotham City,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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