Progressive Organizations Join Together to Urge Opposition to ConCon

Press Release

For Immediate Release:                                           Contact:

October 30, 2017                                                        Ron Deutsch, Fiscal Policy Institute

(518) 469-6769

Progressive Organizations Join Together to Urge Opposition to ConCon

The Risk is Simply Too Great

 Progressive organizations from across New York State joined together today to voice their opposition to a Constitutional Convention.  The groups suggested that for virtually all New Yorkers, there is simply more to lose than to gain by holding a Constitutional Convention. The groups highlighted multiple concerns with the rigged delegate selection process, the rights they believed could be placed at risk for a wide variety of populations in the state and the potential influence of right-wing billionaires to push their self-serving agendas.

“The ConCon is a con. In an era when federal protections for fundamental rights face unprecedented attack by the Trump regime, our state constitution provides a vital safety net for New Yorkers. We can’t let our civil liberties be used as bargaining chips,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil liberties Union.

I strongly believe there is simply more to lose than to gain by holding a Constitutional Convention,” said Ron Deutsch, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute. “New York’s voters should not be put in a position of having to approve decreases in some protections in order to gain increases in some others – even if, on some philosopher king’s scale, more rights and protections were gained than were lost.  Amending the state constitution should not be a game of give and take; and that’s just one of the many reasons we oppose a Constitutional Convention.”

We all know the laws of New York State can stand improvement.  But is a Constitutional Convention the best path to reform?  Can anyone guarantee that powerful political interests will protect our most fundamental and enlightened legal principles and protection?  Are we sure that even the best intentions won’t have harmful unintended consequences?

“The NYIC stands in firm opposition to a constitutional convention,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “For immigrant communities, communities of color, and New Yorkers at large, a convention carries far more risks than potential benefits. We cannot gamble with the many fundamental rights enshrined in our state’s constitution. These include equal protection regardless of immigration status, critical civil rights for immigrant students, and the mandate that the state provide health care and coverage to low-income and immigrant New Yorkers. On November 7th, we’ll be voting NO.”

“For The Legal Aid Society’s clients, the risk of losing hard-won rights in the convention is too great,” said Adriene Holder, Attorney-in-Charge of The Legal Aid Society.  “We have achieved the right to subsistence income and health insurance for low-income New Yorkers – including immigrants who have been excluded from the federal safety net – and the basic human right to have a roof over your head for homeless New Yorkers. When we are in need, these are life and death issues for many of us, and we cannot be expected to risk losing them on a gamble, particularly where we anticipate a loss in federal funding for health and human services.”

Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York said, “As Trump continues to put the environment in the hands of the polluters, it’s more important than ever to maintain strong standards and critical safeguards. Our Constitution is the foundation upon which protections such as the Forever Wild clause, established in 1894, are rooted. The last thing we should do is put it at-risk. A process for amending the Constitution already exists – and it works. The clear choice is a NO vote on November 7.”

“The New York State constitution guarantees students’ right to a sound basic education,” says Jasmine Gripper, legislative director at the Alliance for Quality Education. “Parents, educators and advocates have gone through years of litigation to hold elected officials accountable to meeting this standard by fully funding schools, especially schools in Black, Brown and low income neighborhoods. A constitutional convention could alter this protection for students, threatening their fundamental right to the educational opportunity they deserve.”

While the idea of a Constitutional Convention might sound great in the abstract, the process for who gets chosen to take part in the convention gives an overwhelming advantage to those with either established name recognition or access to lots of money. In this era of Citizens United, we know that money influences politics and that some hedge fund managers and other billionaires have extreme conservative views and are willing to spends endless amounts of money to push their ideological agenda.

“Right-wing billionaire hedge fund managers like Robert Mercer are poised to dominate any constitutional convention, and voters shouldn’t give them that chance,” said Charles Khan of the Strong Economy for All Coalition.  “These evil billionaires don’t want reform or progress — they want to use the politics of division and hate to make themselves richer. Our constitution shouldn’t be opened up to their corruption and greed.”

“For decades Citizen Action of New York has worked to advance progressive issues. A Constitutional Convention risks undoing all the progress we’ve made and sending us back to square one. It’s an easy way for the wealthy to chip away at our basic rights in order to stretch their profits. This cannot happen. We must commit to expanding voting rights and getting big money out of politics so that billionaires are no longer able to hold our democracy hostage,” Jamaica Miles, Capital District Organizer, Citizen Action of New York.

“Proponents of the ConCon would suggest that anyone against holding a convention is simply a defender of the status quo.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Many of the groups in opposition have been fighting the status quo for decades and want to enact meaningful changes, but we believe that there is far more to lose than to gain by opening up this Pandora’s box,” said Melanie Whaley of Indivisible (The Fight Is On).