‘Connect:NY’ series explores the next constitutional convention

“Connect:NY,” WCNY’s statewide TV news and public affairs series, will continue to convene conversations that matter to all citizens of New York State with its second series on a crucial subject: the constitutional convention.

Every 20 years, the NY state constitution mandates a statewide referendum on whether to convene a constitutional convention. The next vote arrives Nov. 7, 2017, when voters determine whether to hold a convetion. New York’s 50,000-word constitution currently has 225 amendments and was last amended in 1938.

To help voters make informed decisions, WCNY will explore this important opportunity to reshape government beginning with a series of six episodes of “Connect:NY.” WCNY’s News and Public Affairs Director Susan Arbetter will host monthly conversations on six of the key aspects of the issue on “Connect:NY.” Stakeholders in government, labor, the environment, law and business will join scholars and educators will join a lively, in-studio presentation that will be produced from WCNY’s Broadcast and Education Center.

The program features the following six upcoming topics:

May 16 at 9 p.m. | New York’s Constitutional Convention: Halley’s Comet of Change

In November of 2017, New Yorkers will have the chance to vote on whether or not to hold a Constitutional Convention. In the first installment of our series on this critical vote, we discuss the problems that exist within the State’s Constitution as well as the risks that are inherent when the document is opened up to change.

June | Re-imagining New York: Environment

There is no more famous provision in the New York State Constitution than the one protecting the Adirondack Park as “Forever Wild”. In the third installment of our series on the pros & cons of a Constitutional Convention, we will discuss the history and practical implications of this unique constitutional promise. Why, for example, should residents of New York City get to vote on a mining provision in the Park? Plus, we will debate other environmental questions.


  • Has “Forever Wild” worked? What lessons from it can we apply to other parts of the constitution?
  • Is there anything about “Forever Wild” that needs to be tweaked?
  • Could the constitution do more to promote conservation (e.g., carbon tax or mandate to reducecarbon emissions to a certain level)?
  • Should fresh drinking water be considered a constitutional right?

July 2016 | Re-imagining New York: Crime & Punishment

Critics say New York’s justice system is failing. State prisons employ rogue officers. The facilities to accommodate inmates with mental health problems are inadequate. That New York is one of only two states where 16-year-olds are treated as adults. In part four of our series on the Constitutional Convention we discuss how re-writing the State’s Constitution could address these issues, as well as the unintended consequences of constitutional change.


  • Should New York raise the age of criminal responsibility?
  • Should there be a constitutional right to mental health supports?
  • How do we address prison brutality?
  • Why are some judges in the state appointed and other voted in by the people


August | Re-imagining New York: Ethics & PowerThe balance of power in New York State government tilts toward the executive branch. Critics say that the balance needs to be re-calibrated; they are unhappy that the Governor is permitted to include policy provisions in the state budget as he did with teacher evaluations in 2015. In the 5th installment of our series on the Constitutional Convention we will address the balance of power, as well as the issues that have had New Yorkers scratching their heads for years, including why “3 men in a room” hammer out the budget every year.


  • Is “three men in a room” found in the constitution?
  • Why doesn’t the state have term limits for legislators/governors?
  • Can we take the money out of politics?
  • How come it seems like the same people win every year?
  • Would “Initiative & Referendum” work in New York State?

September | Re-imagining New York: EducationThe New York State Constitution promises a “sound basic education” to every student. But education advocates argue that lawmakers haven’t taken the promise seriously and have underfunded many districts. In the second installment of our Constitutional Convention series we will discuss school financing, as well as the constitutional provision that protects pensions for teachers.


  • Should there be a constitutional right to pre-kindergarten education?
  • Should there be limits on class sizes?
  • How do we ensure equity in school funding?
  • Do we need to reform how the Board of Regents functions?
  • How do charter schools fit into the state constitution?
  • Should pensions be constitutionally protected?
  • Do we need to reform collective bargaining?

October 2016 | Con Con 2017: From Imagination to Reality

In the final installment of our series to prepare WCNY viewers for the November 2017 vote on a Constitutional Convention we will present a final breakdown of the risks and rewards of holding a convention including the idea that a convention acts as a pressure relief valve (or so our forefathers may have thought) for those who are dissatisfied with the process and the product of government and seek a course correction.

  • We explain that New Yorkers will have 3 opportunities to say “yes or no” in this process.
  • If voters say “yes” in 2017, what then? How would delegates be selected? Are lawmakers allowed to be delegates and if so, would they get double the salary? How much would a convention cost? How long would it last? Where would the event take place? What if we go through this process and voters say “no” to the final result? Will it have been a waste of time?
  • What would New York in the 21st century look like with and without a new constitution. “Connect: NY” will be broadcast on public television stations across New York State. It will also be available for streaming online at
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