Legislature Downsizing & Hoyt for Marriage Equality

27 May

Needless Collection of Humans

Jerry, let me tell you something, a man without hand is not a man.  I got so much hand I’m coming out of my gloves. – George Costanza, “The Pez Dispenser

1. I haven’t written much of anything about the county redistricting clusterfiasco because NY-26 has been a preoccupation. Most of what I’m going to write sort of re-hashes what Chris posted yesterday, but I want to add some additional thoughts about how we got here and what it means.

The process was broken from the get-go. It was ground zero for the blood feud between Chris Collins and the Democrats, and Grassroots “Democrats” against the party apparatus led by Len Lenihan. Predictably, it degenerated into ugliness, and the redistricting commission became a joke and a sham to ram through whatever Chris Collins wants; and there were people who call themselves Democrats who were going along with this.

Now that there seem to be two competing maps that are to be voted on by the legislature next week, and that one map is being promoted by the Chris Collins – Republican – Miller-Williams coalition, and the other one is being promoted by the Legislature Democrats. Regardless of which map wins, the people have already lost. The process has been farcical and hypercharged with political idiocy. (Here is the Republican map) (Here is the Democratic map)

Reader and commenter RaChaCha forwarded to me an editorial on the process that was published in the Bee Newspapers. It excoriates the redistricting committee that was chaired by Adam Perry for failing to hold three promised public hearings in more remote parts of the county. I have emailed the Bee to ask whether I can reprint it in its entirety, but offer this key passage:

The committee could have used the opinions and concerns of the public to draw a map that would best serve the people.  Instead, we got a map that best serves the interests of politicians, with continued gerrymandering.  Lines weren’t drawn to best represent the communities but to boost the chances for re-election among the legislators.

In the end, the concerns of the people were overshadowed by the concerns of the politicians looking to remain in office and hold on to a slice of power.

The committee failed us.

Neither plan is perfect, but the Democratic plan is less un-perfect than the Republican/Miller-Williams plan. One has to imagine that Collins will veto the Democratic plan if it passes, and this would set up a very interesting County Executive race in November. Right now, of the three Democrats who are aligned with Collins as part of the ridiculously named “reform coalition”, Miller-Williams is definitely voting for the Republican plan, and Tim Whalen is definitely voting for the Democratic plan. Everyone is waiting to see what West Seneca legislator Tina Bove will do, as she is the swing vote and is probably milking that fact for all it’s worth. We’ll find out next Wednesday at 2.

But remember this: right now, ECDC has hand. Time and time again over the past two years, nominal “Democrats” on the County Legislature have collaborated with Chris Collins against the interests of their own constituents. Real Democrats worked damn hard in 2009 to ensure that the Legislature retained a Democratic majority to check King Collins’ power. Unfortunately, three so-called “Democrats” align themselves instead with Collins when convenient in exchange for a growth of personal power, and at the expense of their constituents, and Democrats who helped them get elected. These people who act out of self-interest to help themselves and Chris Collins aren’t Democrats. Barbara Miller-Williams has become, for all intents and purposes, a mere Collins puppet. Now that ECDC has quite a bit of momentum coming out of the Hochul win, her shenanigans have weakened her and her cohorts considerably. It’s time for Miller-Williams to recognize that (a) she’s the chairwoman of the Legislature; and (b) she sticks a (D) after her name. It’s time for her to consciously decide to act like she is both of those things.

2. Assemblyman Sam Hoyt penned an excellent editorial to the Buffalo News in support of marriage equality.  I’m sure Sam won’t mind if I reprint it here in its entirety:

New York State is at a crossroads. The Legislature is presented with the opportunity to pass a bill that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, granting them access to the same rights already afforded to straight couples. This comes at a time when national and statewide polls have shown an enormous increase in public support for marriage equality. More New Yorkers than ever recognize that denying our gay and lesbian family members, friends, coworkers and neighbors the right to marry is simply not fair.

Marriage equality is about fairness. It is about ending discrimination. It is about the freedom to marry the person you love and the legal rights that go along with it.

Throughout my career in public service, I have worked for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers. It is an issue that is close to me personally, but beyond that it is a public issue that has the power to change society’s perception. I believe that as an elected official, I have an obligation to help the people in my district who need it the most. It is time for us as representatives to acknowledge the will of the people both in New York and beyond and pass marriage equality legislation.

Some opponents argue that civil unions are a compromise solution that would allow gay and lesbian couples some limited rights. Yet a recent evaluation of the civil union system instituted in neighboring New Jersey showed that the two are not equivalent in practice. Couples joined in civil union faced bureaucratic hurdles that married couples did not. The two institutions were in effect separate, but not equal. Civil unions are not the answer. There is just no substitute for marriage.

