With the 2012 election on the horizon, the city of Elk Grove is embarking on a new path regarding the makeup of the Elk Grove City Council. For the first time since incorporation back in 2000, voters will be electing our city’s first mayor. To date, seven candidates have filed papers to run for mayor. Additionally, Districts 1 and 3 are up for reelection.
The city of Elk Grove spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on a Charter Exploratory Commission and then a Charter Commission, not to mention the time and effort of those who served on both commissions.
The only recommendation the city council approved for the ballot was the directly elected mayor. Nice start, but with the mayoral election, one beast has reared it ugly head again—the huge amounts of money some candidates have raised. Others, with no deep pockets from which to draw, are left at a disadvantage.
To make matters worse, with their "look who has shown me the money" strategy, incumbents are issuing press releases bragging about how much money they have raised to ward off any challengers. Back in 2006 when contribution money was flooding this city, mostly from developers Renyen & Bardis, it took $250,000 to unseat an incumbent. And by all appearances, Election 2012 is going to be all about money, too; to date, that is what the media is picking up on. It is time it stops and we level the election playing field. Local campaign finance reform is needed and it is needed now.
In order to get campaign finance reform in Elk Grove, one of three things has to happen: The Elk Grove City Council can pass an ordinance enacting voluntary finance reform; the city council can leave it up to the voters and place an initiative on the ballot; or citizens can gather signatures and have a referendum placed on the ballot.
Campaign finance reform can be made unproblematic and one city did it very well. The Santa Cruz City Council formed a Campaign Finance Reform Task Force. In their report, both the council and the task force agreed to the following:
“The Council and Task force recognized that monetary contributions to political campaigns are a legitimate form of citizen participation, but that the financial strength of individuals or organizations should not permit them to exercise a controlling influence on the election of candidates. The intended purposes of the City's voluntary campaign expenditure and contribution limitations ordinance are:
1. To minimize the potentially corrupting influence and appearances of corruption caused by excessive contributions; and
2. To limit overall expenditures in campaigns, thereby allowing candidates to spend less time fundraising and more time communicating with voters; and
3. To provide incentives that encourage candidates to voluntarily limit their campaign expenditures."
Sounds pretty good, but the Catch 22 here is: Would the current Elk Grove City Council go for campaign finance reform? After all, they are the ones with the big war chests!
Linda Ford is a spokesperson for the Elk Grove Community Connection.
Do you think Elk Grove needs local campaign finance reform? Tell us in the comments.