Editorial: Dissent Should Have A Purpose

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Editorial endorsement: Vote 'yes' on NY constitutional convention

Every 20 years, New York voters are asked this question: "Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?"

This is one of those years. We think New York voters should answer "yes."

A constitutional convention would give voters a path to making state government work better for them - a path their elected state legislators simply refuse to walk.

Why is Albany awash in nearly unlimited campaign contributions, and the corruption and self-dealing all that money invites? Because state legislators won't enact meaningful ethics and campaign finance reforms.

Why do incumbents get re-elected almost automatically? In addition to their fundraising advantages noted above, legislators in 2012 drew district lines that largely preserve their hold on power - a process likely to be repeated after the 2020 Census. They won't pass laws making it easier for people to vote, change political parties or file an absentee ballot without an excuse, because to do so might raise voter turnout -- and the risk that they might lose.

Why is important legislation, including the budget, negotiated behind closed doors by the governor and legislative leaders - the three (or lately four) men in a room? Because they know voters can't do a thing about it.

Why do our courts strain under the load of too many cases and not enough judges, depriving defendants of swift justice? State lawmakers won't take on the task of reforming our complicated and antiquated judicial system.

Why must local governments and municipalities swallow unfunded mandates from Albany, including the requirement to pay a hefty share of the cost of Medicaid, the state health insurance program for the poor and disabled? Because "home rule" provisions in the constitution are too weak.

A constitutional convention bypasses the intransigent state Legislature (and its sometime enabler, Gov. Andrew Cuomo). It gives citizens the power to make dramatic changes to the way government works. This unnerves the people in power.

Opponents of a constitutional convention - a coalition of strange bedfellows from the left and right -- argue that well-funded lobbyists and interest groups would take over the delegate election process and the convention itself. They raise fears that protections for labor rights, state pensions, the Adirondack Park's "Forever Wild" Forest Preserve and our obligations to educate our children and care for the needy could be curtailed, or even overturned.

We feel these fears are overblown. New Yorkers would have to vote on any amendments that come out of a constitutional convention. In 1967, the last time New York held a constitutional convention, voters turned down an all-or-nothing package of amendments mainly over one amendment having to do with public support for religious education. A new convention would be foolish to attempt the same strategy.

It's true that a convention would come at a significant cost - estimates range as high as $160 million - but keeping things the way they are also has its costs. Streamlining the courts alone could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

Albany is broken. A constitutional convention is an opportunity for New York's citizens to fix it.

A "no" vote on Ballot Proposition No. 1, or a decision to leave that box blank, is a vote for the status quo.

On Nov. 7, vote "yes" to make your government work better for you.

Why we endorse

The purpose of an editorial endorsement is to provide a thoughtful assessment of the choices voters face in an election. We offer editorial endorsements to stimulate the public conversation and promote civic engagement. Voting is a privilege and an obligation of citizenship. That part is up to you.

More on the New York constitutional convention:

>> New York constitutional convention: What it means to you, how it would work

>> NY constitutional convention is the only way to clean up Albany

>> NY constitutional convention threatens 'Forever Wild' Adirondacks

>> NY constitutional convention can make courts work better

>> NY constitutional convention could gut worker protections

>> NY constitutional convention would tackle voting reforms

>> NY constitutional convention a 'field day for powerful lobbyists'

Source : http://www.syracuse.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/10/editorial_endorsement_vote_yes_on_ny_constitutional_convention.html

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