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Monday, June 30, 2014

Campaign Finance Reform Rejected by Seattle City Council

Posted by on Mon, Jun 30, 2014 at 4:03 PM

MIKE OBRIEN Delivered one of the most brilliant speeches ever, says Sally Bagshaw.
  • Seattle Channel
  • MIKE O'BRIEN "Delivered one of the most brilliant speeches ever," says Sally Bagshaw.

I told you earlier today about Council Member Mike O'Brien's move to merely introduce—not pass—a piece of campaign finance reform legislation. Well, the vote on whether the legislation would be placed on the council calendar just happened down at City Hall and it was straight-up maddening: 4-4, with Council Members Tim Burgess, Tom Rasmussen, Jean Godden, and Bruce Harrell opposed while O'Brien, Kshama Sawant, Nick Licata, and Sally Bagshaw voted in favor. (Sally Clark was previously scheduled to be absent today.)

Without a majority, a motion fails.

O'Brien said this was the first time in his four and a half years on the City Council this had happened. Instead of legislation being introduced, moved through committee, modified, and then voted upon, this bill was being blocked from consideration entirely. "Unfortunately," O'Brien said, "for the first time that I’m aware of...a piece of legislation has been refused for the referral calendar. This vote is about process—about the opportunity for a bill to be heard in a community."

Licata, Bagshaw and Sawant echoed O'Brien. "Every day I see the rich and powerful...walk around city hall and talk to the politicians they have funded," Sawant added. She called public financing a "great step forward."

"From the beginning this year, it's been clear I was not going to advance this legislation," Burgess responded flatly. He admitted the proposal represents "sound, progressive policy." But, he said, adding a fifth tax measure to the fall ballot, "in my opinion, is too great a risk."

Rasmussen took exception to Sawant's remark about the rich and powerful, Godden said this isn't the right time of this measure, and Harrell said nothing. Burgess swiftly shot down attempts by O'Brien and Sawant to get in a last word, and then the vote happened.

It was an infuriating experience for folks like Alison Eisinger, who works on homelessness issues and was at City Hall for the vote, but was unable to speak to the council. (Most of the public comment period was taken up by people freaked about Seattle City Light's smart meter roll out, and Burgess refused to extend time for a crowd of campaign finance reform advocates to have their say.) "I am gravely disappointed," Eisinger tells me. "[Today] could set a deeply damaging precedent in terms of the nature of debate in our city council. It has a chilling effect on debate."

All nine city council members voted last year to support the same measure, she points out. At least four of them say now is not the right time, which, for Eisinger, begs the question: "Will they commit to honoring fair elections proposals voluntarily in their 2015 campaigns?" In the last election, Burgess did not and O'Brien did—he refused to raise big money until he'd received $10 donations from at least 1,000 different people.

UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: In a statement, O'Brien says: "Today I stood up for publicly financed elections in Seattle and was proud to be joined by Councilmembers Bagshaw, Licata and Sawant.Our colleagues said this wasn’t the year to do it, but this is exactly the type of conversation we should have had in Committee, in public and with engagement from the community—not in a shortened discussion over some obscure parliamentary procedure. But my hand was forced by Council President Burgess and his refusal to introduce the bill. I am deeply disappointed in Councilmembers Burgess, Rasmussen, Harrell and Godden who voted against a public financing bill this year that they all allege to support in theory."


Comments (10) RSS

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fletc3her 1
As a general rule, the more mad, the more bought and paid for.
Posted by fletc3her on June 30, 2014 at 4:14 PM · Report this
guerre 2
anyone want to comb through this and see if there is any big money behind Pre-K? I know private schools will be used because the city "can't" expand infrastructure.…

Bonus: Check out our esteemed city council members have already raised for 2015:…

Looks like Harrell, Clark, and Rasmussen are expected a fight, which they should. Also, nobody has filed to make any position contested.
Posted by guerre on June 30, 2014 at 4:39 PM · Report this
Time to vote out Burgess, at the very least. Now that Conlin is gone, isn't Burgess the most reactionary?
Posted by NineOneFour on June 30, 2014 at 5:14 PM · Report this
@2 Chas Redmond has filed in District 1 where Rasmussen lives. Rasmussen has filed "Position Undesignated"--he has to decide whether to run against Clark (at-large 9), Burgess (at-large 8), or Redmond in District 1. And of course there will certainly be more joining the party, and they can all play musical chairs until the Friday afternoon of filing week next May.
Posted by TobyinFremont on June 30, 2014 at 5:20 PM · Report this
@4: good news. Rasmussen's never been the sharpest tool in the shed, but the dumb and lazy in him has been getting especially strong the past several years.
Posted by gnossos on June 30, 2014 at 5:53 PM · Report this
I wonder if O'Brien is disappointed in Sally Clark's not being present to take a side or in his own lack of planning that permitted her to cast the deciding vote either way.
Posted by ChefJoe on June 30, 2014 at 7:39 PM · Report this
MrBaker 8
An this is how the right Mike finally became the next Mayor of Seattle.
Posted by MrBaker on June 30, 2014 at 7:43 PM · Report this
Another reason this issue is not ripe is the shift to district elections. The last time this was up, when voters rejected it by a small margin, it applied only to at-large elections to city council. We have lots of history and knowledge about how much it costs to run an effective city-wide campaign.

Next year, we will have elections in 7 council districts, for the first time. But for today, we have no sound basis for estimating what it will cost to run effective campaigns in those districts. Better to let one or two district election cycles pass, so we will have some data, some rational basis for setting the funding formula for district council campaigns.

I love public funding of election campaigns, also called voter-owned elections. But you have to know what you're doing in setting up the process, and right now we would just be plucking numbers out of the air, just making guesses, for district elections.

Knowledge trumps ignorance every time. Let's wait a while on this, Mike.
Posted by RDPence on June 30, 2014 at 7:55 PM · Report this
Burgess will be running for mayor after Murray is out, Godden is too old to care, Clark doesn't want to vote on anything, Rasmussen wants to keep his financial options open, and so does Harrell, who might run again for Mayor. O'Brien, Licata, and Sawant actually have opinions that are not totally self-serving. (Who knows about Bagshaw; she's all over the map on everything.)
Posted by sarah70 on June 30, 2014 at 8:47 PM · Report this
The Community Development Roundtable has long run Seattle, no mystery nor shocker there. This is to be expected.

As long as people remain ignorant that there are many positive things this town could have had (like efficient and decent transportation, better public venues, etc., etc.) and that it was always the CDR which stood in the way and has drive the overall policy on city transportation (they were always against a city-wide monorail system, which is why there were 5 elections before it was finally voted down for good).
Posted by sgt_doom on July 1, 2014 at 12:53 PM · Report this

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