August 2020: Where do progressives stand now?

Tompkins County Progressives formed in 2015 during the Presidential primary. Its founders were all enthusiastic supporters of the Independent Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders. We taught ourselves how to run his local campaign effort and helped him gather 42% of the vote in New York State. No one expected him to do so well, including Bernie himself. He did not win, but he changed the entire political conversation. Ideas that were considered crazy up until very recently, became normal.

Why shouldn’t everyone have healthcare? Why should we pay more for our inadequate system than every other nation pays for their systems, almost all of which product better outcomes than ours? Why isn’t public college free, like public high school? Why do CEOs earn so much more money that the rest of us? Why hasn’t the minimum wage gone up at all in decades? Why weren’t we paying attention to climate change?

Fast forward to 2019. Bernie decided to run again, and we were all seasoned campaigners and social media warriors. Bernie had so many small donors, across the whole country, that the New York times had to create two graphs to show national support: one with Bernie included (blue everywhere) and one without Bernie (so you could see where Pete and Amy and Liz and Joe had pockets of support). He raised more money than anyone, without taking any money from corporations or millionaires or super PACS. He won (in popular vote) the first three contests, and dominated the field by far among young people and Latinx voters. Progressives were ecstatic. A better world was possible!

And then, he lost one primary that everyone knew he would lose. Biden won it, even though he had come in 4th or 5th in the first 3 contests. It should not have ended Bernie’s campaign, but it did, because one loss in a southern red state was enough for the DNC and the media to run with their preferred narrative: Bernie’s toast! He’s not *really* that popular. No one *really* wants Medicare for All or a Green New Deal. They just want to go back to the good old days, like 2008, when everyone was happy. Or at least, all the people who mattered were happy.

So Bernie lost again, and he will never be our President, but the story doesn’t end there. Because even though Bernie did not win, progressives still dominated all across the country. AOC and Ilhan Omar and Rashida Talib won big wins over moderate primary challengers, and new progressives like Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush knocked off additional entrenched Democrats. Charles Booker almost beat an establishment pick who spent roughly 50X as much money as he did. BLM took to the streets to demand justice and respect. COVID struck and proved to anyone with any sense that our healthcare system is a disaster, and that tweaks like “Medicare for All who want it” are ridiculous so long as healthcare is tied to employment.

Locally, the members of Tompkins County Progressives have (more or less) processed their disappointment and grief. They have joined marches in support of BLM. They have worked for other local progressive candidates. TCP’s umbrella organization, the New York Progressive Action Network, sued the state of New York to preserve our primary, so that Bernie delegates could still be elected and attend the convention. Joe Biden is now the official Democratic Party nominee for President, and we have no choice but to follow Bernie in his vital mission of holding Biden’s feet to the fire.

We must organize like we’ve never organized before. We must march, we must call our representatives, we must strike, we must elect progressives all over the country, we must flip the Senate. With the Senate in Democratic control, Bernie would become chair of the Appropriations Committee, allowing him to, for example, refuse to bring a defense bill to the floor for a vote if he didn’t like what was in it. We can still achieve Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, although it won’t be easy. We can not rest and we can not despair.

Giving up is not an option. That is one of the most important lessons we have learned from Bernie. We are fighting the righteous fight for the 99% and for the planet, it is an honor to fight within that movement. This fight gives strength and power and energy. We stand in solidarity, and hope you will join us.

— Emily Adams, TCP chair

Onward, into 2019

Many of us at Tompkins County Progressives have been resting and recovering after long, hard-fought campaigns in 2018, which produced a number of important wins for our team. It was exciting to see so many new progressives elected to the New York State Senate, where the Democrats now have the majority. They are busy living up to campaign promises, passing GENDA and the Reproductive Health Act and election reform. It is wonderful to see.

TCP’s parent organization, NYPAN, was instrumental in not only removing almost all of the IDC Democrats from office, but also in supporting and passing the Child Victims Act. Now NYPAN is focused on electing Jumaane Williams (our previously endorsed candidate for Lt. Governor) to the position of Public Advocate in New York City. The work we did for him in the Lt. Gov’s race is paying dividends and he has a real chance of winning on February 26th.

