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SLO City Council to reconsider elections ordinance

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The San Luis Obispo City Council is giving itself a do-over on a previous decision to pursue an elections ordinance.

In August 2015, the council gave staff the thumbs up to do preliminary research on creating a public financing option for City Council candidates, an ethics commission, and stricter new laws for independent campaign expenditures. On March 15 of this year, council members voted to move forward and develop a draft ordinance for final consideration in several months. Seattle is the only city in the U.S. to have such an ordinance in place.

But all that came to a screeching halt when Councilmember Dan Carpenter announced March 24 that he could no longer support the ordinance, tipping the scales from a tight 3-2 majority of support to one of opposition.

At the April 5 meeting, Carpenter asked the council to reconsider the item. His colleagues acquiesced, and the ordinance will now be considered during a 4 p.m. session at the council’s April 19 meeting.

Originally, Carpenter said the ordinance would make elections more accessible for both would-be candidates and constituents looking to impact the process. But in the days following his March 15 vote, he said he heard from several constituents that objected to the use of taxpayer money to fund candidates.

Bill Ostrander, director of the group Citizens’ Congress, which pitched the ordinance to the city, said he suspects Carpenter’s decision was motivated more by the politics associated with Carpenter’s bid for the 3rd District county supervisor seat. Carpenter has been courting support and campaign funds from SLO County’s conservative political base.

“There’s a distinction between his obligations as a leader on the City Council, and his potential job as a supervisor. And that’s where he fell apart,” Ostrander said.

Carpenter joined Mayor Jan Marx and Councilmember Carlyn Christianson in opposing the ordinance.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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