Voters will consider three statewide propositions on the ballot for the general election Nov. 7.
We urge everyone to vote yes on all three referendums. Here is our rationale for supporting these measures.
* Constitutional convention: Every 20 years, New Yorkers are asked whether a convention process should be established to consider changes to the state constitution. The state has not held a constitutional convention for 50 years, and doing so is long overdue.
Critics of a constitutional convention are concerned this would create an opportunity for mischief. They fear that people representing special interests would tamper with the constitution to suit their needs, which could have adverse consequences in the long run. Opponents also declare that New Yorkers may work for changes in the constitution through the existing legislative process, so there’s no need to stage a costly convention.
Yes, special interest groups will always seek to gain an advantage when laws are being tweaked. But they regularly do this now by enticing public officials in Albany with whatever is at their disposal. Is a convention really going to make us less safe from their influence than we are now?
The good news is that if a convention was approved, any proposed changes to the constitution would be subject to a popular vote. This would allow supporters and opponents to advocate for their respective positions on each measure. It makes no sense to thwart the entire process when people may work for or against the individual proposed amendments.
And it’s true that New Yorkers may urge legislative changes to improve conditions. The problem with this argument, however, is that special interest groups hold incredible sway over this process.
Our elected officials in Albany have few incentives to advance bills that would do some good in key areas — items pertaining to their own ethical conduct being a prime example. Most New Yorkers strongly support more expansive measures to rein in unethical behavior on the part of legislators. But for the most part, officials won’t budge.
So while the legislative process is available, those who oversee it often refuse to work toward what their constituents want. A convention would open this system up so that proper changes could be proposed and voted on by New Yorkers. Let’s affirm this idea and provide hope for those whose voices aren’t being heard.
* State pensions for felons: The second proposition would allow courts to reduce or remove the state pensions of government officials convicted of felonies with a “direct and actual relationship” to their duties. There is no question that voters should support this proposal. It’s difficult to imagine anyone opposing the measure, but critics exist.
State Sen. Reuben Diaz, D-Bronx, was quoted by Newsday as saying, “This is wrong. If I do something then, yes, I go to jail. But then my wife is out on the street?”
Here’s an idea: If you’re concerned about your spouse being adversely affected by your illegal behavior, don’t engage in the illegal behavior. Problem solved!
* Adirondack and Catskill forest preserve areas: The third proposition calls for the creation of a land bank related to the Adirondack and Catskill parks. Up to 250 acres of land would be placed in an account and added to the state’s forest preserve. Municipalities in or near the state’s Adirondack and Catskill forest preserve areas could apply to use land in the existing forest preserve to make necessary infrastructure improvements, and the land used would be offset by the new land account.
The land could only be used to build or relocate roads, fix safety issues on existing bridges and highways, or build wells. The measure has a separate proposal to allow bicycle paths and some utility lines within the width of roads that already run through forest preserve. This measure excludes gas and oil pipelines from the infrastructure that could be laid down.
This proposition is endorsed by environmental groups including the Adirondack Council. It’s a common-sense mechanism for allowing improvements to be made while preserving protected land.
—Johnson News Service