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AUDIO FILE: City of Portland Voter Owned Elections

On February 3, 2005, a forum was held at First Unitarian Church in Portland in order to explore the benefits of Voter Owned Elections as proposed by Portland Commissioner Erik Sten and City Auditor Gary Blackmer. This forum was sponsored by the Portland Alliance for Democracy.
After introductory remarks by David Delk of Portland Alliance for Democracy three speakers took turns explaining the proposal and their reasons for supporting it. First to speak was Janice Thompson, executive director of Money In Politics Research Action Project
a non-partisan, not-for-profit group whose goals are to increase accountability and opportunities for participation in politics.
Janice explains the details of the proposal, that it is a sensible reform that is proving itself as a viable alternative to "business as usual" in Maine and Arizona politics. Candidates have a new way to run for office without money. Voter owned candidates agree to :
* Collect $5 qualifying contributions to demonstrate community support. TO qualify for public funds, 1000 people must pledge their support with the $5.00 contribution.
* Reject private money contributions.
* Limit campaign spending.
* Agree to strict administrative regulations.
In return, participating candidates receive limited amounts of campaign dollars from a publically financed fund. More important, all Portlanders benefit as: * Voters gain more choices as candidates can run based on leadership skills and community support rather than fundraising ability.
* Voters are the focus of campaigns-not contributors and fundraising.
* Primary considerations in city council decisions can be community concerns without even the perception that special interests win over public interests.
Janice speaks for about 12 minutes, giving some facts and statistics about the success of voter owned elections in Maine and Arizona.
Janice Thompson
Next to speak was Sam Adams, recently elected to the Portland City Council. Sam declares his support for the proposal, quoting the price tag of his recent campaign, at about $800.000.00. His opponent raised about the same amount, and doesn't have the advantage of victory in raising the funds to retire the debt. "Campaigns have become on a local level alot about who folks, in terms of the money folks, who they think is going to win, who they want to win, or who they think is going to win, as opposed to who is the best candidate.> He encourages citizens to contact the City Commissioners and encourage them to vote for the proposal, which should be voted on in early March. Apparently, Commissioners Dan Saltzman and Randy Leonard haven't weighed in in favor of the proposal.
Sam also spoke about a project of his own, the need to register lobbyists in the City of Portland. "It's required on the Federal level, it's required on the State level, it's required actually in Metro government, and there's no requirement in the City or County government, that people who are paid to influence elected officials register who they are, who they're working for, who they're seeking to lobby and on what issues. .....People do in the City government what on the Federal governemnt would be subject to $50,000 fines which on the Statre level would be subject to $5,000 fines. But there's the wild west in the city of Portland."
Adams continues discussing both proposals for about a total of 10 minutes.
Sam Adams
Last to speak was David Johnson of Oregon Actiona community based organization which has been around for about 25 years. They provide support and training for low income people, so they can advocate on their own behalf, in their own interests.
David spoke briefly for about 4 1/2 minutes. "I just wanted to give my opinion on why I think voter owned elections would be good for Portland. One of these is that it will open up doors for all of us, so that we could run for Commissioner, Auditor or Mayor, and we could run on the feelings we have on the issues in regards to Portland. And also make each candidate a bit more accountable to the constituents in Portland, and give everybody an opportunity to have a say in what's going on. And if they know people or they themselves want to run , then you don't have to worry about putting together amounts of money that is just ridiculous to raise for most of us
David Johnson

homepage: homepage: http://www.PhilosopherSeed.org

add a comment on this article

must be a good thing 08.Feb.2005 14:18

smartee

...because the Tribune is against it-Shulberg devotes part of his column to excoriating it once or twice a week and it reads like he drank way too much koolaid