Broken State Government Has Embarrassed New Yorkers For Long Enough, We Need A “People’s Convention To Reform New York” To Deliver Real Change
Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
March 12, 2010
Since August of 2009, in my travels all across our state as Leader of the Assembly Minority Conference, I have been asking my fellow New Yorkers the following question: “Is state government working for you?” Nearly everywhere I go – from Western New York to New York City – the answer to that question is an overwhelming “No!” Now, according to findings from a new public opinion poll, it seems as if I may need to start asking a different question instead. That question is: “Are you embarrassed by New York State’s broken government?” If so, you are certainly not alone, as a recent Siena Research Institute Poll reported that a majority of residents are now “embarrassed” to call themselves New Yorkers, largely due to a broken, unresponsive state government. MAJORITY OF NEW YORKERS “EMBARRASSED” BY STATE GOVERNMENT The Siena Poll – released on March 8, 2010 – found that by a margin of 54 percent to 41 percent, a majority of residents were embarrassed to call themselves New Yorkers largely due to all the allegations and scandals occurring in Albany. The Siena Poll also found that 70 percent of respondents agreed with the following statement: “New York State government has never been more dysfunctional than it is today.” Considering it was just a few years ago the state’s budget was late for 20 consecutive years, that is quite a statement! The Siena Poll findings are available for review at the following website: www.siena.edu/sri. Sadly, years of scandal, allegations, hyper-partisanship and fiscal irresponsibility have led many New Yorkers to abandon any hope that state government is able to meet serious challenges and put the people’s business first. The recent weeks of turmoil in Albany and the legislative paralysis left in its wake – despite the state budget being due in three weeks – have only re-affirmed that sentiment. For too long, both political parties have run promising “change,” only to perpetuate a broken, unresponsive status quo in state government. That “status quo” has to go. The Siena Poll findings mean there are likely millions of taxpayers who are tired of broken government and want to see real change, top to bottom. What they do not want is more rhetoric or talk of change, but genuine action, follow-through and real solutions. I believe the Siena Poll findings demonstrate the urgent need for the types of real, non-partisan change that a “People’s Convention to Reform New York” could successfully deliver. A “PEOPLE’S CONVENTION” COULD DELIVER THE REAL CHANGE NY NEEDS The institution of state government itself is in need of a major overhaul or we will never see the change New Yorkers have been calling for, year after year. If learning that 54 percent of state residents are embarrassed to be New Yorkers does not convince elected officials of both parties, in all branches of state government, that we need to convene a non-partisan, grassroots “People’s Convention,” frankly, I am unsure what will. In my view, the poll findings are confirmation, not a revelation, of the need for a systemic change in how state government operates. In order to achieve that change, last year I introduced “The People’s Convention to Reform New York Act,” Assembly Bill A.9157. This non-partisan legislation has the support of 35 Assembly Members and 47 municipalities from all across the state. The on-line petition in support of the “People’s Convention,” www.reformny.org, has received nearly 2,000 signatures and more names get added each day. A “People’s Convention” would put the power to achieve long overdue fiscal and governmental reforms such as a property tax and state spending cap, initiative and referendum, an independent Legislative Redistricting Commission, term limits for Legislative Leaders and legislators and a succession plan for state offices in the people’s hands. TOWN HALL MEETING DEMONSTRATED PEOPLE BELIEVE CHANGE IS POSSIBLE A few weeks ago, I joined my Assembly colleagues Jane Corwin, Joseph Giglio, Steve Hawley and Jack Quinn in hosting a Town Hall Meeting on the topic of a “People’s Convention.” Our meeting was held in the Town of Hamburg on a chilly February night – and over 200 local taxpayers attended! These people were definitely not embarrassed to be New Yorkers – far from it. They were everyday citizens with an extraordinary belief that it is possible to fix state government and that a “People’s Convention to Reform New York” could be our last, best hope to do so. Take pride in New York and help us deliver the real change state government needs by supporting a “People’s Convention.” As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter, should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and informational updates regarding state government and our Assembly Minority Conference.