Opinion sig

Countless New Yorkers are fed up with the corruption that has prevailed in their state government.

For too many years the people have voiced concerns over the behavior of the so-called public servants who betray the trust of those who elected them to high office. The most recent classic example were the arrests and convictions of the Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Long Island, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon L. Silver, D-Manhattan on a number of charges including bribery.

What angers many people is that, almost without exception, the guilty parties usually end up with lighter sentences than people in the private sector would face. To make matters worse, the disgraced public officials are virtually guaranteed of walking way from the courtroom — even faced with jail terms — with their lucrative, taxpayer-funded pensions, complete with all the benefits that others would not have. Of course, judges will also have the option of considering any undue hardship that would come to a family struggling with financial difficulties.

Now voters in this state will have an opportunity to strike back at those who betrayed their trust. Under the proposed amendment in the upcoming statewide election, a question on the ballot will ask if you think the courts should have the authority to reduce or even revoke the public pension of a public officer convicted of a felony that has a direct and actual relationship to that public officer’s duties.

This is perhaps the most important of the three ballot questions which voters should support without any reluctance. For too long the Albany lawmakers have paid only lip service to the proposal. It’s high time they listen to the electorate and the need to improve the system.

Another issue drawing mixed reaction is the idea of holding another state Constitutional Convention. The last one in 1967 was widely considered a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money. The valid argument against hosting another is it would inevitably cost taxpayers even more with little to show for the time and expense. The real reason for rejecting such a session, according to New York State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long, is it would be controlled by the same special interest groups that already have had a strong presence in the legislative process.

The third ballot question is a proposition that would create a land account of upward of 250 acres in forest preserve land eligible for use by towns, villages and counties that have “no viable alternative” to using forest preserve land to address specific public health and safety concerns.

Most voters would never approve a move by the state to arbitrarily take land to increase acreage in a forest preserve, but there are times when that is necessary. In this case, however, it seems worth it. A “Yes” vote would pave the way for making dangerous roads and bridges safer. Other benefits for the public would be better access in rural areas for needed utility lines and safer bike paths.

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