Mar 2nd - 2:27 pm
I suggested last night that Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. is not alone in his opposition to the congressional redistricting plans proposed by the Senate and Assembly – but particularly with the Democrats’ map, which breaks the borough into five different districts instead of its current three.
Assemblyman Carl Heastie, chair of the Bronx Democratic Party, issued a statement this afternoon that he said was on behalf of the entire Bronx delegation – from Rep. Jose Serrano, the only House member whose district is 100 percent in the borough, on down – expressing their “utter disappointment” with the LATFOR House maps and urging the special master to reject them.
“While paying respect to traditional redistricting principles like, maintaining the existing cores of districts, making districts compact and contiguous, respecting municipal boundaries and avoiding contests between incumbent Representatives, the crafters of the Assembly Majority’s plan failed in one aspect – paying respect to the residents and communities of the Bronx,” the statement reads.
“While maintaining the existing cores of districts and avoiding contests between incumbent Representatives are respectable goals, these principles should not dominate the responsibility we have to the people of our borough. With all due respect to the proposed leaders expected to serve the residents of the Bronx, we believe that the natural way to empower the residents would be to place as many as possible in common districts, instead of dividing up their communities between 5 districts. Bronx residents deserve better than be designated as minorities in the minority. ”
“In fact, we are regarding said proposals as a slap in the face, intent on weakening the growth and unity of the electorate.”
The Bronx officials, all of whom are Democrats, pledged to neither “stand for such treatment, nor retreat,” adding:
“(T)he Bronx in itself is the personification of what the law deems a community of interest. We urge the special master to disregard these unfair proposals and create districts that keep our communities together, empower Bronxites and not relegate them to second class status.”
Comments and alternate maps can be sumitted to the special master, US Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann, until midnight tonight. Mann has scheduled a public hearing for Monday. Legislative leaders are hoping to be able to vote Monday on their redistricting plans – at the very least, on the tweaked Senate and Assembly lines, which are currently in bill drafting, according to Assemblyman Jack McEneny, but perhaps a House deal as well, if they can agree on a second seat to eliminate.
Time is running out for lawmakers to introduce redistricting bills in time for them to undergo the three-day aging process and be ready for a vote Monday. I believe midnight tonight is the deadline for that, too.
It seems highly unlikely that Gov. Andrew Cuomo would provide the Legislature with a message of necessity to circumvent the aging process, but maybe – just maybe – if they get a deal on a constitutional amendment, that could change.
Mar 1st - 9:41 pm
Now that lawmakers have had some time to digest the House maps filed with the court late last night by the Assembly and Senate majorities, they’re starting to register their discontent with the proposals.
Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., who has been outspoken about his desire to see a Latino-majority district in the Bronx – perhaps one that he might even run for himself, released one of his signature “What You Should Know” statements this evening and delivered a scathing critique of both legislative plans.
While neither plan is a “pretty picture, according to Diaz Sr., the senator directed the worst of his verbal wrath at a fellow Democrat, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, calling his conference’s proposal “by far the very worse of the two, dividing the Bronx into 5 parcels.”
“Speaker Silver’s disastrous proposal shows once again that he has no respect for the people of the Bronx and its Bronx Assembly Delegation,” Diaz Sr. continued.
“(It is amazing that we quietly think that it’s the Republicans who “hate” us and are always against us, but I invite you to take a look at the facts and let them speak for themselves).”
“Speaker Silver’s divisive proposal includes the following changes to the Congressional districts – reminding me of how those in power divided land into parcels back in the Reconstruction Era:”
“Congressman Eliot Engel’s district is to include 20 percent of the Bronx; Congressman Charles Rangel’s district in Manhattan is to include 20 percent of the Bronx; Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s district in Westchester County is to include 5 percent of the Bronx; a new district to include approximately 30 percent of the Bronx and the rest to be shared with Queens County; and Congressman Jose Serrano’s district to include 100 percent of the Bronx, but with a lower Latino population in his district.”
A source familiar with the Assembly’s plan told me Serrano has, in fact, seen the population in his district decline by a whopping 12 percent.
This actually seems to take the Bronx backwards, particularly when you consider the fact that the borough grew by some 100,000 people over the past 10 years – a fact that might lead one to the conclusion that it deserves more than one member of congress to entirely call its own.
The Bronx currently has three members of Congress: Engel (44 percent), Serrano (100 percent) and Rep. Joe Crowley (60 percent), whose desire to get out of the borough and expand his district in his home base is Queens, where he is the Democratic Party chairman, is well known.
Rangel’s district presented a significant problem for the Assembly Democrats, as Bronx Democratic Chairman Carl Heastie and Manhattan Democratic Chairman Keith Wright have been warring over the weighted vote – a significant issue when it comes time to select a successor to the veteran Harlem congressman.
