An Award for Michael Benjamin
Every once in a while, one reads something written on an issue and has to wonder out loud, who is paying this guy to be their shill?
Today’s Lying Sack of Shit Award goes to former Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benjamin for his almost shameless Op-Ed column about the State’s proposed redistricting plan, which appeared in the New York Post.
Benjamin, or whoever is paying to use his name and skin tone writes:
“ Of course, the state’s top politician, Gov. Cuomo, has a role here. He’s threatened to veto anything that comes out of LATFOR, but he also set out principles that any redistricting should follow. And these plans seem to meet three of his goals: They advance minority voting rights, unite communities of interest and aren’t overtly partisan.”
Most of this is pure unadulterated manure.
Both the Assembly and Senate plans are highly partisan, In fact, LATFOR’s Co-Chair, Assemblyman Jack McEneny straight-out admits it.
Anyway, to paraphrase Chico Marx, who are you gonna believe, Michael Benjamin or your own eyes?
Whatever one may say about putting together Evan Stavisky’s client Tony [Avella], with his mother Toby, one cannot use any explanation but spite for the heroic efforts to put a Eric Adams and Michael Gianaris just outside the districts they represent.
Actually, there is an alternative explanation—they did it so they could correct it in the rewrite, and sell something nearly as egregious as an improvement, when several versions of “new improved” lines are probably already drawn. [There are several versions, because they don’t know yet who they will entice to sell out for the small improvement they will offer in exchange for some “bi-partisan” cover.]
The Senate plan unites communities of interest?
Like Sheepshead Bay and Brownsville? The South Bronx and West End Avenue? Trump Village and Port Richmond?
Then there is the wild assertion that “the ugly, sprawling districts are abetted by the need to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.”
I think this assertion can be disposed of comparing several minority districts in the LATFOR maps with the versions in the Unity Map drawn by several minority advocacy groups.
The Unity Plan not only creates largely neat and inoffensive lines, but actually creates more minority districts which are often stronger (LATFOR 16 is 51% Asian while the far neater Unity 12 is 56%) and are always more in accord with standards for equal population than the LATFOR plan.
Michael Benjamin must be smoking crack.
But the real contempt must be reserved for his preposterous assertions that the LATFOR Plan “advance[s] minority voting rights..”
I append here verbatim excerpts from an analysis of the LATFOR plan for the Senate by Reapportionment Expert Todd Breitbart.
The systematic splitting of African-American and Latino communities in Long Island by Senate district boundaries is continued – for what will now be a full half-century. The nine Nassau and Suffolk districts have been drawn so that no district will have a non-Hispanic white voting-age population (VAP) percentage of less than 62.65%. None has a black VAP percentage exceeding 16.40%, or a Hispanic VAP percentage exceeding 16.73%.
The boundaries that split the Long Island black and Hispanic communities are nearly identical to the boundaries that did so in 1992 and 2002, continuing a pattern that began in 1972.
In Nassau County the communities with large black and Hispanic populations are split among four districts. As in1972, 1982, 1992, and 2002, Freeport and Roosevelt are in SD 8; and Hempstead Village, Uniondale, and Lakeview are in SD 6. Valley Stream, North Valley Stream and part of Elmont are in SD 9, and the balance of Elmont, South Floral Park, Westbury, and New Cassel are in SD 7. Baldwin and Baldwin Harbor are divided between SD’s 8 and 9. The minority populations are so carefully balanced between districts that the combined black and Hispanic voting-age population (VAP) percentage of SD 6 is 31.42%, and the figure for adjoining SD 8 is 31.23%. Both senators are spared the need to earn the support of minority-group voters.
In Suffolk County the communities with large black and Hispanic populations are split among three districts, a pattern that has been carefully maintained since 1982. The black and Hispanic communities in the Town of Babylon are divided once again between SD’s 4 and 8, along a line that differs little from the previous decades. In the Town of Islip, the Hispanic and black communities are again divided between SD’s 3 and 4. The line through Brentwood, splitting the Hispanic and black populations of the Town of Islip between SD’s 3 and 4, is precisely identical to the boundary that was drawn in 1982, 1992, and 2002. Apparently it has proven its effectiveness.
