Saturday, August 1, 2009

CAMPAIGN 2009 (WCHL Commentary)

We know who will be on our ballots in November. Congratulations to all of our citizens who have decided to run for office and try to serve our community in this very special way. One difference in the Chapel Hill elections is that we are engaged in a state experiment with voter owned elections whereby candidates receive tax dollars to finance most of their campaign costs. One argument for this plan is that removing the barrier of money, candidates who might not run for office would now do so.

We have one mayoral candidate of the four participating and one of the eight Council candidates participating. The mayoral candidate participating was a vigorous supported of the plan. One not participating is a Council member who was a vigorous opponent. Nothing surprising there. But on the Town Council ballot the only participant is a second time challenger who finished 6th in 2007. What is puzzling to some is that the three incumbents on the ballot who voted for taxpayer funded elections (let’s call it what it is!) are not participating. Why is that?

I still think we are trying to fix a problem that doesn’t really exist. Money to win a seat is not the problem; time to serve is the challenge. There is no evidence that campaign spending is corrupting our elections. And I do favor publically funding those judicial elections; they give me a choice on giving my money or not. Choices matter and that’s what elections are and should beall about.

3 comments:

ge said...

Fred, I think there's lots of obfuscation here. E.g., you call this "a state experiment" - which sounds as if the state of NC imposed it on us. Bzzzt! Voters (e.g, me) asked the Council to create the system and they had to ASK the state for permission (NC doesn't exactly believe in local control of very much).

You say "There is no evidence that campaign spending is corrupting our elections." Such evidence is pretty hard to come by: there's also no evidence that money is NOT corrupting our government. Do you LIKE the recent development we've seen in town for example? You SURE that contributions had no effect here? I have no idea, but why should it even be possible to influence votes with money?

Fred said...

I call it a State of North Carolina experiment because they had to approve every aspect - the permission to do it, the ordinance itself, and later, the permission to continue. Note also that others have also asked but we are the only ones allowed to do so. Hence, it is in my mind a state experiment. I'm fine with you seeing it differently.

As for money, $250 is not a large amount for candidates to receive from a donor. Voters have ALWAYS been influenced by the use of money. Safeguards can be put in place other than taking my money to support candidates I would not support otherwise.

Note also that our "State experiment" in no way keeps you or me from spending any amount we want independently to influence an election. Said dollars would not trigger "rescue funds."

I would like to see a better solution.

JCB said...

Yes, TIME is the barrier.

Certainly this round has not proven the experiment. Perhaps next time. Increased participation is reason #1 usually given by supporters (and as George said, the other isn't provable).