The following are my remarks from a New York Constitutional Convention forum held at United Neighborhood Houses with Common Cause on October 18, 2017.
I am proud to work on a political campaign in which nearly every elected official and the NYPD wants you to vote no, while I want to inspire you to vote yes.
A constitutional convention is a defined process of participatory democracy in action. Led by publicly elected delegates, after a year of debate and community-led political discussion, to propose amendments or revisions to the state constitution, which the public will vote on. This process, is the only escape hatch we have from the most corrupt state legislature in the United States, with an almost 95% incumbent re-election rate, exacerbated by a system in which party bosses choose the candidates for a limited pool of voters to elect.
Tonight you will hear a lot about the Koch Brothers and the Mercers as corrupting influences to a possible State Constitutional Convention. I would like to share with you a quote that I found from the archives of the Citizens Union Voter Guides, last week.
“We reject those critics who concede the need for a constitutional convention revision, but fear the consequences of a Convention; generally, they do not wish to risk the present provisions that they support against the hope for further improvements. We believe that in a democracy it is crucial to trust that the people will elect delegates sympathetic to the public good, and not those who would be guided purely by the dictates of partisan advantage. The Constitutional Convention is our best opportunity for real reform.” Citizens Union 1977
If it is as unsafe to Vote Yes to a New York Constitutional Convention both under President Jimmy Carter, in a world with the Sex Pistols and Diana Ross as it is in the present moment with President 45, Beyoncé, Residente and with the transparency of civic tech solutions like what the community of Civic Hall incubates, then we have no hope. We should admit we live in dictatorship, without the type of democracy we could find in a NY Peoples Convention with the support of good government groups like Citizens Union, the League of Women Voters of the City. and state of New York, New York City Bar Association, The Black Institute, and others.
The vote on November 7th is only to call for a meeting. Proposition 1 — has nothing to do with pensions — it is only to call a meeting. Proposition 2 — is all about pensions — and taking them away from convicted corrupt elected officials.
This year alone the New York State Senate has rejected 19 pieces of proposed needed legislative reforms from voting to the NY Single Payer act. If the current legislature were up to the task of moving forward with basic, good government initiatives, we would not have to vote yes, calling for a meeting. If the current legislature were up to the task of expanding voting access to all who live in New York, we would not have to call for a meeting. If the current legislature were up to the task of providing information to the public about 13 billion dollars, spent in the shadows of New York State government, we would not have to call for a meeting.
In this meeting, we could have a room that includes the brightest and most generous minds of our present moment in New York State. A moment in which many people are looking for a concrete way forward. One of the best ways to move forward is with a convention representative of the people in our state. A state with the highest percentage of professional women, a state ranked top in the world for bringing together technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, a state in which we have centuries of history and ties to each other with our close knit, though currently struggling communities.
We are also the most politically corrupt state in the United States. 13 billion dollars unaccounted for, represents a failure to fully serve the people of New York, which is why it is time to hold a meeting. Nearly every elected official is against the New York State Constitutional Convention, the ones not against the convention are not talking about it.
Corruption and collusion walk hand-in-hand. The Kochs and Mercers are names being thrown around, without any evidence, to frighten us into not taking control of our state government. Don’t fall for the latest round of manipulations. We have been voting no for 40 years, as our collective quality of life has been auctioned off to the highest bidder and over 13 billion dollars is spent without public input or oversight.
Tell your friends, tell your members, tell your families, tell your communities, it is time to call a meeting, it is time to vote yes, for the first time in 40 years to a New York State Constitutional Convention. It is time to run delegate candidate campaigns. It is time to innovate state government. It is time to end corruption. It is time to make a better New York for the many, not the few.
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