To be clear, this legislation expands the legal definition of marriages recognized by the state. No religious institution would be forced to perform marriage for gay or lesbian couples, nor would any religion be compelled to recognize their marriages.

As majority whip, I will do all that I can to ensure that true marriage equality passes for a fourth time in the State Assembly. But once again, the State Senate will be the battleground for this vote. My colleagues in the State Senate must understand that this discrimination against lesbian and gay couples and their families cannot continue any longer. They must understand that a “yes” vote for marriage equality is a “yes” for justice, equality and fairness.

New York State was once a progressive leader in civil rights. It is time for our State Legislature to stand up and make our state a leader once again. We must end this injustice that has gone on for too long by making marriage equality law.



32 Responses to “Legislature Downsizing & Hoyt for Marriage Equality”

  1. Jesse May 27, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    “Neither plan is perfect, but the Democratic plan is less un-perfect than the Republican/Miller-Williams plan”

    Hey, there’s a surprise opinion.

    The fact that anyone still cares whether teh gays get hitched is incredible to me.  Good for Hoyt in pushing the issue.  The fact is, there’s no “harm to society” in allowing any one person of legal age in marrying any one other person of legal age (contract law and all that).  Two brothers ought to be able to marry for all the hill of beans difference it’d make to anyone else anywhere, ever.

    But America?  Enlightened?  Ye gods.

  2. peteherr May 27, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    With either map I am probably doomed to having a Republican as my representative. There are serious flaws with both maps, but in the Democratic map , if I read it correctly does the entire east side AND the entire south side of the county all fall into one district? That’s kind of silly.

  3. Fat Tony May 27, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    For everyone who talks about the need to think as “one region” the Democrat plan will guarantee suburban and rural Erie County hate the city for the next 10 years. Packing all of the towns into one district that really waters down their voice in the Legislature is an outrage. This whole process has been a farce.

    City of Buffalo…redistricting plan passes unanimously. Niagara County….plan passes unanimously. And those bodies are no less political than the EC Leg. They should all be ashamed of themselves for not getting together and hashing something out that everyone could live with. Both sides…yes Alan, both sides…went out of their way to fuck each other and it’s wrong.

  4. Kevin Schuler May 27, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    I had the honor to chair the Niagara County Redistricting Commission. The local law that created the commission required us to have two public meetings at the start of our work and then two when our draft map was completed.

    After the initial hearings, the committee worked in public and developed a loose framework, trying to respect traditional boundaries, pair of communities with similar interests, etc. This loose framework showed we only had a few key decisions that could be divisive/political/controversial, whatever you want to call it.

    We were under a very tight timeline when we scheduled the last two public meetings with our draft map. After the first public hearing, we had some very passionate speakers on some key issues. Staying within our framework, we went back overnight and tweaked the map to address concerns as best we could before the second meeting the next night. People were actually shocked that we listened to their input and tried to react accordingly.

    In the end, our plan passed with little to no acrimony. I believe the combination of a loose framework discussed early on and public meetings at the back end of the process made everything go smoothly. We kept the elected leaders out of it, minus the public hearings where they were welcome to give input just like every other citizen.

  5. Mike In WNY May 27, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    when convenient in exchange for a growth of personal power, and at the expense of their constituents

    I would say that is true of most of either party.

    Looking at the “Collins” map, Districts 3, 7 & 11 look pretty gerrymandered. The map from the “real” democrats gives me a headache when trying to make sense of the division of the City of Buffalo.

    When is someone going to sponsor a bill that leaves “marriage equality” to the churches and establish a legal/civil equality for everyone?

    • Alan Bedenko May 27, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

      Mike, what do the churches have to do with anything?

  6. BuffaloGirl May 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    I had a question about this sentence also, why do you think the democratic plan is less un-perfect than the Republican/Miller-Williams plan, you didn’t give your reasoning behind why you think and say this, besides the fact that you aren’t fans of the people who penned it. What about the Dem plan is better than the other one?

  7. Mike In WNY May 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    Alan, the resistance to gay marriage basically stems from religious beliefs. Government should not be involved in religious matters and in the name of equality should grant civil unions to anyone, or get out of the marriage business altogether. If someone wants a “marriage”, leave that to a Church to perform. Currently, the most egregious wrong is the discrimination regarding the legal status of gay couples.

    That is my “pragmatic” position. Ideally, I would get the government out of the marriage/civil union business completely and let the unions be defined by mutually agreeable contractual arrangements.

  8. jhorn May 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    agree with mike in wny’s point re marriage equality; however, would like to see the gov’t. get out of the marriage biz altogether.

    • Alan Bedenko May 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

      The marriage license / certificate is a legal document that memorializes the marriage contract. It is a civil document that has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. Get rid of it, and you add a level of litigation in divorce matters as to whether a marriage was properly entered. Government can’t get “out of the marriage biz altogether” because then the unreligious would have no option.

