Guest Columns

Recent Congressional Redistricting Saga Was Government at it Worst

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By George F. Calvi

As a voter I am supposed to be thrilled at the recent news that the state legislature has finally decided on new voting district lines.

Frankly, my feelings are one of disgust. The census was in 2020, and it took until the first quarter of 2024 for our state to decide on the lines. There is a part of me that says let bygones be bygones and move on. But there’s another voice that says what occurred was outrageous and should not be allowed to happen again.

Outside of our state legislature, every organization must deliberate in order to meet rigid deadlines. In local government, for example, if a village budget is not adopted by May 1 each year, then the village must live with the revenue and expense line items of the prior budget.

This is a very fair arrangement. After all, the filing of the tentative budget on Mar. 20 provides almost six weeks for the elected officials to deliberate until the final budget is approved, which in my humble opinion is more than enough time.

The state legislature should be held to the same short leash. Once the census data is available, the folks in charge of drawing the voting district lines ought to be granted no more than six months to accomplish their task. None of this is rocket science, and could easily be accomplished once removed from the political realm.

Something has to change. I firmly believe that major civic groups ought to be at the forefront of generating that change. A statement must be made in very firm terms that the shenanigans exhibited by the legislature over redistricting will no longer be tolerated and that legislators must perform the jobs they were elected to do in a timely fashion. If they cannot, they should step down and allow for those who can.

I recognize that I may be chasing windmills but I think it is high time that our legislators, particularly our local state legislators, understand that they must not take us, the electorate, for granted. Rather, we are their watchdogs with high expectations for good government.

If we have to make local state legislators uncomfortable when they make visits to our associations, municipal halls and other venues, so be it. Their visits are not supposed to be lovefests. If they don’t like it, they need to grow a thicker skin. I cringe when I see and hear so many people fawn over visiting state legislators, as if they were movie stars, telling them what a wonderful job they are doing in Albany particularly when a) they’re not, and b) they vote for such inane things like congestion pricing.

Perhaps as health inspectors inflict grades upon restaurants, some of our civic groups ought to be rating our state legislators on their performance, and publishing those findings. Long story short, we just cannot continue to permit things to continue as they are.

Speaking of shenanigans, we have a bitterly contested primary coming up between County Executive George Latimer and incumbent Congressman Jamaal Bowman. Recently, the Independent Redistricting Commission provided a new set of lines. It was promptly rejected the following Monday by the Assembly speaker in Albany. I can only guess because the lines were not adjusted to the speaker’s satisfaction.

I also guess that because the head of the commission just happens to be the deputy Westchester County executive, the Assembly speaker didn’t like that either. Lo and behold, three days later the Assembly adopted its own lines that suspiciously look exactly like the lines that were rejected on Monday, except for a few key tweaks.

And what was the most blatantly obvious tweak? The northeast corner of the Bronx, specifically Co-Op City, that would have supposedly favored the incumbent, was carved out and exchanged for an enclave in the north central Bronx, specifically Wakefield, that allegedly would have favored the challenger.

In simple terms, the speaker spearheaded an effort to give the incumbent an advantage over the challenger. This is hardly good government. In fact, it is an example of bad government at its worst. And we should all be crying foul.

Valhalla resident George F. Calvi is the former village manager in Ardsley.

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