2009-09-04 / Editorial/Opinion

It's Time For A Constitutional Convention

Few New Yorkers would disagree with the proposition that our state government is broken. A recent poll showed that nearly three-quarters of state residents would like to see that government structure changed to make it more responsive to the needs of the people rather than the needs of the legislators themselves. That dissatisfaction has caused a groundswell for holding a constitutional convention in 2010, rather than wait for the mandated constitution question in 2017. A constitutional convention would allow the delegates to redraw almost every aspect of how New York State does its political business, and that has some people nervous. The present constitution, for example, has safeguards in the environmental area as well as in abortion rights for women. Some fear that those rights could well decay or disappear entirely should the convention be taken over by conservatives. Lobbyists worry that their power will be undermined in an attempt to take special interests out of the legislative arena. Conservatives worry that abortion and conservation rights would be enhanced if the liberal wing holds sway in the convention. The trick is in finding the right delegates, just as it was ten years after the Revolutionary War when delegates were chosen for our first national convention. The one they drew up remains the U.S. Constitution. First, keep politicians out of the convention. Elected officials, including ex-electeds and party hacks, need not apply. Those who should apply are the civic activists - the chamber of commerce presidents, civic organization activists, parent association presidents, business leaders and young organizers. Let them decide what kind of government they want. We need real change, and the politicians will never bring the kind of change we need. It is time to open the windows and let a fresh breeze blow.

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