“We the people,” created a government “in order to form a more perfect union,” the preamble to the Constitution declares.
Every generation has been called upon to cast American democracy anew to meet the challenges of the times.
In New York, more than any other state in the union, the moment is upon us in response to the coronavirus.
In this high-turnout, presidential election year, when every legislator in New York State is on the ballot, here is a list of demands voters should make of candidates.
- We must tell our leaders to insist that every police department in NY State adopt a plan for implementing the 59 recommendations and 92 action items identified in The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing published in 2015. A follow on implementation guide to the report identified six themes, the first of which is Change the Culture of Policing. No New York State department has done so. It is a place to start.
- We must demand better, more modern technology planning, investments, and development to support our future. Reports have arisen from all over the state of antiquated technology infrastructures buckling under the weight of increased demands placed on them during the pandemic. There are no acceptable excuses for this.
- We must develop more effective disaster planning, funding, and response programs that are fully tested and ready to deploy. The coronavirus has revealed the many holes in our government’s ability to respond effectively to a society-wide challenge. From a lack of Personal Protective Equipment for front-line medical workers, to confusing and arbitrary rules for small business loan programs, to the need for clear and concise orders about how to stay out of harm’s way, the government’s failures are obvious. Wise leaders will learn from this debacle.
- We can reform public education. Not in the way billionaires who have never been educators and whose children do not attend public schools want education reformed. Reform it in a way that modernizes public education by training our teachers to use technology effectively to teach in front of classrooms AND at a distance. This takes thoughtful, deliberate investments and close collaboration between life-long educators who are experts in this field, working with experts from other domains.
- We can create a Green New Deal for New York by investing in as many clean technologies as possible. The pandemic has laid bare ways we can protect our planet and ourselves by modifying how we live and the way industries operate. The earth’s remarkable resiliency is not infinite. The coronavirus shut-down has reminded us how good clean air tastes, and we can have more of it. Private sector innovation in partnership with smart government regulation and oversight can create limitless possibilities . . . win-win-win scenarios of job creation, good government, and a healthier environment.
- We must break the Albany Arrangement. Insiders and professional politicians have been captives of the nearly impossible-to-resist onslaught of lobbyists and special interest influencers for too long. Changing campaign finance rules and using technology to allow New York legislators to cast ballots from their homes would make it more difficult for lobbyists to line up back-to-back-to-back meetings with elected officials in the afternoon, and attend fund raisers for those officials that same evening.
“What have you made?” a citizen asked Benjamin Franklin as he left the Constitutional Convention. “A republic,” he replied, “if you can keep it.” He was talking to all of us.