Less than one year ago, the Atascadero City Council approved an ordinance limiting campaign spending on a voluntary basis. “Building Public Trust” public workshops clarified our need for community-wide participation to have a healthy, functional local government. Agreeing to comply with the voluntary limit levels the playing field between incumbents and newcomers and more people are encouraged to run for office. City council candidates can and should set the tone for civility and issue-based discussions in local elections.
The repealed ordinance had reinforced the state’s “Fair Campaign Practice,” where candidates publicly denounce negative or half-truth attacks done by PACs (political action committees). Citizens should learn about candidates without being confused by campaign gimmicks and “sound bite” advertising.
Excessive campaign spending is wasteful and does not result in improved local government. It would be better to donate the money to local community service nonprofits.
City council members are paid $300 per month. Is it reasonable to spend in excess of $12,000 (the ordinance’s voluntary limit)? Campaign contributions are not limited in the ordinance, but the pressure to raise funds is greatly reduced so candidates don’t have to “owe” anyone a favor.
The ordinance was a formal, public statement that the City of Atascadero supported the values of public trust, civility, issue-based campaign focus, inclusive government, and community-first leadership. It has never been given the chance to positively affect an election season.
I encourage support for the values of civil, open, and transparent local governance, even if we no longer have a city council committed to them.