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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 19, 2005 1:10 AM. The previous post in this blog was There's no such thing as "smart growth". The next post in this blog is Cha-ching. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Friday, August 19, 2005

Its days are numbered

Well, "clean money" (or "voter-owned elections") is going on the ballot in Portland next May. The business community has got a petition ready to go, and given the heavy hitters backing repeal of the city's new campaign finance system, it shouldn't be hard to get the signatures to refer the repeal to the voters.

My guess is that the voters will dump "clean money" like a hot potato. "Should your tax dollars go to finance politicians' campaigns?" Take your own poll on any bus, in any bar. Probably 3 to 2 against, or maybe even 2 to 1.

It might have been closer if the City Council had put the matter up for a vote itself. But they knew it couldn't pass, and now it's going to go down even harder.

This also ups the stakes for Commissioners Sten and Saltzman, who both voted for "clean money" and now have to decide whether to take it or not as part of their upcoming re-election bids. Might as well, fellows -- it's a one-shot opportunity.

Not everyone who's opposed to campaign finance reform is coming to the issue with clean hands. Some opponents like the old campaign finance "system" just the way it was, because they bought council votes in the past and would like to try to do so in the future. But the more innocent majority of taxpayers just won't like the idea of property tax-financed political advertising, because darn it, there are more important things that need doing around here, and that aren't being done.

Unfortunately, this marks the end of Phil Stanford's candidacy for mayor. But I'm sure he'll make his civic contribution some other way.

Comments (22)

In talking with taxpayers at the grassroots level in campaign houseparties, I'm finding great enthusiasm for taxpayer funding of City Council election campaigns. The issues that keep coming up are tax abatements for developers, insiders making decisions without public input, and lack of attention to neighborhood needs outside of downtown. The money dedicated to Clean Elections is very small in comparison with the megabucks going to the people previously holding the purse strings of Portland elections. Taxpayers are rightly looking at priorities in spending, as the Council should be doing.

When I say I'll be asking for $5 contributions starting in September as I run for the seat currently held by Dan Saltzman, some people ask if they can give $50, others even $500. It's so exciting to be able to say, "thank you, no, but you can give a houseparty and invite your neighbors to come to talk about whatever concerns them in city government". It gives every citizen the opportunity to contribute at the same level as the South Waterfront developers. I also talk about the need for citizens to be aware that their $5 donation means they are voting to donate large quantities of tax money to my campaign, so they need to consider carefully whether that's a wise investment.

The question you will be answering as you're asked to sign the repeal petition is, "do you want to continue business as usual at City Hall?" Jack, I don't understand your position - you despise the tram (as I do), the tax abatements, and numerous other projects that benefit those who've funded the current Council's elections (except for Potter's, and he had name-recognition to start with). Why the opposition to public campaign financing, which is a fraction of the cost of a single tax abatement in South Waterfront?

HAVE you taken bus or bar polls, Jack? Otherwise it sounds like mere speculation.

I agree with Amanda--given the constant ire you display with back-channel machinations and the influence of developers and corporate muscle, it seems rather inconsistent to support the mechanism of their influence by opposing public financing.

I've been through this before with you, folks. Just look at the Presidential campaign checkoff on the federal tax return. 90 percent of taxpayers say no. And 60 percent of Portland voters will say no to this too.

Amanda, am I right that you spent many years working in the Planning Bureau? Talk about misplaced priorities.

No, you are not right in thinking that I spent many years working in the Planning Bureau. I'm a Registered Nurse who's worked part-time in Inpatient Psychiatric Care at OHSU for 19 years (except for the 56 day strike). I've been a volunteer land use chair of my Neighborhood Association for 13 years, and served 7 years as an appointed member of the Portland Planning Commission, an unpaid citizen committee that makes recommendations to the City Council on land use and Comprehensive Plan issues. Experienced with the Planning Bureau, yes - worked in it, no.

You didn't answer my question, Jack - why are you opposed to the new system, when so often you dislike the choices made by those elected under the current Big Money donations, and imply the Council's votes are influenced by affluent developers?

My objection to "clean money" or whatever it's called has been stated here many times. Run "clean money" through the search engine on the sidebar and you will find the posts. If it could be funded out of something other than property taxes, I could support it. But no one was smart enough to come up with a way to do that.

Amanda, you may force Saltzman into a runoff. But I'm afraid you'll be dialing for dollars come mid-May. And for your sake, I don't think you'd better play the "Portland Planning" card (whatever the next word is) too hard. Over the past decade, this city has been "planned" into oblivion. Take a poll -- you'll see all the negatives. You'll have to do like Sam Adams and hide that part of your past.

