One of the key plans of Ed Koch’s reform effort, NY Uprising, is taking redistricting power out of the hands of legislators by creating a non-partisan redistricting commission.
The way redistricting works now is that legislators, usually in the majority party, take out a map and a pen and decide who they will represent. Ending this practice is a priority for good government groups and for the New York Times. But several New York Democrats who serve in Congress are nervous about the plan, and fearful that Democrats will lose seats if the politics are taken out of the equation. And less seats for Democrats in New York could mean a big shift nationally, since Democrats now occupy 27 of the state’s 29 seats.
In an interview earlier today, Serrano noted his misgivings about the plan:
It always sounds good to say an independent commission. But to those of us who were there at the beginning of the struggle, for instance, for the Puerto Rican community to gain political recognition, it was much better we thought to go to the political leaders who are not Puerto Rican and say, ‘Look we have grown in numbers. We have registered so many people, we want a piece of the American dream, the political dream.’ And so many of the gains Puerto Ricans and Latinos made in those days were not based on any independent commission saying, ‘Gee you guys deserve this.’ It was the so-called political bosses realizing what they had to deal with. Now I know that sounds terrible to some people but I am both a modern man who learned a lot in the old school, and at times when it comes to issues like redistricting I’d rather deal with somebody who knows the district they are drawing than somebody who thinks that you can just draw a box. I mean these guys who get a bad rap in the old days for being political bosses. They knew that the Irish were here, the Puerto Ricans were there, the Jews were over there, the Italians were over there. And they knew that they had to spread the political wealth around. Some of these commissioners are not going to do that. Is it a good reform? Yes. Does it sound good? Yes. But I am nervous about what the results will be.
Serrano is not listed on Koch’s website as having signed the pledge, but then again, only five sitting members of Congress have, and each of them have serious primary or general election challenges. And it is worth noting as well that some probably have not signed since as members of Congress they are not the ones who draw the lines. Rather, it is members of the legislature in Albany.