Heastie reportedly accused his Assembly colleague of trying to “colonize” the Bronx. It seems from the Assembly’s congressional plan that he’s got a point, since the borough looks like to was reduced to little more than a Democratic voter feeder pond for surrounding House members.
Diaz Sr. wrapped up his missive by calling these lines a “disgrace” and “the most gerrymandered…in recent New York history.”
He urged his fellow Bronx lawmakers – particularly those in the Assembly – to vote “no” on the Democrats’ plan, should it come to the floor, and to do so “out of respect for the people of the Bronx, out of respect for themselves, and out of respect for their districts.”
According to a knowledgable Democratic source, Diaz Sr. is not alone in his displeasure. Other Bronx Democrats have voiced their disapproval with the Assembly’s plan to the Democratic leadership.
Roanne Mann, the magistrate judge assigned to oversee the state’s redistricting process, has called a public hearing for Monday. But legislative leaders are holding out hope that they’ll reach a deal and be able to start passing their own plans by then.
Assemblyman Jack McEneny told Nick Reisman this evening that agreement has been reached on the tweaked Assembly and Senate lines are in bill drafting, and optimistically predicted they’ll be ready for a vote by Monday.
(They’ve got to hustle to allow for the three-day aging process; I’ll be surprised if Gov. Andrew Cuomo issues a message of necessity).
McEneny’s GOP LATFOR counterpart. Sen. Mike Nozzolio, was slightly more circumspect when I asked him during a CapTon interview tonight about a Monday vote.
Meanwhile, sources say the Assembly and Senate have re-started talks about trying to reach a deal on the House lines (recall that they agree on eliminating retiring Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s district, NY-22, but diverge on how to deal with the second seat New York must lose).
CapCon reported tonight that there are definitive talks – and some yet-to-be-agreed on details – taking place on a constitutional amendment that would overhaul the redistricting process for the next line drawing in 2022.
Feb 28th - 5:09 pm
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement this afternoon that however the redistricting process shakes out, the political and electoral power of the borough should not be infringed.
Diaz is siding with fellow Bronx political leaders in an ongoing internecine fight between Manhattan Democratic chief Keith Wright and Bronx Democratic chair Carl Heastie.
“New congressional district lines should mirror the success that has occurred in the Bronx. Emerging new and well-established communities should not be divided to dilute their growing electoral power.
“We will not stand for any plan that would slice the Bronx into many small pieces. For decades, the Bronx has had at least one Congressional district entirely within its borders, and this should not change.
“With that in mind, our current Voting Rights Act district, represented by Rep. Jose Serrano, must be respected and remain wholly within the Bronx. Both Rep. Serrano and Rep. Eliot Engel are lifelong Bronxites who have represented parts of our borough for their entire careers. If the Bronx were to lose their collected seniority in Washington—and the clout that comes with it—it would do our borough tremendous harm.
Wright wants to move the district currently represented by Rep. Charlie Rangel in Harlem further north into the Bronx. Heastie, in turn, has been accused of trying to consolidate power in the borough by keeping one Congressional locked into the Bronx.
Wright is reportedly interested in succeeding Rangel, 81, when he retires.
The redistricting process for Congressional lines is now going before a court-appointed special master, who is trying to pull together a map within the next two weeks.
Jan 18th - 8:19 am
Former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. and his son, Pedro G., were indicted yet again for allegedly bilking hundreds of thousands of dollars from their healthcare network, Soundview, which received both federal and state funding.
The superseding indictment that appears below was handed down late yesterday.
It adds two counts of false statement (basically allegedly the former Bronx lawmaker lied to the federal government about profits realized by a janitorial services company he and his son had set up to contract with Soundview and his own compensation) to the litany of charges the Espadas are facing – all of which they deny.
Arraignment will be next Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 5 p.m.
Jan 12th - 1:40 pm
Mayor Bloomberg, who reportedly was taken by surprise by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State announcements on eradicating the fingerprint requirement for foodstamps and building the nation’s largest convention center/casino at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, is getting his revenge this afternoon.
In the State of the City address he is delivering right now in the Morris High School campus in the Bronx, Bloomberg sides with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – going so far as to mention the Manhattan Democrat by name – in the speaker’s call to raise the minimum wage in New York.
“The minimum wage is another way to help those who can only find jobs with entry-level wages by incentivize and reward work,” Bloomberg says, according to a copy of his prepared remarks (which appears below). “Like the EITC, it helps those who are trying to help themselves. But setting the minimum wage is also a balancing act – setting it high enough so people can get by on it without having a negative economic impact.”
“Right now, I believe, we are slightly out of balance. The genius of the free market is not always perfect. Two of our neighbors – Connecticut and Massachusetts – have raised their minimum wage above the Federal standard to address higher costs of living.”
