Hope is slim, but it still exists

ELINOR TATUM Publisher and Editor in Chief | 4/12/2012, 1:12 p.m.
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And while there is a need for more Latino representation from the state and city, the plan put forward by the federal judge would pit Dominicans against African-Americans, creating a rift between communities that need to be allies.

As such, Black and Dominican leaders, along with Puerto Rican leaders from the Bronx, have met over the last couple of weeks to work out a plan that would have accommodated a new congressional seat carved out for the Dominican population, the first of its kind in the country, and continued the legacy of a Black seat in Harlem that would include Co-op City in the Bronx and Mt. Vernon in Westchester.

The county leader of Manhattan, Assemblyman Keith Wright, and Bronx County Leader Assemblyman Carl Heastie have devised a map that would serve the needs of everyone. It would require other congressional districts to change their population by about 20,000 voters, less than 3 percent of their total voters. There would be no risk to their base or their electability, and yet it seems that some members of the New York State congressional delegation are not actively behind this plan, which would ensure that the delegation would have the kind of Black and Hispanic representation that it deserves--more, not less.

Rangel, who has served admirably for over four decades, is not blameless in this situation. Reportedly, he has publicly stated that he would do whatever it takes to maintain a Black seat but has privately resisted every attempt to draw lines into the Bronx and Westchester. Now that his seat is imperiled, he is cooperating with the other leaders.

And so that is the political quandary we find ourselves in.

In the short term, the answer seems to be a veto by the governor of the lines proposed by the Legislature to give the congressional redistricting process another chance to play out. With a gubernatorial veto, the decision will lie with the courts. The courts have a legal mandate under the Civil Rights Act to protect the voting rights of Blacks and Hispanics, rights that all too often the Legislature seems willing to ignore.

The great shame of this whole process is that the redistricting maps that Hazel Dukes, the NAACP and John Flateau created months ago worked. If we had stood by those maps as a unified people, we would not be in this situation today.

Mr. Governor, veto these lines. Our communities deserve better.