I won't have to hide any of my past, Jack. I'm happy for anyone to look at all of it. Schools, environmental stewardship, neighborhoods, nursing, social services, parks, parenting, and planning - those are the areas I've spent my time over the past 20 years. I don't have to reinvent myself or hide any of it. In fact, thanks to public campaign financing, when I reach the 1000 qualifying donations I'll be able to encourage more people to look at who I am and what I've done, and decide whether my life experiences and values would be useful on the City Council.

I agree with you that we're still way too dependent on property taxes paid by residents. All the more reason to dedicate $1.3m of them to make elections open to people who won't subsequently vote to give $7m in chunks for expensive waterfront apartments, or $40m for a tram that cuts 9 minutes off the commute time to OHSU.

Amanda, you need your own blog.

Do you want the oligarchy buying our city councilers, or do you want all of us pitching in for a fair race? Jack, Portland isn't in Kansas where voters willingly screw themselves. Portlanders know Voter Owned Elections are a good deal for all of us - except that 1% who thought they could buy Francesconi's way into Potter's seat.

The people against publicly financed campaigns are the same not-so-liberal elite who say public ownership of PGE "sends a bad message to business." What's the "bad message?" That its better to have cheaper rates for business- and people - than to have a corrupt private company rip us off. No government regulation or tax has ever shut down an industry as decisively and quickly as the PGE-Enron produced California energy crisis put the cabash on the Northwest aluminium industry.

Jack, don't be a chump. Publicly owned elections and utilities are good for people and good for business. Don't let the oligarchs fool you.

Don't be naive - What diff does it make if a developer gives $5K to Leonard et al or a public union does a campaign to get 1000 people to contribute $5? The diff is $1.3M less in taxes for schools, roads and police.

The only way we have to control these elected people to cry BS on their actions and bad behaviors. Making it easier for them to raise campaign funds won't make a diff once they are elected.

Xander, see you after the election, when this thing goes down. If your hero Erik Sten could have thought up a source of funding other than general fund money, I would have supported it. But he didn't, and I won't.

Amanda at August 19, 2005 08:45 PM:
I won't have to hide any of my past, Jack. I'm happy for anyone to look at all of it.

Here some of my tough questions for you:
What have you done, or will you do, to protect our neighborhoods from giant apartments springing up all over, AGAINST THE NEIGHBORHOOD’S WISHES?

How about all those areas re-zoned for skinny lots AGAINST THE NEIGHBORHOOD’S WISHES? (we know about your fight against tear downs where the original lots were multiple 2500 sqft - that was good, but it only solved a little of the problem)

What are you going to do to protect the heart and soul of our neighborhoods against even more forced high density and skinny houses? Are you willing to fight against Metro’s density mandate for Portland?

How are you going to deal with the traffic congestion that is resulting from all the high density?


I can't answer your questions here, Jim - it's not my blog. When I have the funds, I'll put up my own site.

Jack, Erik did make it so the money for campaign financing doesn't come only out of the General Fund (GF). All the bureaus contribute, including those not supported by the GF. About a third ($435k) comes from the GF, according to an auditor's report during the budget process.

If 2 cents comes from the general fund, I won't support it.

General fund, Schmeneral fund! Its all taxpayer money.


Amanda, why do you fault Jack for being concerned about other programs that won't be funded due because of the public financing of political campaigns, when you are quoted in the March 29th issue of the Portland Tribune saying ... “I’m concerned about the effect on the city budget at a time when we’re cutting parks and other services" ????

The proof is in the pooding. Look at Maine and Arizona to see where publicly funded campaigns are making a huge difference. Maine is now doing what all polls show people want but federal and other state governments do not deliver: implementing universal health care. Why Maine? One big reason is because people, not profit centers are buying the politicians.

Voters in both AZ (one of the most conservative states) and ME (one of the most liberal) seem to be really happy with public campaign finance. We will be too.

'Til May.

Forgive me if I snort out loud thinking about the Portland City Council running universal health care. Will it be cheap and efficient like our water and sewer operations? Or like the police precincts -- closed at night and on weekends?

Auggie, thanks for asking about that Trib quote. The full sentence I said to the reporter was something like, "I'm concerned about the effect on the city budget at a time when we're cutting parks and other services, HOWEVER I think it will save money in the long run, and it's needed to restore public trust in government".

The Trib omitted the second part of my sentence, thereby completely changing the meaning. Evidently I need to learn to speak in soundbites.

"The Trib omitted the second part of my sentence, thereby completely changing the meaning."

Welcome to my world.

Clearly I haven't had as much experience as you, but I wish the media would publish the entire interview when you talk to them, or, at the very least, give you a rebuttal opportunity afterward.

Me too, Dave.

Xander Patterson, August 19, 11:02 PM:
Don't let the oligarchs fool you.

Xander, is this description of a NEW TAX your work (your name is on the supporting statement):
QUESTION: Shall the District be authorized to have a permanent rate limit of $0.10 per $1,000 assessed value beginning FY 2005-2006?

The voters were fooled: 63% yes, 36% no




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