Vote for the Con-Con
I’M voting “Yes” on the Nov. 7 ballot proposal to hold a state constitutional convention (or con-con) in 2019, and I urge you to do so as well. Appearing like a political Brigadoon next month, the question gives New York voters a once-in-ageneration opportunity to amend the state Constitution — which requires that the con-con proposal appear on the ballot every 20 years.
Millennials, in particular, shouldn’t miss the chance to vote in favor of bringing New York’s Constitution — last completely revised in 1894 — into the 21st century.
Voting “Yes” is a way to build a better mousetrap when it comes to curbing Albany corruption and dysfunction. (Coincidentally, 1894 was the same year that William Hooker received a US patent for his mousetrap invention.)
Potential improvements include: reforming the election law; achieving nonpartisan redistricting; setting term limits, and mandating transparency in budget-making.
Not to mention possibilities like limiting the Legislature’s ability to impose unfunded mandates on local governments and its endless “backdoor borrowing” schemes.
And simplifying the byzantine court structure. That alone — as estimated by an Office of Court Administration panel way back in 2007 — would save litigants, employers and taxpayers $500 million over five years. Today, the savings would likely be even greater.
If “Yes” wins, it sets off a year of primary- and general-election voting to choose 2014 con-con delegates (three per state Senate district, plus 15 at-large ones). The convention would then meet at the Capitol in Albany, with the expectation that it would offer amendments (whether a series of options, or one package) for the voters to consider in November 2019.
The last con-con, in 1967, is considered a failure because voters rejected its work — an all–or-nothing package of reforms. Since then, voters have twice rejected authorizing a convention, in 1977 and 1997.
Nothing scares political insiders and guardians of the status quo more than voters exercising their rights and having a voice in how they’re governed. One of their big arguments is that a con-con would be an expensive waste of money.
What? There’s been no greater waste of public money than the corrupt Buffalo Billion program or projects like the one meant to attract Hollywood filmmakers to Syracuse. I could tick off 10 more with ease.
Others claim there’s no drumbeat for reform. Yet you can’t go a week without some new media report about political corruption, Albany dysfunction or some business pulling up stakes to relocate anywhere but here in the Empire State.
The rumbling of moving trucks headed west and south of New York — people and businesses voting with their feet — a drumbeat for reform.
The cynical forces opposed to empowering the people (ludicrously calling themselves New Yorkers Against Corruption) say change can come through the normal legislative process; it’s really just about having lawmakers do their job.
Sadly, the dysfunctional swamp that has come to define Albany is the result of lawmakers “doing their job”
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who knows how the legislative sausage is made, favors the convention because it gives the people a direct role in deciding the direction of their state government.
“Albany needs major reform, but changes aren’t going to come from within,” he says.
The lobbyists and career pols who already dominate the legislative process fear that a peoplepowered convention would disrupt the process that they have spent years shaping — and benefiting from. That’s why the “No” forces are able to greatly outspend the “Yes” folks.
If the con-con delivers a bad product, the voters can reject it. That’s why Morgan Pehme, executive director of Effective NY, says, “Worst-case scenario is the status quo.” And we already know what the status quo looks like.
While no system or choice is perfect, voters shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
Vote “Yes” on Nov. 7 because a con-con can move New York toward restoring democracy, achieving justice and making positive change. It’s a vote against the status quo and a good first step to giving New Yorkers the government and protections they deserve.