For all the talk of how Albany has "changed" and things in our state are beginning to head in the right direction, the fact is that for millions of New Yorkers who work hard, struggle, sacrifice, and play by the rules, real change has not arrived fast enough. Families and job creators are still overtaxed, overregulated and overburdened by a state government that costs too much, spends too much, and puts up too many roadblocks to economic growth. Local governments and school districts are pushed to the brink of bankruptcy because of budget-busting Albany mandates like the Medicaid program.
Things may have gotten better, but better is not good enough. Not even close. New York (still) needs real change, right now.
TIME TO MAKE GOOD ON THE PROMISE OF A SMALLER, SMARTER, LESS COSTLY AND MORE EFFECTIVE STATE GOVERNMENT
The need for real change is not news to me. Readers of this column are well aware that nearly three years ago I launched a grassroots, non-partisan statewide effort to convene a "People's Constitutional Convention." I did so to empower New Yorkers to make fiscal and governmental changes our state government needed - like a State spending cap, term limits, independent redistricting, and initiative and referendum - but Albany's broken status quo kept blocking.
MY GOAL: A MORE EFFECTIVE STATE GOVERNMENT, A MORE EFFECTIVE ECONOMY, A MORE EFFECTIVE CIVIC PROCESS
Building on my efforts to convene a "People's Convention" I am proud to announce the launch of a groundbreaking, bi-partisan reform coalition, the "Citizens' Committee for an Effective Constitution," (also known as "EffectiveNY") located on-line. EffectiveNY seeks to deliver a more effective State Constitution, a more effective state government, a more effective civic process and a more effective economy. This non-profit, non-partisan project has one goal: restoring New York's reputation as a national economic and public policy leader by discussing and debating State Constitutional provisions that have contributed to statewide dysfunction, an underperforming economy and the loss of trust by New Yorkers in their State government and everyone serving in it.
EffectiveNY brings together recognized leaders and experts from the worlds of nonprofit/good government advocacy, private sector leadership and public service, academia and scholarly research to advance serious public discussion of issues pertaining to our State Constitution, government, economy and public policy.
EffectiveNY will generate informed discussion, lively debate and actual follow through that goes beyond traditional political and ideological labels to advance changes to the State Constitution that produce a more responsive and effective state government. EffectiveNY will focus on State Constitutional change and create a meaningful dialogue centered on reforming the Constitution, be it a Constitutional Convention, or an Amendment-by-Amendment approach. The debate will be passionate and spirited - but if you are looking for a political food fight, look elsewhere.
A "COALITION OF OPPOSITES"
I am proud to partner in this unprecedented bi-partisan reform effort with my good friend - and fellow Canandaigua native - Bill Samuels, who serves as Chairman of the government reform groups "New Roosevelt" and the "New Roosevelt Foundation." Bill is one of New York's strongest and most passionate voices for good government. In addition, Dr. Gerald Benjamin, the preeminent expert, author, professor and respected scholar on New York State government and our State Constitution, is helping lead EffectiveNY. Dr. Benjamin also serves as Director of the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz.
Bill Samuels, Dr. Benjamin and I launched EffectiveNY in the hopes of dusting off the State Constitution, advancing the cause of real Constitutional change and demonstrating how such changes could make a real difference for real New Yorkers. Our end goal is a more effective State Constitution that leads to more jobs, a stronger economy and true government reform so New York can reclaim its rightful role as a national leader.
EFFECTIVENY'S ON-LINE PLATFORM: EFFECTIVE NY
EffectiveNY is already live with an interactive on-line platform that serves as a free, 24-hour accessible informational clearinghouse for journalists, elected officials, scholars, teachers, citizen activists and, most importantly, any New Yorker who wants to learn more about State government to make real and lasting change in the public arena. Go to the Effective NY Web site and send me your feedback! Our on-line platform will also be accepting reader comments in the very near future, so be sure to visit and share your thoughts.
VISIT EFFECTIVE NY WEB SITE, GET THE FACTS ON UNFUNDED MANDATE RELIEF, SPENDING CAP, RECALL, REDISTRICTING, AND MORE
One of the many user-friendly features of EffectiveNY's website is its listing of timely issues that directly pertain to the lives of New Yorkers. The site lists public policy issues, along with their direct applicability and specific reference in the State Constitution. A total of 39 issues are in development including: redistricting; campaign finance reform; Constitutional change; Constitutional Amendments; Constitutional Convention; casino gambling; State spending cap; unfunded mandates and property tax reform, with more issues on the way. Each public policy issue section at EffectiveNY's on-line platform also includes:
"Fast Facts," which enables the reader to get up to speed quickly on a particular policy issue and its State Constitutional history;
"Point/Counterpoint," which allows debate between people on either side of an issue on how to best address its constitutional ramifications as well as links to news articles, editorial and opinion pieces that have appeared in local media outlets and blogs across the state;
"News and Opinion Pieces," covering each issue taken from newspapers and blogs throughout the state;
"Other States," section which allows readers to compare and contrast how other State Constitutions address similar policy issues; and
"Relevant Legislative Amendments," with their direct links, that have been proposed in the State Legislature to address a particular policy issue;
$1,000 SCHOLARSHIP ESSAY CONTEST
As part of our educational commitment, EffectiveNY is also sponsoring a $1,000 scholarship essay competition. The contest, managed by SUNY, is open to law students and focuses on State Constitutional issues. While any Constitutional issue qualifies, a focus on campaign finance, redistricting, or any of the topics on our site's homepage are of special interest to EffectiveNY. Essays selected as the strongest will be presented at a statewide conference on State Constitutional change where authors of the best will be awarded cash scholarship prizes of $1,000. To be eligible, essays must be between 5,000-7,500 words in length. The best essays will appear on EffectiveNY's website and be seen by thousands.
EFFECTIVENY: MAKE STATE GOVERNMENT WORK FOR ALL NEW YORKERS
As detailed as this weekly column is, it barely scratches the surface of all the excellent content, ideas, details, facts and history of just about every issue imaginable pertaining to our State Constitution and State government. Don't take my word for it: go to the Effective NY Web site, see for yourself and share this site with friends. Together, we can realize the goal of a more effective New York State and a government that works for all New Yorkers.
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at email@example.com.