To the Editor:
Last week, I hosted a very informative roundtable discussion on reforming state government in order to “restore the public’s trust, reform the state’s finances, and curb the power of special interests,” as underscored in the “Pledge for Change New York.”
This Pledge, sponsored by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), Citizens Union of the City of New York, Common Cause/NY, the League of Women Voters/N.Y.S. and the Brennan Center for Justice, served as the backdrop for the forum. I signed the pledge at the end of March.
The panelists focused on a number of critical areas for reform. We learned a lot about the way legislative district lines are drawn – many districts look like a Rorschach test, gerrymandered to favor incumbents and the legislative majority party at the time. We also discussed the lax rules and high limits in place for campaign finance. Even the rules that exist have little teeth with which to enforce them. A favorite topic of mine, the inequity in distribution of member items (also known as legislative pork), how they can easily be misused to direct power and help win elections, was another area we covered. Finally, ethics reform and how we can hold legislators accountable to high standards of behavior focused on some of the recent bad behavior that has been tabloid fodder and how we need true independent oversight and the ability to enforce conclusions of such a panel.
All around the state reform, including all the areas I have been working on, is finally starting to gain traction across party lines. With this forum, I wanted to take advantage of some of this momentum to bring together those who have been working on change with me for years, and the public, to motivate constituents to act now.
I encourage anyone who is interested in learning more to contact my office 914-941-1111. I will have copies of the June 3rd forum available to share and hope that more people will take an active interest in this important area now while the time is ripe for change.