People’s Convention to Reform New York

December 16, 2009

QUEENSBURY, NY – Is Albany working for you?

That was the question Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua) asked to open a crowded Town Hall meeting he convened this morning with his colleagues, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R,I-Willsboro) and Assemblyman Tony Jordan (R,C-Jackson), where they discussed their support for a “People’s Convention to Reform New York,” and described how it could deliver the positive change that New Yorkers of all political parties – and regions – have been demanding.

The People’s Convention to Reform New York is a grassroots, non-partisan reform effort to empower citizens so they can take back their state government and, in the process, chart a positive, new direction for New York. Some of the issues that could be considered during a People’s Convention include fiscal reforms like a property tax and state spending cap, debt reform, along with a ban on “backdoor” borrowing and unfunded mandates. Governmental reforms such as initiative and referendum, an independent Legislative Redistricting Commission, term limits for Legislative Leaders, ethics reform and a succession plan for state offices also could be considered as part of a People’s Convention.

Kolb, Sayward and Jordan also discussed and took numerous questions from attendees about their non-partisan legislation, “The People’s Convention to Reform New York Act,” Assembly Bill A.9157. If enacted, the bill would put the question of whether New York should convene a “People’s Convention” on the 2010 ballot; by law, this question automatically goes before voters in 2017. Kolb, Sayward and Jordan’s non-partisan measure would move up the opportunity for reform by seven years, accelerating the state’s ability to enact long overdue and much-needed changes. The legislation specifically requires that any elected official seeking to run as a delegate for, or serve in, the People’s Convention must first resign their office.

The People’s Convention to Reform New York Act has been co-sponsored by Mark Schroeder (145th District), a Member of the Assembly Majority, and 33 other Members of the Assembly Minority Conference. Additionally, 41 local municipalities throughout New York State have already enacted local resolutions in support of the legislation. The effort also has the support of nearly 1,700 New Yorkers who have visited and signed the on-line petition calling for a People’s Convention.

“There is a growing feeling among New Yorkers that their state government has stopped working for them – that it’s grown too costly, unresponsive and disconnected from the lives of those it was supposed to serve. It is time New Yorkers took back their state government – it begins by convening a People’s Convention, which is the first step toward restoring accountability,” Kolb said.

“A multi-billion dollar budget deficit, a state Legislature that is still the most dysfunctional in our nation, a culture of corruption and ‘pay-to-play’ hanging over state government like a dark cloud – New York is facing a whole host of challenges that won’t be solved through politics as usual or reliance on a broken status quo. We’ve been there, done that. The People’s Convention to Reform New York is a fresh approach to restoring taxpayer trust, integrity and accountability in state government by making sure the people have a central role in fixing the problems that have plagued our state for decades. Ours is a government of, by and for the people – not the lobbyists, special interests or political bosses. It’s time for the people to take back their government and a People’s Convention is the answer,” Sayward said.

“New York is at a tipping point and taxpayers have reached their boiling point over state government’s repeated incompetence and inability to solve even the most basic of problems. I ran for the Assembly not to merely talk about the challenges, but to actually solve them. Taxpayers are ready for real change that isn’t predicated on political labels or the types of regional politics that pit upstate against downstate. Those are the types of empty political gimmicks that politicians have hidden behind for years instead of offering serious, substantive and non-partisan policy solutions. Solutions are what my colleagues and I are working for in pushing for a People’s Convention – but we cannot do it alone, the people must raise their voices for real reform. If the people speak, the politicians will listen,” Jordan said.

The Town Hall meeting was held today from 8-10 a.m. at the West Glens Falls Fire Co. #1 in Queensbury, which is located in Sayward’s Upstate New York 113th Assembly District, which includes Essex, Hamilton, Saratoga and Warren counties. Jordan represents the neighboring 112th Assembly District, which is comprised of Rensselaer, Saratoga and Washington counties. Kolb’s 129th Assembly District is located in the Finger Lakes region and contains Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga, Ontario and Seneca counties.