“And so while we would prefer the Federal government to act to keep us competitive, this year, we will join Speaker Shelly Silver in pushing for a responsible raise in the minimum wage. Our city just cannot afford to wait for Washington. Not when it comes to illegal guns, not when it comes to climate change, not when it comes to creating jobs and not when it comes to raising the minimum wage.”
To see Bloomberg siding with Silver – the man who helped kill two of his pet projects, the West Side stadium and congestion pricing – is pretty significant, although their relationship has improved, policy-wise, in recent years.
Neither Silver nor Bloomberg has gotten along terribly well lately with Cuomo, who has taken more of an interest in NYC affairs than his immediate predecessors. The institutional tension between the NYC mayor and the governor has escalated since Cuomo took office last January, a development due in part to the stark differences in style and political ideology. In short, Cuomo embraces political wheeling and dealing, while Bloomberg disdains politicking, even as he engages in it.
Silver reportedly struck a nerve (at least with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos) by outlining a detailed agenda – including the minimum wage hike – during his remarks before Cuomo’s State of the State. His relationship with Cuomo became even more strained this week over teacher performance evaluations.
UPDATE: It should be noted that Bloomberg gave Cuomo a shout-out for the passage of same-sex marriage, while also crediting his own policy advisor, John Feinblatt, whose wedding to partner Jonathan Mintz, Bloomberg officiated at Gracie. He also said he wants to work with the governor on pension reform. Also worth mentioning: There’s nary a word in the prepared speech about Aqueduct and the nation’s biggest convention center.
Jan 5th - 1:34 pm
Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., one of the few lawmakers who hasn’t been shy about publicly voicing his criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (and pretty much anyone else – and there are many – with whom he disagrees), had some rare words of praise for his fellow Democrat after the governor delivered his second State of the State address yesterday.
“He’s a good preacher; he preaches better than I do,” a jovial Diaz Sr. said. “He should become a rabbi or a priest or something.”
Since Cuomo is an Italian Catholic, becoming a rabbi would be a real trick. Diaz Sr., as you’ll recall, is a Pentecostal minister.
In reviewing Cuomo’s speech, the Bronx lawmaker also managed to get in a dig at another fellow elected official he often singles out for criticism: Mayor Bloomberg.
“Education, I hope, I honestly say this, I hope that he could do better than Bloomberg because what he said today he’s going to do, Bloomberg said that he was going to do that,” the senator said. And Bloomberg was a fiasco in education. So I hope that Governor Cuomo means what he said and that our children will finally, finally our children will get someone to defend them.”
UPDATE: Now that he has had more time to think about Cuomo’s speech, Diaz Sr. has apparently found more he doesn’t like. He released a statement expressing his “ardent” disagreement with the governor’s call to expand casino gambling in the state and also to expand the statewide DNA database to include anyone convicted of a felony or penal law misdemeanor. (Specifically, Cuomo said he wants NY to become the first state to collect DMA on “all crimes”).
“Governor Cuomo has already legalized gay marriage,” Diaz Sr. said. “Now he wants to legalize casino gambling. What’s next – legalizing prostitution and marijuana and drugs – all in good ‘faith’ to make money to raise tax revenues for the State?”
The senator’s full statement appears after the jump.
Dec 29th - 2:41 pm
Talk of stretching veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel’s historic Harlem-centric district to include parts of the Bronx and Westchester has touched off a nascent power struggle between two NYC Democratic county organizations.
A Bronx Democratic source said it’s not sitting well with his side that the lines of NY-15 might be manipulated northward to maintain Rangel’s so-called “black” district, making up for the steady increase of Hispanic voters in its current confines, while letting Manhattan retain control.
According to this source, there’s talk – and a plan floated by the NAACP – that NY-15 would be carefully redrawn to maximize black voters, but also keep the Bronx’s share less than Manhattan’s, percentage-wise.
That would enable Manhattan to determine the Democratic designee in regularly scheduled elections and select the candidate in a special election – should Rangel someday decide, as has been widely speculated for years now, to retire mid-term and try to hand-pick his successor.
This source was prompted to call by our CapTon post on Rangel’s recent Pura Politica interview with Juan Manuel Benitez, during which the congressman mentioned the proposed changes to his district and expressed frustration with Gov. Andrew Cuomo for confusing redistricting process with his consistent talk of a veto.
“There’s no guarantee he would have support in the Bronx,” my source said. “We just don’t know him. It would be new territory for him, a large amount of new territory.”
Rangel has already signaled his intention to seek yet another term next year, although he’s likely to face several primary challenges – again.