NYPAN held its fall conference in Ithaca, by the way, with directors traveling here from around the state. We rode Limebikes to the Ithaca Falls, met at the Beverly J. Martin gym, and hung out in the evening at the Argos Warehouse. Ithaca made a very good impression!

There is work ahead for 2019, even for those of us not directly impacted by the Public Advocate’s race. At the state level, progressives are still fighting for the New York Health Act, which will not be as easy to get through the legislature as the other bills mentioned above. TCP and NYPAN members will need to show up in Albany, make phone calls to their representatives, talk with businesses and union members, etc., if we want the NYHA to pass this year. Additional election reforms are needed, beyond early voting and pre-registration for young people. Other top issues for progressives at the state level include criminal justice, the environment, immigration, and education. If these issues are important to you, please bring your knowledge and enthusiasm to TCP and consider joining our statewide NYPAN committees, to plan and exchange ideas.

At the local level, TCP would like to encourage members to get involved in local races (which will include the mayor’s race and many town races). All candidates for all of these positions will need to carry petitions to collection signatures to get on the ballot — in March!  The first date for the petition drive is February 26th. This is much earlier than in the past, because one of the recent election reforms was the consolidation of primaries. All primaries in New York will now take place in June, as opposed to some happening in June and others in September.

Any Democrats in Tompkins County who would like to get on the Tompkins County Democratic Committee (or who would like to retain their seat if they are already on), will *also* need to carry petitions starting February 26th. TCP strongly encourages all willing progressive Democrats to join the county committee, and we can help you with the process. The Democratic Party and the progressive community share so many goals, and we are very complimentary organizations. The Democratic Party has the structure in place and a ballot line, while the progressive “wing” has energy and fresh ideas (or, old ideas that look fresh now, like FDR’s new deal…).  Let’s work together!  We need to register voters, bring independents into the Democratic Party in time for 2020, motivate young people, and recruit a “bench” of candidates for local and state office.

2020: Yes, we are excited. There are dozens of Democrats running for the Presidential nomination. Bernie Sanders will almost certainly be among them. If he is, we can be certain that all the topics that are near and dear to our hearts will be discussed. The media won’t be able to ignore income inequality, the environment, corporate greed, and so forth, like they tried to do in 2016. NYPAN has passed a resolution calling for Bernie to join the race, but NYPAN will not endorse until later, after we have seen all the candidates in action. It won’t be easy to outshine Bernie, and a number of the candidates are clearly quite far to his right, but that is OK. It will be interesting to watch the candidates react when asked, for example, “do you agree with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who suggested that the top marginal tax rate should be raised to 70%?” Who else besides Bernie will say yes?

When the 2020 primaries get to New York, it will be very important for us to have various reforms in place. A number of NYPAN members (including TCP’s co-chair, Emily Adams) have gotten themselves elected to State Democratic Committee positions, where they are working to change the bylaws and the normal procedures to make our state party more fair. The State Committee seems to have become a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the Governor in recent years, but this is likely to change soon. When the Governor used the committee to send out a campaign letter accusing his opponent of being anti-Semitic, it was a step too far, and the reaction even among long-standing members was strong.

In short: TCP and NYPAN are active, they have a role to play, they are gaining recognition in the media and among elected officials — and they are very eager to recruit new members (and new chapters) in 2019!

Won’t you consider joining TCP, if you aren’t a member already? Dues are $27 per year (with waivers available as we do not want finances to be an obstacle for anyone). TCP has a listserv for members to share information and engage in discussion. We can connect members with other NYPAN members around the state to work on shared interests. We meet on the first Thursday of every month, at the Quaker Meeting House, and plan other special events and seminars, which appear on our calendar on this website.

NYPAN and TCP endorse Cynthia, Jumaane and Zephyr!

 

The Democratic Primary is Thursday, September 13th! Please vote!

