Every 20 years New York State votes on whether or not we should have a Constitutional Convention (Con Con). On November 7, 2017, New Yorkers will be asked if the state should hold a convention to rewrite our constitution. As a civil service union member and a New York State resident, the NY State Constitution establishes our rights both as employees and residents. Every aspect of the constitution could be subject to change if the Con Con happens. 89% of New Yorkers polled by Siena College have heard little or nothing about the upcoming Con Con vote but most think the media campaign by interested, deep pocketed parties will begin soon. Besides voting NO on election day we should educate ourselves on the issues, the concerns and replies to those concerns that we can use to discuss the vote with family, friends and strangers alike.
Some of the concerns you might hear are about taxes, pensions and even the environment. While the average New Yorker would agree taxes are too high in our state, the convention itself is estimated to cost $350 million dollars or more. So anyone who votes yes is agreeing to an additional tax burden we will have to pay for, with no guarantee any tax savings would come from it. I think most of us would agree Albany would find a new use for any money the taxpayers envisioned the Con Con would save.
As far as pensions, the average New Yorker is fed up with elected officials, convicted of crimes in office, still getting their pensions. Proposition 2 on the ballot is an amendment to the constitution that would allow the state to reduce or revoke the pension of a public officer convicted of a felony. You can vote NO to the Con Con (proposal #1) and still vote yes to this proposal, which most are unaware of. Even as a union member fed up with corruption in Albany this is a way of protecting your rights while making your voice heard on a serious matter.
The New York State Constitution can be amended without a Constitutional Convention and has, over 200 times, in the past. The Con Con would be an expensive, taxpayer-funded political show that would be controlled by well funded special interest groups and their lobbyists. It would most likely result in changes that harm regular New Yorkers, while doing none of the things a concerned resident, who voted yes, might have hoped for. Obviously most New Yorkers and Americans as a whole would agree the environment is a concern, but a Con Con is not the way to address those concerns; when an amendment could address the concerns cheaper, more efficiently and without the risk of altering our State Constitution. Proposition #3 on this years ballot, in fact, does address an environmental issue.
So what can you do? If you are on Facebook, the "Stop the War on Public Employees" page includes a lot of helpful information and videos you can educate yourself with. Once you see a video that you think represents how you feel, share it with your friends on Facebook. Through sharing we may be able to reach thousands upon thousands of NYS voters. If you have a family member in school, out of state or vacationing on election day, absentee ballots can still be used, WWW.NASSAUVOTES.COM has all the information needed and the time has not expired. You can apply for one as late as seven days before election day and submit (postmarked) up to one day before.
Also, the union is looking for volunteers to put up any unused CONCON signs on Friday, November 3rd and Monday, November 6th, using EOL (Union) time, to make sure our resources are being used wisely. Contact a delegate or the office directly if you are interested.
It's your pension, your benefits and your state. Be proactive, vote and educate yourself on the important issues so you can make less personally invested voters aware of the facts. Proposal #2, discussed above, is a great alternative to mention to the disgusted taxpayer who wants public officers, convicted of a felony, to lose their pension, without the risks incurred by having a Con Con.
Regardless of employment, political affiliation, personal beliefs or opinions, the New York State Constitution ensures the freedoms, liberties and rights that every New Yorker uses knowingly or unknowingly. All of those would be open to change by the same Albany insiders that the average New Yorker is tired of. It's not worth the risk when there are other less expensive and risky alternatives to affect the changes we want or need and that is the message we need to convey.