New Yorkers have a chance to end corruption in their state, once and for all. This fall, the people of New York will vote on whether or not to hold a state constitutional convention next year.
The opportunity to hold one of these conventions in New York only happens once every 20 years.
In the state with the worst political corruption and the most economic inequality in the country, it would seem like a no-brainer that the voters would vote “yes” on holding a constitutional convention.
The convention is a rare opportunity for voters to pass reforms that the legislature would never consider passing, especially in New York, which has one of the strongest and most unified political machines in the country.
So, of course, the political establishment is hellbent on preventing a constitutional convention from happening.
“New Yorkers Against Corruption,” the group that is organizing for a “no” vote on the convention, has rolled out all the punches in an effort to deceive New Yorkers.
The group is dominating the digital realm, peddling a series of lies about the convention process that are hypocritical and disingenuous at best.
I want to address some of the misinformation that they're spreading.
For starters, a central focus of their messaging strategy is that a constitutional convention could allow lobbyists and politicians to wield even more influence over the state.
Here’s the thing: The people organizing a “no” vote ARE the lobbyists and politicians -- consultants, establishment figures, and party hacks -- that the people of New York should be concerned about.
The “no” campaign is literally being run by a national lobbying firm called Kivvit. If you go on their website, you can tell that it is not a grassroots effort.
All of the anti-convention events are being organized by establishment politicians. And while the “no” coalition has managed to receive endorsements from a number of nonprofit groups and unions, the majority of them have strong ties to the establishment.
The second lie that the “no” coalition is using is their claim that a constitutional convention would cost over $300 million of taxpayer money. This is simply not true.
The last constitutional convention in New York, back in 1967, cost $47 million when adjusted for inflation. New York has a $153 billion annual budget, and the convention is a two-year process.
The convention would cost $23.5 million per year, which is a little over a hundredth-of-one-percent of New York’s annual budget.
One could argue a convention might cost more today than it did in 1967, but even if it did, what would that add up to when put in perspective of the state budget -- a tenth-of-one-percent at most?
Is that cost not worth the opportunity to unrig a broken system that disempowers the working people to the advantage of the political and economic elite?
The final lie of the “no” coalition is that the convention could be hijacked by extremist groups who want to remove environmental regulations or commit other nefarious acts.
Of course there’s a degree of unpredictability inherent in any democratic process, but it would be nearly impossible for anyone to hijack a convention due to the mechanisms in place to prevent that from happening.
First of all, convention delegates have to be elected by the people -- three from every state senate district (204 delegates across 63 districts) and 15 statewide delegates.
The State Senate is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, which means the local delegates should also be evenly divided between both ends of the political spectrum.
Maybe the statewide delegates will tilt the delegation in one direction or the other, but ultimately, the voters of New York will have to approve whichever constitutional amendments are recommended by the delegation. The people have the final say in everything.
To infer that a special interest group could heavily influence the delegate election process AND also trick the entire state of New York into voting for an amendment that goes against their best interests is utterly ridiculous.
So despite what you might hear from New Yorkers Against Corruption, the people of New York have so much to gain and so little to lose by holding a constitutional convention; and in reality, it’s the establishment who are most at risk by allowing the people to rewrite the state’s constitution.
The truth of the matter is that the “no” coalition is terrified of what could happen if the voters of New York take control of this democratic process and use it as an opportunity to empower the people over the political and economic elite.
The establishment’s inability to control the outcome of a constitutional convention is enough motivation for them to try and prevent one from happening altogether. It’s all clearly motivated by self-interest to retain their political power.
So, rather than comply to the fear and intimidation tactics being utilized by the “no” coalition, I urge my fellow New Yorkers to vote “yes” on holding a constitutional convention and use it as an opportunity to pass reforms that help the working people of New York. It’s time the people took back their state.
More information can be found at nypeoplesconvention.org.
Photo Source: Reuters