BY ANDREW MARTIN KOLSTEE
On Election Day (November 7, 2017), there will be a proposal in New York State on whether or not to hold a Constitutional Convention. A number of people have asked the Libertarian Party of New York for their official position. In short, the LPNY has not established an official position. However, I posed this question and asked members of the State Committee and other Libertarian leaders in New York to comment on the Constitutional Convention vote. Here is what some of them said.
“On the Con Con, while others disagree,” said Christopher Fuentes-Padilla, Queens County LP Vice Chair. “I say it’s up to each person’s interests. If they choose to have a new constitution written then I’m all for it. I, personally, say YES.”
“I say yes,” said Sean Phelan, Monroe County LP Representative. “Change is what is needed. Hopefully, the change is for the better. However, if there is no Libertarian voice in the changes and the ‘Demoncrats’ and the ‘Republicants’ seize total control of the process, then I fear it may just be business as usual for New York State. The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and the continuation of trading our rights and freedoms away for the sake of a sense of security.”
“While the state constitution is in need of amendment to restore the principles and the spirit of the founding documents,” said Hesham El-Meligy, Staten Island LP Chair and Representative, “the current state of affairs would enable the same money/special interests to control the process and potentially making things worse. With great regret, but for the aforementioned reasons, I’m voting NO on question 1.”
“I’m voting yes,” said Tony D’Orazio, LPNY At-Large Committee Member. “This is a once in a generation chance for the electorate to make a real change in the way New York is structured. However, once it is passed, it is incumbent upon Libertarians to get voices that represent us chosen as delegates.”
“I’m voting yes,” said Rich Purtell, Tioga County LP Secretary and Representative. “The state legislature has had 50 years to repair the ‘independent redistricting commission’ concept in the constitution and hasn’t done so. Let’s be sure to get quality delegates. Then in 2019 offer up changes one by one to voters so they can’t all fail, so we don’t lose everything as we did in 1967.”
“The Con Con is a chance for everyday New Yorkers to have their voices heard,” said Brian Waddell, LPNY Vice Chair. “This is why the people in power are against it. They don’t want you to have a say.”
In general, Libertarians in New York see the Constitutional Convention as an extraordinary opportunity that only comes once every 20 years, although some approach the question with caution. One voting “yes” see this as an opportunity to make much needed changes to the state constitution. However, those who would vote “no” see that having such a convention could make things worse or be filled with delegates that don’t have our best interest.
I encourage those of you questioning how you should vote on the proposition to do some research. Look at both sides and decide for yourself. There are both pros and cons to holding a convention, but it is up to the people of New York to weigh those pros and cons.
If, in the event that the people of New York vote in favor of holding a Constitutional Convention, several Libertarians have already expressed interest in running as delegates.
Andrew Martin Kolstee is a writer, genealogist, historian, and political activist. He has been registered as a Libertarian since 2010 and is a member of the Libertarian Party at the national, state, and local levels. He is the Editor of the LPNY Blog, Chair of the Chautauqua County Libertarian Party, and also serves as representative of his county to the Libertarian Party of New York State Committee. In 2017, he was appointed Communications Director for the LPNY and continues to serve in that capacity as well as a member of several committees.