Committing to a Constitutional Convention

Inteview with Bill Samuels
Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 05:03 PM EDT


Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick explains his support for a “yes” vote in 2017 on the New York State Constitutional Convention:

“Absolutely, I think we should, we must hold a People’s Convention. … I think there’s cause to be cautious, but not fearful. People are worried that if we hold the Convention who’s to say that the special interest groups with big money won’t find the way to write the rules at this Convention and only rig the session further for the next ten years.

But I think we’re at a unique moment. … A lot’s changed since our last Convention. There’s so much openness and transparency, in people’s participation, in any political process. That’s why you saw the rise of Barack Obama and now the rise and near victory of Bernie Sanders, because it is easier than ever for people to participate en masse and I think what you’re seeing with how our state government is currently structured is it was obviously written, it speaks more to Conventions when it was harder for people to have a voice. So I think it’s a good idea.”

Link to audio

City Councilman Jumaane Williams on whether there should be a NYS Constitutional Convention:

“I am absolutely for a People’s Convention. I am absolutely for reviewing the constitution. It’s ridiculous. I mean … the Senate Republicans, who keep blocking ways to fix housing in New York City, have no rent regulation in their districts. So they have no one there to hold them accountable for these bad votes. Same thing with the educational system. Their kids don’t go to these schools. And so it just makes no sense how much power a small group of Senate Republicans hold over New York City and no one can hold them accountable for it.”

Link to Audio


New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres on why he favors a yes vote in 2017 on the Constitutional Convention:

RT: “I’m a firebrand on the City Council and I believe—I forget the exact quote, but I remember I was at my sister’s house and I saw a quote on her refrigerator. It said ‘A woman has never made history by being on her best behavior.’ And I feel like that’s true of all of us. I’m not going to rely on the state Legislature to reform Albany. I think we need people on the ground like you and me and advocates who are actively participating in the convention and pushing for systemic reform because Albany cannot be trusted to reform itself. Washington cannot be trusted to reform itself. Reform will only arrive out of grassroots agitation.”

Link to Audio


State Senator Michael Gianaris on why he supports a Constitutional Convention: 

MG: “We are in such need of dramatic change in the state that a convention would be a great way to kind of turn the whole thing over and start fresh. The list of reforms that I would suggest are lengthy. We probably don’t have enough time to go over them right now… but I can give you a short list. It would involve real redistricting reform as opposed to the thing we enacted that won’t achieve the goals we all wanted of a truly independent process. Ethics reforms, including a full-time legislature, pension forfeiture for those convicted of crimes. The list is not short of the things we can do.”

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NY Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb explains his support for the 2017 Constitutional Convention:

BK: “[I have reservations] about who gets to serve in a Constitutional Convention, but I think the voters should get an opportunity to have that Convention or not. There’s a lot of special interest groups … [and a] lot of people that don’t want any changes to the status quo and that’s precisely the problem … When you have lobbyists having more input on legislation than the rank and file legislators that were elected to do that, that’s a problem. And that’s another facet of our legislative process that there’s too much outside influence just in writing legislation from outside groups that were never elected by the people of the State of New York to represent them. And so I think the Constitutional Convention is another opportunity to shake the trees and maybe also include overall term limits for all legislators … produce a referendum maybe for term limits for the Governor as we do for the President of the United States, maybe they serve two terms max. There’s so many things that can come out of it that I think that the quote-unquote status quo is refusing to take up in the current environment in Albany.”

Link to Audio