2011-09-28 / Political Page

Koch To Sue Over Redistricting

At an Assembly hearing on the state legislature’s plan to draw new legislative lines for the 2010 elections and for 10 years beyond that, former Mayor Ed Koch got into an argument with the lawmaker officiating at the hearing and threatened to go into court to block the Assembly/state senate plan.

Koch is on record as favoring an independent committee to do the redistricting so there would be no favoritism extended to incumbent lawmakers, as many think is the case now. In the past, the Democrat-controlled state Assembly would redraw its own lines and the Republican-controlled state senate would issue the senate lines. Usually, each set of lines would favor present incumbents and each body then approves the lines.

This year, there have been calls for an independent commission to do the redistricting, a method favored by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Koch and good government groups. But the two legislative bodies are empowered to do the job under existing law and there has been no sign they are willing to depart from past practices.

Cuomo has proposed an independent commission to redraw the lines, but at this point he has not taken any steps to challenge the status quo.

The governor also said he would veto partisan lines.

In an effort to get the state legislators behind his plan for a special commission to draw the new lines, Koch issued a pledge for lawmakers to commit to a commission during last year’s reelection campaigns and many signed that pledge but very many have reneged on their signed pledges.

Koch had vowed to go into court to have the present legislature-controlled plan thrown out, and the first time he declared publicly that he’ll bring the court challenge was at the Manhattan public hearing held by the Assembly, which is controlled by the Democrats.

An angry Koch declared at the hearing, (according to press reports), “Those who have signed the pledge, violated it. You’ve committed a dishonorable act and I hope your constituents hold you responsible.”

That was last Thursday evening when Koch announced he would be taking the case to court, and nothing further has been heard about it since, except for a Quinnipiac University poll taken about the same time as the Assembly hearing. The poll found 55 percent of responders do not believe Cuomo or state lawmakers will make a move to try to block legislators from redrawing the new lines once again. Also, half of those polled said they want an independent commission to draw the lines.

Legislators planning to redraw the new lines also must eliminate two present seats from the state’s congressional lines and also make Assembly and senate adjustments

because New York state’s population dropped since the present lines were drawn. Regarding the new congressional lines, plans were discussed to drop one Democratic- and one Republican- held seat.

Another unexpected development has also arisen which could upset the usual cordiality that has existed between the two political parties. That is a plan floated by Republicans to increase the senate by one member, to 63, and then add a new Republican seat, which could assure the GOP of enough votes to retain control of that body. Cuomo would certainly veto the senate lines at this point, it’s expected, and this could then grant Koch his wish as the whole mess would then be thrown into the courts.

Koch just won a major victory delving into party politics when he crossed party lines to support Republican candidate Bob Turner over Democrat David Weprin in the race for the 9th CD seat. Turner prevailed in the voting after making the charge during the campaign that Weprin supported President Barack Obama’s anti- Israeli position on the Palestine issue.

Koch emerged backing Turner and his victory in the congressional race, and then doubled the satisfaction by seeing Obama shifting over to support Israel when the Palestinian statehood issue came up at the United Nations meeting shortly after the congressional election. Let’s see if he can extend his victory streak by getting the independent redistricting commission he’s been fighting for so hard, although he’s surely the underdog battling both parties and both houses of the legislature in Albany this time.

BUSY WEEK FOR MAYOR: The headlines were splashing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s name all over the place last week, touting him as the second richest New Yorker in the city, dropping his name all over a courtroom where a political pal may have misappropriated about $1 million of his cash is going on trial, and describing his hefty push to get a weary governor to drop his hat in next year’s race to become the next president of the United States.

The mayor, in the surprising position of cheerleader, is urging New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie to get into the race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

A few years ago, the mayor was hoping some kingmaker’s would have done this for him, but missed the opportunity. Now, here was the mayor telling reporters, that Christie has been a good governor over the past two years, talking tough to get things done, and succeeding, and saying that he would be a creditable, formidable candidate.

At the same time, he was sprinkling cold water over other GOP wannabes without mentioning names, of course, but obviously talking about the two front-runners at this point, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.

Christie, who earlier in the year, took himself out of the race, now is telling everybody, he had reconsidered and is now considering jumping into the race after getting lots of encouragement from a lot of New Jerseyans. Happily, there are some major sources of campaign cash included.

Getting back to the mayor, the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans had completed its annual count, and found Hizzoner has $19.5 billion in the bank, making him the 12th richest man in the U.S. and the second richest in New York City.

