Seven of the candidates hoping to be the next City Council speaker are jointly declaring their opposition to a constitutional convention, they said in statements to the Daily News.
While good government advocates have said the vote — which would lead to the selection of delegates who would draft a constitution that would then face a final vote in 2019 — is necessary, the candidates are joining with labor unions and other pols who insist it could have dangerous consequences.
In particular, the candidates, all Democrats, say the convention could lead to a rollback of civil rights and labor protections. The candidates are Councilmen Mark Levine of Manhattan, Robert Cornegy of Brooklyn, Corey Johnson of Manhattan, Donovan Richards of Queens, Ydanis Rodriguez of Manhattan, Ritchie Torres of the Bronx and Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens.
Unions have stridently said their pensions could be at risk.
One contender for the speakership noticeably missing from the list is Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), whose spokesman told The News he’s still considering his position and listening to both sides.
“Of course, he recognizes that there are deep-seated issues with state government,” spokesman Kevin Fagan said. “But that same state government, with Gov. Cuomo at its head, gives him significant reservations as to how a convention would be implemented, and whether it could properly address those issues without putting the rights that many have fought for at risk.”
Proponents of a convention, including good government group Citizens Union, say it would help clean up Albany and modernize government.
“Were a constitutional convention to be held, the Republican, hyper-gerrymandered election lines could be used to pack in conservative delegates who would undo decades worth of hard-fought civil rights victories, labor protections, and more,” Levine said.
Cornegy said the convention could be “fueled by special interests and powerful lobbyists.”
“This proposal also comes with a price tag: It could run up to hundreds of millions of dollars, with New Yorkers left to foot the bill,” he said.
Johnson said it would also eat up time.
“The process would force progressives to devote an enormous amount of time and resources to defending what we already have, when we need to be laser-focused on taking back the N.Y. State Senate and both houses of Congress,” he said.
Richards allowed that the idea had “some merits” — but was outweighed by dangers to civil rights and labor protections because of “too much uncertainty around the delegation-selection process.”
Van Bramer cited the pension argument that has motivated public sector unions: "A constitutional convention raises deep concerns to me about the possibility of lowering and diminishing workers' pensions, something I would never stand for,” he said.
Torres, too, said it was too chancy: “There are too many risks that outweigh benefits, and we must protect the progress we’ve made from workers’ rights to health care and more.”
Rodriguez said the convention could push back progress.
“We are in a time where each day we witness deliberate attacks on women’s rights, the LGBTQ community, public education, fair access to health care and the rights of our unionized workers,” he said.
But Citizens Union head Randy Mastro said it was the special interests that were leading the charge against the convention.
"It's shameful that special interests so wedded to the status quo are using dark money in a scare campaign to try to prevent a constitutional convention from happening,” he said.
“Our state government is broken. This is New Yorkers' one chance to fix it. We deserve better government, and now we can finally do something about it by voting in favor of a constitutional convention.”