Making Democracy Work

President's Report

Messages from your LWV President

Part of the core mission of the League is lobbying our legislators on positions/issues that have been carefully developed through a grassroots approach to accurately reflect the desires of our members.

Advocacy Training/Lobby Day, April 25, 2017, is a unique opportunity offered by the League to learn how to effectively advocate with our legislators on the issues that the State League has identified as priority areas for 2017. The 2017 Legislative Agenda is available on the lwvny.org website under Advocacy Areas.

Issue specialists, covering the areas of election law, health care, good government reform, judicial issues, natural resources, state finances and education, transportation, women's issues and social welfare, will discuss League positions from 10 AM-1 PM. The specialists will offer tips on talking to legislators.

There will be time for members to talk to their own legislators from 1-2:30 PM, although members should remember to schedule appointments in advance. And members will be able to observe the Assembly and Senate in session from 3-5 PM.

The registration fee for Lobby Day is $15 and includes lunch. Go to https://secure.lglforms.com/form_engine/s/i_ELcAUOhYyrY6YYjXYp0g to register online. The deadline to register is April14. If you'd like to participate in this important League activity, contact me at Cheryl Nechamen or 346-4820 for more information.

Cheryl Nechamen

March Message from the President

I have to confess that when Metroplex was first proposed, I was pretty skeptical. It seemed like yet another program to funnel taxpayer dollars to ill-advised ventures in the hope of stimulating economic development.

There were a few missteps in the beginning, but under Ray Gillen's leadership, Metroplex has achieved a remarkable turnaround in downtown Schenectady and has also done a number of projects in the other towns of Schenectady County.

But there is something crucial missing from the Metroplex success story- accountability to the public.

The NY Public Authorities Law section 2655, which authorizes Metroplex, requires a detailed five-year capital projects plan to be presented by the director of Metroplex to the County Legislature, with annual updates thereafter. The capital plan should describe proposed projects, including sources of capital and operating funds, the economic development potential, the impact on the community's natural resources, the potential for tourism and arts development and human and physical infrastructure needs.

Metroplex apparently gives a report to the County Legislature but the report lacks the detailed information that the public needs in order to properly evaluate the activities of the organization. In addition, the law requires that the board members that represent Schenectady, Niskayuna, Rotterdam, Glenville, Duanesburg and Princetown give a similarly detailed report to their municipal governing bodies.

According to League member Elmer Bertsch, who brought this issue to my attention, these annual reports to city and towns have not been made. The Chair and Board members of Metroplex should have made these detailed reports on their own initiative, but failing that, it's up to the local governments to demand these reports.

Metroplex has done a good job in the nearly ten years of its existence, but transparency and accountability are essential to ensure that Metroplex continues to use taxpayer dollars wisely.

Cheryl Nechamen

January / February Message from the President

The State League has asked local Leagues to discuss whether or not to support holding a Constitutional Convention. The Schenectady League will be meeting on January 18th at noon at the 1st Reformed Church to determine our recommendation.

There are two ways to amend the NYS Constitution. The first way, and one which we are quite familiar with, is for an amendment to be proposed by a state legislator. It must be passed by two consecutive legislative sessions and is then submitted for voter approval. This is an incremental process, generally a good thing when considering a change in the basic framework of government.

The second way to amend the State Constitution, through a Constitutional Convention, is a more comprehensive approach. Every twenty years, the question of whether to hold a Constitutional Convention appears on the ballot and is due to appear in November 2017. If the voters say yes, in November 2018, delegates will be elected. When the delegates meet in April 2019, every aspect of the State Constitution is subject to change. The proposed amendments are then submitted to the voters, probably in November 2019, as a single package, as several groups of amendments or as single amendments, as determined by the convention delegates.

Since 1777, NYS has held nine Constitutional Conventions. Currently, we are governed by the Constitution drafted in 1894, which has been amended over 225 times. It is one of the longest state constitutions and is seven times longer than the U.S. Constitution. The last Convention was held in 1967. Amendments were submitted to voters as a single ballot question which was rejected by the voters.

Among the issues we'll discuss on January 18th are the cost of holding a Constitutional Convention and how delegates are selected, i.e. should political insiders be allowed to run as delegates and how do we achieve a representative group of delegates.

Some view a Constitutional Convention as an opportunity to modernize and streamline the Constitution since we live in a very different world than that of 1894. Others are worried that a Convention might undermine protections that are currently in the Constitution, including the forever wild protection of the Adirondack Park, reproductive choice, public employee pensions and the Blaine Amendment which prohibits the use of public dollars for religious schools.

As you can see, we'll be discussing a wide range of interesting topics on January 18th. I hope you'll join us.

Cheryl Nechamen, President

Letter supporting the work of the SCCC

The following letter was sent by LWV President Cheryl Nechamen on behalf of the League and in support of the work of SCCC.

Jennifer Miller, Director of Community College Support SUNY System Administration Office of Community Colleges and the Educational Pipeline SUNY Plaza, 353 Broadway Albany, NY 12204 Dear Ms. Miller: The League of Women Voters of Schenectady County enthusiastically supports Schenectady County Community College's application to the SUNY Community College Community Schools (CCCS) grant. Schenectady County Community College (SCCC), in collaboration with an array of public, private and nonprofit partners, seeks to support high need students, and to build a network of accessible, on-campus, non-academic resources essential to successfully retaining and graduating these students.

The proposed SCCC Community Schools initiative, DESTINATION: SUCCESS, integrates college resources and community based services for students and their families through a centralized location on the College's campus. SCCC's DESTINATION: SUCCESS is aimed at increasing student retention rates of high-needs students by directly connecting them to multiple community resources available to support them through life's non-academic challenges. On-campus support will help students to navigate and address such issues as employment, food, housing, finances, childcare, primary care and mental health services, legal support, transportation, and other day-to-day needs than can negatively impact student success.

The League of Women Voters will partner with SCCC to develop and implement this important initiative. The League will hold voter registration drives on campus to increase the number of new voters. During the voter registration drives, pamphlets will be available that help students who may have felony convictions, disabilities or who are homeless which will enable them to exercise their right to vote.

The League distributes information on candidates and issues during election campaigns. In addition, the League has a long history of holding educational programs on local, state and national issues that will help students to become active and informed participants in our country.

The proposed DESTINATION: SUCCESS initiative is designed to improve SCCC's retention and graduation rates by significantly scaling up the College's ongoing efforts to provide support to its diverse and ever-changing student population. Providing on-campus access to crucial services will give SCCC students the support they need. This, in turn, will further strengthen student's families, our larger community, and our region. We enthusiastically support the College's application for SUNY Community Schools grant funding.

Sincerely,

Cheryl Nechamen

President

League of Women Voters of Schenectady County