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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 26, 2007 7:27 PM. The previous post in this blog was New streetcar builder is a Bush-Cheney man. The next post in this blog is More on the jerk bus driver in Eugene. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Surprise! Special meeting!

Boy, that life-affirming public involvement spirit at Portland City Hall never quits. Tonight at 6:23 p.m. they send out a notice that there's going to be a special meeting of the "voter-owed elections" commission this coming Monday evening starting at 5:30 in the afternoon.

Geez, even people with no lives may not be able to make that one.

Comments (31)

If they're forming an Emilie Boyles posse, count me in.

If they're just getting ready for the next raid on the public treasury to foment faux democratic inclusiveness while protecting incumbents...Well, I guess you can just hit the road (a la Schumachers) if you don't like it. You'll never get to vote on VOE.

What's interesting is that the "agenda" doesn't give a clue as to what's being discussed. No draft minutes to review. (that's what our neighborhood association posts.) No draft report to preview and think about.

They could just as well have posted: "We're getting together, come by. Or don't. Whatever."

It says, "to work on its upcoming report to City Council", right at the top of the notice. They are reviewing and refining the report. There will be real opportunity for the public to review and comment on their recommendations at Council (real, rather than perfunctory like the Charter Review Commission's report). So unless you can't wait to find out what they're talking about proposing, I don't see a pressing need to be at their meeting. I believe the report is due out in March.

I find it interesting to see this post, right above the one on some dude buying influence with big campaign contributions. If not Public Campaign Financing, then what would citizens concerned about electing un-indebted candidates to office suggest, to fix the current system of patronage?

"If not Public Campaign Financing, then what would citizens concerned about electing un-indebted candidates to office suggest"

How about incumbents agreeing to spend only 80% of what their top challenger raises? Public financing just keeps the same old ideas and politicians in office.

At the presidential level, it's now acknowledged to be a complete failure.

The "voter-owed elections" folks' agendas rarely have anything but a few bare bones entries in them. It's never easy to figure out what's really going to go on.

Releasing the notice on a Friday evening for a special meeting on Monday, though -- that takes the cake.

How about incumbents agreeing to spend only 80% of what their top challenger raises?

That still means the challenger has to beg for money, usually needing large chunks from people and entities likely to have financial interests in future votes. I don't see how that fixes anything.

That still means the challenger has to beg for money

"Voter-owed elections" didn't eliminate the need for the begging. It's just begging for $5 instead of $100.

VOE abridges my freedom of speech by forcing me to subsidize the speech of others with whom I disagree.

Kinda like the WEA.

http://www.timesdaily.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070127/NEWS/701270302/-1/COMMUNITIES

Please, use the tiny URLs.

Your tax money pays for the salaries of elected officials, too, who likely also engage in speech with which you disagree.

Begging for $5 wasn't fun, either, in fact in some ways it's worse because when someone turns you down you feel not even worth five bucks. Still, being given $5 is a whole lot different from being given $500, or even $100. Certainly different from being given $145,000 in taxpayers' money. I still remember pretty much every one of the 1045 names on my donor list, but my obligation is to Portland's citizens as a whole because that's who provided the finances to run my campaign. It is a different kind of indebtedness if a decision-maker not only remembers the contributors, but also knows that without their money, s/he would not have been elected. And that s/he will need their money again, in future elections.

Don't forget the seed money, where our special developer friends can give a hundred.

True. I think the next version should eliminate the $100 seed money provision. I proved a candidate with the required level of community support can qualify without it.

Why would anybody (especially an astute observer like Amanda Fritz) think that campaign contributions are the only way to curry favor with a politician?

Imagine how easy it would be to offer a politician a LARGE DISCOUNT on products or services (from charter jet rides to lawn mowing), executive level compensation for do-nothing jobs ("consulting") for the Pol's family members, nomination to high profile Board of Director jobs (aka Molly Bordanaro sitting on the board at Fannie Mae), cash contributions to "donor advised funds", or invoices that simply get lost (like Bob the Torch and all those nice suits)l.

The FBI doesn't seem to have much difficulty finding this kind of corruption at the national level, but the Oregon A.G. office has an eyes wide shut policy, and the MultCo D.A. is just too busy going after the "real" criminals.

It happens. Unless somebody gets pissed off (post bribe), there's little opportunity for the public to become aware of it.

Your tax money pays for the salaries of elected officials, too, who likely also engage in speech with which you disagree.

Yeah, but at least I get to vote directly to try to replace those who engage in it - unlike VOE. I think that's a big difference, don't you? Without a public vote, it's coerced speech, not free speech.

Why would anybody (especially an astute observer like Amanda Fritz) think that campaign contributions are the only way to curry favor with a politician?

Why would you think that is my opinion, Mister Tee?

Obviously, campaign donations aren't the only way politicians can be corrupted. I believe Public Campaign Financing gives candidates who agree with you that those other methods of buying influence are wrong, a better chance of being elected. Without having to compromise their personal values by accepting/asking for big contributions in order to win election. After someone is elected without undue influence from big money donors, it is incumbent on that official to remember who s/he serves.

