Op-Ed: Restoring Confidence in City Government

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By Michael Toerge / Candidate for Council, District 6

 As voters await the opportunity to vote on recalling Scott Peotter, I think it is important to engage in a conversation with the community on the steps we need to take to restore confidence in our city government and those that serve the public.

As a first step, we need to undertake concrete reforms to our political system to ensure it is fair to taxpayers and not fixed to benefit the politically connected.

 For example, we should require the disclosure of the interests represented by all lobbyists. In the last few years we saw Dave Ellis work to elect six out of the seven council members while he was engaged in lobbying in support of the Museum House project. In many cases, council members themselves don’t know who their campaign manager is representing. This needs to change.

Second, we need to stop the practice of council members soliciting funds, years in advance of an election, from those having business before the city council. The potential for conflict is simply too strong. We should limit fundraising to the year of the election and for a defined period thereafter.

Third, we need to provide for a third party to enforce our campaign contribution laws. Since 2014, on four occasions, on their own self prepared reports, candidates indicated they accepted contributions in excess of the $1,100 contribution limit.  Yet, because the city attorney, who reports to and can be terminated by the city council, refuses to enforce our contribution law, they have avoided any consequences.

Violations are supposed to result in disqualification from office.  We need a non-conflicted party who will fully and fairly ensure that our laws are followed by everybody; otherwise, our system rewards those that violate the campaign contribution limits and penalizes those that respectfully follow the law.

Fourth, we need to close the “slate mail loophole.”

In 2014, this loophole allowed candidates to pool their funds, and allows special interests, including one that was engaged in litigation with the city, to avoid contribution limits and independent expenditure rules. The party in litigation with the city gave over $22,000 through this means and $96,000 was raised in total. 

In the days ahead, I will be speaking up on the impacts of the airport, the importance of the upcoming general plan update, reducing traffic, crime and keeping the city fiscally strong. 

But first, we must start by restoring confidence in our election system and making law breakers accountable to the law.

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