On Friday, the Union-Sun & Journal honed in on reasons why voters should approve statewide Proposal No. 1 on the Tuesday ballot, asking whether New York State should have a constitutional convention. Today we examine two other questions facing voters on the reverse side of the ballot.
Proposal No. 2 asks whether judges should be given the power to revoke or reduce the pensions of legislators and other officials convicted of crimes related to their public service, regardless when they took office.
The Public Integrity Reform Act, signed in 2011, already provides that power — but only if the officials were added to the state retirement system after Nov. 3, 2011. A driving force in shaping Proposal No. 2 is the 2015 criminal convictions of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Long Island, and ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon L. Silver, D-Manhattan.
Skelos and his son were found guilty of extortion, soliciting bribes and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. Despite his abuse of power, Skelos draws an annual pension of nearly $96,000.
In 2015, Silver was found guilty of honest services fraud and extortion, after prosecutors persuaded a jury that he had used his position to secure millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks through his private law practice. The disgraced speaker was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second District vacated his conviction, and regardless of the outcome of the prosecution’s promised attempt at re-trial, Silver will continue to collect a taxpayer-funded annual pension of $79,000.
It’s time to end the ridiculous practice of rewarding corrupt public officials with hefty pensions. The public is entitled to better representation in Albany. Vote “Yes” on Proposal No. 2.
Proposal No. 3, dealing with the “forever wild” provision of the state constitution, would authorize a 250-acre land bank within the Adirondack forest preserve and allow communities within to withdraw small parcels for the purposes of maintaining roads, installing public utility lines or adding bicycle trails. Any work by local municipalities would have to be done within the width of specified highways crossing the preserve and minimize removal of trees and plants. It should be noted that the state legislature already passed the enabling legislation to substitute and add 250 acres to the preserve, to make up for the “lost” land if voters approve the amendment. And for the good of our fellow upstaters, we should. Vote “Yes” on Proposal No. 3.