Cynthia, Jumaane, and Zephyr are three fearless progressives, all challenging Andrew Cuomo’s legacy: Albany corruption, growing income inequality and an unfair tax burden on the 99%, failing schools, crumbling infrastructure, lip service to the environment, women and students, mistreatment of communities of color and immigrants, support for Republicans and the “Independent” Democrats who blocked single payer healthcare in New York, and so much more.

We can do better! We need a New York that works for all of us!

Cynthia, Jumaane, and Zephyr will stand up to business-as-usual. They are not taking any donations from corporations and real estate developers. They believe in Medicare for All, taking real action to address climate change and protect our environment, reforming our criminal justice system, providing free public education from pre-K to college, legalizing marijuana, investing in green technology and jobs, and making corporations and millionaires pay their fair share.

Can you help?! Please contact Emily Adams, TCP’s chair and also local representative for the three campaigns, at emily@nypan.org. She is looking for canvassers, phone bankers, data people, social media volunteers, people to hang posters around town, people to join issue “hubs”, people to use peer-to-peer methods to identify supporters in their own networks…. you name it, she can use it!

Start by clicking right here: tell us that you support one or more of our endorsed candidates, and Emily can put that in the database. Then — in theory — the campaigns won’t need to have a volunteer call you or knock on your door. In practice, of course, it is very very hard to keep everything organized, and the Working Families Party has their own lists of people they are contacting…  Grassroots organizing is messy, but it’s fun and empowering. Please get involved!

Learn more:

Cynthia Nixon

Jumaane Williams

Zephyr Teachout

Additional endorsements for September 13th:

Amanda Kirchgessner for NY State Senate District 58 (currently occupied by Tom O’Mara)
Derek Osborne for Tompkins County Sheriff
Emily Adams for NY State Democratic committee

Thank you!

 

Ian Golden Wins Endorsement of Tompkins County Progressives

Tompkins County Progressives is pleased to announce that Ian Golden, Democratic-primary candidate for New York’s 23rd Congressional District, has received their formal endorsement. Over a one-week period that ended on January 25, their members used an online, preferential-voting system to rank the seven CD-23 candidates who sought their endorsement. Ian received a 54% majority of the ranked votes for the TCP endorsement. (The remaining votes were split evenly between Tracy Mitrano and Max Della Pia.)

Ian Golden is a grassroots populist progressive. As a local storeowner, Ian pays his employees $15 an hour, cutting into his own profits, and threatening the viability of his business. He does this because he believes that a business exists to share wealth with the community, not to hoard wealth through exploitation. For Ian, Medicare for All would break one of the chains of workplace servitude, liberating workers from the burden of healthcare costs, and liberating employers from the temptation not to protect their workers. TCP and Ian Golden agree that Medicare for All is an economic stimulus that will encourage more people to start their own businesses, and save Americans the trillions of dollars they transfer to private for-profit insurers today. Medicare for All will dispel the shadow of suffering from American working-class life and should be a top priority for anyone running for federal office.

As an athlete and a runner, Ian trains with people from all backgrounds and from both ends of the political spectrum, so he knows how to listen, find common ground, and motivate people to work together toward genuinely beneficial goals. Like a majority of voters in the district, Ian is focused on his family. He is concerned that his daughters will grow up to face harassment and wage discrimination in the workplace, that they won’t have clean water to drink, that climate change will bring disease, extreme weather, crop failures and war, and threaten their survival. These are concerns that all local residents have, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. Who is not concerned? The billionaires who are making obscene profits off of our current system. Ian will stand up to them, side by side with a new wave of populists and progressives in Congress.

Tompkins County Progressives, Tioga County Progressives and NYPAN of the Southern Finger Lakes have all endorsed Ian Golden and have submitted their endorsements to the New York Progressive Action Network (NYPAN) and to Our Revolution. They will also be assisting the Ian Golden campaign in applying for endorsement from the Working Families Party, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats.

