Do you think there's a celebrity somewhere who'd be interested in taking on redistricting?
I know it's quite a lift. But if there was ever a good cause that needed some glamour, this is it. The redistricting reformers have Ed Koch, but one 88-year-old ex-mayor doesn't seem sufficient to attract mass appeal.
At issue are the new maps of districts for the state legislature, which the existing legislature has drawn to make sure the status quo stays status.
Still with me? Wow, thanks.
This is why we need a celebrity. Granted, gay rights or hunger in Africa are far more compelling causes. Even hydrofracking is more exciting. But I swear to you, redistricting is important. New Yorkers are Americans, and we ought to have the right to elect our lawmakers in contests that haven't been fixed by a bunch of incumbents with a good computer program.
I don't suppose this is the sort of thing Lady Gaga would be willing to take up, though we could fall on our knees and pray for her intervention. We do have a heck of a lot of celebrities in New York. There must be somebody who's looking for an orphan cause. Jon Stewart? If he can make this amusing, they'll have to give him a Lifetime Achievement Emmy.
Here's the political scenario: The New York Republican party desperately needs control of the State Senate. It's all they've got, and since the voter registration is wildly tilted toward the Democrats, they can only keep it by drawing the Senate boundaries in the most creative way possible.
For instance, the new plan takes Rochester, a city that's 42 percent black, and divides it into three different Senate seats, each with enough white suburban and rural voters to tilt them to the Republicans.
Unfair, yes. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
The plan, drawn by the Senate Republicans themselves, actually adds a new district, increasing the size of the Senate from 62 to 63. (Just what New York needed -- another state senator.) And that additional seat is going to be located in... Albany County. It's hardly the center of population growth, but there does happen to be a favored Republican who would enjoy running.
(Somebody glamorous must be willing to take the lead. Jennifer Lopez has a house in the Hamptons. She could go back to the Bronx for a "Don't Divide Up the Block to Help Republican Incumbents" rally. Granted, the lyrics may need some work.)
The people who drew up the maps are, of course, unashamed. State Senator Michael Nossolio of Finger Lakes, the Republican co-chair of the reapportionment task force, told the New York Times: "For every detractor, I'm sure there's also someone who's supportive."
Only if the survey was done entirely among the families of incumbent legislators.
Why didn't the Democratic Assemblyman who served as the other co-chair stop this charade? Because the Democrats in the Assembly only care about protecting Democrats in the Assembly. They gerrymandered their districts, too. However the Assembly's so overwhelmingly Democratic, no one cared.
Except, maybe, the voters. At least we should care. Chances are very good your representative in the Assembly is a hack, a brain-dead lifer, or an aspiring crook, who's going to get a free ride to re-election thanks to the map-makers. Yes, yes, there are fine public servants in there, too. But they could actually win re-election in a competitive contest.
(Alec Baldwin is interested in public affairs. Maybe he could get the cast of 30 Rock to demand a re-draw.)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he'd veto any new map that wasn't drawn by an independent, bipartisan commission. The legislature ignored him completely, since for an incumbent New York state legislature, an independent, bipartisan commission is more terrifying than Al Qaeda crossed with Somali pirates crossed with vampires.
The governor hasn't backed off his veto threat, but Cuomo has a long wish list he'd like from the legislature, including heavy lifts like pension reform and casinos. I've always wondered if he wouldn't be tempted to trade the things he really wants for the one thing the legislature wants above everything else in the world: totally corrupt district boundaries.
Don't let us down, governor. We'll send the reapportionment reform celebrities to get you. Maybe the Olsen twins could make it a fashion statement.