By Michael Frank
There are more than 150 groups that are in opposition to the proposed ballot amendment for the constitutional convention. Pro-choice groups and anti-abortion rights groups. Pro-union groups and anti-union groups. Pro-gun rights groups and gun control groups. The common thread? Political power. The only logical reason these folks don’t want a New York State Constitutional Convention – a Con Con – is that they presently enjoy a toehold in Albany that they very much like. Upset the system and they have to reestablish a network and grapple with a new order where they may not have as much juice, and the last thing interest groups like is change, because it means that the power has shifted away from their control.
You know what that’s called? Democracy.
The last time New York held a constitutional convention abortion was illegal.
That was 1967. And despite the passage of 50 years the now legal practice is still under threat. The most recent action by the Trump Administration will, ironically, make it more common for women to need abortions (by making it harder to obtain birth control).
What’s changed since 1967, despite Trump’s actions, is that by an increasing majority Americans would like abortion to remain safe and legal.
This is even more the case in New York State. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that New Yorkers favor a state constitutional amendment to legalize abortion by a margin of 68-27 percent.
Slam dunk, right? NYS Legislature should take this up immediately.
This right isn’t enshrined in New York’s constitution, because there has been no move to amend the sprawling document to this end. The amendment process requires two consecutively elected legislatures to vote in favor, and then the change must be voted on in a general election. While the majority of statewide constituents favor such an amendment, the NYS Senate is far more conservative than the state’s voters, making sure that abortion rights will not soon be written into the constitution.
But there’s another pathway to protect a woman’s right to choose, as well as the rights that every person of every race and religion is protected, and that LGBTQ rights are protected, even as federal efforts are actively underway to undermine them both by employers and in the military.
It’s called a constitutional convention and New Yorkers get the right to vote in favor of holding one every 20 years.
Proposed budgets in 2016 two upstate counties, Ulster and Onondaga, delivered bad news to comptrollers, county elected officials charged with fiscal oversight. In Ulster, County Executive Michael Hein sought a 22% cut (from $890,000 to $695,000) in Comptroller Elliot Auerbach’s budget. Meanwhile, in Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney took $479,000 (27%) out of Comptroller’s Bob Antonacci’s budget. Were these decisions political payback that reveal a need for structural changes in county government, or simply tough-minded management?
Last week, the Department of Political Science and International Relations at SUNY New Paltz convened a roundtable discussion on the state of the Trump presidency a little more than two weeks in. Clocking in at just over an hour, the panel discussion and ensuing conversation with the audience set the context for where we are and where we might be going. The take-away was that one possible solution to Trump and his ambiguities lies in an institutional response to Trumpism, and that audience members might best channel their energies to directed political organization and action, including running for office, as a means to confront and resist the politics of prevarication and anti-democratic calumny over the next 4 years.
Photo credit: KT Tobin
The panel, composed of Nancy Kassop, Stephen Pampinella, Daniel Lipson, and Gerald Benjamin, offered views grounded in the ethic of resistance and response, not reaction. The discussion was organized around questions posed by moderator Scott Minkoff. With particular attention to institutional dynamics, panelists offered their views on domestic government and politics, international relations, and environmental politics. The discussion focused in particular on two dimensions: Trump’s political strengths and weaknesses, and the institutions and industrial and populist partisans that are now organizing in opposition to the president’s inarticulate, inchoate arch-conservative, corporate-friendly policy agenda.