Posted on January 27th, 2012 Add a comment >>
In North Country Public Radio’s blog the In Box, Brian Mann describes the proposed redistricting of the New York State Senate as a naked power grab by Republicans (click here to read his post).
He writes that the plan “is really designed to do one simple thing: maintain a fragile GOP majority.” He points out that it pits six Democratic incumbents against each other in re-election races. “Meanwhile, not a single Republican lawmaker faces serious disruption or an intra-party battle,” Mann says.
In other words, it appears to be a classic case of gerrymandering.
I’m sure many of you know that the term gerrymander is derived from Elbridge Gerry, the Massachusetts governor in 1812 when that state’s Senate districts were redrawn to favor his party. One of the districts was said to resemble a salamander (though the contemporary cartoon at right depicts it as a dragon).
I looked to see if there are any salamanders in our Senate’s redistricting proposal. Somewhat surprisingly, most of the districts do not appear all that oddly shaped. Evidently, the boundaries alone do not reveal the behind-the-scenes machinations.
One glaring exception seems to be the 47th Senate District on the western fringe of the Adirondack Park. It stretches 145 miles from south of Utica in central New York to Massena on the Canadian border. At its narrowest point, in the town of New Hartford, the district is less than four miles wide.
Now represented by Joseph Griffo, a Republican from Rome, the proposed district includes eight towns wholly or partially in the Adirondack Park: Clifton, Fine, Croghan, Watson, Greig, Lyonsdale, and Forestport.
Is this an example of Griffomandering? Not really. The proposed district is not that different from Griffo’s current district, which was drawn in 2002. Nor is it radically different from the district drawn in 1992.
Nevertheless, as you might infer from the above map, it has be the oddest-shaped Senate district in the state. It sort of resembles an upside-down prawn from District 9 (the movie). Perhaps it’s been that way since 1812.
Posted on November 12th, 2009 Add a comment >>
The big story in Albany these days is the corruption trial of Joseph Bruno, the retired majority leader of the state Senate, and among those testifying this week was Betty Little, the state senator whose district includes most of the Adirondack Park.
The New York Times reports that the trial has shed light on the inner workings of the state legislature, including the doling out of pork. The following excerpt from the Times describes Little’s testimony on Tuesday. Both she and Bruno are Republicans.
In the Senate, as in the Assembly, the largest shares of this pork budget are awarded to the most senior members, like Mr. Bruno, who dole them out to nonprofit groups at home.
But it turns out that Mr. Bruno, who resigned from the Senate in 2008, might have doled out other people’s pork, too. In testimony on Tuesday, prosecutors asked Elizabeth O’C. Little, a Republican state senator whose upstate district abuts the one Mr. Bruno represented, how she became the named sponsor of two job-training grants to Local 773 of the Plumbers & Steamfitters Union, one of the many unions that invested pension money with Wright after being approached by Mr. Bruno.
Looking sheepish, Ms. Little confessed that she had no idea. In fact, she conceded, no one at the union had ever asked her for the two grants, which were for $100,000 in 2006 and $150,000 in 2007. Instead, aides to Mr. Bruno told her that the senator was interested in dispensing the grant and offered to bring her on as a co-sponsor.
Though a public disclosure form for the first grant is dated April 2006, the grant does not appear to have actually been executed until December — some months after Local 773 invested $4 million of pension money with Wright. And though Mr. Bruno and Ms. Little were both listed as sponsors of the grant, only Ms. Little signed the disclosure form.
Ms. Little was asked when, exactly, she signed it. “I don’t know,” she said.
Do you know if it was backdated? “No, I don’t,” she replied.
And why didn’t Mr. Bruno sign it? “I don’t know,” she repeated.