The members and executive board at Tompkins County Progressives thank all the candidates for their willingness to run for office and serve our district. While any one of them would be a great improvement over the current Congressman, Tom Reed, TCP believes that Ian Golden is the strongest progressive candidate in the race and will bring a valuable voice to Washington.

More About Ian

Ian is a small business owner from Tompkins County, NY. He and his wife Sherry are the proud parents of two young daughters, Maren and Nora.

Ian attended Ithaca College, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Occupational Therapy. He went on to work with children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, and later clients in an inpatient rehabilitation setting.

Transitioning to business in 2005, Ian founded several small community-oriented businesses in upstate NY, including a flagship retail location in the Southern Tier, the Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon Company.  He is also the owner of an internationally recognized event company focused on trail and mountain running. Ian has received honors from the Small Business Association for Business Excellence and namesake honors for a Community Spirit and Wellness Award. He was a member of the Tompkins County Strategic Tourism and Planning Board from 2014 to 2017.

Ian is a competitive athlete, earning collegiate All-American honors, but now prefers low-key trail runs with friends or his dog Indy, or runs across District 23.

Ian is looking forward to the opportunity to represent New York’s 23rd district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is focused on living wage economies, healthcare as a right, protecting our public schools, ensuring that our youth have the education and vocational skills needed to rebuild our nation, and on a society that is safe for women. He is committed to “be the change” when it comes to reducing the control of special interests over our government. Ian believes each individual constituent should have as much access and influence as any big-ticket donor or special-interest group. In addition, Ian believes that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing our nation, and that stepping up to meet this challenge will provide the foundation for an economic and moral revival in our communities.

More information about Ian and his campaign can be found at:

www.goldenforcongress.com

www.facebook.com/goldenforcongress

www.twitter.com/goldenforny23

Or call:  607-426-9025

Does NYS Need a Constitutional Convention (Con Con)?

By Ronny Hardaway

Introduction

Countless opinions, articles, and discourses on New York State’s proposed Constitutional Convention, commonly called “Con Con,” inundate readers with what can be an overwhelming amount of information on the controversial topic. This article provides a brief overview of the history and process for the Constitutional Convention and its possible state constitutional amendments. Abridged lists of current pro and con positions on the Con Con are provided to assist voters with research and preparation for the Constitutional Convention Referendum on all state ballots in the November 7, 2017 general election. Please note that this is not an exhaustive or comprehensive coverage of the entire Con Con history, process, or issues. Use it as a starting point for personal research and decision-making.

History

New York State’s Con Con process evolved from positions offered by some of our country’s founders that laws and constitutions should be reviewed and revised regularly to reflect advances in knowledge, changes to human conditions, and the evolution of civilization. Time changes all things; therefore, laws and constitutions should be allowed to change with time and with the needs of the New York state’s residents.

Between the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776 and 1997, New York has called 15 state constitutional conventions and ratified constitutional changes from 11 of those 15 conventions.[1] Not all proposed changes to the state constitution were ratified by voters; therefore, unratified changes to the state constitution were not incorporated.

The 1846 state constitutional convention inserted into the constitution a mandatory call for a constitutional convention at least every 20 years. The Legislature can also call for the same question to be put on the ballot at other times.[2] “Calling” a Con Con means that a ballot referendum allows state voters to decide if a Con Con should be held. No state constitutional conventions have been approved by voters since 1965. The last referendum for a Con Con was in 1997, so the November 2017 election ballots will let voters decide if a state Con Con is necessary.

Process

The following flowchart provides a graphical representation of the current state constitutional convention process and timeline.

Flowchart of the Constitutional Convention Process[3]

New York's Constitutional Convention Process

Vote on Con Con (Nov. 7, 2017)

On November 7, 2017, a referendum will be placed on all state election ballots. Voters must decide if a constitutional convention must be convened. If the referendum fails to pass, no convention will be held, and the next mandatory state convention will be called in 2037. If the referendum passes, the process of choosing delegates to the Con Con will begin.

