The language provided below is the text of three ballot referenda, which will appear on the ballot. All ballot initiatives will appear on the back of your paper ballot.
For more information about the ballot questions, including arguments in favor and against, see the Campaign Finance Board Voter Guide, available at www.nyccfb.info. The full text of the proposals can be found on the New York State Board of Elections website at www.elections.ny.gov.
PROPOSAL NUMBER 1
A QUESTION: CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION - CITYWIDE
Shall there be a convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same?
CITIZENS UNION SUPPORTS THIS PROPOSAL.
STATEMENT OF SUPPORT
Citizens Union strongly supports the call for a constitutional convention as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make fundamental reforms to the structure of our state’s democracy which are either barred by the current constitution or blocked by intransigence of the currently established political powers. Potential reforms supported by Citizens Union include the adoption of reasonable term limits for all elected officials, providing for early voting and more accessible registration, reducing the influence of money in elections, strengthening local government, reorganizing our byzantine court system, and the establishment of stronger ethics standards and enforcement to reduce corruption. Many other positive reforms could be adopted to open the political process in the dramatic fashion to meet the needs of future generations.
Unfortunately, our current political leaders, in both parties, have proven unable to make the kind of fundamental reforms required. Too many legislators have had to leave office due to corruption and too many billions of state tax dollars are spent without accountability to give New Yorkers confidence that the government is run in the public interest. Voter participation in New York thus remains among the lowest in the nation, as cynicism and distrust, rather than participation, characterizes current elections. Virtually uncontrolled expenditures of money dominate politics and over 98% of legislators are routinely re-elected due to the established advantages of incumbency. It is time to make a change.
The constitutional convention will provide just such an opportunity. While the process for selection of delegates is far from perfect (and still could be improved by the legislature if it were to act prior to the elections in 2018), the election of three delegates for entirely “open seats” in each state Senate district will afford opportunity for a new class of candidates. Current indications are that a large number of qualified citizens are interested in running for office and will seek the opportunity to become delegates. 2018 will also be a banner year for voter turnout.
The opposition to the convention is largely based upon fears that the convention will be dominated by billionaires and special interests, thus threatening existing protections in the New York constitution for education, public pensions, labor rights, and the protection of the environment. Citizens Union does not share those fears. All polling shows no significant support for the “roll-back” of any constitutional protections, while it does show strong public support for democratic reforms which our legislature has simply failed to pursue. Any proposals adopted by the convention will further be subject to approval by the voters in yet another referendum.
Simply put, there is no reason to fear a new future for New York’s government. There is every reason, in contrast, to fear a continuation of the current, very broken status quo. Let us embrace the opportunity for change.
PROPOSAL NUMBER 2
AN AMENDMENT: ALLOWING THE COMPLETE OR PARTIAL FORFEITURE OF A PUBLIC OFFICER’S PENSION IF HE OR SHE IS CONVICTED OF A CERTAIN TYPE OF FELONY – CITYWIDE
The proposed amendment to section 7 of Article 2 of the State Constitution would allow a court to reduce or revoke the public pension of a public officer who is convicted of a felony that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public officer’s existing duties. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?
CITIZENS UNION SUPPORTS THIS POSITION
STATEMENT OF SUPPORT
Citizens Union urges a “yes” vote to allow a court to reduce or revoke the pension of a public official convicted of corruption in public office. Under this provision, in making its decision, the court must take certain factors into account, including the severity of the crime and the proportionality of the pension forfeiture to the crime. It also would have to consider whether the forfeiture creates an undue hardship on the official’s spouse or dependents. Public employees hold positions of public trust, and thus should be held to a high standard when they use their positions to commit crimes that involve public funds or the exercise of undue influence. It is unseemly to allow officials who abuse the public trust to receive a public pension which is funded by the taxpayers. This proposed amendment creates a fair procedure for a court to follow in determining whether and to what extent the pension should be forfeited, sending a strong message to public officials that their service is to the people, not themselves, and that any knowing corruption will simply not be tolerated.
PROPOSAL NUMBER 3
AN AMENDMENT: AUTHORIZING THE USE OF FOREST PRESERVE LAND FOR SPECIFIED PURPOSED – CITYWIDE
The proposed amend will create a land account with up to 250 acres of forest preserve land eligible for use by towns, villages, and counties that have no viable alternative to using forest preserve land to address specific public health and safety concerns; as a substitute for the land removed from the forest preserve, another 250 acres of land, will be added to the forest preserve, subject to legislative approval. The proposed amendment also will allow bicycle trails and certain public utility lines to be located within the width of specified highways that cross the forest preserve while minimizing removal of trees and vegetation. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?
CITIZENS UNION HAS NOT EVALUATED THIS PROPOSAL REGARDING THE STATE’S FOREST PRESERVE.