Minneapolis needs to seriously consider campaign finance reform, and we'd be
well served by familiarizing ourselves with the efforts of two U.S. cities:
Portland, OR, and Albuquerque, NM.
You may recall that in October 2005, Albuquerque adopted full public
financing reform in a decisive 69 percent victory on a city charter
amendment. Portland is also a model of campaign finance reform through its
"Voter-owned Elections" ordinance." In both cities, participating candidates
receive limited amounts of campaign dollars from a publicly financed fund if
they agree to:
1) Collect a large number of $5 qualifying contributions to demonstrate
2) Reject private money contributions
3) Limit campaign spending
4) Agree to comply with strict administrative regulations
Last week, Connecticut, became the first state in the country to approve
voluntary public financing for legislative and statewide races. The impetus
came after Connecticut's former governor was sent to prison for accepting
lavish gifts from contractors with business before the state.
We'll undoubtedly face similar criticism of public financing that leaders in
Portland, Albuquerque and Connecticut had to address. The concern centers
on whether we can afford to do it. Leaders from Portland and Albuquerque
argued that their cities couldnt afford to forgo changes in their campaign
Here are a few comments on Voter Owned Elections made by Portland City
Council members at its April and May 2005 hearings:
"On the funding issue... forgoing just one unnecessary tax abatement could
more than pay for the costs (of Voter Owned Elections.)"
Commissioner Sam Adams at April 7, 2005 hearing
"This ordinance addresses a systemic problem that exists when campaign
contributions swamp our local political decision making, both in terms of
how we get elected, and then the decision making that occurs once we are
elected. I believe that Voter Owned Elections will save millions of dollars
in unnecessary spending that goes on to satisfy campaign
Commissioner Sam Adams at May 18, 2005 hearing
"I've become convinced that it is a good idea and a wise use of public
resources. I've come to understand that our current way of financing
political campaigns serve to exclude large numbers of our citizens,
particularly women and minorities, from the political process."
"Our community faces many challenges, and to face them we need good ideas
and strong leaders. Effectively limiting access to our political system to
those who can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars is unfair and
"Just as the city needs to reach out to our entire community in its hiring
and purchasing decisions, we need to include the entire community in our
political process. It's (Voter Owned Elections) the right thing to do, and
it's in the entire community's best interests."
Commissioner Dan Saltzman at May 18, 2005 hearing
Tony Scallon is right that we need "...to deal with the real issues." I hope
most would agree that campaign finance reform is a real issue in
Minneapolis, and we begin seriously discussing it.
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