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State Sen. Seymour Lachman on why New York needs a new constitution

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On Brooklyn Paper Radio: Why New York needs to rip up its constitution!

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Former state Sen. Seymour Lachman has had it with Albany, and says New York state must rewrite its constitution.

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New York’s state capital is a den of corruption controlled by just three men that must be cleaned up — and the only way to do it is to rip up its constitution and rewrite it from scratch, claims a man who worked in the belly of the beast for almost 10 years.

Appearing on this week’s edition of Brooklyn Paper Radio, former state Sen. Seymour Lachman — a Democrat who represented portions of Southern Brooklyn and the North Shore of Staten Island during his stint in the state Senate from 1996 until 2004 — told hosts Gersh Kuntzman and Vince DiMiceli that Brooklynites have a chance to make things right by voting for a constitutional convention this Nov. 7.

“The democratic process in Albany doesn’t exist,” Lachman said. “A new constitution is the only way to achieve reform.”

Lachman, who is director of the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College on Staten Island, says he spells it all out in his new book on New York State’s dysfunctional legislative branch, “Failed State: Dysfunction and Corruption in an American Statehouse,” and explained to our hosts how he was asked to compromise his principles — or bribed to — by then-Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and then-Gov. George Pataki, but refused to take the bait.

“As soon as I came into the room, I realized something was happening,” Lachman said. “Sen. Bruno offered me something extra.”

Lachman said Bruno promised to get more than $2 million dollars to spend within his district — up from less than $200,000 — if he started to vote along Republican lines. He then claims Gov. Pataki gave Bruno a call while Lachman was still in the office.

“He handed me the phone, and I realized I’d been had,” he said. “I told him what he was asking me to do violates my conscience. And I walked out the door.”

Standing outside that day was another Southern Brooklyn state senator, Carl Kruger, who ended up doing the deal with Bruno and Pataki— and becoming head of the state’s powerful Finance Committee.

Oh, and he went to jail a few years later for accepting $1 million in bribes — a scandal unrelated to the meeting Lachman claims happened that day.

Lachman added that the because he didn’t play ball, the leaders tried — and failed — to redistrict him out of office by adding a portion of Staten Island to his district. But Lachman still won the seat, and served one more term before having enough and stepping down.

Since then, he’s written four books on New York State government, including “Three Men in a Room: The Inside Story of Power and Betrayal in an American Statehouse”; “The Man Who Saved New York: Hugh L. Carey and the Fiscal Crisis of 1975”; and “Mr. New York: Lew Rudin and His Love for the City.”

Lachman is not the first to demand state voters demand a constitutional convention in New York State. Back in January, guest John O’Hara, fresh off his vindication in a voter fraud case, talked about the importance of a new constitution to weed out corruption in Albany.

Also on this week’s show, Gersh previewed this week’s court case of the century: the small claims suit leveled against him for not paying the agreed-upon amount to his set designer for the Fringe Festival sensation “Murder at the Food Coop.”

There’s all that — and more — on this week’s exciting edition of Brooklyn Paper Radio.

Brooklyn Paper radio is recorded and podcast live every Tuesday at 10 am — for your convenience — from our studio in America’s Downtown and can be found, as always, right here on BrooklynPaper.com, on iTunes, on Mixlr, and of course, on Stitcher.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jerome W. Dewald from Manhattan says:
Today 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized either medical or adult-use marijuana, including the biggest prize of all, California. We, the people, did this exclusively using the voter initiative process in states that allow it. In states that don't allow it, like New York and Texas, we are stuck with the legislature or the virtually impossible process of calling a state constitutional convention. So in this sleepy, off-year election cycle of 2017, all eyes in the cannabis movement are on the legislatures, including here in New York.

But in New York, the state constitution has a sunset clause. That means that every 20 years the voters of New York must vote on this question: "Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?" This question is mandatory. It requires no signature-gathering at all, and it's a simple yes/no, majority rule. Oddly enough, that 20-year cycle comes up in just 8 months, on November 7, 2017, and nobody in the cannabis industry knows about it yet.

This is a tale of politics makes odd bedfellows. Labor and progressive forces in general have always been our allies but they oppose us here. Our leading policy advocates like Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Empire State NORML, are sitting on the sidelines and have yet to take a position for fear of alienating our allies in Albany.

There are a host of progressive issues to be inserted in the NY State Constitution, like the voter referendum process that got marijuana legalized in 28 states and rolled back the disastrous war on drugs in the first place. We cannot allow our fear to prevent us from voting yes on the NY State constitutional convention question November 7.

Our Political Action Committee "Restrict & Regulate in NY State 2019" was registered in Albany in February and launched on social media the first week of March as @LegalWeed4NY. If and when there is a convention, we will reverse sides but for now we are with the conservative voices who want a convention and we urge "#NYSConConYesNov 7."
April 7, 2017, 2:22 pm

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