Press Releases

Adirondack Council Opposes Constitutional Convention

For more information:
John F. Sheehan
518-432-1770 (ofc)
518-441-1340 (cell) 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, June 5, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. – The Adirondack Park’s largest environmental advocacy organization is urging New York voters to check “no” on ballots in November, stopping New York’s political insiders and special interests from holding a Constitutional Convention that could delete or weaken protections for pure water, clean air, healthy forests and the state’s largest Parks.

“We know there are well funded special interests that want to find a way to pry open the State Constitution and weaken or eliminate its ‘forever wild’ clause,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway.  “The Adirondack Council’s highest priority is to uphold Article XIV, the Constitution’s forever wild requirement for State-owned lands in our Forest Preserves. We oppose actions that threaten the integrity of this special protection.”

“Having a convention would be like opening Pandora’s Box and could open our priceless Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves to development, clear-cut logging, and other commercial exploitation for the first time in 131 years,” Janeway said.

“Even a minor change could wipe out the greatest forest conservation law in history,” he said.  “We are not willing to take that risk to our legacy and the future of this national treasure.”

Janeway explained that the current political climate makes it possible for special interests to make unlimited campaign contributions in an attempt to influence who is selected as delegates to a convention, he said.

“We have seen recently how well-financed deceptions have distorted the public’s understanding of public policy issues,” Janeway said.  “We trust that fairly informed voters would protect the Forest Preserve, but political campaigns do little to provide the public with meaningful information.”

“There are a thousand ways for something bad to happen to the ‘forever wild’ clause at a wide-open convention,” Janeway said.  “There is only one way to be sure nothing bad happens: vote ‘no.’”

Fight Dysfunction in Albany by Rejecting the Constitutional Convention Referendum

Delegates who are political insiders and their associates would have a great advantage seeking seats at a Constitutional Convention, Janeway said, as he explained that concerns with corruption and dysfunction in Albany are still real.

“The Legislature and various Governors have attempted to weaken or repeal the ‘forever wild’ clause more than 100 times since it was enacted more than a century ago,” Janeway said.  “The first attempt came before the clause was a year old.”

More recent attempts to weaken the “forever wild” clause have been sponsored by both State Senators and members of the State Assembly. Even State agency support has increased for cutting trees and promoting commercial activities on forever wild lands.

“The people who vote in New York have the power to allow insiders to rewrite the constitution, or not,” said Janeway. “We have great faith that people will again stand up for protection of the Adirondack and Catskill Forever Wild Forest Preserves from special interests and corruption.”

Campaign Money

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case eliminated limits on campaign contributions.  In addition, New York’s campaign laws allow limited liability companies (LLCs) to make campaign contributions.  Thus, wealthy groups and individuals can pour unlimited money into New York elections and ballot questions. Other state laws make it legal for anyone to create as many LLCs as they like, without specifying their purpose or identifying the owners.  This skews the process in favor of the few, to the detriment of the many.

“Forever Wild” was Written in 1894

“The voters caught lightning in a bottle in 1894 when the ‘forever wild’ clause was created” Janeway said. “The chances of anything that good happening again are quite poor, but the chances of forever wild being weakened by a convention controlled by Albany insiders and well-funded special interests is real.  No other state has managed to guarantee constitutional protection of its greatest parks in the past 131 years.  That should tell us something about how lucky we were.”

The Adirondack Council will be working with representatives of organized labor, public schools, organizations that assist the indigent, and anti-corruption advocates to call for a “no” vote on the convention question.

The New York Constitution requires voters to consider the question: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” every 20 years.  The 1997 ballot resulted in a “no” vote. If the question is approved, delegates to the convention would be selected in 2018 and the convention would start in 2019.

Individual, specific and targeted amendments to the Constitution can be made when passed by two successive legislatures, and then approved by the voters.  Using this careful system, with its checks and balances, individual amendments have in the past and can in the future be adopted to address specific needs, without putting at risk all existing constitutional protections, including the “forever wild” provision

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.  The Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, and vibrant, local communities.

The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action.  Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

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