Elect Delegates for Con Con (Nov. 8, 2017 – Nov. 6, 2018)

Between Nov. 8, 2017 and Nov. 6, 2018, New York residents will select their delegates to the state Con Con. Anyone who has been a state resident for five years prior to the election can run to be a Con Con delegate. Three delegates are chosen from each of New York’s 63 state senate districts, and fifteen additional delegates are selected statewide for a total of 204 delegates. How this mixed delegate system works is guided by the NY Legislature. The last time, the Legislature created a system whereby in each Senate district voters voted up or down for three candidates, and in the at-large election voted up or down for a party-based slate of candidates. The delegates will be selected in the Nov. 6, 2018 state election.

Con Con Convenes (Apr. 2, 2019)

On April 2, 2019, the Con Con will convene in Albany with all elected delegates in attendance.

Con Con Delegates Draft Constitutional Amendments (Apr. 2 – Nov. 2019)

From Apr. 2 and Nov. 2019 (the next general election), constitutional-amendment sausage is made in the Con Con. The elected delegates select amendment topics, create committees for each amendment topic, and draft the proposed wording of each amendment. The convention cannot be limited in the scope of what it considers; however, NYS voters cannot ratify any constitutional change in conflict with Federal law, including the U.S. Constitution.[4]

Con Con Recommends Constitutional Amendments to Voters (Nov. 2019)

The Con Con, as a body, votes to put their recommended changes on the ballot during the Nov. 2019 general election. At that election, voters choose to ratify or reject every proposed amendment to the state constitution. Delegates decide how to present the amendments to the voters – individually or as an aggregate. The 1967 Con Con offered amendments as one ballot item, and voters rejected the aggregated amendments so that no changes were made to the state constitution.

Ratified Changes Go into Effect (Jan. 1, 2020)

If voters ratify any amendment(s) to the state constitution, those changes go into effect January1 after the ratification (i.e., 2020.)

Pros and Cons of Con Con

Each side, pro and con, in the public debate on whether to approve or reject a state constitutional convention raise significant promises or concerns related to the Con Con. For the sake of brevity, the following subsections provide only a fragment of each side’s positions on the convention. Please spend some time and research how the Con Con might impact your particular circumstances or your personal issues regarding New York’s government and constitution.

Proponents’ Positions

For proponents, the New York Con Con provides our delegates the opportunity to:

  • Correct legislative dysfunction and corruption
  • Improve New York’s flawed electoral process
  • Enact ethics reform and penalties on public officials
  • Reform the state budget process
  • Add state protections to ensure healthy air to breathe, clean water to drink and address the causes and consequences of climate change.
  • Better secure a sound basic public school education through high school
  • Mandate affordable and debt-free tuition at public institutions of higher education
  • Make civil rights provisions more enforceable and expand their scope, now limited to race and religion, to address other forms of discrimination that prevent equal opportunity for all New Yorkers
  • Expand care for the needy
  • Make unfunded mandate legislation hard to pass by requiring heightened local fiscal impact analysis and ample opportunity for community input;
  • Strengthen local legislative autonomy by limiting state preemption;
  • Strengthen Home Rule and avoid enacting legislation aimed at a particular local government
  • Simplify, consolidate, and improve New York’s complex court structure.

Opponents’ Positions

Opponents to the New York Con Con raise the following concerns:

  • By law, the scope of the convention cannot be limited; therefore, popular and effective parts of the constitution might be threatened.
  • The constitutional convention could be dominated by extremist groups in the state, not average citizens
  • Corrupt politicians, lobbyists and well-funded special interest groups could pervert the constitution to their benefit
  • The Con Con could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Delegates will be paid the same as a state legislator ($80,000 per year) but their pay will be prorated for the time actually served as a delegate.
  • There is no set time limit to the convention; thereby increasing the cost of the convention without anything being accomplished
  • Dysfunctional state legislators with seasoned campaign staff could easily be elected to the Con Con which would, in turn, make the Con Con dysfunctional
  • State pensions could be jeopardized
  • Unions’ rights to organize and bargain could be stripped
  • Civil rights and civil liberties could be endangered
  • Free public education could be at risk
  • Protection of environmentally sensitive areas could be threatened (i.e., the “forever wild” provisions set forth in Article XIV of the NY Constitution.)

