Benicia City Attorney opposes half of the recommendations – citizens must speak up at January 7 Council meeting
Benicia City Council to review proposed changes to city’s campaign lawsBy John Glidden, Vallejo Times-Herald, December 27, 2019
BENICIA — The City Council will get its first look at several proposed amendments to the city’s campaign-related laws and regulations during its Jan. 7 meeting. [Agenda here.]
The council will meet at 7 p.m., inside the Benicia City Hall Council Chambers, 250 East L St.
The city’s Open Government Commission is recommending at least 10 different changes to three chapters contained within the Benicia Municipal Code: Voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices, Disclosure of Contributions and Expenditures in Candidate and Ballot Measure Elections, and Contribution and Voluntary Spending Limits.
Proposed changes include requiring the mayor and city council candidates to disclose their top financial contributors, adding regulations regarding push polls, which requires a person, entity, committee or candidate sponsoring or conducting the push poll to submit a disclosure statement within 24 hours of completion of the poll.
Almost half of the proposed amendments are opposed by City Attorney Benjamin Stock. He said an amendment requiring unions and membership organizations to disclose whether endorsements for mayoral or council candidates were voted upon by the entire membership “could run afoul of various constitutionally protected interests.”
Stock said two additional proposed amendments, prohibiting public officials and city employees from using city resources to support/oppose candidates and ballot measures, and prohibiting city officials and city employees from using social media for campaign purposes if the public official’s or employee’s title are used, are not needed since state law already establishes the prohibitions.
Stock also opposes requiring candidates to “conduct civil, issue-oriented campaigns and provide opponents the opportunity to respond to claims about their positions or qualifications.”
“The City cannot expressly require a candidate to comply with the Voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices, including section 1.36.010(F), as candidates for public office have a right to pursue independent campaign strategies,” Stock wrote.
The proposed amendments can be reviewed by visiting http://docs.ci.benicia.ca.us/CC/CC-01-07-2020.pdf.