12/2/13

The Residency Red Herring

Like me, I'm sure that other voters on the Brooklyn end of the Gerrymandered 11th CD have groaned at the efforts of successive Democratic congressional candidates to "out-Staten Island" the Republican in the race.

After putting up with Michael McMahon's and Mark Murphy's going on ad nauseum about their Staten Island bona fides, I find it refreshing that Dominic Recchia has waived off the "more Staten Island than you" bait in his campaign to unseat Republican incumbent Michael Grimm.

As far as I know, Recchia hasn't bludgeoned anyone with his father's having been a Staten Island home builder and his mother and three sisters being Staten Island residents.

And he's right not to. It's not which end of the Verrazano he lives on, it's what he's able to do for the voters on both ends of the bridge that counts.

Staten Island, because it has permitted extensive private residential development in flood-prone coastal wetlands, faces serious challenges in the Hurricane Sandy recovery process.  Real as these challenges are, they don't justify our Congressional representative's having apparently abandoned the Brooklyn side.

Based on my reading, Grimm appears to have spent virtually his entire term in office playing to the Staten Island vote -- even pushing to artificially suppress flood insurance rates (at taxpayer expense) to allow Staten Island homeowners to return to the flood zone.

There are exceptions: like all good Conservatives, Grimm predictably shows up for flag wavers -- as long as nobody mentions the rape epidemic in the American military, the military families that depend on food stamps, or the disabled vets waiting for benefits.

Maybe my perspective is skewed by the Staten Island Advance having covered Grimm more consistently and in-depth than the Brooklyn locals, or maybe my hunch is right: Grimm doesn't expect to carry Brooklyn in the next election.

Residency is not an intrinsic quality, like race or ethnicity. Many Staten Islanders were born in  Brooklyn -- and routinely go back and forth over the bridge. The demographics of the 11th District, Gerrymandered as it is, are a lot more fluid than many politicians seem to believe.

We will never resolve inter-borough issues like the lopsided Verrazano tolls or the need for bike and pedestrian lanes on the bridge until the Brooklyn and the Staten Island sides join forces. And the two will never join forces as long as they're grabbing for the residency red herring. 

Given the low blows Grimm's already throwing, his battle with Dominic Recchia promises to be one of the more picaresque congressional races of 2014. 

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