Cheers to Common Cause New York, a rightfully influential good-government group, for drafting maps that recommend how legislative districts might be redrawn in light of 2010 census population shifts.
These maps, posted with detailed explanations on www.commoncause.org, suggest huge changes for our area:
-Assembly district shifts would be seismic. The entire Tri-Lakes would become part of the 114th District now represented by Janet Duprey, which would lose northern Franklin County but add northern Essex. It would move Teresa Sayward's hometown of Willsboro out of the 113th District she now serves, setting up a potential primary clash between her and Mrs. Duprey.
-A huge congressional district - what is now New York's 23rd, represented by Bill Owens -would retreat from Central New York but absorb all other districts' inroads to the North Country, including that of what is now the 20th, represented by Chris Gibson.
-Our state Senate district, represented by Betty Little, wouldn't change much, only adding part of Saratoga County.
Mind you, these maps probably won't be adopted as is, but that's not the point. This is a conversation starter, not finisher. Common Cause made that eminently clear when it put in Newsday's very cool "U Map NY" tool/game/whatever on its website, with which anyone can redraw the maps. You have to download and install Microsoft Silverlight, but this thing gives you an amazing amount of data to work with. It's pretty awesome.
Anyway, Common Cause's point is to lay out an alternative so everyone can see how things might be if independent, fair people were in charge of redistricting instead of the self-interested politicians themselves, as it always has been. Lawmakers tend to gerrymander the lines to protect their own re-election chances, and because of that, New York has some bizarrely shaped districts obviously sculpted to be friendly to certain parties.
Common Cause's redistricting suggestions were, supposedly, done without regard for where incumbents live or an area's party registration. The stated intention was to group places of common interest together in ways that make sense to the people who live there.
Strictly for the North Country, the group's congressional and state Senate maps certainly succeed in that regard, at least based on our preliminary examination. It's harder to judge with the Assembly map, but (although this is outside the Enterprise's turf) it seems wrong to lump much of northern Franklin County in with a St. Lawrence County district but keep Malone in the one Duprey now serves. Malone is very much linked to the farmland around it.
But hey, if you don't like these lines, play with them yourself and let Common Cause know what you come up with.
It's a whole lot more democratic than letting the politicians draw their own districts.
All New Yorkers should be grateful to Common Cause and others keeping this concern in Albany's face. It's disappointing the state Legislature has not relinquished this power, and that Common Cause has shifted from trying to change the system to urging lawmakers to use their power fairly. It helps that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is on the right side of this issue. He has vowed to veto any redistricting plan that follows the corrupt old method. We're counting on him to keep that promise, and in a serious way.