Vote for the Con-Con

New York Post - - POST OPINION - is badly. Michael Ben­jamin, a mem­ber of The Post editorial board, is a for­mer state law­maker. Twit­ter: @SquarePegDem Michael Ben­jaMin

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.

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