Mayor’s thoughts for Council consideration on public campaign financing, etc.

From an E-Alert by Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson

Council meeting:  …dark money

By Elizabeth Patterson, January 12, 2019

The city council meeting agenda and packet with staff reports and recommendations are available on-line here.   Items of interest include:

[excerpt…]  The second item of interest for consideration is Council Member Campbell’s two-step process request to consider updates to the city’s campaign ordinances.

Staff is recommending the council provide direction on whether the Santa Clara model and any other proposed updates should be considered and whether updates should be discussed and reviewed by an ad hoc group or by the Open Government Commission prior to consideration by the Council.

Other ideas that can be considered are:

  1. “Public Campaign Financing Won Big on Tuesday”:That was one of the headlines after last year’s elections that nationally had the highest turnout for 50 years.  Voters overwhelmingly passed Fair Elections matching funds systems in Denver, Colorado with 69% of the vote, in Baltimore, Maryland with 76% of the vote, and in New York City with 72%.  Great news in the fight to get politicians out of the Big Money fundraising game!

    To what extent can cities utilize this strategy?  For instance, some cities have adopted ordinances for candidates who pledge voluntary campaign expenditures limits but the candidate is targeted by an outside committee known as PACs spending nearly ten times what a candidate can spend.  So the city provides public funds to supplement the targeted candidate not equal to what is being spent by the PAC but helpful.

    Common Cause discusses public financing in this booklet.

  2. When we set up the Open Government Commission, the first batch of applicants had many great ideas – many of which have been adopted – but not including having a city website similar to the City of Livermore for guidance on how to be a “smart voter”.  While the League of Women Voters does this and other organization, it may make sense to have the resources available on a city webpage.
  3. Another concept is “participatory-budgeting” government which engages the public in decision making.  Why this idea is included in a discussion about campaigning is that a more engaged public is a more informed public.  At the end of the day, that is the goal so that voter decisions are based on information and not fear or “bad for Benicia” speak.  Some ideas to blend the public financing and “participatory” government could be explored further upon council direction.
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