2012-02-03 / Editorial/Opinion

Drawing Between The Lines

The state legislature sets new district lines every ten years. The criteria for the new lines, which are based on the newest Census data, are relatively simple. The New York State Constitution says that the districts should contain, as nearly as possible, the same number of inhabitants, should be contiguous and should be compact. Every ten years, our elected state officials take those three restrictions and turn out districts that do one thing and one thing only – maintain the power base of the party in power. For example, the gimmick that makes our west end district contiguous with the mainland is the A Subway line that runs from Howard Beach over Jamaica Bay and to Rockaway. And, while we have not been heavily impacted by the proposed lines for the new Assembly, the Senate is another game entirely. State Senator Malcolm Smith will no longer represent Rockaway. From our point of view, that is a positive. The eastern end of the peninsula would be in Senate District 10, which is now represented by Senator Shirley Huntley, who has just been charged with funneling money into a non-profit run by a relative. The western end of the peninsula, as well as Broad Channel, would be represented by State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. You remember him. He deserted Rockaway long before he physically left his City Council seat to become a Senator. None of those changes serves Rockaway very well. When Governor Andrew Cuomo took office, he promised that he would veto any new district map that was drawn solely with politics in mind. The maps released last week clearly are just that, and Cuomo must move quickly to veto the maps and appoint a non-political, non-partisan group to draw new lines. The Republicancontrolled Senate’s new lines are epic, with districts created to guarantee Asian winners in one district and Hispanic in another. The Assembly, which is controlled by the Democrats, did the same in its bailiwick. The timeline for getting the new districts in place becomes even more imperative because a federal judge ruled last week that the state had to get absentee ballots to our service men and women at least 45 days prior to the November 6 general election. That means the primary election will have to be held sometime in June to meet that deadline. First, however, the new district lines must be firmly in place. The judge’s ruling, which impacts the federal election calendar specifically, will have an impact on the state elections as well. Our state legislature has become the most dysfunctional in the nation. We should not allow it to continue in that way by insuring that control continues into the next decade.

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