In 2010, New York Uprising, the good government organization headed by former Mayor Ed Koch, circulated a pledge to candidates. Many signed this pledge, which called for, among other things, an end to the partisan system of re-districting. It is beginning to look as though it might be another ten years before actual change comes to the re-districting process.
The state legislature and the governor traditionally oversee the process which happens following the census. Most of the re-districting comes from either an increase or decrease in the population in different parts of the state.
New Jersey goes about this process a little differently, with a commission of five Republicans, five Democrats, and one independent who gets chosen by the State Supreme Court Chief Justice. The process will never be completely free of biases, but it seems too self-serving to have elected politicians decide what the districts will look like.
When Republicans and Democrats draw districts, they can gerrymander the districts and make them less competitive. The result of our current system is the creation of safe districts. Democrats own many of their districts, and Republicans have their own safe seats. There will always be a few seats that are predominantly favored to one party, but an independent commission should oversee the process instead of politicians.
Last year, I attended the sub-committee mark-up meeting in Congress for the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development sub-committee. The party in the majority asked if there were any amendments to the budget, and members of the minority party (it does not matter which one) offered amendments. The amendments were then voted on. What is interesting is that the majority party not only rarely voted for an amendment, but some of the members appeared to not even pay attention, and some were text messaging while the amendments were offered. Some members of Congress and our state legislature are just too comfortable. It is perfectly fine to vote down an amendment, but to not pay attention and send text messages is not right.
New York has to establish an independent re-districting apparatus that takes some of the politics out of drawing districts. Perhaps the elimination of safe districts would bring a more respectful atmosphere where, even if both sides disagree, they at least listen to each other.
A matriarchal political figure passes on and it might seem customary to deliver praise, but in the case of Geraldine Ferraro, praise can come from many different places and for good reason.
Long before people started measuring the “Six Degrees of Separation” (or the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon), there were many people connected to Geraldine Ferraro. An entrenched New York Democrat, but not some detached liberal elitist, she fit well among the diverse and blue-collar Queens working class. She fearlessly said what was on her mind, which we know is a little dangerous when seeking national office.
A fellow Fordham alum, she was one of the many Queens residents that worked their way through college and dove headfirst into Queens politics. What Queens residents do almost better than any other population is make that American transition from immigrant or working-class citizens to college educated contributors. Geraldine Ferraro was a symbol for women and Democrats, but her most universal connection was that she built herself up, stayed in Queens (for her political life), and remained a respected political figure.
Some of our best Americans have lost elections, and that is by no means a true measure of a person. Politics was tough business in Queens in the 1970s and 1980s, and she had the scars to prove it.