But the fight brewing here is really more about who comes after Rangel, and who would have the most control over either selecting that successor or boosting a favored candidate.
It’s no secret that Manhattan Democratic Chairman/Assemblyman Keith Wright is interesting in running for Rangel’s seat when the veteran congressman finally calls it quits. He clearly stands to gain if the committee he controls has the ability to choose a special election candidate or vote for the party’s designee in the primary.
UPDATE: Jeffrey Wice, a redistricting attorney who is working for state Senate Democrats, emailed the following:
“Voting Rights Act requirements and the need to maintain an effective minority district will determine how this district will be redrawn.”
“The district will need to be redrawn in a way so that the minority communities will be able to elect their candidate of choice. This will require weighing African-American and Latino voting histories to determine the most effective way to comply with the law.”
Dec 8th - 2:35 pm
Not to be confused with an adult Christmas, which could be interpreted to mean something else entirely – something altogether unlikely for the minister/state lawmaker who is co-hosting this celebration.
A reader forwarded this invite to a Dec. 23 party being thrown by Assemblyman Marcus Crespo and Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. Two things strike me right off the bat:
1) The very large – and bright red – NO CHILDREN – directive at the bottom right-hand corner. Why anyone would want to bring a child to a party that starts at 8 p.m. and lasts until 2 a.m. is another question entirely, but this pretty unusual, and not something you generally see from elected officials (especially not during the holidays).
2) This invite makes no attempt at political correctness, not only are children not welcome, but this this is a CHRISTMAS party – no “holiday” celebration here.
Oct 6th - 4:40 pm
…is another’s mark of true success.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Bronx Democrat, sent out a press release today to tout the fact that he finished close to dead last in his chamber in the state Conservative Party’s annual legislative rankings. The party awarded him a 16 percent rating based upon his vote on 24 key bills.
Dinowitz voted “yes” on extending unemployment benefits, legalizing same-sex marriage, raising the maximum retirement age for judges, mandating microstamping of ammunition for semiautomatic pistols, requiring backseat passengers under 16 to wear seat belts, providing health insurance coverage to domestic partners, extending of a domestic violence prevention law, prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, forbidding smoking in playgrounds, and suspending the issuance of new permits for hydrofracking.
The Conservative Party opposed all of those bills.
“I believe the Conservative Party is wrong on most issues,” Dinowitz said. “Their extremist positions are not shared by most Bronxites. Receiving a 16% rating from them is a badge of honor. I only wish it could have been even lower. I hope to do something about that in the 2012 legislative session.”
Aug 12th - 2:05 pm
ICYMI: Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a frequent critic of the federal Secure Communities program, expressed significant “disappointment” during a CapTon interview last night with the Obama administration’s reversal on allowing states to opt out.
S-Comm, as it has come to be known, compels local law enforcement officers to share information about new arrests with federal immigration authorities. The goal is to deport illegal immigrants with criminal records. Instead, critics mantain, the program has largely impacted individuals who have committed either no offenses or relatively minor crimes.
In June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo heeded the calls of immigrant advocates and law enforcement officials and suspended New York’s participation in S-Comm, although he did not completely withdraw from the program.
Two other governors – Deval Patrick, of Massachusetts; and Patrick Quinn, of Illinois – also quit S-Comm. (PAtrick’s move was particularly interesting, since he is the country’s only black governor and shares a political strategist, David Axelrod, with Obama, the country’s first black president).
Last week, the Obama administration quietly had the Homeland Security Department terminante its memorandum of agreements with the state on S-Comm, essentially forcing governors to participate in the program whether they want to or not.
The decision didn’t receive much press, since it was vastly overshadowed by the high-profile debt debate. However, it surprised people like Rivera, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign and knows just how important the Latino vote will be to the president’s re-election bid next year.
We haven’t heard a peep on this decision yet from the Cuomo administration. But several organizations that advocate on behalf of immigrants in New York have discussed the possibility of suing. I asked Rivera if he would join – or, at the very least, support – such a move. He replied:
“That is certainly an option, and we’re looking at the different options we have. We’re going to be expressing very clearly to the administration – again, myself and other elected officials and advocates – how we feel about this.”
“We’ve already communicated to them. Now that there’s been this particular action, we’re going to respond to this and tell them very clearly that we disagree with the way that they’ve chosen to deal with this issue. And we just hope that our continued advocacy can end up in place where we have safer communities all across the country and across the state of New York.”
UPDATE: Rivera aide Conchita Cruz noted Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (based in Obama’s hometown of Chicago) filed a federal class action lawsuit yesterday against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for unlawfully detaining immigrants and U.S. citizens identified through local law enforcement agencies.
The suit is related to the S-Comm decision, and Cruz suggested similar lawsuits are likely to pop up around the country in the coming months – including here in NY.