TRW Legislative Action Alert

AlertSome of you may have heard that The Tempe City Council is planning to propose placement on the ballot of a Charter Amendment that would allow for the creation of a publicly (i.e. taxpayer) financed election system in Tempe. Discussion by the City Council was on held August 6, and was sent back to the Council working group for community feedback and details. It will come back to the Council for discussion on September 3.

The ballot language itself is vague, just as so many progressive plans are. At the August 6 meeting, supporters noted their intent is to place this on the ballot, then design an ordinance that would get to the details of the system financing, amounts, oversight and other issues. The ordinance then would come to Council for conditional approval and would go into effect if the Charter Amendment was approved by the voters. In other words, the council was asked to place something on the spring 2016 ballot that could have great impact on a number of stakeholders, all without having the details up front. 

As currently envisioned, this system would be funded through a $5 fee on penalties assessed by the Tempe Municipal Court, which are estimated to bring in $200,000 each election cycle. These funds would be available to participating candidates on a first-come, first-served basis with limits of $25,000 for council candidates and $50,000 for mayoral candidates for each of the primary and general elections.

I am happy to report that the The Tempe Chamber is in opposition to this and we ask that you join them in expressing your opposition to the Council. A public meeting on the issue will be held Monday, August 24, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Tempe Public Library, lower level meeting room, 3500 S. Rural Rd, which conflicts partially with our Monthly meeting. Please encourage your friends and fellow patriots to attend and speak up. Additionally, you can voice your comments on-line through the Tempe Forum. You can also reach Mayor Mitchell and the entire Council by email.

In order for this to reach the spring ballot, the council would need to approve it at a meeting in October. David Shapira and the council are actively pushing this agenda.  I personally received a live phone call at my home from David who was trying to rally my support!  As I am sure you can guess, I gave him an earful, on this and the BIKEIT plan. There is no valid reason to rush this project without proper vetting, other than next year is an election year, and they obviously want the money to game the elections. Arguments in favor of the system reference increased reporting and a reaction to the raising of contribution limits by the Legislature. Per Mary Ann Miller of the TCC, she has “no knowledge of such legislation,and no one  has looked at alternatives at a local level.”

Here are just a few reasons to oppose this as presented by TCC:

  • Publicly financed elections neither increase transparency nor curb the costs of campaigns.  In fact, a 2010 GAO report showed that “…in each election cycle new strategies have emerged to leverage aspects of the public financing program by candidates and their supporters to gain advantage over their opponents.”  Additionally, “(t)he trend of rising independent expenditures as an alternative to contributing directly to candidates is clear….”
  • The implementation of publicly financed elections at the State level has not decreased political acrimony nor increased nonpartisanship.  More than a dozen years after its implementation, individuals are still reporting they feel disenfranchised from the process.
  • The proposed fee increase places an additional burden on people who are least likely able to bear it.
  • Tempe has a number of deferred capital improvement and maintenance projects.  Taxpayer dollars are better spent parks, roads and other city infrastructure.
  • Tempe’s campaign finance system already requires detailed reporting of donors and donations.
  • The Resolution is vague and has language that the candidates “…shall be financed, in part, with public funds…” if the candidate “…complies with additional limits on private contributions…” and “…complies with limits of overall expenditures.…”  (emphasis mine)  This should be defined prior to placing enabling language on the ballot.
  • The program underestimates the cost and liability of an independent oversight committee charged with “…making decisions, including conclusions of law…” as per the Program Overview.
  • As currently envisioned, the Independent Oversight Committee would have little oversight itself, with the Committee members choosing their own successors.

You can also read the entire GAO report.

Written by Darryl Jacobson-Barnes