Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who now leads a reform group, declared the Leader of the State Senate "an enemy of reform," and said senators have broken a pledge to carry out non-partisan redistricting.
Koch and his group New York Uprising convinced state lawmakers — including Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos — to sign a pledge during the last election campaign that said, if elected, they would pursue non-partisan redistricting reform.
Now, Koch said, 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 said.
Koch said he will begin robo-calling voters in yet-unnamed senators' districts — just in time for the start of spring break, when legislators will be home to face questions about the calls.
Skelos, in a letter to Koch, said the GOP has made an "honest" attempt to fulfill their pledges and that senators have constitutional concerns about passing law without a corresponding change to the state's constitution. Skelos said 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 pointed out that during the two years the Democrats controlled the Senate chamber, they never acted on a redistricting reform bill at all.
After Koch spoke, a spokesman for Skelos, Scott Reif, said "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 Andrew 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. Ninety-one Assembly Democrats and Republicans have co-sponsored Cuomo's reform bill, and Koch said his group will meet with the speaker to request a floor vote as soon as possible, saying "you are giving Skelos an out."
Cuomo has said for some time 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.