Councilmember Sally J. Clark
Councilmember Nick Licata
Councilmember Tim Burgess
Council President Richard Conlin
Councilmember Jan Drago
Councilmember Jean Godden
Councilmember Bruce A. Harrell
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
Councilmembers Announce a Path Forward for Voter-Owned Elections in Seattle
SEATTLE - Seattle City Councilmembers announced today a timeline to develop a publicly financed elections program for local campaigns in the city of Seattle. The plan proposes development of a proposal over 2009 and early 2010 with a possible ballot measure placed before voters in 2010. If voters approve a measure, candidates could participate in a program as early as the 2011 election cycle.
Public financing, sometimes called “voter-owned” elections, allows a candidate to qualify for public funds to run an electoral campaign if he or she is able to demonstrate a broad base of community support. Candidate participation would be optional. Participants would agree to standards such as limits on private fundraising, a limit on using personal funds, or limits on third-party funding assistance. Programs currently operate in many cities, including Portland, OR, San Francisco, CA, and Albuquerque, NM.
Councilmember Sally J. Clark, chair of the committee that will develop the proposal, said, “I’m looking forward to creating a program that helps a diverse cross-section of Seattle residents to run for local office. Plenty of smart, qualified people would love to run, but the price tag has run so high in recent cycles that otherwise great leaders sit out. Money shouldn’t determine who runs and serves.”
Councilmember Nick Licata said, “I ran for City Council back when Seattle still had voter-owned elections, and I’m excited to develop a model that works for 21st century campaigns. Voter-owned elections connect people with government. I look forward to hearing Seattleites’ ideas as we develop a program in the months ahead.”
In 1992, Washington voters adopted Initiative 134, which killed Seattle’s former voter-owned elections system. The Washington State Legislature adopted legislation in 2008 which allows municipalities to create their own public financing programs, subject to voter approval.
In early 2008, the City Council and Mayor convened a Campaign Public Financing Advisory Committee (CPFAC) to review financing models in other jurisdictions and make recommendations. The group issued a final report in June, 2008, and the proposed timeline and program planning will work from the CPFAC’s findings.
Through 2009 and early 2010, Council will conduct public outreach, review voter-owned elections models in other jurisdictions, determine potential costs and financing plans, and develop a final proposal for voters to consider.
Council President Richard Conlin said, “I have long supported the idea of voter-owned elections as a way to increase citizens’ access to the democratic process. I am very pleased that the Council is moving forward.”
“I strongly support a new system of voter-owned elections. It will create a more level playing field, attract new candidates, and build public confidence in the political process,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess. “I know from my own personal experience that ‘dialing for dollars’ is a distraction from the work I should be doing as a public official. It's time we step up and introduce strong reforms.”
Councilmember Jean Godden said, “I feel strongly that public financing will level the playing field for candidates and offer voters greater and more diverse choices. I’m wary to implement a new model until the economy rebounds, however.”
“We’ve supported this for a long time;” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. “I’m looking forward to taking advantage of this great opportunity that the Legislature has given to us.”
Councilmember Bruce Harrell said, “Ultimately, it will be the voter’s decision and any program must weigh the benefits of making it less costly for potential candidates to run, against the costs to implement the program and the effects such a program will have on other city services.”
“I strongly support the idea of restoring public campaign financing to City elections as long as campaign spending limits are a part of the package,” said Councilmember Jan Drago. “We must bring sanity back to campaign spending.”
Archives of previous meetings, news releases and copies of legislation are available on the Council’s website at www.seattle.gov/council
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