PLATTSBURGH - Carl Paladino says he would consolidate school districts at the county level and turn some minimum-security prisons into camps to give unemployed youths jobs if elected governor.
In an interview with the Enterprise Thursday, Paladino said he wants to create something similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s to help address unemployment among young people, which is higher than with many other groups.
"These kids, unless we give them some way of earning some money, are going to resort to crime," Paladino said. "We're going to give them an opportunity to serve in the CCCs."
PALADINO AND PAL — Governor candidate Carl Paladino, right, poses with Mark Barie, chairman of the Upstate New York Tea Party, Thursday in Plattsburgh.
(Enterprise photo — Nathan Brown)
Paladino said the young people could do a number of jobs, such as rehabilitating state parks and working at hospitals. He said the dormitories in some minimum-security prisons could be converted into housing for them and Department of Correctional Services employees could be retrained as counselors to run the programs.
"We will not close any of our prison facilities," Paladino said. "We will adjust them for our current needs of giving jobs. And this is a program that I'm hell-bent on."
Andrew Cuomo, current attorney general and the Democratic candidate for governor, is ahead in the polls and widely expected by many to win. Cuomo is also running on the Independence Party line. Rick Lazio is the endorsed Republican and will also be on the Conservative line, and Paladino has filed to challenge Lazio in a Republican primary. Kenneth Schaeffer is on the Working Families Party line, and Warren Redlich is running as a Libertarian.
As for schools, Paladino said he favors leaving curriculum and policy in the hands of local school boards but consolidating all other functions at the county level, with a single superintendent appointed by the county government. He said he thinks county attorneys would do a better job in negotiating with the teachers' unions than superintendents, many of whom used to teach in the same districts themselves. He said he would like to see the money saved be reinvested into the schools, including lengthening school hours and the school year.
When asked about districts like Saranac Lake, which is divided between Franklin, Essex and bit of Clinton counties, Paladino said he would study it and figure out a solution. He also said he would like to force more consolidation at the local level, and have "teams of productivity engineers" study and make recommendations to municipalities that they would have to follow as a condition of getting state aid.
"I'm looking at consolidating a lot of services at the county," Paladino said. "You don't need an assessor in each town. You don't need a tax collector in each town."
Paladino acknowledged that there would be a lot of resistance to this, but said he thought voters would support it.
Aside from consolidating government, Paladino said he would drive down Medicaid costs by $20 billion, which would reduce expenses for counties. The entire cost of the program is $52 billion, of which half is paid by the federal government and the rest divided between the state and the counties. Paladino said he would "slash" Medicaid and social welfare benefits, and require applicants to produce identification and be fingerprinted and drug-tested.
Under current state law, the question of whether to hold a constitutional convention is put on the ballot every 20 years; voters turned it down the last time in 1997. Some legislators, mostly Republicans, have been talking about possibly holding another constitutional convention sooner. Paladino said he favors holding one every 10 years and that the delegates at the convention should be in charge of revising Congress, Assembly and Senate districts. In the meantime, he said, he favors a nonpartisan commission do the next redistricting, like the one former New York City Mayor Ed Koch has been pressing for.
"The people most affected by redistricting are the people who redistrict," Paladino said. "That's wrong."
Paladino said he would like to see several other changes to the state Constitution, including allowing for initiative referendums like in California, recall of elected officials like in California, and changes to the current system of binding arbitration with public employees. He said he thinks disputes with public employee unions should be decided by courts, not arbitrators, who he said are more likely to favor the unions. He also said he would like to get rid of "continuation of terms," or continuing the old contract in the interim while a new one is being worked out.
Contact Nathan Brown at (518) 891-260 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.