The public financing concept that became Seattle Proposition 1 on the November ballot initially intrigued me. Of course, the devil’s in the details.
In this earlier editorial, The Seattle Times encouraged giving voters a chance to vote on whether they want to use property taxes to fund city council campaigns.
On Wednesday, the editorial board formally opposed Prop 1 and recommended voters pass Charter Amendment 19, a ballot measure that would move the city council from nine at-large elections to a hybrid system of seven districts and two at-large positions.
The biggest contrast between Charter Amendment 19 and Proposition 1 is cost. District elections are cheaper to run than citywide races. But with public financing, taxpayers foot the bill and have no choice where their money goes.
As we dug deeper, it became clear why Seattle Ethics and Election Commissioner Bruce Carter is a vocal opponent of Prop 1. In this Monday Seattle Times news report by reporter Bob Young, Carter called the public financing measure a “remedy in search of a problem.”
Yes, money influences politics but…
Data, however, doesn’t confirm that big money’s grip on City Hall is growing stronger.
Seattle limits contributions in council races to $700, far less than the $1,800 limits facing Metropolitan King County Council and state legislative candidates. The average contribution to City Council members in the 2011 election was $223, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), the city’s watchdog group.
While that average has increased over time, it hasn’t climbed every year. In 2009, the average contribution dropped to $178 from $213 in 2007. There were more contributions under $100 in 2009 city races than in any election since 2001, the SEEC reported, and fewer contributions over $600.
SEEC staff members believe the 2009 numbers were driven downward by the recession.
Still, total contributions to council candidates in an election year have never topped the $1.95 million collected in 2003. To date this year, the total amount is $795,000.
Do you plan to vote for or against Prop 1? Scroll down to vote in our poll.
As much as I appreciate the high-minded sentiment behind Prop 1, it has several flaws: