This is the first of what surely will be several posts on the 2010 Census and redistricting — a hot button issue if ever there was one right now. Redistricting impacts all our legislative districts, at the county level as well as State Senate, Assembly and Congressional seats. Kudos to mid-Hudson dailies Poughkeepsie Journal and Kingston Freeman for doing the right thing and coming out with recent editorials supporting an independent, transparent and timely redistricting process that serves the people of the state, not the interests of the incumbents.
Hudson Valley State Senators Greg Ball, William Larkin and Steve Saland were among those of us who signed — prior to the 2010 elections — the New York Uprising Pledge publicly committing to independent redistricting. However, once the Republicans regained control of the State Senate, those three partisan pols quickly turned their backs on their promise to voters. It’s not just good constituent work that keeps 95% of incumbents in their jobs election after election.
The legislative districts in the Hudson Valley look like some kind of Rorschach tests. Cities are carved out of their counties and attached to districts across the river. For example, the 100th Assembly District, completely west of the Hudson, also covers the Dutchess cities of Beacon and Poughkeepsie. And the 101st Assembly District is almost completely in Ulster County, except for the Town of Rhinebeck across the Hudson in Dutchess. Go figure!
The 41st State Senate District, where I ran last year, stretches from Fishkill in southern Dutchess County to New Lebanon on the Massachusetts border in Columbia County — a distance of more than 100 miles. Inexplicably cut out — inexplicable except for the rumor that a potential challenger lived there when the district was first drawn — are the towns of Milan, Pine Plains and Northeast, as well as the eastern edge of Dutchess County. All of these towns are part of the 40th District which goes south to cover Putnam County and large chunks of Westchester.
The Hudson Valley Congressional Districts have been just as challenging to represent and to run in. In the last six years, for example, the 20th Congressional District has had four different representatives! This district includes all or part of Columbia, Dutchess, Delaware, Essex, Greene, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties — that’s 10 counties. The 22nd Congressional District, which includes all or parts of Ulster, Sullivan and Orange Counties and then hugs the Pennsylvania border into Delaware, Broome, Tioga and Tompkins Counties also includes the City of Poughkeepsie — not the town, just the city, in Dutchess. It’s hard to imagine even the hardest working legislators thoroughly covering all that ground to represent the needs of these diverse districts, and, by the way, running for re-election every two years.
Be informed! Lots of good government folks are on this issue and have joined together to form the NY Citizens Redistricting Committee. The Brennan Center at NYU Law School has issued the 2010 edition of A Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting. And on Thursday, April 28th at 7 pm the Mid-Hudson League of Women Voters is holding a Fair Redistricting Forum with NYLWV Legislative Director Barbara Bartoletti at Friends Meeting House, 249 Hooker Ave. in Poughkeepsie if you want to learn more.