Forum tackles issue of Constitutional convention

October 24, 2017 11:21 PM

GUILDERLAND – To have a constitutional convention or not. 

New York voters will decide at the polls in November. 


“So that we could make a decision on the issues that we really care about,” said Tracie Rozhon. 

What is also known as “con con,” is a chance to make changes to the state constitution. 

During a panel discussion at Guilderland Public Library Tuesday night, SUNY New Paltz Professor Gerald Benjamin makes the case for one.

“The people who wrote this said we're going to take a look every 20 years at how our government is doing and we're going to have a referendum,” Benjamin said. “Are we approving of the character and performance of our government.”

Rozhon, who attended the forum, agrees.

“I am in favor of a debate about these constitutional issues,” Rozhon said. 

Moderator Susan Arbetter, who is the host of WNYC’s “Capitol Pressroom,” explained that some hope to use a constitutional convention to update the bill of rights and codify key protections.

“Rights to an affordable higher education, clean water, clean air, healthcare,” Arbetter said. 

However, panelist Ron Deutsch likens a constitutional convention to opening Pandora's Box. 

“I'm just really concerned that this opens up everything,” Deutsch said. “There's a question that good could be done but there's also a question that really bad things could happen as well.”

“Once you have a convention everything is off the table,” said Bill Shumelda. “And everything is up for grabs.”

Once that happens, Deutsch worries some key policies could be rolled back or cut. 

“Public education, the environment, the poor,” Deutsch said. “Those are the things I'm worried about being eliminated right now.”

Shumelda is worried about pensions.
“One of the big ones, and I've heard this from many people, is the retirement system, that is in place right now and that might be in jeopardy,” Shumelda said. 

Even Rozhon, who supports the idea of a constitutional convention, has concerns about the environment. 

”I don't want various rules to be changed about conservation,” Rozhon said. “Or preservation.”

The last time New York held a constitutional convention was in 1967.
If New Yorkers voted in favor of another one in November it would be held sometime in 2019. 


Nia Hamm

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