It doesn't seem reasonable to me, to expect candidates to grovel for money from special interests and people with deep pockets during the campaign, then immediately become paragons of virtue and independence after winning.

"It doesn't seem reasonable to me, to expect candidates to grovel for money from special interests and people with deep pockets during the campaign, then immediately become paragons of virtue and independence after winning."

So then explain to me what happened with Sten and Saltzman, I think they are groveling to the same cadre of people even with VoE? WHat changed about them?

VoE only makes the money pop up somewhere else, like the right developer throwing a pot of money at what happens to be Sam's favorite cause or donating to the Police union to get Randy's attention.

This is just a short-sighted patch job that does not even fix the problem and creates new ones.

Dan Saltzman didn't use public financing, so I don't see your point, Steve. Erik did, and I see a new willingness to speak his mind and challenge Big Money interests since being the first person ever elected using it in Portland.

We need five members of the Council elected using Public Campaign Financing. Right now, we have one.

"Erik did, and I see a new willingness to speak his mind and challenge Big Money interests since being the first person ever elected using it in Portland."

I thought Mr Saltzman was taking public money, so my mistake. Still we pay these guys salaries, benefits, staff and PERS and now we pay for their campaign so they can avoid voters even more? I apologize for it being embarassing to ask for money and its a lot easier when you can pass a tax/fee and just take it without facing people.

But I really don't see any change in Erik. I mean a fireman kicks the crap out of a person on tape and Erik doesn't say one word. He might want to at least practice clearing his trhoat instead of keeping his head low.


Amanda: fair enough, I mistakenly assumed you see VOE as a cure all.

My point is that money is never going to be removed from politics. Even if VOE required challengers to be funded at 5 times the incumbent, the incumbent is still going to benefit from the visibility of holding the office and (especially in Portland, where three votes can get you just about anything) the levers of power.

Those who are easily corrupted will be corrupted easily. Those who are not easily corrupted will take a bit longer, but power and money corrupts nearly everyone eventually. The longer the period of incumbency, the more likely you are to receive special considerations from those who benefit from your incumbency.

But for anybody to believe that local politics will be 100% sanitized by the absence of private (and very publicly exposed) campaign contributions is naive in the extreme.

Anybody who believes that more government regulations and/or funding will stop corruption has never been to Louisiana or Moscow.

Public financing just keeps the same old ideas and politicians in office.

Let's see, Portland had around 150 years' worth of elections prior to holding a grand total of one election with public financing. Got that? One publically financed election. What a huge, statistically significant sample. No wonder it's possible to draw a conclusion as robust as "public financing just keeps the same old ideas and politicians in office."

But for anybody to believe that local politics will be 100% sanitized by the absence of private (and very publicly exposed) campaign contributions is naive in the extreme.

I agree. Although it's not that someone is sanitized by the absence of private contributions, the problem is those who do take them are tainted. People have decreased trust of politicians taking money from special interests, even if at heart they are pure as the driven snow. Public Campaign Financing can fix that part of the problem.

Taking your assertion that everyone is corrupted eventually, do you agree it is better to delay that decay as long as possible, by making it so a person might at least get elected before having to talk to people with money & power more than people without?

I also agree with you on the other advantages of incumbency. I believe Public Campaign Financing will be particularly important when there is an open seat. I'm hoping the PFC Commission will propose rules for public funding in Special Elections, when a seat opens up during a term of office. Current rules only apply to scheduled primary and general elections.

Personally I am strongly against VOE, for a number of reasons. Some of my arguments against are out of principal, and some are simply how poorly it is organized. In no particular rambling order:

1) There are no limits on the number of people who can qualify for funds;
2) Anyone can qualify for tax funds regardless of their economic situation;
3) People belonging to social groups are significantly better leveraged to raise the base donation amount;
4) Social groups have financial agendas just like any other donor, so a VOE elected official will be "indebted" in virtually the same way as traditionally elected officials;
5) The flip side of the coin is that very few people will raise money strictly through disinterested citizens that have no commonality except their love of governance;
6) In Amanda's case, how many people on the list are people who are members of the Nurse's Union, the teacher's union, or strong supporters of either?
7) If a person does not spend their own money (or a significant percentage) then there is a less incintive to manage the funds as a proper steward;
8) If a candidate is spending their own money, a significant portion of their own money, or a large part of the money is from a few donors, then that candidate will more likely pull the plug when it is clear they will not win the election or primary;
9) VOE candidates have no incentive to pull the plug if their candidancy is going down the toilette..they will spend every tax payer dime in a fruitless endevour;
10) Issuing tax grants to an unknown number of VOE candidates in the hope that one of them will win the election seems a highly inefficient use of public funds;
11) The theory that VOE brings in "better" candidates is a highly speculative program that is based upon a belief that it will root out "rich man" corruption;
12) VOE simply replaces one type of corruption for another.. it is human nature. Realligning the source of funds will not change this;
13) Elected positions are paid positions, so they are jobs, careers, and occupations; I would speculate that VOE candidates would be paid more as a city commissioner in Portland than their previous employment;
14) Yes, I understand VOE applies across the board to rich and poor and middle class, but the fundamental principal of VOE is to allow other demographics to run for office regardless of their economic situation, so I realize No 13 above is not entirely accurate;
15) Nevertheless, why should we subsidize people to engage in highly speculative attempts at a career change? more importantly, too few candidates are like Amanda Fritz,a person who seems geniunely to care. Let's be honest, people run for office because they have a healthy ego..why should my tax money be used to satisfy their ego? Let them earn it themselves;
16) We live in a market economy so people with money will continue to exercise significant influence in local and regional politics;
17) In fact, I worry if local politicians do not listen to those with money, especially if they ignore the people with money out of spite...these people tend to go where they are welcome;
18) Show me one peer-revied study that shows VOE would result in a less corrupt government or an improved economy;
19) I am concerned that VOE, if it actually works as planned, will result in populist officials in the highest forms of regional government; and,
20) I cannot think of a populist official that I thought highly of..they tend to be complete disasters.

