In a perfect world, revisiting the New York State Constitution would be a no brainer — it’s a laborious document clearly in need of revision. Next Tuesday, as is customary every 20 years, voters throughout New York State will decide if this is the year delegates should be selected from throughout the state to give us a Constitution more fitting for 2017.
Now is not the time.
There is much a revision could accomplish in idyllic theory — shaping New York governance in a variety of ways: establishing home-rule for municipalities, pension reform, an end to gerrymandering, serious campaign finance reform and ensuring civil liberties that may be threatened on the federal level are protected in New York State, let alone establishing environmental protections that could safeguard our way of life. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unknowns.
First, the cost. To hold the convention, three delegates from 63 state senatorial districts, and 15 at-large representatives would be selected and paid to bring what may end up being fruitless amendments to voters, costing the state tens of millions of dollars that could be better spent elsewhere. Also of concern is one of the very issues some proponents of the convention say it could solve: campaign finance.
The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision has paved the way for millions of dollars to be funneled into a campaign to stack the deck on delegates at the convention, that some civic groups fear would lead to a stripping of education aid and environmental protections. Thanks to the Citizens United decision, there is no way to know whether our delegation will be culled by an informed citizenry, or by special interest groups with an eye on their own interests, instead of those of New York State residents.