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Constitutional Convention: Thanks, but No Thanks - New York Times comes out AGAINST Constitutional Convention

Nov 02, 2017
  • the new york times, ny times, concon, constitutional convention

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
October 31, 2017

That the mechanisms of New York State governance require serious repair is beyond dispute.

A campaign finance system that fosters corruption and creates kingmakers of moneyed interests cries out for a thorough overhaul. The incumbent protection racket known as gerrymandering must end. The voting process needs to be reinvented to stimulate anemic turnouts. And greater home rule for New York City and other municipalities is essential: It’s absurd that the city, for instance, needs Albany’s permission for something as prosaic as lowering speed limits on its own streets.

These and other issues could be fodder for a state constitutional convention, arguably a once-in-a-generation chance to reshape New York democracy. Every 20 years, under law, a question must be put before the electorate, as it will be again on Tuesday for the first time since 1997. Voters will get to say aye or nay to this, Ballot Proposal 1: “Shall there be a convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same?”

For the most part, New Yorkers have not cottoned to con-cons, to use a common shorthand. They voted “no” 20 years ago, just as they did 40 and 60 years ago. Except for a convention in the mid-1960s initiated by the Legislature — a fruitless exercise, since its proposals were ultimately shot down at the ballot box — no assemblage of this kind has been held since 1938.

In 1997 we urged a “yes” vote, reasoning that state government was “a paralytic wreck” and opportunities for reform were rare. It’s tempting to make the same argument now. The Constitution is a bloated relic, reaching back to 1894 and rattling on for more than 50,000 words, seven times the length of the United States Constitution, amendments included. And the fact that most major politicians in the state oppose a convention — do they quake at the mere thought of reform? — is in itself an invitation to say “yes.”

But we feel obliged this time to recommend a “no” vote. It’s not because we fear change. On the contrary, the concern is that the likelihood of a con-con yielding the most desperately needed reforms is disappointingly low, and the possibility of its accomplishing nothing at significant cost, or, worse, setting New York back even further, is worrisomely high.

Read the full article here.

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