Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What's Ours is Ours; What's Yours is Up for Grabs -- Latest Chapter

Recently we observed how, when local Democratic-controlled public bodies are empowered to make a decision, no one questions their authority to do so.   However, when Republican-controlled institutions are so empowered, our local chapter of the Democratic-Media Complex insists that such power be shared, or given away.

Now, still stinging from the failure of Democrats to win control of the Monroe County Legislature in 2009, the Democrat and Chronicle has begun the campaign to flip control of the Lej to its side by other means.   Specifically, by tampering with the redistricting process.

Every ten years the County Legislature appoints a District Revision Commission to recommend new County legislative district lines based on the most recent U.S. Census.

Thanksgiving weekend the paper ran pieces on consecutive days, calling on the Legislature's majority Republicans essentially to turn over their authority to appoint the District Revision Comission to "independent" outsiders.   In Saturday's paper the president of the dependably liberal League of Women Voters called on the Legislature's majority to make sure such a panel amply represents all "political communities of interest," among other recommendations that added up to this:   Republicans shouldn't get to decide.

The next day's lead editorial called for outsiders, not lawmakers, to draw new district lines.   Minority Democrats in the County Legislature recently proposed just such a change in the process.

Had local Democrats picked up the one seat they needed to take control of the County Legislature in 2009, they wouldn't be going anywhere near a proposal to change the redistricting process, which would have been in their hands.   Nor would the Democrat and Chronicle, or a dedicatedly liberal group like the League of Women Voters.

It reveals the essential fairness of the current redistricting process that, in 2009, local Democrats were just a single seat away from winning control in that year's election.   After the 2009 election the party split was 15 - 14, as it had been for two years previously.   Except for a core of monolithically Democratic districts in the City, all districts in the County Legislature are competitive.

Contrast that with the New York State Assembly, where Democrats, who control Assembly redistricting, currently hold 107 seats to the Republicans' 42.   Now, there's a place to start redistricting reform.

No majority party in any legislature in America, at any level, voluntarily relinquishes the power to redistrict.   Nor will our County Legislature's majority Republicans.

The Democratic Minority and its collaborators at the D&C know this.   Nevertheless, they'll drumbeat the idea repeatedly between now and next November, when all 29 seats in the County Legislature are up for election.   Their goal is simply to try to put the Legislature's Republicans on the defensive, and to that extent, at least, they'll succeed.

This issue lends itself nicely to several inventive ways for the Republicans to go successfully on the offensive, turning it back around on the opposition and making the legislature's Democrats wish they had never brought up the subject of changing the method of redistricting.

That, of course, won't happen.   Our County Legislature's Republicans are long on public policy smarts, but diffident when it comes to speaking up for their own side.   At least that seems to have been the pattern ever since they remained silent while Democrats walked all over them in the debate over appointment of the Public Defender a few years ago.   In fairness, this approach hasn't hurt them in elections, where they've triumphed resoundingly the last few times out.

But the opposition will try, so we may expect the Democrats and the D&C to get some traction out of this issue over the next eleven months.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention: if Republicans DID agree to some kind of panel to do redistricting, then 10 years from now, if they wanted to exercise the right themselves, the liberal interest groups would be screaming that they were "changing the process." Exactly what they did over the Public Defender selection.