Activist calls for constitutional convention to rein in corruption


An activist is calling on New Yorkers to call a constitutional convention this fall to rein in state government corruption.

“The need for a constitutional convention is greater now. Corruption has gotten worse,” said Evan Davis, who heads the Committee for a Constitutional Convention.

Davis was referring to pay-to-play scandals that led to the ousters of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Joe Percoco, a former confidant to Gov. Cuomo.

New Yorkers will vote on a once-in-a-generation ballot question on Nov. 7 on whether to empanel a delegates’ convention to amend the state Constitution.

If voters approve, 204 delegates will be elected in 2018. Then the conventioneers will propose amendments that would be put on the ballot as early as fall 2019.

“There’s an opportunity for New Yorkers to take back their government,” said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union, who backs the con-con.

But a broad left, right and nonpartisan coalition is campaigning against holding a convention — ranging from the ACLU and environmental groups to the Rifle and Pistol Association and the state Conservative Party.

And the entire labor movement — from the teachers union to the AFL-CIO — are urging their members to vote no, claiming a convention would open a Pandora’s box that would put pension protections — approved by voters following the 1938 convention — at risk.

Virtually the entire political establishment — including Mayor de Blasio, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) — is also opposed.

Gov. Cuomo has given only conditional support, questioning whether the same political forces that oppose change will stack the convention. Legislators and judges can serve as delegates.

Millions of dollars will be spent to try to kill the ballot initiative, sources said.

“Proponents of a convention are pushing it as some sort of silver bullet without knowing any of the details. They are naive,” said Jordan Marks, campaign manager of the umbrella group New Yorkers Against Corruption.

Conservative Party Leader Mike Long complained that the cost to hold the convention — estimated at $50 million to $100 million — is a waste of taxpayer money.

“Every wacko group in town will be involved in that convention. You would possibly have the legalization of drugs and marijuana,” Long said.

Long, 77, said he followed the last convention in 1967 and complained it was run by people in the Legislature and judiciary, adding:

“It was a boondoggle then, and it will be a bigger boondoggle now.”

Voters rejected the 1967 convention’s proposed amendments by a 3-to-1 ratio.

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