Every twenty years, the New York State Constitution mandates a statewide vote on whether to convene a convention to consider amending it. On November 7, New Yorkers will vote yes or no. This measure, on the back of the ballot, is more important than anything on the front.
Tenants Political Action Committee debated this question at length, and despite many arguments in favor, we voted unanimously to oppose con-con in 2017.
This was not a decision we took lightly. With a state government that is a model of dysfunction and gridlock, it is tempting to try an end run around the governor and state legislature to attempt necessary reforms they have refused to enact despite the stunning number of politicians who have been convicted of corruption and gone to prison.
On Tuesday, a former pastor of Epiphany Church, Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, was charged with possessing dozens of images of child pornography.
The now 96-year-old retired priest of the Catholic Church allegedly had photos of girls as young as eight on his computer performing sex acts with men or posing naked. Additionally, according to an investigation conducted by Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, Byrne even viewed the images in front of many other people at his retirement home, the St. John Vianney Center for Retired Priests in the Bronx.
“People at his residence were subjected to it when they entered his room,” said Clark in a written statement. “Anyone who views child pornography supports horrific child exploitation.”
The monsignor was indicted on 37 counts of possession of an obscene sexual performance by a child and 37 counts of possession of a sexual performance by a child.
The investigation began five months ago after Clark’s office got a complaint about Byrne. The investigation concluded that he allegedly sought out images of young girls (aged 8-14) by using Google and Bing.
If convicted of the top charge, Byrne could face four years in prison and have to register as a sex offender.
Byrne, who worked at Epiphany from 1982-1996, where he retired from, pled not guilty to all the charges on Tuesday. He was arraigned before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary and was released. He is due back in court on January 17.
New Yorkers will have to turn over their ballots on Election Day next Tuesday to vote on a question that only comes up once every 20 years: whether or not to hold a Constitutional Convention. If the measure passes, voters would elect three delegates for each of the 63 State Senate districts and 15 statewide, for a total of 204 representatives in all. The convention itself, or Con-Con as it is sometimes affectionately abbreviated, would open up the state constitution for amendments proposed by the delegates and voted on by New Yorkers.
The measure didn’t pass the last time the question came up in 1997, and the last time there was a convention was 1967. The question was also put on the ballots that year as well. According to the State Archives, Convention leadership had hoped that the popular proposals would carry the unpopular sections and put the changes on the ballot as a single package instead of by individual proposal, but the tactic failed, since the entire document was voted down that year.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is seeking a second term against three unknown candidates and being the Democrat incumbent, we’re sure she’ll clobber them. However, the fact is that it doesn’t matter who wins this race since the position is useless. The purpose is to be a cheerleader for one’s borough, appointing members to community boards and, if one is ambitious, coming up with ideas that hopefully City Council members will pick up.
Last year in T&V’s “Politics & Tidbits” column, former Assembly Steven Sanders called the office that borough presidents hold, as well as the office that evolved into the public advocate “throwbacks to an earlier age in the last century when they were relevant.” Now, he pointed out, “It has become mostly a springboard to run for mayor or comptroller, where the actual power resides. The current mayor and current comptroller are prime examples of that.”
We like Brewer and that she’s so passionate about Manhattan’s mom-and-pops. But her position kind of handcuffs her from doing anything about this worsening crisis. She recently conducted a study of vacant storefronts and the results were not exactly shocking: Retail blight is getting worse. Her office didn’t respond when we asked what the next steps were on acting on this knowledge, and we’re guessing this is because there aren’t any. Brewer, previously an effective City Council member, should run for another position where she can actually make a difference.
Also on the ballot is Stuyvesant Town small business owner and community activist Frank Scala. A good man we respect but we don’t know how he’d magically affect real change with such limited power, either.
If you want to vote against wasting taxpayer money pick a candidate named Brian Waddell. This candidate, on the Reform and Libertarian lines, is running with the idea of eliminating the office completely on his first day if elected. In an amusing Q&A Waddell conducts with himself on his website, the candidate asks: “Is the rent too damn high? Yes, but there is nothing a borough president can do about it, so let’s get rid of them.”
Police arrested 33-year-old Charles Pratt, a resident of the 30th Street Men’s Shelter, for allegedly murdering his girlfriend, 38-year-old Latisha Fowler, inside 344 East 28th Street last Sunday.
The New York Daily News reported that two NYCHA handymen found Fowler’s body around 9:30 a.m. that day after the victim’s six-year-old son let them inside. The workers had been dispatched to her apartment to fix a clogged pipe and when the child opened the door, he reportedly told them that his mom was hurt and needed help.