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 community support
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 couldnÂ’t afford to forgo changes in their campaign systems.

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
contributors."

        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 counterproductive."

"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.

Kevin McDonald
Hiawatha


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