Rudy Giuliani, Former NYC Mayor, Presidential Also-Ran, And Possible Contender For NYS Gov, Calls For Constitutional Convention
Recommends Term Limits, Campaign Finance Reform, End To Gerrymandering
"New York State government is not working."
--Rudolph W. Giuliani
As the charade along State Street meanders into week three, former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani lisps onto the scene with an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times.
Giuliani, a possible GOP contender for Governor in 2010, opines on the ills of State government, offering broad solutions, with little detail (okay, absolutely no detail) as to how to put such measures into effect.
Campaign finance reform? Where have we heard that before?
Term limits? Could we start right now? Like, TODAY!
Rudy says he's "starting the debate" on reform.
Actually, Rudy, the debate's been going on for well over a generation now. You must have missed it while you were on the presidential campaign trail, racking up all those Republican delegates.
Meanwhile, back at the Capitol of the Empire State, the "do nothings" continue to reign, with the combatants exchanging barbs, tit for tat.
Governor Paterson says the State Senators should have their pay withheld until they take up the people's business.
And coup leader, Senator Dean Skelos, accuses the Governor of throwing gasoline on the fire.
Hey, since when is the arsonist heard to complain?
If only our elected officials were as passionate about their constituents' concerns as they are about this infantile power play.
Rudy Giuliani is right about at least one thing: "Legislators have not been leading. But we citizens can take charge and carry out these fundamental reforms. . ."
A constitutional convention? Perhaps.
But how about a more fundamental, and considerably more immediate "take charge" by New Yorkers? Like voting the bums out of office -- every last one of 'em -- in 2010?
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From The New York Times:
Putting New York Back Together
By RUDOLPH W. GIULIANI
NEW YORK STATE government is not working. This has been true for some time. But the paralysis and confusion that has overtaken the capital demonstrates the need to confront this dysfunction directly and take decisive steps to solve it once and for all. That’s why I’m calling on Albany to convene a state constitutional convention.
This is not a partisan criticism. There is enough blame for all to share. Recently, though, the situation in our state has gone from bad to worse.
There are more New Yorkers unemployed than at any time in 33 years, and the poverty rate is rising. Our combined state and local tax burden is the highest in the nation after New Jersey. Our business tax climate is rated the second worst in the country. And in the face of the worst recession in a quarter-century, the State Legislature decided to increase spending by 9 percent while increasing taxes and fees by $8 billion. No wonder a recent poll showed that more than 20 percent of New Yorkers are thinking of leaving the state in search of lower taxes and fewer government mandates.
Over the course of New York’s history, our state has held seven constitutional conventions, one as recently as 1967. Calling another convention would be an extraordinary step, but it is a necessary and effective way to overcome the challenges we face. It would be an opportunity for Republicans, Democrats and independents to come together, take a long hard look at our problems and then propose real, lasting solutions.
If the State Legislature were to approve the measure in the next few weeks, New Yorkers could vote on whether to proceed with a constitutional convention this November. A “yes” vote would move the process forward, allowing voters to choose a slate of delegates in November 2010.
After the convention took place, the recommendations would be put forward to the people for an up-and-down vote.
The specific measures should be left to the convention itself and then judged by the voters. But to start the debate I offer seven recommendations for reform.
THE BUDGET PROCESS The governor should be empowered to set revenue estimates on his own, as the mayor of New York City does, adjusting future spending against responsible benchmarks rather than unrealistic estimates. The budget should conform to generally accepted accounting principles, and there should also be a formal four-year financial plan allowing for transparency and long-term planning. Finally, if a new budget is not adopted by April 1, the previous year’s budget should be automatically continued.
TERM LIMITS All statewide elected officials and members of the Legislature should be term limited to bring new blood into Albany while stopping the careerism that too often blocks real progress. A citizens’ legislature would be more effective in addressing New Yorkers’ problems with a fresh perspective.
REDISTRICTING New York’s Legislature has been called the most dysfunctional in the nation, yet Albany legislators enjoy a 98 percent re-election rate. They avoid accountability through partisan gerrymandering, which has reduced the number of competitive elections, depriving millions of voters of real choices.
An independent commission, rather than the legislators themselves, should draw up district lines to ensure the system is not rigged to reward incumbent legislators or one party over another.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE Special interests have a disproportionate influence over state politics in large part because of a weak campaign finance system with high contribution limits and lax disclosure requirements. Individuals can give up to $55,900 to gubernatorial candidates and $15,500 for State Senate candidates. Unions and other special interests exploit loopholes that allow millions of dollars worth of phone banks, volunteers and other in-kind contributions. There are no regular audits and minimal fines, and an unlimited amount of money can be transferred to candidates from party committees.
SUPERMAJORITY FOR TAX INCREASES Too often increasing taxes is the first impulse for Albany legislators. Requiring a supermajority for tax increases would provide a powerful check on those who still think we can tax and spend our way out of economic problems. A supermajority would protect already over-burdened citizens and attract businesses, improving our long-term competitiveness.
JUDICIAL PAY The integrity of an independent judiciary depends on being able to attract qualified people who are not beholden to party bosses and power brokers. Instituting an automatic cost-of-living adjustment on an improved base salary would take the politics out of judicial pay raises.
SUCCESSION FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR Over the last 40 years, New York has been without a lieutenant governor three times. The lack of any established process of succession for the state’s second in command creates the potential for chaos. In the interest of simplicity, stability and transparency, clear lines of succession must be established.
Many of these suggestions have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past. What’s been missing is action. Legislators have not been leading. But we citizens can take charge and carry out these fundamental reforms through a constitutional convention. Together we can cure the structural dysfunction of our politics and hand New York to the next generation better and stronger than it was handed to us.
Rudolph W. Giuliani was the mayor of New York from 1994 to 2001.