  9. Alan Bedenko May 27, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    As to the question of why I oppose the Republican map and do not oppose the Democratic map: 

    1. One was drawn by Republicans, and the other is drawn by Democrats. I am naturally more attracted to what my party puts forth; and 

    2. From the Buffalo News article:

    “In their final act, Perry and the commission’s Republican members recommended a map favoring the Miller-Williams coalition in the Legislature. They then disbanded without convening three final public hearings around the county.

    The Miller-Williams map modified the Perry plan. It continues to protect her coalition by at least ensuring that any of its lawmakers who intend to seek re-election need not run in a district inhabited by another incumbent, even while the Legislature goes from 15 members to 11. The Democrats’ plan offers similar considerations for its sponsors.”

    That’s just ridiculous. Why would/should Democrats help the Republicans and Collins in an election year?

  10. Justin May 27, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    But Alan, your complaints have nothing to do with what the actual maps look like. The squiggly lines and narrow connections in the dem map are mind-boggling. This map completely disenfranchises every voter in Orchard Park, and seems to do so intentionally. Same with Elma. Districts should at least attempt to take geography and demogrpahics into account. All that’s been decided with this plan is that the voters in OP and Elma shouldn’t count at all.

    • Alan Bedenko May 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

      You’re right. My complaints don’t have a f*cking thing to do with the way the maps look.

      They mostly have to do with partisan prejudice, and utter vomitous disgust at a perverted and broken process. I readily and freely admit that.

      Either way, I’m going to be “represented” by a Republican.

      But neither plan “disenfranchises” anyone. They’re both legally valid. Just one happens to ensure Republicans’ re-election, while the other one more closely favors Democrats. But since both maps are essentially identical for Bove, and the Republican map benefits BMW…

  11. Justin May 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    As an OP resident I would feel very disenfranchised if a candidate had absolutely no reason to respond to concerns from non-city residents that fall within their district.

    • Alan Bedenko May 27, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

      Well, doesn’t OP vote? If so, why would Whelan not respond to your concerns?

      • Alan Bedenko May 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

        (And incidentally, this underscores the fact that the legislature is a needless patronage party. I’ve lived here 10 years and I’ve never had a “concern” that needed to be responded to by Ranzenhofer or Walter. I just wish they’d vote the right way on matters that are subject to controversy).

  12. Justin May 27, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    If combined with residents of the city, which have much different concerns than those in OP (who would be much more closely aligned with Aurora), any controversial issue would seem to be decided in favor of the majority of the district which would be in the city. Not to mention, this new district 2 is nonsense from a geographic perspective. They had to work really hard to squeeze OP and Lackawanna together between West Seneca and Blasdell.

    • Alan Bedenko May 27, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

      You’re right. Both maps are gerrymandered to high heaven. But with respect to county issues that come before that body, Orchard Park’s “concerns” aren’t all that different from South Buffalo’s.

  13. Justin May 27, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    Perhaps, and I certainly don’t think the Republican plan is perfect. But leaning R and inevitably moving to a D district will be tough for a majority of people here…especially given Mills standing in the body.

  14. Warrey May 27, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    My question is: Who were the Democrats that drew up the “Democratic” map? Maria Whyte? Why isn’t it called the Maria Whyte map? Maria is a far left-from-center democrat and really doesn’t truly represent the more moderate democrats in the county. The democrat map looks like it was designed to protect Loughran and take out Miller-Williams and Whalen. The republicans might very well be the winners in the democrat’s map. Under the dem map, Hardwick, Dixon, Rath or Walter, and a new agricultural member are in. Orchard Park and Lackawanna Dems might unite behind a suburban dem to take on Whalen. They would have the numbers to win. This primary will damage the dems.Whalen could lose but get some minor party lines that will siphon votes. The veteran, John Mills, a well respected and popular republican could easily take the democrat out no matter who it is.
    That gives the republicans 5. Loughran barely beat a weak republican Shelly Schratz last time around. A good Republican candidate could easily take out Loughran in Amherst. This gives the republicans 6 and control of the legislature. Lenihan will be too busy trying to kill Miller-Williams, Whalen and Bove in the primaries and he will wind up losing the legislature.

    The republican map seems to concede 6 districts to the dems and 5 to the republicans. There are only 12 incumbents running. Loughran who with Kevin Gaughan were the primary forces behind the downsizing. He should be the odd man out. It was his idea.

    Hardwick’s and Dixon’s districts could easily go dem in the future when they leave.

    It looks like Lenihan is betting the house that he can get 7 seats but could wind up with 5 or possibly 4 if an Elma Republican can take Bove’s seat. Collins will be putting a lot of money in the Loughran, Whalen-Mills, and Bove races to take them out like he did last time around when Ianello, Reynolds and Terranova lost.

