Kolb looks here for People's Convention support

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Brian Kolb (R), Assembly Republican Leader, and his wife visit with Finger Lakes Tea Party organizer Sandy King.

When Assemblyman Brian Kolb asked a crowd of people in the Penn Yan Middle School Friday night "Is Albany working for you?" The resounding answer was no.

Not one person in the audience that showed up for Kolb's town hall meeting raised their hand when he asked how many of them felt New York State is working for them. Kolb said he has never had anyone raise their hand in response to that question.

Kolb, the Assembly Republican Leader, was joined by his colleagues, Assemblyman Jim Bacalles (R,C,I-Corning) and Assemblyman Thomas O’Mara (R,C,I – Big Flats),  and the three discussed their support for a “People’s Convention to Reform New York,” and described how it could deliver the positive change that New Yorkers of all political parties – and regions – have been demanding.

The People’s Convention to Reform New York is a grassroots, non-partisan reform effort to empower citizens so they can take back their state government and, in the process, chart a positive, new direction for New York, as Kolb describes the process.

The question whether to hold a People's Convention automatically goes before the voters every 20 years. The next time it is scheduled to be considered is 2017. But Kolb and others in Albany want to pass legislation in this session to put the convention on this November's ballot.

If the legislation, which Kolb says already has bipartisan support, is passed and the public subsequently votes to convene a People's Convention, the delegates for the convention would be elected in 2011 and the convention would be held in 2012.

Under Kolb's proposal, anyone in New York could be a delegate. However, if someone who already holds a state or local office, or an officer or party official seeks election as a delegate, they must step down from the other office first.

Kolb, Bacalles and O'Mara said there is broad support for the legislation in the Assembly and the Senate, but there is also strong opposition. Kolb said there is a great deal of support from New York City Democrats to maintain the status quo. He warned that the opposition will use fear to discourage the potential for change. But he said one way to push back against the opposition is for people who support the measure to contact friends, relatives and acquaintances in other areas of the state and encourage them to pressure their elected officials to pass the legislation.

Kolb also said voters should talk to the gubernatorial candidates to encourage them to pressure their representatives into passing the legislation. He said each of the gubernatorial candidates have already said they support convening the People's Convention sooner.

Some of the issues that could be considered during a People’s Convention include fiscal reforms like a property tax and state spending cap, debt reform, along with a ban on “backdoor” borrowing and unfunded mandates.  Governmental reforms such as initiative and referendum, an independent Legislative Redistricting Commission, term limits for Legislative Leaders, ethics reform and a succession plan for state offices could also be considered as part of a People’s Convention.

The non-partisan measure would move up the opportunity for reform by seven years, accelerating the state’s ability to enact long overdue and much-needed changes.  

“There is a growing feeling among New Yorkers that their state government has stopped working for them – that it’s grown too costly, unresponsive and disconnected from the lives of those it was supposed to serve.  It is time New Yorkers took their state government back – it begins by convening a

‘People’s Convention,’ which is the first step toward restoring accountability,” said Kolb, who noted that over 2,200 people have already gone to www.reformny.org and signed the on-line petition in support of a People’s Convention.

Friday night's meeting was organized by the Finger Lakes Tea Party.

“I am proud to join with members of the Finger Lakes Tea Party Patriots as well as local families to discuss this very important issue,” said Bacalles.  “Effective ideas to improve our state government like a ‘People’s Convention to Reform NY’ must be voted upon by the full Legislature in Albany. I am glad Leader Kolb traveled here this evening to share his views on this truly democratic way to make government work for the people again.”

"We are very excited to host this Town Hall meeting and provide a way for the community to get involved in their local and state government. State government is broken; holding a People's Convention could be a possible fix. The people that attended this Town Hall meeting got the opportunity to see how government works and does not work," said Finger Lakes Tea Party Organizer Sandy King.

“Taking control out of the hands of our dysfunctional political leaders and putting it into the hands of the people is just what New York State needs,” O’Mara said.  “We have let the special interests stop progress inAlbany for far too long.  A People’s Convention to Reform New York is just the change that the State Capitol needs.”

Bacalles represents the 136th Assembly District, which includes Steuben and Yates counties. O’Mara represents the 137th Assembly District, which includes Chemung, Schuyler and Tioga counties. They have both announced plans to seek election to the 53rd Senate District seat currently held by George Winner.

Kolb’s 129th Assembly District is located in the Finger Lakes region and contains Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga, Ontario and Seneca counties. For a brief period, Kolb represented Yates County before the last redistricting was done after he took over Craig Doran's seat when Doran was appointed to a judicial post.

Town Hall meetings will also be held in Owego on June 17, Elmira on June 24 and Mount Kisco on June 30. For further details on the People’s Convention, go to www.reformny.org, and follow Assembly Republican Leader Brian Kolb on Twitter and Facebook.