The plan deprives Latino citizens in the Bronx and upper Manhattan of their fair share of representation in the Senate. By denying New York City its fair apportionment of districts, and by creating a pair of Bronx/Westchester districts where one would do, the plan provides only four districts in the Bronx and upper Manhattan where Latino voters might arguably be able to elect the Senator of their choice. The Unity Plan Update and the Common Cause 63-district plan both demonstrate that if New York City were given its fair apportionment, and if only one pair of Bronx/Westchester districts were created, it would be possible to create five such districts in this area, while creating districts throughout the area that would be far more compact than those proposed by the Senate Majority.
The plan departs to an unnecessary degree from the NYS constitutional requirements that districts be compact and that the splitting of counties be minimized. The direct result is the failure to create an additional district in which Latino voters could elect the representative of their choice.
Moreover, one of the Hispanic-majority districts proposed by the Senate Majority may not actually give Latino voters the ability to elect the Senator of their choice in an election where voting is polarized by race and ethnicity. The large Hispanic population in Washington Heights is predominantly of Dominican origin, and still includes a large proportion of non-citizens. The appropriate measure of potential voting power here is citizen voting-age population (CVAP). The Senate Majority’s proposed SD 31 has a CVAP that is 44.02% Hispanic and 40.14% non-Hispanic white. The Unity Plan Update proposes a compact district including Washington Heights with a CVAP that is 47.52% Hispanic and 34.31% non-Hispanic white. And the Common Cause 63-district plan offers a similar district with a CVAP that is 48.74% Hispanic and 33.12% non-Hispanic white.
Contrary to the leaks to the press suggesting that there would be a new district empowering Asian-American voters in Queens, the plan would still divide the Asian-American communities in northeast Queens between SD’s 11 and 16, much as they are divided now. In contrast, the Unity Plan Update and the Common Cause 63-district plan both seek to unite these communities in a compact district. The demographic data for the northeast Queens districts are comparable in the three proposals, ignoring geography. But the Unity Plan Update and Common Cause proposals both seek to create highly compact districts where Asian-Americans could effectively work together, among themselves and with their neighbors of other ethnic backgrounds, while the Senate Majority proposal preserves the gerrymandered status quo.
Having Created a Buffalo / Niagara Falls District in 1992 that became the first district with a non-Hispanic white majority to elect a black candidate to the New York State Senate, the Senate Majority has now decided to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Existing SD 60, as redrawn in 2002, has a voting-age population (VAP) that is 36.78% black and 54.58% non-Hispanic white according to the 2010 census. It includes the African-American communities of the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The Senate Majority proposal would place the City of Niagara Falls in SD 62, with a VAP that is 6.26% black and 89.74% non-Hispanic white, and the black community in Buffalo in SD 63, with a VAP that is 30.97% black and 61.31% non-Hispanic white.
In 2000, former SD 57 became the first Senate district in the state where an electorate with a non-Hispanic white majority chose a black candidate for its State Senator. Byron Brown, since elected Mayor of Buffalo, was elected to the Senate that year with 60% of the vote. In order to win – and especially with such a large percentage – Senator Brown must have had the support of a broad interracial coalition of voters.
(So far, only one other Senate district with a non-Hispanic white majority has elected a black candidate: existing SD 35 in Westchester.)
During this decade, existing SD 60 has elected two black candidates – Sen. Byron Brown and Sen. Antoine Thompson – and two white candidates – Sen. Marc Coppola and Sen. Mark Grisanti. It is thus a district that requires – and rewards – the building of interracial coalitions. A black candidate cannot win without, at least, a large minority of the white voters. And a white candidate is unlikely to win who cannot appeal to black voters. This is healthy for the region and for the state.
Existing SD 60 has also proven to be, contrary to the expectations of those who designed it, a competitive district from a partisan standpoint. And for exactly that reason, it is now to be split up so that building interracial coalitions will no longer be either necessary or effective.
The plan enlarges the Senate, but does not create an additional district in which members of minority-groups would have an effective voting majority and could elect the Senator of their choice. Moreover, as the Unity Plan Update demonstrates, a larger number of such districts could be created, even in a constitutionally proper 62-district Senate, by better observing the NYS constitutional rules calling for compactness and limiting the division of counties. By enlarging the Senate through use of a novel and dubious constitutional theory, the plan thus dilutes the voting power and representation in the Senate of minority-group voters.
Michael, I hope they are paying you well.
Post new comment