    It almost seems like the the Miller-Williams map offers a truce. The Whyte map opens a war.

    Lenihan is playing with fire. His (Whyte’s) map is not good. His greed may sink him. Collins could be licking his chops.

    • Alan Bedenko May 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

      The very fact that the process is so fucking broken that we’re discussing which politicians benefit and don’t benefit from it is exactly why I cannot back the people who back the Collins plan, because they also happen to be the same people who “led” the redistricting commission itself; i.e., the process.

  15. Mike In WNY May 27, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    Alan, like it or not, the word marriage has religious and legal implications. The unreligious would be perfectly served by civil unions. People who want the blessing of their church can incorporate the religious facet called marriage. There is no extra layer of litigation by having the government issue “civil union” licenses only.

    Within the Catholic Church there is frequently a second layer of litigation involved with a divorce. The divorce is not recognized unless an annulment has been granted. Ergo, we already have “marriage” defined one way by the Catholic Church, and another way by the government.

    Currently, if a person wants the religious marriage ceremony, and happens to be gay and Catholic, they would be out of luck, even if Civil Unions are granted to gay couples while reserving marriage for heterosexual couples.

  16. Warrey May 27, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    In any plan there will be winners and losers. If Jesus came in and drew up his plan. There would be winners and losers. Then people could criticize the third plan (The Jesus Plan). I guess it will all depend if Jesus is a Democrat or Republican.

  17. pirate's code May 27, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    And the process that resulted in the Dem plan is better because…???

    I agree this has been a sham (and a shame), but like others I’m having a hard time understanding why D-sham is less shammy than R-sham.

    Alan, you posted above that you are “naturally more attracted to what my party puts forth.” Would that hold true regardless of the actual merits?

    • Alan Bedenko May 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

      And the process that resulted in the Dem plan is better because…???

      The same process resulted in both plans. The process is broken. Neither plan is good. One plan is less good than the other because I am a Democrat and therefore, when given two shit sandwiches, will chose the shit sandwich offered up by Democrats.

      I agree this has been a sham (and a shame), but like others I’m having a hard time understanding why D-sham is less shammy than R-sham.

      Alan, you posted above that you are “naturally more attracted to what my party puts forth.” Would that hold true regardless of the actual merits?

      Absolutely. As a Democrat, it’s easier for Dems to sell me on something than Republicans. Barbara Miller-Williams is a Republican. She just doesn’t like to think so.

      • Alan Bedenko May 27, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

        To put it another way and break it down:

        – Perry and BMW ran this process from jump street;
        – The process was a despicable sham;
        – Two competing plans arose, one from the Collins supporters, one by the Collins detractors;
        – Because I oppose Collins, I oppose the plan he puts forth;
        – Because this is a map that will likely stand for a decade, I’m disgusted that it degenerated into a situation where all that matters is patronage jobs, and the preservation of Republican incumbencies.

        Hopefully that clears up any confusion. Maybe Erie County Democratic Chair Sundra Ryce can fix all of this.

  18. BuffaloGirl May 27, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    I’m actually very surprised at part of your response to this BP (and I’m one that agrees with you 99% of the time) pirate’s code is absolutely right in his question of you.

  19. Kevin J. May 27, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    Adam Perry, general counsel of the Community Action Organization and chair of the advisory commission of reapportionment; John Calvin Davis, Chief of Staff of the Erie County Legislature Democratic Majority as appointed by BMW, chairman of the CAO.

    Coincidence? Discuss.

  20. RaChaCha May 27, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    Conflicts of interest and Adam Perry? Don’t forget this one: he’s a commissioner of NFTA, the public entity that’s responsible for owning and operating some of WNY’s most substantial and significant regional transportation systems and infrastructure. At the same time, he’s currently the lead attorney bringing in 6-figure fees defending the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission against elected public officials who simply want answers to some basic questions about how funds supplied by us toll-payers and taxpayers were spent:

  21. King Kong May 28, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    The endless stirring of the pot by the non-reform coalition side on the EC leg over who caucuses with who is just insider baseball bullshit. It’s time to let it go.

    • Alan Bedenko May 28, 2011 at 6:52 am #

      The Democratic legislators who collaborate with Chris Collins should frankly be expelled from the party. Their actions largely hurt their constituents in favor of their own power and self-interest. All done analysis, and no, we won’t let it go. It’s kind of a big deal, especially in an election year.

      Imagine if Hochul went to Congress and suddenly motherfucked all the Democrats who helped her get elected by caucusing with the Boehner Republicans and voted for the Ryan budget. Yes, it’s like that.

  22. Kevin J. May 28, 2011 at 2:26 am #

    “Non-reform coalition side?” Please, did you fall for the Republican branding of the Collins-BMW cabal? Name some reform these political hacks have produced. 

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