I have a proposition for you

New York voters will soon have to decide on three ballot propositions. One of them deserves support, one I have mixed feelings about and one is a skunk. Just in case you don’t know where I’m coming from, I don’t like skunks.

The first of these is the skunk. That’s ballot proposition number 1. Even though it is a very deceptive proposition it will probably pass because most people don’t know the full story. It reads, “Creates a redistricting commission to draw district lines every ten years.” We just had a redistricting in which, disgracefully, the majority leaders in both houses were allowed to draw self-serving legislative districts where they had the best chance of winning. Look folks, this ain’t democracy. People understood that and they were getting very angry. So Governor Cuomo and the members of the Legislature got together and came up with a phony baloney plan to appoint a commission to draw the lines in a less self-serving manner ten years from now. The problem is that if the Legislature doesn’t like what their appointees do, the news will come back to them and they will do what they have always done, draw the same-old, same-old lines themselves. In other words, nothing has changed. But it looks nice on a ballot proposition. The proponents claim, “It’s something.” It is that. It’s a stinker and a cynical ploy and it deserves to go down. But because of the way things work, it probably won’t. By doing this, the beneficiaries of this anti-democratic proposition take the wind out of the reform sails. Too bad.

The second proposition is a terrific idea. There is language in the New York State Constitution stipulating that every bill has to be written on paper to be delivered to legislators, most of whom will never even read them. In this day of computers, it makes total sense for them to have digital access so they can read bills on laptops and at their desks. The state will save millions. Obviously, there will be printed copies in the files in case something terrible happens to the electronic grid and if that was to happen, we’d have much bigger problems to worry about. This is a no-brainer, and while I feel badly for all the printers and people in the Legislature who have created this mass bureaucracy, it should be passed. Enough said about this one.

The third ballot proposition has me confused. Since I’m a big believer in the best possible education for our children, I am tempted to be for it. The proposition, “Authorizes $2 billion in state bonds to fund technology upgrades in schools.” It will ensure that every child has a computer and that our pre-K programs are truly accessible to all. The opponents, the usual suspects, don’t like it because it would add to the New York state debt. The teachers like it because it would provide greater benefits for the kids. I have always believed that when some schools are better funded than others, you have created an economically segregated system in which the rich districts do better than the poor ones and the rich kids have better teachers. Remember, however, that Governor Andrew Cuomo put a tax cap on everyone and that has meant it is hard to “pay as you go,” always more desirable than borrowing. No one has been more against this kind of spending and indebtedness than Cuomo who, in the Clinton tradition, has fashioned himself as a social progressive and a fiscal conservative. So it’s a mixed bag. I suppose I’d close my eyes, hold my nose and vote yes on this one.

The problem with all this is that the electorate, those who vote, often walk into the voting booth utterly unprepared, read the squiggle on the ballot and vote. That’s how the politicians get away with this stuff.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 10/28/14

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