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Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch speaking to reporters.
Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch speaking to reporters.

Senators accused of breaking redistricting pledge

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Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who now leads a reform group, has declared the Leader of the State Senate "an enemy of reform", and says Senators have broken a pledge to carry out non partisan redistricting. Koch also says he's teaming up with Governor Andrew Cuomo to pressure lawmakers over the issue. Karen Dewitt reports.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Former Mayor Koch and his group New York Uprising, convinced numerous state lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, to sign a pledge during the last election campaign, saying that, if elected, they would pursue non partisan redistricting reform. 

Now, Koch says, Skelos is breaking that promise because Senate Republicans prefer to pursue a constitutional amendment to reform the drawing of legislative and congressional district lines. That process would not be completed until well after the 2012 deadline for the new lines, meaning there would be no end to gerrymandering for another decade.

“At this moment, he is an enemy of reform who has betrayed his integrity by refusing to carry out his written pledge agreement,” Koch declared.

Koch says he will begin robo calling voters in as yet- unnamed Senators’ districts, just in time for the start of spring break, when legislators will be home to face questions about the calls.

“They’re very cheap,” Koch said.

Senator Skelos, in a pre-emptive letter sent to Koch, says the GOP has made an “honest” attempt to fulfill their pledges, and says Senators have constitutional concerns about passing law without a corresponding change to the state’s constitution. Skelos says he’s disappointed that Koch’s “well meaning crusade” for public reform has “devolved into a series of increasingly bitter personal and partisan attacks”. 

The Senate Leader points out that during the two years the Democrats controlled the Senate chamber, they never acted on a redistricting reform bill at all.

A spokesman for Skelos, Scott Reif, said after Koch spoke that “these attacks don’t serve the public well, nor do they advance our shared goal of redistricting reform”.

Koch also held a meeting with Governor Cuomo. The governor has introduced a bill for bi partisan redistricting reform and has repeatedly said reforming the drawing of legislative lines is a top priority. Dick Dadey, with the government reform group Citizens Union, was also at the private strategy session.

“The public meeting will be an opportunity for him to restate in a very strong way his commitment not only to this legislation but also to veto lines drawn in a partisan way,” said Dadey.

The former mayor says Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is not off the hook, either. 91 Assembly Democrats and Republicans have co sponsored Cuomo’s reform bill, and Koch says his group will meet with the Speaker to request a floor vote as soon as possible, saying “you are giving Skelos an out”.

Governor Cuomo has said for some time now that he won’t permit the legislature to draw gerrymandered lines this time around. He says he’ll veto any plan that is not neutral.  It’s likely that there will not be enough legislators to override any veto, so lawmakers will have to either agree to non partisan redistricting or take their chances with a court appointed special master, which Koch calls a “dicey” proposition.

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