As expected, today a special city council committee advanced legislation that would leverage a citywide property tax to publicly fund city council races starting in 2015. The measure is expected to be passed at next Monday's full council meeting, which means it's all but destined to appear before voters as a referendum on the November ballot.
But as I reported earlier today, if voters also pass another city ballot measure—an initiative advocating for city council district seats, instead of our current at-large elections—it will make today's public campaign financing efforts all but worthless because the legislation only pertains to at-large council seats, not district-held seats.
Nick Licata and Mike O'Brien introduced an amendment to fix this huge problem via a district amendment.
But council members were skeptical of the fix: Richard Conlin: "I don't know whether this really makes sense." Tim Burgess: "It's premature to try and structure a district program until we see what the voters have to say on that subject." Jean Godden: "It's going to be extremely hard to explain to voters."
If these two pieces of legislation pass this November, I think it's going to be even harder to explain why the city council needs to return to voters in a year to clarify the law when they could've easily taken care of it in committee now.
Faced with no support, Licata withdrew the amendment. His second amendment, aimed at reducing the total amount of public funds available to a candidate from $210,000 to $180,000, also failed in committee, while an amendment proposed by O'Brien (and tweaked in committee) to change the public financing filing deadline from 14 days to 21 days after the last day to file for city council, passed.