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Schroeder watch ; Buffalo assemblyman is a bellwether on seriousness of redistricting reform

Redistricting gives the incumbency-protection machine that once-a-decade thrill to consolidate power and fling off a few problems. For Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of those problems might be the inconvenient assemblyman from South Buffalo who won't toe the line. Should Silver try to redistrict Mark J.F. Schroeder out of office, we will gleefully call attention to his petty tyranny. We hope the region's other Assembly members do, too.

Schroeder regularly refuses to vote for Silver in the internal election that decides who will lead the Assembly and who will, as a result, reward obedience and punish dissent. Whatever Schroeder's reasons, his stand against Silver is refreshing.

If symbolic acts mean something, the symbolic act that would resonate best in New York would be Silver's resignation as speaker. With that, New Yorkers could rub their eyes and sing because the change might indicate that a new day has dawned. At some time in his 17 years as speaker, Silver became an anachronism.

Speaking of anachronisms, dozens of rank-and-file lawmakers and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have pledged to dispense with the predictable custom to draw new legislative districts to serve the interests of majority-party incumbents rather than the New York electorate. They have signed a pledge to ensure fairer elections by letting an independent commission decide the new boundaries as they are redrawn to adjust for census results.

Not so Silver, and in his recent remarks he has indicated only that the Assembly must "reform the redistricting process," a vague goal that could mean a number of things short of independent redistricting.

For opposing Silver, Schroeder makes do with a smaller legislative staff, and he's not going to receive any meaningful campaign support from the Democrats' re-election forces in Albany. So as an incumbent, he's already in a weaker position when he runs for a new term. Then there's the chance that Silver might just want him out.

The speaker, if allowed to pull the strings, could place Schroeder's residence in a district that forces him to run against another popular incumbent. By doing so, Silver would display again that he embodies so much that is wrong about Albany.

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