Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, who declined to run for re-election this year, took great interest in our earlier post about the pushback among D.C. Democrats for the the Koch/Cuomo independent redistricting panel idea commission.
He sent over a long email with some thoughtful analysis and historical perspective, parts of which we reprint below. His opinion on the matter, needless to say, is decidedly mixed.
On Queens County Congressman/Party Leader Joe Crowley’s statement that it would be unfair if only New York engaged in non-partisan redistricting without other state following suit:
Crowley ought to know that Iowa has had an independent redistricting commission for awhile. Iowans don’t seem to think they are at a disadvantage. As a county leader, Crowley will have a major influence on how his CD is drawn.
On Jose Serrano’s statement on so-called “political bosses” who helped enfranchise Hispanics:
Serrano seems to have forgotten that it was the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its amendments in the 1970s that lead to the creation of minority voting districts, not the good graces of party bosses. The seat he holds was created in 1972. I was further taken aback by his statement leaving out mention of the black community. The struggle for black voting rights and political representation paved the way for puerto ricans and other latinos.
I forgot that Joe became a reformer after Bronx party boss Stanley Friedman reneged on a promise to support his bid for Bronx Borough President in 1985. Black and puerto rican political activists organized and when necessary filed suit for the creation of minority districts. He wasn’t too happy, when in 1982, Concourse Village, a large predominately black Mitchell-Lama co-op was placed in his Assembly district (I was assigned to campaign there with him on Primary Day). And in 1992, Concourse Village was redistricted out of his congressional district. It was restored in 2002. And could very well be appended to Rangel’s district in 2012.
On redistricting and independent commissions and district that cross county lines:
I don’t support an independent redistricting commission because I don’t believe the state legislature should cede its authority in fulfilling a federal mandate to an unelected commission. BTW, Serrano has a compact and contiguous district. It’s the only Bronx congressional district that is entirely within the Bronx. Crowley has a Bronx-Queens district. [Congressman Eliot] Engel represents a de facto majority-minority, city/suburban district that runs through the Bronx, Westchester and Rockland. I was a plaintiff in the suit against the Engel district because it violates the spirit of the VRA (the courts thought otherwise). That will all change in 2012 as the NY congressional delegation is whittled down from 29 to 27 districts.