The Seattle City Council voted today not to consider a public campaign-financing bill for the November ballot.
Seattle voters narrowly defeated a measure that would have levied a property tax to create a public financing system for city council elections last year. Councilmember Mike O’Brien sought to have a similar measure referred to his committee for consideration in time to send it to voters for the general election. The proposal failed on a 4-4 tie, with Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant joining O’Brien.
Typically, council-backed legislation is assigned to the appropriate committee by the council president, but President Tim Burgess refused, saying he was worried that there already were several property tax measures on the August and November ballots. O’Brien today sought a full-council vote that would have by-passed Burgess’ Governance Committee and instead sent the public financing bill to his own Planning and Land Use Committee.
O’Brien told his colleagues that it was the first time in his 4 1/2 years as a councilmember that a member-driven bill was not referred to a committee for deliberation and action. He said other council members would still have an opportunity to vote the bill up or down after public hearings and debate. His efforts to enact a public financing system had the support of the League of Women Voters, Washington BUS, Washington Community Action Network and Seattle Fair Elections.
Sawant said the measure was necessary to limit the influence of money on city politics.
But Burgess said that adding another tax measure to the city ballot could jeopardize measures to fund pre-kindergarten programs, parks and Metro transit. Burgess noted that the council unanimously supported the public financing measure last year, but that voters did not approve it. He said that preschool and Metro funding both would benefit the poorest people in the city.
He said that adding a tax measure for public financing created too great a risk to the other ballot proposals backed by the City Council. Councilmembers Jean Godden, Bruce Harrell and Tom Rasmussen joined Burgess in voting to not refer the bill to O’Brien’s committee.