Wednesday, May 14, 2008
PUBLIC FINANCING OF CAMPAIGNS (WCHL Commentary)
Yes, we should vote, but should we subsidize the campaigns of those asking us for our votes?
On Wednesday evening, May 14, our Chapel Hill Town Council will hold a public hearing on a proposal to fund a voter owned elections. The details are here on the Town page. The idea is that candidates who voluntarily participate and qualify can receive a $3000 public grant as a council candidate and a $9000 public grant as a mayoral candidate. The Council proposal recommends allocating funding of $50,000 in the 2008-09 Recommended Budget that’s also being considered.
This is the same budget where our Manager recommends an 11% increase in our taxes. I won’t be to attend Wednesday evening, but if I were, I would raise several questions. Are we fixing a problem that really exists? Is campaign spending corrupting our local electoral process? In our last council election, the number one vote getter spent the least amount of money! If this isn’t one of our most pressing problems, should we raise taxes and fund political candidates, or should we address many other pressing needs like maybe using our dollars to add another firefighter or police officer?
We also should know how this program would keep someone from independently spending unlimited funds in support of, or opposition to a candidate or group of candidates. Our recent experience with opposition spending for the transfer tax ballot item shows the power of such dollars.
Finally, will this program result in more people running for office? I believe that our real problem is not raising funds, but folks having the time to serve and still meet their work, family and other obligations. Our Council should study this before implementing taxpayer-subsidized campaigns in Chapel Hill.
What do you think?