Amanda:

The inevitable corruption of politicians does not require them to accept cash bribes. Quid pro quos can be as simple as "horse trading" a vote with a fellow commissioner, or making a phone call to the Development Services manager for an old friend who is bogged down in bureaucracy.

Simply put: when the public interest competes with a private interest, the private interest will always benefit from political influence. The private interests will seek to build relationships with politicians whether or not they are permitted to write campaign checks.

At least with campaign contributions and disclosures, we know who they are beholden to, and in what amounts. Granted, many donors are motivated by the intellect and perceived competency of their candidate: yet those very donors are prevented from having any impact when you "level" the playing field by giving all qualified candidates the same amount of money. When everybody spends the same amount of money, the incumbent will always win.

I simply don't believe that Erik Sten or Tom Potter are "cleaner" because they didn't accept checks larger than $xx dollars. I certainly don't think they would have supported VOE if they thought it might lead to more competitive elections.

Anybody who believes that more government regulations and/or funding will stop corruption has never been to Louisiana...

Had to laugh. You STILL get to drive across the Huey P. Long Bridge out of downtown...

I think Jack's comment about the abject failure of campaign finance reform at the federal level hits the mark. "Soft money," Amanda...which put your opponent Dan Saltzmnan's name in every mailbox in Portland with that Children's Fund "progress report." Didn't cost him, or his campaign, a reportable dime.

And, frankly, I don't blame him, but campaign finance reform seems more about finding wiggle room to avoid real reform than to embrace it.

Travis:

Here! Here! A fine list of objections.

I am personally very concerned with number 19: populism is too easily mistaken for he/she "cares more" socialism. Simply put: what is the problem that VOE seeks to cure, and how can we measure whether it worked? Nobody knows.

If we choose our elected officials based on who is most willing to deplete the public treasury, then all is lost.

Just because the government can throw money at every problem doesn't mean they should. The positive impact of government spending is frequently the inverse of how much money is invested.

Corn based ethanol is probably the most salient example of "government gone wild" today. Billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies and mandated artificial demand serves only to reduce our gas mileage, pollute our rivers and oceans, and raise the price of most everything we eat.


see:
http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/2006/Update55_data.htm
and http://www.agrinewspubs.com

Emilie Boyles, not even an elected official that used the VOE system, demonstrates that VOE can corrupt. VOE does not buy the Portland's taxpayers/voters anywhere near a "spotless" uncorrupted elected list of politicians. And even with the evidence of corruption as in Boyles case, we don't see convictions for corruption from our elected/non-elected prosecutors.

Amanda,

We're bringing a scholar to Portland in March, Ken Mayer, who has studied the impact of publicly financed elections on candidate emergence in four states.

I'll try to make sure to mention it here and on blueoregon. I've invited members of the commission and the auditor to the talk. Fee; free to email me if you want me to let you know about the talk.

He has some very interesting results.

I say screw it, and let's just elect a mayor for a 4 year term. Eliminate the rest of the political positions and save the money for better uses. Most of these people we elect have no clue when it comes to running anything, and it gets expensive paying for their learning curve over and over again. The stuff they are handling is by and large civil servant technocratic busy work anyhow, and when a civil servant screws up on things like the water bureau billing fiasco, selling park land, etc. we can just fire them instead of waiting until the next election. I say keep it simple. VOE is a joke and a bunch of money down the toilet. Francesconi and Burdick are prime examples that big money doesn't buy elections in Portland. Potter did it with $5 a hit without the welfare handout because he had a message that people liked. I think people like Amanda F. have more credibility if they do it on their own at $5 a pop and leave the VOE dollars for the welfare queens (and kings).

Don't forget that Potter was running for an open seat against a politically tone deaf opponent.

Huh? What'd he say?


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Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
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Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
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William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
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Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
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In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269


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