WATERTOWN — You asked me to “dial it down,” but I won’t.
You said I’m “hurting the north country” by criticizing the governor, but your own paper has reported my praise of the governor for signing legislation the senator and I carried to save local taxpayers $3 million on a courtroom they didn’t need. Your own paper has quoted me multiple times thanking the governor for seeing the need to invest in shoreline hardening against flooding.
I publicly thanked the governor for showing strong leadership and good communication with the public at the onset of the pandemic. Let’s be fair here.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees your paper liberty to report and print opinions freely — it’s critically important you continue to do so because government officials have to be held accountable through freedom of the press.
Article III of the New York Constitution provides, “The legislative power of this state shall be vested in the Senate and Assembly.” So if the governor’s legislating through executive order and usurping the power of the people’s house meet “relentless criticism” from me, I hope you’ll agree: I’m doing my job.
It’s not my job to stump for the governor. It’s my constitutional obligation to provide oversight, balance, a voice for the people and a check on power of the other two branches.
While he had nine months to alert the employees and families of the decision, four days before Christmas the governor announced he’d be closing Watertown Correctional Facility. His decision should be criticized on its merits, but his timeline should be publicly shamed.
Your assertion in the editorial that he made the decision because of the campaign we launched three weeks later is ridiculous, factually incorrect and not based on even the most obvious political assessment. But even if there were a connection based on anything other than your ink on paper, why would I “dial it down”?
I didn’t win a chair in the New York Assembly, overcoming a 10-year incumbent in a seat drawn for the opposing party by telling people I’d “go along to get along.” I didn’t offer myself as an option on the ballot as the candidate who will “get more flies with honey.” And I didn’t get re-elected with a large margin of victory by letting the governor, party leaders or your paper tell me how to conduct myself.
I promised the voters I’d listen and be a watchdog for them. I told residents that if they supported me, I’d uphold the oath. I got elected, raised my right hand and swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States and of New York state, and that’s why I’m still here.
Hurting Northern New York with “provocative rhetoric”? If my words provoke a response, good!
Right now, the governor doesn’t think he needs to listen to the voice of the people. And the legislative leaders are content to take a paycheck and sit on their hands.
When you endorsed my candidacy for re-election in October, you said I was “suited for this uphill battle with Democrats in the Assembly” and that I “demonstrated a firm command of what’s most important to [my] constituents.”
Now you say, “Walczyk should find a more effective way to persuade Democrats.” To that I ask: Like what?
Sponsor legislation? Put forward floor amendments? Write letters to legislative leaders and the governor? Build bipartisan coalitions? Speak truth to power in a civil way? Activate on social media? Send press releases? Talk to the speaker and majority leader of the Assembly?
We’ve done all of these things. But when someone like our governor has power, he doesn’t just hand it back. If you have suggestions, I’m all ears.
However, there is nothing “silly” about the Kick the Crown movement, and I’d encourage your paper to continue this civil discourse while joining our cause. This isn’t about political sniping over how the governor is leading or day-to-day mistakes he makes.
It’s a movement that’s about furthering the conversation with residents about their relationship with their government. We still believe the power of the government rests in the people, not the crown.
Mark C. Walczyk, R-I-C-Ref-Watertown, represents the 116th District in the state Assembly. He submitted this in reply to an editorial published Wednesday by the Watertown Daily Times titled “Dial it down: Stefanik and Walczyk hurting NNY with provocative rhetoric.”