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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Portland On The Brink of Better Elections

this is an audio post - click to play

Yesterday, the Portland City Council met to discuss and vote on the proposed Voter Owned Elections Ordinance, a system of providing public financing of political campaigns for qualifying candidates. Instead of voting, the City Council approved an amendment which calls for a 2010 referral in order to provide Portland voters with plenty of opportunity for input. The vote on the ordinance itself was put off until next week. A majority of the City Council had pledged their support of public financing of elections at an earlier council meeting.

Under the ordinance, to qualify for public funds, a candidate must collect a certain number of $5 donations (1,500 for mayoral candidates, 1,000 for candidates for auditor and other city commissioners), forgo private fundraising, agree to a spending limit, and abide by various reporting procedures.

There were some recent attempts to add other last minute amendments which would weaken the bill. One amendment would have prohibited the current Council members from participating in the system. The second would have attached a sunset provision for 2010. Neither of these amendments were successfully attached.

If this effort is successful, Portland will be the first city in the country to have full public financing of elections, a remarkable feat in itself, but all the more so in one of the few states with no current limits whatsoever on the flow of big money into politics.

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