Summary

The process for the New York State call for a constitutional convention has evolved since the beginning of the United States. That process now gives registered New York voters a ballot-box choice every 20 years to decide if they want to hold a representative convention to propose amendments for ratification.

It is important for New York State voters to educate themselves on the complex possibilities and risks involved with the call for a state constitutional convention. On November 7, 2017, every voter must decide for themselves on whether the state should hold a Con Con. The potential rewards of Con Con-proposed amendments might solve many of New York’s governmental weaknesses or failings. The potential risks of Con Con amendments could threaten hard-fought gains within the current constitution.

If the state constitutional convention is held, voters must inform and guide their representatives to the Con Con so that amendments will improve the constitution rather than weaken it. New York voters must educate themselves on the proposed amendments so that they can cast a well-informed vote for or against ratification of individual, or grouped, amendments when those amendments are placed on a state ballot.

In the end, New York’s electorate will have the final say in any amendments recommended by the convention delegates.

Sources:

The New York State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse

Village Voice Article

New Yorkers’ Road Map to the Constitutional Convention

Endnotes

  1. Snider, J.H., “New York Charter and Constitutional Convention Chronology,” The New York State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse, Web: http://www.newyorkCon Con.info.
  2. Horner, B. Horner and Marulli, E. (New York Public Interest Research Group) and Robinson, S. (League of Women Voters of New York State), “Convention-Land: New Yorkers’ Road Map to the Constitutional Convention,” March, 2016. Web: http://www.nypirg.org/goodgov/Con Con/con_con_merged_final.pdf.
  3. Snider, op. cit., “Flowchart of the Constitutional Convention Process.”
  4. Ibid., “The Purpose of the Referendum.”

Did you know there’s a 13,000 acre Salt Mine under Lansing and Cayuga Lake?

(Map of Cayuga Lake with Cargill’s current and proposed salt-mine locations.)

By Deborah Dawson and Cait Darfler

Seven of us arrived at the NY DEC Region 7 Headquarters on Monday May 1st, 2017 for a meeting with the Regional Director, Matt Marko, and 6 other DEC lawyers and scientists. For some in this group of Tompkins County residents, geologists, activists and Lake lovers, this has been a fight for over 30 years to bring transparency and environmental review to the massive salt mine under our precious Lake; for others, this is the first step.

How did we get here?

Solution salt mining began at the south end Cayuga Lake 1890s, and by the early 1900s the salinity of the lake was higher than that of any other unmined Finger Lake. Cargill bought the 50-year-old room and pillar Cayuga Salt Mine in 1970.  At the time, mining operations were entirely under the Town of Lansing on the east side of Cayuga Lake.  Historically, mine operators simply dumped their tons of salt fines into the Lake, polluting the lake and making it saline.  To its credit, Cargill stopped that polluting practice, and chloride levels in the Lake dropped accordingly.  The passage in 1972 of what is now the Clean Water Act made the practice of dumping salt fines in the lake illegal.

In 1986, Cargill expanded its mining operations into salt deposits under Cayuga Lake.  This was easier and more profitable for Cargill:  rather than negotiating mineral rights with multiple land owners, Cargill only had to deal with New York State, which owns the Lake and the mineral rights, and charges only a modest fee per ton for the salt Cargill mines.

By 2012, Cargill had extended its mining operations under the Lake northward for six miles.  This meant that miners had to travel more than 45 minutes to get from the access shaft to the mining area.  Since Federal mine safety laws and regulations require that miners must be able to evacuate a mine within an hour, this situation was unsustainable.  Cargill began looking for a way to build an access shaft farther north in Lansing, closer to current mining operations.  And that brings us to why we were meeting with the NYS DEC on a Monday morning, and the beginning of grassroots resistance to Cargill’s expansion plans.

Read More…