We can remember when the mayor only had $18 billion in the bank, but even in these recession dominated days, our Mike was able to squirrel away $1.5 billion to jack his total up to $19.5 billion.

In a Lower Manhattan criminal court, a jury is being selected to sit in judgment of John Haggerty, the Queens politico who’s accused of bilking the mayor out of $1.1 million in 2009 to help the mayor get elected to a third term in 2009. The Manhattan district attorney says Haggerty pocketed the cash, or rather spent the cash to purchase a ritzy home in Forest Hills Gardens.

As a sidelight at the coming trial, it’s expected that the mayor may be called on to testify because there may be questions asked about whether some campaign finance laws may have been broken as the cash was passed on to the state Independence Party, who took a small share before putting the bulk of it in Haggerty’s hands.

According to press reports last week, the mayor was scheduled to give some testimony yesterday, too late for us to cover it for our editions.

CROWLEY CRITICIZES PALESTINIAN PLOY AT UN: “This is not a time for games—it is a time for sincere discussions on how to achieve real and lasting peace,” Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) declared in response to the Palestinian Authority’s demands for unilateral recognition by the United Nations.

Crowley added: “Instead of working to achieve the peace that is so desperately needed, the Palestinian Authority’s demand for U.N. recognition of statehood today appears to be a setup armed at backing Israel into a corner.”

The Queens lawmaker completed his statement by saying: “The reality is the day after any vote by the U.N., the situation on the ground will remain the same as it is today. In fact, the only change that will result is a further erosion of trust— and for good reason. Today’s action by the Palestinian Authority is more about attempting to provoke Israel than creating genuine conditions for peace.”

HEVESI PUSHING FOR CLEAN POWER/WIND FARM: A new source of clean electric power for New York City is just about 13 miles from the Rockaway Beach shoreline, and Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi (D–Forest Hills) wants the Cuomo administration to make the move to get it.

Hevesi, chairman of the Assembly’s renewable energy subcommittee, gathered up 40 other state lawmakers to sign a letter to Cuomo, urging the governor to do what he must to bring the wind farm just off the coastline in the Rockaways.

In a recent media report on the project, Hevesi stated, “If New York does not go forward at an accelerated pace, then the jobs [that would be generated by the wind farm project] are going to go to other states.”

Essentially that’s what he said in his letter to Cuomo, and added the warning that the developers are shopping this several million dollar project around and some other state might latch on to it. The project could generate many new jobs and as much as 700 megawatts of power, according to utility officials.

Meanwhile, the major power producers in this area—Con Edison, LIPA and the New York Power Authority have filed an application with the federal government to lease ocean space for the plant.

COX ASKS GOV. ABOUT POLITICAL ACTIVITY BY HIS STAFF: Showing some aggressive spirit following the party’s 9th CD victory, state GOP Chairman Edward Cox asked Governor Andrew Cuomo to clarify once and for all his policy regarding political activity by high level administration officials.

Cox recalled that when the governor was sworn in to office, he said, honor and integrity would be a hallmark of this administration. But recently, he continued, state Agriculture Commissioner Darrel Aubertine was the featured speaker at a political fundraiser sponsored by the Chemung County Democratic Committee after touring farms earlier that day holding out hope that state and federal aid will soon be forthcoming and then reported on flood recovery efforts at the political event.

Previously there was another alleged similar incident where Commissioner RoAnne Destito, Office of General Services, appeared in political mailings for a state Assembly candidate.

Cox stated, “We feel this is an inappropriate mix of official business and politics… while it may not be illegal, it does pose an ethical conflict for an administration that appropriately prides itself on transparency and high ethical standards.”

Cox concluded, “We feel it would be in the best interest of all New Yorkers for the governor to clarify his policy on political activity by his appointees and communicate it to his cabinet and to the public.”

TEA PARTY CONGRATULATES TURNER: In a short statement congratulating Congressmember-elect Bob Turner on his recent election, the Queens Tea Party said it believes the 70-year-old Breezy Point resident’s “race is a harbinger for other citizen candidates and for the demise of radical agenda of the current administration. We look forward to a brighter future for all citizens of the United States of America, the greatest country on earth.”

The Queens Tea Party said it was very proud to have supported Turner in his historic victory and to have helped in his campaign, and looked forward to assisting him in implementing his pro growth, job creation, controlling debt, a balanced budget and freedom-enhancing agenda.

The statement described itself as “an organization of patriots dedicated to America’s founding principles of limited government and individual liberty”.

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