A Personal Perspective
BY MARCIA MOXAM COMRIE
Nov. 7 will be an important election day in our city. We will vote for city offices for mayor, comptroller, public advocate and City Council seats. That’s simple enough—but there is something else that we should look out for as we mark off our choices for these offices.
We must turn our voter sheet over and vote on Prop 1. So, what is Prop 1 and why is it important? It is a proposal on whether to hold a constitutional convention to “revise and amend” the state’s constitution.
Our unions and local politicians say that this is not a good idea. In fact, they tell us that it is a downright bad idea for New York. Not only would it cost the state millions of dollars, but the average New Yorkers could be hurt by it. Just for showing up, delegates to the convention would also be paid the equivalent of what a state legislator makes in a year—$79,500—according to the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union in the November/December issue of its newsletter.
Unions across our city and state are telling us to “vote no on Prop 1” because rather than gaining an advantage, a constitutional convention would cost us many advantages that we now hold dear, such as the right to join a union.
The argument against the convention is that we do not need it to update the New York State Constitution. Rather, it can be amended through an individual bill for a single amendment introduced and passed by two separately elected state legislatures, which would then go to the voters to decide.
According to the NYSUT publication, this alternate process “has been used nearly 200 times in the past 125 years and incurs no extra cost. For example, in 2014 the constitution was amended, so that the state legislature could go paperless, saving taxpayers $325,000 per year.”
DC37 has also sent out a memo urging its members to “vote no” to a constitutional convention. According to the ubiquitous union, members should protect their rights guaranteed under the current constitution. The last New York State constitutional convention was held in 1967—50 years ago. It guaranteed that the “pensions of public sector retirees will not be cut, the right to a public education, the right to be a member of a union and to bargain collectively for contracts and the right for workers’ compensation.”
DC37’s memo also states that “changes adopted at a convention could restrict the state legislature’s power on budget matters, opening the door to deep reduction in public services and workers’ retirement security.”
Elected officials and union bosses at a recent forum at St. Albans’ Family Life Center implored community members to vote “no.” Of course, there were advocates for the other side as well. But Southeast Queens is a union community—it is one of the reasons that this has long been considered one of the wealthiest black communities in the United States. We were elevated to the middle class through unionized jobs and careers.
We have to protect these rights—not only for ourselves, but for future generations. I’m voting “no” to Prop 1 on Nov. 7.